Assessor of the Holy Office, an official of the Congregation of the Inquisition. The Holy Office is better known as the Congregation of the Universal Inquisition. Its functions at present are to watch over matters connected with faith and to examine into the suspected tenets of persons or books. The Assessor holds the office next in dignity after the Cardinals of the Congregation. He is a secular prelate or an honorary chamberlain of the Pope. It is his duty to make the relation or report of the Holy Office in a given case. When the consultors of the Congregation alone assemble, the Assessor presides over them and afterwards lays their votes before the Cardinal Inquisitors. When the Congregation has reached a decision, the Assessor communicates the result to the Pope on the same evening, in case the latter has not presided over the assembly. The Assessor must be present at all four meetings of this Congregation. On Saturday he examines into the matters laid before the Holy Office and decides, together with four other officials, whether a vote of the consultors be necessary in the case, or whether the Cardinals of the Congregation should pass upon the matter at once. On Monday, he calls the consultors into council. He is present on Wednesday at the secret meeting of the Cardinals and on Thursday at the solemn session which sometimes takes place under the presidency of the Pope. The Assessor has also charge of the Secretariate and sees that current business is expedited. The office of assessor is so important that it is included among the cardinalitial appointments; that is, the only promotion considered proper for an assessor is to raise him to the rank of cardinal.
WILLIAM H. W. FANNING