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​​​​​​1.2.1 Canonical and Civil Organization​

​​​​​​​​​ Canonical Overview


The archdiocese is a diocese of the universal Church and under canon law is defined as a portion of the people of God entrusted to the archbishop to be shepherded by him with the cooperation of his clergy. The archdiocese constitutes a "particular church" in which Christ's one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church is truly present (Canon 369). Under canon law, a diocese or archdiocese is not intended to be viewed as merely an administrative division of the universal Church. While the modern Church recognizes that complex administrative and temporal matters are a reality to be addressed by every bishop or archbishop as a chief executive officer, his role in the Church is presented under canon law not in terms of power or administrative rights but of a shepherd in pastoral ministry.

Bishops and Archbishops

Bishops are selected and appointed by the Apostolic See according to the procedures outlined in canon law (Canon 377). They may be designated, like Archbishop José Gomez and his predecessors, as the chief shepherd and Christ's pastor for the archdiocese, with legislative, executive, and judicial powers to lead both by example and with spiritual faith. Under canon law, the power of the (arch)bishop responsible for an (arch)diocese is ordinary as it relates to his office as the senior (arch)diocesan bishop, proper since he acts in his own name and not for another, and immediate since he is to be concerned directly about each person present in the (arch)diocese, including his clergy, men and women who are members of religious orders, and all the laity, whether or not Catholic. Archbishop Gomez currently carries out the responsibility of chief shepherd, pastor, and administrator of the archdiocese and under current terms in canon law is referred to as the diocesan bishop.

Listed below are the individuals who have served as diocesan bishops since the founding of the archdiocese and its predecessors:

Francisco Garcia Diego y Moreno, O.F.M. (1840–1846), Bishop of Two Californias
Joseph Alemany, O.P. (1850–1853), Bishop of Monterey
Thaddeus Amat y Brusi, C.M. (1853–1878), Bishop of Monterey-Los Angeles
Francisco Mora y Borrell (1878–1896), Bishop of Monterey-Los Angeles
George Thomas Montgomery (1896–1902), Bishop of Monterey-Los Angeles
Thomas James Conaty (1903–1915), Bishop of Monterey-Los Angeles
John Joseph Cantwell (1917–1922), Bishop of Monterey-Los Angeles
John Joseph Cantwell (1922–1936), Bishop of Los Angeles-San Diego
John Joseph Cantwell (1936–1947), Archbishop of Los Angeles
James Francis Cardinal McIntyre (1948–1970), Archbishop of Los Angeles
Timothy Cardinal Manning (1970–1985), Archbishop of Los Angeles
Roger Cardinal Mahony (1985–2011), Archbishop of Los Angeles
José Horacio Gómez (2011–present), Archbishop of Los Angeles

Bishops also may be designated to serve as auxiliary bishops in the capacities assigned to them (Canon 377). In the archdiocese, Archbishop Gomez has continued the structure adopted in 1988 of organizing the archdiocese into five regions, each overseen by an auxiliary bishop or other senior clergy designated as the episcopal vicar for the region.

The auxiliary bishops serving at this time have been designated to a region or particular responsibility to assist the archbishop in his pastoral role and in exercise of his executive role. They are designated as vicars general, which means they can "stand in the shoes" of the archbishop on those matters particularly designated to them. Auxiliary bishops or episcopal vicars oversee the five pastoral regions of Santa Barbara, San Fernando, San Gabriel, San Pedro, and Our Lady of the Angels

Each pastoral region is divided into four deaneries. The deaneries generally include 15 to 20 parishes, except the Santa Barbara Pastoral Region, which has 37 parishes divided among its four deaneries. The deaneries are coordinated by a clerical dean, who is usually a pastor of a parish in the deanery elected within the deanery, with the archbishop's consent. The deaneries generally meet monthly, frequently with pastoral region participation, to discuss issues of common concern and interest to the member parishes, participate in professional and pastoral development and reflection, and advise on matters brought to them by the archbishop, Council of Priests​, or pastoral region.

