The Hierarchy and Natural Order of Creation

Scripture is clear that angels have been gifted with greater spiritual power than humans; they are described as “blameless,” able to “discern good and evil,” and “knowledgeable of all things on the earth.” And while Scripture is unclear on when, exactly, they were created, we do know that they were present “when God laid the foundations of the earth.” Scripture itself doesn’t tell us so much more about the angels themselves (obviously, we know plenty about the messages they brought to specific persons throughout history). But that hasn’t stopped humans from speculating. As the Christian Cyclopedia explains, “[In the 5th century, A.D.] Pseudo-Dionysius invented 27 ranks in an angelic hierarchy allegedly consisting of 3 major orders, each with 9 subdivisions. Later writers imitated or adapted this speculative ranking of angels, based to some extent on [Deuterocannonical] and pseudepigraphal documents such as Tobit, Enoch, 2 Esdras, and the Testament of Levi.” (Cyclopedia) (The Celestial Hierarchy)

Now to my questions. It would seem to me that angels, having been created prior to Man and being charged, to some subservient extent, with Man’s earthly welfare, are therefore lower than Man in the Hierarchy of Creation. I’ve been surprised to learn that many Catholic theologians hold angels to be ‘higher’ beings than humans. Is this the official Catholic teaching, or simply one of many acceptable views? Have any ecumenical councils or local synods made statements regarding the relationship of angels to Man (or popes, for that matter)? For non-Catholics, what does your church teach regarding the Hierarchy and Natural Order of Creation?

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