Roles In The Catholic Church: Who Is Who?

The Catholic Church is among the few religious organizations that have solid structures with clearly defined roles and responsibilities. Whether one is an ordained or non-ordained member, they can fit in one area of service or the other.

An ordained person refers to a member of the Catholic Church who has received the sacrament of Holy Orders. On the other hand, a non-ordained person refers to anyone who is not member of the clergy also known as a layperson.

What Are the Main Roles of The Catholic Church?

what are the main roles of the catholic church

In terms of structural roles, here is how the Catholic Church is planned. Every role is as important as the other though the hierachy6 defines seniority.

The Pope

This is the Vicar of Christ and the head of the Catholic Church. As commissioned by Jesus in the Book of John 21:15-19, the Pope is the leader of the Christian flock. He has the authority to speak to matters of morals and faith because he has the promise of Jesus to be the protector of the church.

St. Peter is recognized as the first Pope and the apostle of Jesus. From him, there has been 265 other Popes culminating in Pope Francis who leads the church to the present.


Cardinals are the second in command after the Pope and are appointed by the Pope. They assist the Pope in counsel, church administration and liturgy.

Generally, cardinals are drawn from large or prominent dioceses such as Chicago, New York, Sydney, and Boston. They have the right and the privilege to vote in papal elections.


These are the chief pastors in dioceses. The diocese is the main administrative unit of the Catholic Church, and the bishop is responsible for the supervision of all the activities taking place in the churches within the diocese.

They are also charged with arranging any charitable activities within their diocese. The head of bishops are the archbishops who govern an archdiocese as well as bishops in the nearby areas.

There are two other types of bishops worth noting. The auxiliary bishops appointed by an archbishop to assist in the running of an archdiocese.

There is also a coadjutor bishop who oversees an archdiocese or diocese together with other bishops. He is positioned to succeed the bishop of the diocese which he is governing.


Priests govern parishes in the same manner as bishops govern a diocese. In the absence of the bishop, priests can be there to perform their duties. There are several ranks of priests as stated below:

  • Episcopal Vicar – These priests can act in the place of the bishop and may be limited to a certain geographical area as determined by the bishop.
  • The Vicar General – This refers to a priest with powers to act for and in place of the bishop in all areas save for those outlined by the canon law as belonging to the archbishop.
  • Monsignor – This is a priest of high standing and exemplary stature. Not many Catholic jurisdictions have monsignors.


A deacon is more or less an ordained priest who have not taken their vows. The work of the deacon is to assist the priest in performing their daily duties. Having said that, deacons are not allowed to preside over the celebration of mass or administration of Holy sacraments.

The work of deacons includes serving as a clerk to the parish and reporting directly to the bishop while assisting the priests in their capacities. For instance, they can preside over weddings, proclaim the gospel during mass, and offering assistance and advice to parishioners.

Religious Communities

Ordained and laypeople organized in some form to help them rally around a specific cause in the church are referred to as religious communities. You may find some devoted to noble causes such as education, evangelism, and general church service.

Volunteer Lay Ministers

These are members of the church belonging to a parish but are not part of the professional paid staff. They play a crucial role in the functioning of the church. For instance, some of them are parish council members helping with the operation of the parish.

Some volunteers lay ministers serve in finance councils, the choir, as eucharist ministers, liturgy committee members, ushers, lectors, and catechists.

What Are the Male and Female Positions in the Catholic Church?

how is the catholic church structured and what are the male and female positions

The Catholic church promotes gender equality by giving responsibilities to both men and women to serve in various capacities. Both sexes are allowed to dispense Eucharist in the laity. If willing men and women can become part of religious orders that have dedicated themselves to God such as nuns and monks.

Women And Church Leadership

Women are not allowed to join the priesthood. This is a position reserved for men who also have to be ordained. As a requirement, priests are supposed to remain celibate to dedicate themselves and their lives to God as well as the church. Because a priest stands in the place of Jesus who was of the male gender, Catholics allow only men to become priests.

Other than the priesthood, women are allowed to serve in other posts within the church. In 2019, women from the Amazon region in South America made proposals to the Roman Catholic church to be allowed to serve in greater capacities within the church.

Instead of giving decision making power to men, women Catholic leaders also want to be involved in sharing pastoral responsibilities including their ordination as deacons.

For instance, in Brazil, women are the majority of catechists with some taking up liturgical roles and community leadership responsibilities. They claim that though these roles are important, they do not give them the visibility they need.

As it stands, the Catholic church leadership is predominantly male with the Pope, cardinals, archbishops, bishops, and priests chosen from the male members of the church.

Read also: Is leaving the Catholic Church a sin?


The Catholic Church has a structural organization that helps it manage its affairs. While the community may differ from one place to another, the work of priests, deacons and other leaders is clearly cut out. No one is better than the other only that hierarchy differentiates them based on seniority.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Catholics & Bible

6140 S Drexel Ave
Chicago, IL 60637


Amazon Disclaimer

Catholics & Bible is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to


Catholics & Bible do not intend to provide any health related advice. We try to help our readers better understand their lives; however, the content on this blog is not a substitute for any professional medical guidance. Please read our PRIVACY POLICY.