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The Role of the Vicar General and Functions of the Office of the Vicar General


The Vicar General is a priest who is appointed by the diocesan bishop to assist in the administration and governance of the whole diocese and has the same executive authority1 as the diocesan bishop across the whole of the diocese as belongs by church law to the diocesan bishop. The priest appointed to this ecclesiastical office2 is to be known for his sound doctrine, integrity, prudence and practical experience.

Once appointed, the Vicar General is to act with the mind of the diocesan bishop with respect to the scope of the authority of his ecclesiastical functions. The Vicar General maintains frequent communication with the diocesan bishop so that he may always act in harmony with the intention and mind of the Successor of the Apostles.

The Vicar General can perform all the same administrative acts3 as the bishop, unless the bishop has reserved any specific acts to himself, or which may require the special mandate of the bishop to be undertaken.

The role of Vicar General requires a close working relationship with the Archbishop of Perth, the Most Rev Timothy Costelloe SDB ensuring that they enact the mind of the Archbishop on key matters that impact on the life of the archdiocese.

The Archdiocese of Perth has two Vicar Generals who serve in distinct roles, the Most Rev Don Sproxton, Auxiliary Bishop and the Very Rev Peter Whitely VG.

Within the Archdiocese of Perth, Bishop Sproxton is:

  • Chairman of Life Link and the Advisory Board for the Schools of Philosophy and Theology (Notre Dame University, Fremantle)
  • Member of the; Council of Priests, Archdiocesan Finance Council, Catholic Youth Council and St John of God Healthcare, Association of Heads of Churches, Catholic Social Services Western Australia 
  • Episcopal Vicar for Parish Renewal and Consultor for the Archdiocese of Perth.

Fr Peter Whitely VG, is responsible for and oversees the functions of the Office of the Vicar General which manages a number of the Archdiocesan administrative functions listed below in the Responsibilities of the Office of the Vicar General. Fr Whitely is also the Episcopal Vicar for Archdiocesan Growth and Development, and for Effective  Communications. He is also a member of the Diocesan Resources Committee, the Property and Investment Committee, the Council of Priests and a Consultor.


Within the Archdiocese of Perth, the Office of the Vicar General is responsible for the following Diocesan Agencies and Administrative functions:


  • Professional Standards
  • Safeguarding
  • Archives

Administrative functions

  • Clergy Appointments
  • Letters of appointment for priests to parishes
  • Chaplaincy appointments: Migrants, University, Schools, Hospitals, Prisons
  • Clergy Records Management
  • Executive level support to the Council of Priests Meetings
  • Clergy VISA’s - Initial contact - authority to proceed
  • Marriage Dispensations
  • Authorisation of Priests as marriage celebrants
  • Register of Marriage Celebrants
  • Overseas Clergy Appointments - Incoming
  • Liaison point for Religious Orders with respect to interstate and overseas appointments
  • Executive level support to Elections for the Council of Priests
  • Official Directory of the Catholic Church in Australia
  • Annuario Pontificio (Statistics of the Archdiocese for Rome)
  • Visiting Speaker’s – Clergy, Religious and Laity
  • Australian Catholic Ministry Register (Australian Catholic Safeguarding Limited)
  • Compliance with Working with Children Checks for clergy
  • Bi-Ritualism & Other Rites - applications to Rome
  • Archdiocesan Accommodation for priests
  • Notary - witness to the signing of official Church documents
  • Complaints

1. Can. 479 §1.By virtue of office, the vicar general has the executive power over the whole diocese which belongs to the diocesan bishop by law, namely, the power to place all administrative acts except those, however, which the bishop has reserved to himself, or which require a special mandate of the bishop by law.
2. Can. 147The provision of an ecclesiastical office is made: through free conferral by a competent ecclesiastical authority; through installation by the same authority if presentation preceded it; through confirmation or admission granted by the same authority if election or postulation preceded it; finally, through simple election and acceptance by the one elected if the election does not require confirmation
3. Can. 479 §3.Within the limit of their competence, the habitual faculties granted by the Apostolic See to the bishop and the execution of rescripts also pertain to a vicar general and an episcopal vicar, unless it has been expressly provided otherwise or the personal qualifications of the diocesan bishop were chosen. Can. 35 A singular administrative act, whether it is a decree, a precept, or a rescript, can be issued by one who possesses executive power within the limits of that person’s competence, without prejudice to the prescript of can. 76, §1. Can. 36 §1. An administrative act must be understood according to the proper meaning of the words and the common manner of speaking. In a case of doubt, those which refer to litigation, pertain to threatening or inflicting penalties, restrict the rights of a person, injure the acquired rights of others, or are contrary to a law which benefits private persons are subject to a strict interpretation; all others are subject to a broad interpretation.