Deans are appointed for five-year terms, staggered so that no more than one dean is completing a term in any one year. If a dean cannot finish his term, another priest is selected to complete the term. Deans are nominated from among the active priests of a deanery by all the active priests and parish life directors of the deanery using a nominating ballot sent out by the regional office. After reviewing the results of this nomination process, the archbishop appoints the dean.

Canonical Administrative Structure

While canon law places an emphasis on the pastoral role of the archdiocese, in fact, both the pastoral and temporal operations in the modern Church have become much more complex, and in the United States, dioceses, including the archdiocese, now provide significant administrative assistance, leadership, and resources. Temporal goods are necessary to the Church in the pursuit of its proper ends and accordingly, canon law provides details of how the Church acquires, retains, administers, and alienates temporal goods from the perspective of the Church and its internal powers and procedures (cf. Canons 1254–1310). Since the Church is located throughout the world, there are also civil laws that impact its temporal and secular activities; for the archdiocese, the civil law structure is discussed in Civil Overview.

The moderator of the curia, under the authority of the archbishop and as his principal vicar general, coordinates the exercise of administrative responsibilities, ensures that other members of the Curia in the archdiocese duly fulfill the offices entrusted to them, and has general administrative responsibility for the chancery, which in the archdiocese is organized as the Archdiocesa​n Catholic Center and the regional offices.

This Administrative Handbook covers many of those activities; describes the interaction between and among the parishes, schools, and archdiocese; contains important operating information; and reflects the core administrative policies, procedures, and guidelines that are expected to be applied throughout the archdiocese. The archdiocese provides the administrative guidance and oversight through the departments and services centered at the Archdiocesan Catholic Center. The parishes of the archdiocese fund a significant portion of the costs of operating the Archdiocesan Catholic Center through an annual asse​ssment (under "Banking Relationship​," see Archdiocesan Assessment and Special Collections​), which is set by the archbishop in consultation with the senior consultative bodies of the archdiocese as a percentage of parish ordinary revenues.​​​

Although each parish has the right to acquire, retain, administer, and alienate temporal goods by virtue of canon law (see Canons 515.3, 1255, and 1256), the diocesan bishop is responsible for supervising carefully the administration of all the goods that belong to the parish, and for the archdiocese, these activities are also governed by the applicable civil laws. In exercising this responsibility, he may issue special instructions within the limits of universal and particular law with due regard for rights, legitimate customs, and circumstances (Canon 1276). Please see the general guidelines on financial t​ransactions.

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles ​​Organization Chart –​ Canonical Structure​​ illustrates in a graphic way the organizational structure of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and the chart serves to explain the division of the central administrative functions and how it relates to parishes.

Role of the Archbishop

In accordance with the Scriptures, Roman Catholic tradition, and canon law, the archbishop is the chief shepherd of the Church in Los Angeles (see Canons 376 and 381) and is expected to oversee the archdiocese with legislative, judicial, and executive power in accord with the norm of canon law (Canon 391.1). He oversees the sacramental life of the Church and the faithful in the archdiocese, including the administration of the sacraments of the Church.

Under canon law, the archbishop exercises legislative power person​​ally and exercises judicial and executive powers either personally or through vicars general or episcopal vicars who are appointed and to whom powers are delegated (Canon 391.2). In the archdiocese, the moderator of the curia, auxiliary bishops, episcopal vicars for the regions, vicar for canonical affairs, judicial vicar, and chancellors and vice chancellors who are clergy are designated as vicars. While they generally consult fully with the archbishop, under canon law the vicars have the responsibility to "stand in the shoes" of the archbishop, as applicable and as needed, only for those matters that are delegated to them when they are designated as a vicar.

