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Faith/Spirituality Forum: Church Hierarchy/Structure

by Catherine Frakas 24 Sep 2001

Church Hierarchy/Structure QUESTION from Madeleine on June 5, 2002 God Bless you and your Ministry! Thanks for offering this service.
Do you know where can I find a good diagram or visual model of the hierarchy/structure of the Catholic Church?
My family is not Catholic, and they have many questions about this sex abuse scandal now in the Church. Many times I have wished I had a diagram to show them to help them better understand why things happen the way they do in the Church.
I have checked The Catholic Encyclopedia and online with no success.
Thanks so much!
ANSWER by John-Paul Ignatius, OLSM on June 6, 2002 Dear Madeleine:
There is no organizational chart in the usual sense of the word. There doesn't need to be since the structure is very simple.
The Church is organized as a family -- it is called a paterfamilias structure. The priests are the fathers of that family in there respective local communities.
Thus the Pope is the Supreme Father of the Whole Church. The Bishops are the Fathers of the local Church. The Parish Pastors are Fathers of the parish communities. Deacons are helpers to the priests.
That is it. That is the essential structure.
In addition to this Archbishops of an Archdiocese do have some oversight jurisdiction over the sufferage dioceses in his territory -- but it is very limited and not like the Archbiship is the boss over the bishop in a hierarchal relationship.
Cardinals are the Princes of the Church and are assistants and advisors to the Pope. Some Cardinal also are Archbishops running a local archdiocese, others are Curial officers at the Vatican.
In essence, the Cardinals are sort-of like the Cabinet Officers of the President of the United States -- they generally run various departments in the Church.
Diagrams are hard in this form, but I will try. And keep in mind the details of the various powers and positions of these people are more complicated than I am describing here, but in essence, this is the organizational chart:

The Pope |------------------- College of Cardinal (advisors) | Patriarchs | | Bishops | | Parish Priests | Diocesan Deacons
The sex scandals have nothing directly to do with the hierarchy of the official Church. Molesting children is a sin and is to be condemned is the official teaching of the Church.
What we have is INDIVIDUAL priest falling into the temptation of sin. The Church is not responsible to individual's sins.
The Bishops, of course, are suppose to discipline priests who commit such evil sins. If a Bishop does not do his job it is NOT the Church's fault, it is that BISHOP's fault.
In addition, the actions of the Bishop in these cases may NOT be malicious or even negligent. There were honest reasons for some actions of bishops back in the days before even the Medical world knew as the true nature of pedophilia.
Most of these cases are not about pedophilia, however, they are about homosexuality. The psychiatric community no longer considered homosexuality a disorder (which is stupid, but that is the way it is). Because of this, many psychologists have mislead bishops. Many psychologists have treated priests who have molested and declared them cured. The Bishop is generally not a psychologist and thus accepts the diagnosis and prognosis of the mental health professionals.
I am just suggesting some of the complicated dynamics that may have influenced the actions of some bishops.
... even if the bishop in cold calculated and premeditated manner covered up this problem, the sin belongs solely to them.
We cannot blame the entire church for the sins of a few priests and bishops.
The Church is a family. I always ask people, Are there any murderers, horse theives, robbers, etc. in your family line? If there are, does that make the WHOLE family criminals, or only those who actually committed the crime?
This point needs to be emphasized to those who wish to use these sex scandals as an excuse to blame the whole Church.
There is more information at the 1917 Catholic Encyclopedia under the articles Hierachy and Bishop and Patriarch and Patriarchate and Pope I hope this helps a little.
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