Q. I read recently that Father Marzynski was incardinated into the Diocese of Lincoln. What does that mean?
A. Priests and deacons in the Catholic Church, referred to as clerics, must be attached to a particular Church or religious institute to which they must be accountable and which must be accountable to them. Every cleric in the Church makes a promise or vow of obedience to a bishop, prelate or religious superior who directs his ministry and ensures that he is engaged in the work of the Gospel in accord with his talents, aptitudes and abilities. The superior is, at the same time, responsible for ensuring that the cleric receives lodging, food, health care, and remuneration for his pastoral work. No priest or deacon can function in the Catholic Church if he is not accountable to a superior.
The relationship of obedience and accountability between a cleric and his diocese or religious order is referred to as incardination. The word literally means “to be hinged” because a cleric is attached as if by a hinge. A cleric who is not incardinated, which is forbidden by canon law, is referred to as an acephalous cleric, which means that he is literally “without a head.”
Typically, incardination is a life-long relationship. However, there may be times when a cleric transfers his incardination from one diocese to another, or from a religious institute to a diocese, or vice versa. This may be because he moves to a new ministry in a new place, and intends to remain in that place for the rest of his life, or because he feels called to religious life, etc. Transfer of incardination is usually an indication that the Holy Spirit is moving in a cleric’s life in a new way.
Often, a priest incardinated in a diocese might be released from an assignment in his diocese to serve in a ministry in a new place: this is the case of Father Buhman, Msgr. Fucinaro, Father Goodwin, Father Gross, Msgr. Gyhra, Father Kane, Father Menke, and Father Panzer, and all of whom are incardinated in the Diocese of Lincoln, but serve in other places. Those kinds of releases are temporary—these priests are still incardinated in the Diocese of Lincoln, subject to obedience to Lincoln’s bishop, and, if the Lord wills it, can ordinarily expect to return to ministry in the Diocese of Lincoln after the fulfillment of other assignments.
Incardination is the assurance of stability in a priest’s life and ministry. It also assures that an entire community will pray in a special way for the priests attached to it. Let us remember to pray for all priests of the Diocese of Lincoln, no matter where they serve.
Write to Ask the Register using our online form, or write to 3700 Sheridan Blvd, Lincoln NE 68506-6100. All questions are subject to editing. Editors decide which questions to publish. Personal questions cannot be answered. People with such questions are urged to take them to their nearest Catholic priest.