Bringing you the "Good News" of Jesus Christ and His Church While PROMOTING CATHOLIC Apologetic Support groups loyal to the Holy Father and Church's magisterium
Home About
What's New? Resources The Church Family Life Mass and
Ask A Catholic
Knowledge base
AskACatholic Disclaimer
Search the
AskACatholic Database
Donate and
Support our work
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
New Questions
Cool Catholic Videos
About Saints
Disciplines & Practices for distinct Church seasons
Purgatory and Indulgences
About the Holy Mass
About Mary
Searching and Confused
Contemplating becoming a Catholic or Coming home
Homosexual and Gender Issues
Life and Family
No Salvation Outside the Church
Sacred Scripture
non-Catholic Cults
Justification and Salvation
The Pope and Papacy
The Sacraments
Relationships and Marriage situations
Specific people, organizations and events
Doctrine and Teachings
Specific Practices
Church Internals
Church History

Ryan wrote:

Hi, guys —

My question involves the structure of papal authority within the United States. From what I've learned its structured this way:

  1. parishes
  2. diocese
  3. archdiocese
  • Is there any other authority either before, in-between or after from what I've listed?

I imagine it starts with the town/city, state, then goes nationwide and so on. I've always been interested in the structure of authority within the Church.

Thank You!


  { What is the structure of papal authority within the United States? }

Mike replied:

Hi Ryan,

Thanks for the question.

"the structure of papal authority within the United States" is not really the best way to articulate it.

The only one with papal authority, at any given time, is the current Pope.

Cardinals, bishops, pastors or priest have no papal authority by themselves but speak "in union" with the [Holy Father|Pope] when teaching correctly on faith and morals from the deposit of faith.

There is a hierarchical authority within the Church. That's probably what you mean; something analogous to a corporate hierarchy within any given company.

The hierarchical authority within the Church based, not on her members, but on groups of people, as you have indicated in your question, would be:

  • the parishes and religious houses, like convents or monasteries
    Side note: convents or monasteries are overseen by the local bishop as well as the superior for their Order.
  • the diocese or the archdiocese, depending on the Catholic population of the bishop's geographic territory.

Within each country, since Vatican II, there have been groups of bishops in each country that meet on a regular basis.

In the United States, this would be the USCCB, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Within each country there is also a special envoy to the Vatican (U.S. Apostolic Nuncio) who lives in Washington D.C. Laity, religious and bishops can petition him to bring certain issues of importance to the Holy Father's attention.

Wikipedia will give you a list of all the diocese around the world in the Church.

Here is the structure for the United States.

If your question was centered more around the people or clerics in the Church, this posting should help:

Hope this helps,


Eric replied:

Hi, Ryan —

I'd like to add that each bishop in the United States reports directly to the Pope, although this is mediated somewhat by the papal nuncio. The nuncio is the Holy See's ambassador, and handles a lot of the details in each individual country. The Pope is assisted by the Congregation for Bishops, but the bishops don't report through this congregation.

The USCCB, while it exists as Mike says, has no governing power over the bishops.

There is a kind of honorary and very weak oversight between metropolitan archbishops and their suffragan bishops. For example, the archbishop of Boston will exercise a kind of big brother-like role to the bishop of Manchester (New Hampshire) and other New England bishops, but they don't report to him.


Please report any and all typos or grammatical errors.
Suggestions for this web page and the web site can be sent to Mike Humphrey
© 2012 Panoramic Sites
The Early Church Fathers Church Fathers on the Primacy of Peter. The Early Church Fathers on the Catholic Church and the term Catholic. The Early Church Fathers on the importance of the Roman Catholic Church centered in Rome.