Structure and Decision Making
The Bishop in His Diocese
This book has argued that the diocese is the basic unit of the Catholic Church's hierarchical structure and that parishes are the building blocks of the dioceses. To better understand formal and informal relationships among the most important local clerical actors, it is useful to identify the typical diocesan institutions and those who direct them. As is the case of any institution, personnel labels are used loosely, often conveying mistaken associations and influence.
Essentially, two types of diocesan priests compose rank-and-file members of the bishop's or archbishop's staff. The parish priest, cura or párroco in Mexico, is in charge of or associated with a specific church and the faithful within the parish boundaries. In larger parishes, priests or vicars are assigned to parish priests as assistants. In some cases, more than one church exists in a parish; the individuals assigned to these affiliated churches are simply called priests or sacerdotes. 1
A presbyterial council exists in each diocese to help the bishop confront pastoral problems. Council members are called canons. Each individual bishop determines the function and organization of the presbyterial council, which consists of priests. He may use the priests to test his proposals, to obtain their advice, or to promote his pastoral policies throughout the diocese.
The most important figure in the diocese is, of course, the bishop. Bishops deserve a much closer examination in Mexico and elsewhere in the region because although canon law prescribes their powers and responsibilities, few popular or scholarly analyses exist of how power actually is exercised. 2 Bishops are divided into four categories. Not all bishops govern geographic territories (dioceses). Many priests selected as bishops, having no diocese of their own, are assigned a geographic place name of a diocese that no longer exists. The typical bishop (first