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universal Church, but this power cannot be exercised without the agreement of the Roman
Pontiff.”61 Each individual bishop is tasked with overseeing a particular territory called a diocese.62
In overseeing his diocese, a bishop must ensure the authentic teaching of the Catholic faith, ensure
the proper and regular celebration of the sacraments and other acts of devotion, foster the vocations
to the priesthood and religious life, and govern the diocese with loyalty to the Holy Father.63 To
accomplish his mission, the bishop is allowed to extend his authority to priests in particular
parishes.64 A parish is simply the individual Catholic Church that serves a given community.65
Every country or region has an Episcopal Conference, also known as a Conference of Bishops.66
Disciplinary matters and decisions within the Church are referred to the bishops, but the Pope has
the ultimate authority to decide any matter.67 It is imperative to note that the entire Roman Catholic
Church is not an incorporated body in the United States.68 Individual bishops are responsible for
overseeing their diocese as a corporation sole,69 legally autonomous of one another and from the
Holy See.70 The dioceses themselves, rather than the bishops, may also be religious corporations.71
Fourth are archbishops, who are in charge of assisting the Pope in overseeing a particular
geographical region of a diocese known as the “ecclesiastical province.”72 The archbishop presides
over the bishops within a defined district made up of dioceses.73 Fifth and last are priests, who
serve as “co-workers” or “assistants” to the bishops.74 Priests are usually tasked with serving a
particular parish.75 When a priest is ordained, he takes vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience to
superiors.76 Priests are under the immediate authority of their local bishop.77
63 William Saunders, Bishops Is Source, Foundation of Unity, ARLINGTON CATH. HERALD,
visited Feb. 11, 2019).
64 What is difference between a diocese and an archdiocese? What about a bishop and an archbishop?, CATH.
STRAIGHT ANSWERS (2018), http://catholicstraightanswers.com/what-is-the-difference-between-a-diocese-and-an-archdiocese-what-about-a-bishop-and-an-archbishop/ [hereinafter CATHOLIC STRAIGHT ANSWERS].
65 See CATHOLIC STRAIGHT ANSWERS, supra note 64.
68 Marianne Perciaccante, The Courts and Canon Law, 6 CORNELL J.L. & PUB. POL'Y 171, 178 (1996).
69 Id. at 178–79.
72 CATHOLIC STRAIGHT ANSWERS, supra note 64.
74 Rohan, supra note 52.
76 Mathew Schmalz, How the Catholic Church’s hierarchy makes it difficult to punish sexual abusers, THE
CONVERSATION (Dec. 21, 2017), https://theconversation.com/how-the-catholic-churchs-hierarchy-makes-it-difficult-