CURATE (from the Lat. curare, to take care of), properly a presbyter who has the cure of souls within a parish. The term is used in this general sense in certain rubrics of the English Book of Common Prayer, in which it is applied equally to rectors and vicars as to perpetual curates. So, on the continent of Europe, it is applied in this sense to parish priests, as the Fr. curt, Ital. curato, Span, cura, etc. In a more limited sense it is applied in the Church of England to the incumbent of a parish who has no endowment of tithes, as distinguished from a perpetual vicar, who has an endowment of small tithes, which are for that reason sometimes styled vicarial tithes. The origin of such unendowed curacies is traceable to the fact that benefices were sometimes granted to religious houses plena jure, and with liberty for them to provide for the cure; and when such appropriations were transferred to lay persons, being unable to serve themselves, the impropriators were required to nominate a clerk in full orders to the ordinary for his licence to serve the cure. Such curates, being not removable at the pleasure of the impropriators, but only on due revocation of the licence of the ordinary, came to be entitled perpetual curates. The term " curate " in the present day is almost exclusively used to signify a clergyman who is assistant to a rector or vicar, by whom he is employed and paid; and a clerk in deacon's orders is competent to be licensed by a bishop to the office of such assistant curate. The consequence of this misuse of the term " curate "was that the title of " perpetual curate " fell into desuetude in the Anglican Church, and an act of parliament (1868) was passed to authorize perpetual curates to style themselves vicars (see VICAR). The term is in use in the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland to designate an assistant clergyman, and also to a certain extent in the American Episcopal Church, though " assistant minister " is usually preferred.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)