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Charles Buck Theological Dictionary
The superior of an abbey or convent of nuns. The abbess has the same rights and authority over her nuns that the abbots regular have over their monks. The sex, indeed, does not allow her to perform the spiritual functions annexed to the priesthood, wherewith the abbot is usually invested; but there are instances of some abbesses who have a right, or rather a privilege, to commission a priest to act for them. They have even a kind of episcopal jurisdiction, as well as some abbots who are exempted from the visitation of their diocesan.
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Buck, Charles. Entry for 'Abbess'. Charles Buck Theological Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/cbd/a/abbess.html. 1802.