I probably wouldn’t have posted 10 Things Most Catholics Don’t Know if I’d realized I would be called upon to answer them. Here, with the help of my good friends Mr. Google and Ms. Wikipedia, is an attempt to respond to the first three items:
10. The distinctions among Monastic Orders, Mendicant Orders, Canons Regular, Clerks Regular, etc.
Catholic religious orders are one of two types of religious institutes (‘Religious Institutes’, cf. canons 573–746 ), the major form of consecrated life in the Roman Catholic Church. They are organizations of laity and/or clergy who take solemn vows (in contrast to the simple vows taken by the members of religious congregations) and who live a common life following a religious rule or constitution under the leadership of a religious superior. According to the Annuario Pontificio, there are four branches of religious orders:
Clerks Regulars: orders founded by priests who are also religious men with vows and have a very active apostolic life. Monastic orders: orders founded by monks or nuns who live and work in a monastery and recite the divine office. Canons Regulars: orders founded by canons and canonesses regular who recite the divine office and generally are in charge of a parish. Mendicant orders: orders founded by friars or nuns who live from alms, recite the divine office, and have active participation in apostolic endeavors.
9. The difference between Diocescan clergy and Religious Order clergy.
Diocesan priests and deacons are directly attached to the bishop of a diocese and are, for the most part, full-time in parish ministry (although some teach or have other jobs.) Religious Order priests and deacons owe their first loyalty to their religious superiors and work full-time in parishes only if their superior and a bishop have made an agreement for them to do so. Religious Order clergy take vows of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience. Diocesan Clergy make no such vows, but do observe celibacy and promise obedience to their bishop. Many diocesan clergy insist that Religious clergy take vows of Poverty but it is the diocesan clergy who actually live in poverty…
8. What exactly a Monsignor is and does.
Monsignor (from the French “mon seigneur – “my lord”), is an honorary title bestowed on a priest by the Pope, usually at the request of his local bishop. According to Ms. Wikipedia, until 1968 there were 14 different grades of Monsignor. Now there are three: Apostolic Protonoraries (divided into de numero – of whom there are only 7 – and supernumerary), Honorary Prelates (formerly called Domestic Prelates) and Chaplains of His Holiness (the lowest rank.)
As an honorary title, Monsignors don’t do anything that other clergy don’t do, but get to wear specially trimmed cassocks. The more elaborate the trim, the higher the rank of the Monsignor.