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Modern Catholic Dictionary


Guide to the Use of the Dictionary

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In order to help the reader derive full benefit from this dictionary, it is worth noting certain features that the author had in mind when doing the research and assembling the data. The years of planning that went into the composition of the present volume were mainly directed to accuracy of content, conciseness of treatment, and facility of use. The following information is offered especially to facilitate the use of this dictionary.

Key To Sources

Most of the sources of quotations in the dictionary are self-explanatory. Some, however, call for further comment:

  1. Denzinger

    The full title of this source is Enchiridion Symbolorum (Handbook of Creeds), originally edited by Henry Denzinger and first published in 1854. The book has gone through upwards of forty editions and is the standard collection, in one volume, of the most important documents of the Catholic Church on faith and morals from the first century to the present time. The numbers following Denzinger are also standard and correspond to sections that are regularly cited in all the official statements of the popes or the organs of the Holy See. The Enchiridion is in Latin.

  2. Second Vatican Council

    Conciliar documents are quoted extensively and generally in their English titles. Numbers following a document correspond to the official subsection of the Latin original.

  3. Post-Conciliar Documents

    These were issued to implement formally the sixteen basic documents of the Second Vatican Council. They cover the whole spectrum of Catholic faith, worship, and morality and range in dignity from apostolic constitutions of the Pope through the numerous directives and decrees of the Vatican congregations.

  4. Code of Canon Law

    The new Code of Canon Law, issued by Pope John Paul II on January 25, 1983, is a summary synthesis of the legislation of the Roman Catholic church. This edition of Modern Catholic Dictionary has been fully updated to conform to the canons of the revised Code.


Many of the entries are given short etymologies. Their purpose is to bring out more clearly the meaning of a term by placing it in historical context. Biblical names often symbolize the person named; Greek derivatives relate the word to its scriptural or first-century origin; and the many Latin sources indicate the role of the Church in standardizing the language of Catholicism.


Although this work is not an encyclopedia, every effort was made to make it as complete as limitations of space would allow. One method to achieve this was to correlate the entries. Where another entry is more or less synonymous, this is indicated by “See” after a single term. When further information is elsewhere available in the dictionary, this appears as “See also” after the entry.


The only biographies, as such, are those of biblical personages. This was not for lack of appreciation of the many important characters of Catholic Church history but because of the intended purpose of the volume: to concentrate on the objective faith and data of the Church’s faith and practice and not enter the vast arena of her life and biographical activity.

On the other hand, biblical persons are treated at some length. Both Old and New Testament characters are given entries. In the light of the Catholic Church’s new emphasis on the Scriptures, this was considered an essential part of this dictionary. Supporting these biblical figures are also a number of important places that belong to historic and contemporary Palestine.

Organizations and Societies

It was clearly impossible to include more than a fraction of the thousands of archaic and present-day societies within Catholic Christianity. There are, for example, some four thousand religious institutes of men and women in the Church today. Included are separate entries for those institutes of Christian perfection that are of historic importance and that fairly set the pattern for similar religious communities throughout the world.

Even more limited is the number of other Catholic organizations that are given special entries. The relatively few given are those of an international character or that have particular significance for the Catholic Church in modern times.

Scholastic Philosophy and Theology

Special attention was paid to certain basic terms from scholastic philosophy and theology. These terms are the backbone, as it were, of the Church’s official teaching of faith and morals. It is impossible to understand the Catholic church in her own deepest understanding of herself without some familiarity with this language of scholastic thought.

Modern Catholic Dictionary - John A. Hardon, S.J.
Abridged Edition of the Modern Catholic Dictionary
Copyright © 2003 Inter Mirifica

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