ABBESS, the Superior of an Abbey, or Convent of Nuns. See ABBEY, and CONVENT.

The Abbess has the same Rights, and Authority over her Nuns that the Abbots regular have over their Monks. See ABBOT.

The Sex indeed does not allow her to perform the Spiritual Functions annex'd to the Priesthood, wherewith the Abbot is usually invested; but there are Instances of some Abesses, who have a Right, or rather a Privilege, to commission a Priest to act for 'em. They have even a kind of Episcopal Jurisdiction, as well as some Abbots, who are exempted from the Visitation of their Diocesans. See EXEMPTION.

F. Martene, in his Treatise of the Rites of the Church, observes, that some Abbesses have formerly consess'd their Nuns. He adds, that their execsessive Curiosity carry'd 'em such lengths, that there arose a neceslity of checking it.

S. Basil, in his Rule, allows the Abbess to be present with the Priest at the Consessions of her Nuns. See CONFESSION.