Structure and Decision Making
International and National Actors
The Catholic Church can be likened to an international corporation consisting of local and regional franchises. These franchises play by the organization's general rules, but independent CEOs, bishops, make most decisions and implement policy choices. The Catholic Church's structure is complicated by the fact that it incorporates international and national actors at many levels, it draws on diverse forms of funding, it recruits rank-and-file clergy from different nationalities, and its clergy are divided into two categories.
The Church consists of a clear hierarchical structure, although one that exercises less influence than is commonly assumed. The Pope, who can be described as the cardinal of the Catholic Church, is essentially the bishop of the archdiocese of Rome. The difference between the Pope and any ordinary bishop is in the composition of his diocese and the process by which he is selected. The Pope's diocese consists of cardinals rather than rank-and-file clergy. Ironically, the archbishop of the Roman diocese, the Pope, is the only bishop in the Catholic Church elected by his peers, a collective body of cardinals. 1
The cardinals, as members of the diocese of Rome, are incorporated into a College of Cardinals. They are divided into two groups: residential bishops, who, like Cardinal Ernesto Corripio, remain in the dioceses they govern (in Corripio's case, the archdiocese of Mexico in the capital), and nonresidential cardinals, who are expected to live in Rome, filling posts in the Roman Curia, the papal administration. Church leadership in Rome maintains itself by filling vacancies in the College of Cardinals, expanding its membership to meet the demands of a growing Church. 2 Cardinals obtain their prestige not because they exercise any more influence over their diocese, or that of the neighboring bishop, but because they are eligible to become the next Pope, and because collectively only they vote for a Pope.
The Roman Curia is essentially the Pope's personal administrative staff, a sort of combined executive office building and cabinet, where a cardinal heads each