Question: I have seen the title of Vicar General and Chancellor used in our Catholic newspaper. Who are they and what do they do?
Answer: A bishop is in charge of a diocese and appoints people to help with its administration. Two of those positions are the vicar general and the chancellor. Both play a role in the life of a diocese, despite the many jokes priests may tell at their expense! A chancellor is the archivist of a diocese, charged with task of keeping the records of the diocese. Often a bishop may add other responsibilities, and the chancellor may end up being like the executive director of the diocesan office. The chancellor does not need to be a priest.
The vicar general is a priest, appointed by the bishop and acts in the name of the bishop in administering the diocese. He has an advanced degree in canon law or theology. He also has executive authority within the diocese. This means that he is involved in the day-to-day pastoral and temporal administration of the diocese. Canon law does not allow a bishop to appoint a relative to the position, nor the priest in charge of the Sacrament of Penance. In both cases, the purpose of the law is to avoid conflicts of interest.