Hierarchy

(Gr. hierarchia, “the administration of sacred things”). The term has been used by Christians since the Church Fathers to denote the body of persons participating in church rule. To Roman Catholics it means collectively the organization of clerics into rank and order of position. More specifically, the Roman Catholic Church gives a twofold meaning to “hierarchy,” with several subdivisions under each. In the hierarchy of order, those deriving authority directly from God comprise bishops, priests and deacons. Non-divine-right functions in this hierarchy are the subdiaconate and minor orders. In the hierarchy of jurisdiction, all grades derive authority from ecclesiastic sources, except the papacy and the episcopate, which are divinely ordained. The former grades of this hierarchy exercise authority conferred either from the pope or from the bishop.