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A consecrated successor to the Apostles, usually charged with the spiritual and administrative care of a given territory or diocese. Derives from the Greek word episkopos (“overseer”). He is constituted a pastor in the Church, to be the teacher of doctrine, the priest of sacred worship, and the minister of governance


Catechism of the Catholic Church

A summary of Catholic teaching. A catechism of this same name was published in 1997.


Ecumenical Council

From the Greek oikoumene, meaning “the whole world.” A formal synod of bishops (sometimes with other ecclesiastics) from the whole inhabited world convened to define doctrine, regulate the Christian life, or apply discipline in the Church. The first ecumenical council was held at Nicæa AD 325



Immunity from error and any possibility of error. The Church possesses this character as promised by Christ, as does the pope as defined by the First Vatican Council (1870)


Council of Jerusalem

Recounted in Acts 15, this synod of the Apostles around AD 49 or 50 spoke with the authority of the Holy Spirit in deciding that Gentile converts to Christianity did not have to be circumcised or obey the Law of Moses



The name given to the universal teaching authority of the pope and the bishops in communion with him, which guides the members of the Church without error in matters of faith and morals through the interpretation of Sacred Scripture and Tradition


Apostolic succession

Term used to describe the lineage of the Catholic bishops and pope through the ages by which each holds office in a direct link to the Twelve Apostles



From the Greek for “one sent forth.” Refers to the Twelve chosen by Jesus during the course of his public ministry to be his closest followers, as well as Sts. Matthias, Paul of Tarsus, Barnabas, and the enlighteners of whole nations


Apostolic Fathers

Those Fathers of the Church who were direct disciples of the Apostles and wrote during the end of the first century and the beginning of the second century.


Allegorical Sense

The spiritual interpretation of Scripture that shows how people and events in history suggest future people and events. For instance, the allegorical sense of Abraham sacrificing Isaac is God’s sacrifice of his own son Jesus. Also known as the typical sense, it is a type of spiritual sense.



A prolonged metaphor. Related to parables and fables, it uses a storytelling format rich with symbols to make a statement about a real-life situation. It is a type of improper literal sense


Analogical Sense

The spiritual interpretation of Scripture that shows how events in Scripture point to what will be in Heaven. It is a type of spiritual sense



A way of understanding by drawing a comparison or likeness and dissimilarity between two things or relationships. Theology is based on reasoning by analogy.


Apostolic Tradition

The passing on of the Faith of the Apostles to each generation. St. Hippolytus’s work of the same name illustrated this principle by preserving the third-century rites of Ordination, Baptism, and the Eucharist; the Eucharistic Prayer found in The Apostolic Tradition was the basis for the Second Eucharistic Prayer in the Roman Missal.


Deposit of Faith

The heritage of faith contained in Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition, handed on in the Church from the time of the apostles, from which the Magisterium draws all that it proposes for belief as being divinely revealed.



From the Greek eschaton, for “last.” The study of the end of time



A story, often fanciful, that is not based on fact and is used to illustrate a moral lesson, usually with animals or plants as characters. It is one of the improper literal senses of a text


Fathers of the Church

Refers to a number of Christian writers from the first through the eighth centuries whose lives reflected the teachings of Christ and whose teachings were in perfect harmony with the Church. Their value is in the fact that the doctrine they developed faithfully communicates the Faith they received from Christ and contributed to a deeper spiritual and theological understanding of natural and supernatural truths.



A literary device that uses exaggeration to make a point. It is one of the improper literal senses of a text.



Making no mistakes or errors. Scripture is inerrant; that is, it always teaches truth, never falsehood.



The gift of the Holy Spirit that assisted human authors to write the books of the Bible. God is the ultimate author of Scripture, and so it teaches faithfully, without error, the saving truth that God has willed to be communicated to us



A way of reading literature without regard to the particular literary forms being used. This kind of reading thus recognizes no symbolic language or analogy and instead takes every word, phrase, and sentence as literally true.


Literal Sense

“Method of scriptural interpretation based on the meaning of words in the literary and historical context. In proper literal sense, the words are understood in their ordinary meaning; in the improper literal sense or metaphorical sense, the words are understood figuratively and symbolically


Literary Analysis

Reading a story with full care and regard for the literary forms and styles being used. It allows the reader to fully appreciate the text by understanding what the author is really trying to communicate and thereby reaching the deeper meaning that was originally intended


Literary Forms

Refers to the various styles of writing that communicate a message through particular creative means. Literary forms used in Scripture include the historical, juridical, prophetic, apocalyptic, wisdom literature, poetry, and epistle.



A word or term that refers to another by comparison. It is like a simile, except that it does not use the words like or as in making the comparison. It is one of the improper literal senses of a text.


Moral Sense

“The spiritual interpretation of Scripture that portrays the heroes of Scripture as a pattern for Christians of every age. Also called the tropological sense



Correctness or soundness in theological faith and beliefs.



A story that is told in order to illustrate a moral or spiritual truth. It is one of the improper literal senses of a text.


Sensus Fidelium

Literally “the sense of the faithful,” the term refers to the inerrancy possessed by all the faithful when they share a universal consent in matters of faith and morals.