Some vicars, such as the vicar for clergy, are appointed for a term. Others such as auxiliary bishops serve until their resignation or retirement is accepted. In the archdiocese, the chancellors and vice chancellors who are not clergy may be delegated certain responsibilities, and the chancellor has been designated by the archbishop along with the moderator of the curia as an attorney-in-fact for The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Los Angeles, a corporation sole.

In the archdiocese, the vicar for clergy coordinates matters related to deacons and priests, the vicar for women religious coordinates matters related to women religious and their communities, and the vice chancellor coordinates matters related to religious brothers and their institutes.

Under canon law, in an effort to assure stability in every diocese, the chief finance officer, who may be either a lay person or cleric, is appointed by the archbishop after specified consultations for a five-year renewable term and remains in office even when there is a change or vacancy in the office of archbishop (Canon 494).​

Canon law also requires that the archbishop seek the input of particular consultative groups, as specified under canon law, as well as consult with interested parties who may be adversely impacted before he finalizes important decisions. As the chief shepherd, the archbishop has a particular ministerial and paternal role in the formation, guidance, and assignments of clergy, but as with other aspects of canon law, the clergy also have individual canonical rights, which balance the rights and responsibilities for all clergy.

In addition to his role in the archdiocese, the archbishop of Los Angeles is automatically designated as the metropolitan for the Dioceses of FresnoMontereyOrangeSan Bernardino, and San Diego​, which are referred to as the suffragan dioceses. In that capacity, canon law provides that the archbishop must exercise vigilance on behalf of the Holy See to assure the suffragan dioceses are observing, communicating, and exercising the faith properly and to counsel and report neglect of that standard. The metropolitan has no other direct administrative control or duties for the suffragan dioceses. Civil Overview

The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Los Angeles, a corporation sole

The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Los Angeles, a corporation sole (RCALAcorp) incorporated under the laws of the State of California, serves as the principal civil corporation for the civil affairs of the archdiocese and the archbishop is the titular "owner" during his tenure. While the individual parishes have specific jurisdiction under canon law, for civil law purposes the parishes of the archdiocese are not formally organized as corporations; in certain circumstances they may be considered as separate civil units.

Because of the RCALAcorp format in the archdiocese, under civil law, parish real estate, the cemeteries,​​ and other real estate and assets are generally held for civil law purposes by RCALAcorp. For his term in office, the archbishop is the sole holder or "owner" of the interests in RCALAcorp. As a practical but not specific legal matter, in this archdiocese, when one consolidates the role of the archbishop under canon law with his "ownership" under the civil laws, one might view him as serving as the "trustee" responsible for all of the assets entrusted to him during his tenure in office.

Based on the prerogative afforded the archbishop under canon law and his civil status as the holder of full ownership in RCALAcorp, ownership and authority are reserved to the archbishop who acts directly after receiving such consents and advice as may be prescribed by canon law or archdiocesan policy.

This general authority is reserved to the archbishop or to an attorney-in-fact whom he has designated and to whom he has delegated authority. Currently, the moderator of the curia and the chancellor each are authorized to act as an attorney-in-fact for RCALAcorp. Also, in certain circumstances the chief financial officer or another person may be authorized to take certain actions, with the consent of the archbishop.

In the archbishop's role as "owner" of RCALAcorp, he is also the sole owner of the other civil law entities in the archdiocese, including the Archdiocese of Los Angeles Education & Welfare Corporation, a California religious corporation, which holds the real property and certain assets related to all parish and archdiocesan elementary and high schools. Refer to Civil Law Entities.

Except where the policies of the archdiocese have specifically delegated such authority to the pastor/administrator or other person​, no pastor/administrator or individual has the legal ability to contract, lend, or borrow money; enter into agreements for services or goods; or otherwise enter into any temporal transactions involving the assets of the parish, its school, or otherwise. In summary, in the archdiocese, every transaction regarding property, whether real estate or any other material transaction, requires the approval (and usually the signature) of the archbishop or his legally approved delegate. This is also the reason the archbishop and the moderator of the curia are both cosigners to any parish or school bank accounts.​​​