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    i was just wondering…
    could anyone please tell me the hierarchy of the church? from the Pope down to the ordinary believers…

    is the office of the bishop the highest in terms of authority? if so then is a bishop higher than a cardinal? because before the Pope becomes the Pope he is among the conclave of cardinals right?

    just asking <img decoding=” title=”Very Happy” />


    Holy Orders as found in the time of the Apostles was limited primarily to the Bishop, Priest and Deacon. Very quickly the Church also added additional positions of jurisdictional authority, as well as what are referred to as Minor Orders.

    There are different things that we need to look at when it comes to the Hierarchy.

    First when it comes to the sacraments. As far as validity, the Eucharist when consecrated by a simple country priest, a bishop in a Major See, or the Pope himself is the same Jesus. No more no less Jesus in any place.

    Absolution. Any priest who has jurisdiction may absolve sins, as it is God who acts though the means of His minister the priest, the absolution that the priest offers is just as much a forgiveness of sins as that offered by the Pope. Some more serious sins are sometimes reserved, meaning that the priest must obtain special jurisdiction to forgive them, but the power to forgive the sins is still that of Christ’s priesthood, and the priest simply needs the authorization to use those powers. The Church, a mirror of God’s grace says that if someone is in danger of death, the priest may presume that he has the authority and jurisdiction to absolve someone, and the Church supplies the permission to absolve even reserved sins. Even a priest who has left the priesthood and is not allowed to function as a priest may absolve someone who is in the danger of death.

    That end of the clergy being covered, now to the purely Jurisdicitonal matters of the clergy.

    The three levels of the BIshop, priest and deacon are broken down further, by what terretory they have the right to govern.

    A Bishop may be a Titular Bishop, that is a bishop who has no diocese, usually an assistant bishop to the bishop of a diocese. A Diocisan Bishop has the Authority of the Diocese that he heads. A Metropolitan Bishop (Archbishop) has supervision over a group of Diocese, and advises the local diocses in his area, but has not direct control over any diocese but his own. A Cardianl is usually the Diocesan Bishop of a large Metropolitan area, but only had direct control of his own diocese. The Pope has jurisdicion over the entire Church, and can make changes to the assignments of bishops and may direct any diocese to do what he wishes. There are some Bishops, Archbishops and Cardinals who simply work in the Vatican or in the diplomatic corp for the vatican.

    Priests are either attached to a Religious Order, and can be either simple priests or various grades of superiors in that order. Relgious Orders may only establish a parish or Religious house when invited by the local bishop to do so. Secular priests, (who are bound to a diocese and not an order) are either assigned as Pastors of parishes, or assitants to the pastor. They may have other assignments such as teaching, hospital chaplains, or other things and act as supply priests, or priests not assigned to a parish, but who help out a parish when they need additional priests. Any priest in good standing can be authorized to offer Mass, hear confessions, marry or baptize by the Pastor of a parish for a short period of time. To have that authorization for a longer period of time or permanent staus they need to be authorized to function by the bishop.

    Deacons, transitional or permanent are either those who are students for the priesthood, or those with no aspiration to become priests. Usually they are assigned to assist a parish by the Bishop, although he may use them for other purposes.

    Up until Pope John XXIII, a Cardinal could be a layman, (very rare) a deacon, priest, or bishop, with the special authority and priviliges of a Cardinal, (Including the right to vote for a new Pope upon the death or resignation (also very rare) or a Pope.)

    In some places, (Eastern Catholic, Traditional Latin Mass groups) there are Minor Orders, which consisted of Porter, Exorcist, Acolyte, and Lector and one Major Order (in the Latin Church) Sub-Deacon. The Eastern Catholics consider the Sub-deacon as a Minor Order. While these along with Tonsure, which makes one a member of the clergy are not a part of the Sacrament of Orders, like a Deacon, Priest, or Bishop, but are positions of authority within the clergy like an Archbishop or Cardinal, who have specific roles and authority over jurisdicional affairs, or terretories, but no more Sacramental authority than any man with the same level of clergy (Deacon, Priest or Bishop).

    All a bit confusing for such a short article, hopefully not too confusing.

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