Church Leadership

By Vic Scaravilli

The three levels of ordained clergy in the Catholic Church:

  1. Bishop
  2. Priest
  3. Deacon

In the beginning, Jesus appointed 12 apostles to be His ministers of spreading His Message to the world. These original apostles received the Deposit of Faith, or the complete revelation that Christ taught them.

Mk. 3:13-19

  1. Jesus appointed the 12 apostles
  2. Sent the forth to preach
  3. Gave them authority

There are many verses in the Bible that show Christ gave His apostles authority:

Mt. 28:18-20

1. The authority Christ had was given to the apostles to teach and act in His name

Mt. 18:18

2. Whatever you bind on earth, I will bind in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.

Peter was given the special role of being head of the apostles.

Mat. 16:17-19 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I also say to you that you Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of Hell will not overpower it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

Peter’s Preeminence

  1. His name was changed by God from Simon to Peter meaning “Rock”
  2. His name is listed 195 times compared to the next apostle, John
  3. Peter is always listed first in lists of the apostles
  4. Was the primary figure in the early church

Since Peter was head of the apostles, this office continued to be leader of the successors of the apostles or bishops throughout the history of the Church.

The office of the Pope serves as the leader of all of the bishops in the word and is the head of the Catholic Church on earth.

The three levels of ordained clergy in the Catholic Church:

  1. Bishop
  2. Priest
  3. Deacon

Apostolic Succession

Once the 12 apostles were chosen and given authority by Christ, the passing on of authority did not stop there. This authority was passed on to others in an unbroken line to the present day.

The very first action the apostles did after Jesus ascended to heaven was to choose a successor for Judas. The vacant position is described as an office or a position that never end with the death of a person. This office was given the name of a bishop.

They choose Mathias to take Judas place. (Acts 1:15-26)

There are several examples of apostolic authority being passed on to others by the laying of hands or ordination.

  1. Acts 13:3 Paul is ordained; “So it was that after fasting and prayer they laid their hands on them and sent them off.”
  2. 2 Tim 1:6 Paul is telling Timothy who he ordained, “That is why I am reminding you now to fan into a flame the gift that God gave you when I laid my hands on you.”

The Bible tells us that ordination should be passed on to others.

3. 1 Tim. 5:22 Paul is telling Timothy to be wise in the ordination of others. Do not be quick to lay hands on any man, and never make yourself an accomplice in anybody else’s sin; keep yourself pure.
4. Titus 1:5 Paul tells Titus to appoint elders in every town.


5. The Greek word for office is episkopos or the English translation of bishop or overseer.
6. Successor of an apostle. They are part of an unbroken line of apostolic succession
7. Entrusted to proclaim, preserve and define the Deposit of Faith
8. In charge of shepherding a diocese
9. Can ordain a bishop, priest, or deacon
10. Reports to the Pope
11. Has the same authority as the original apostles
12. Can administer all of the sacraments
13. Primary duty is to preach the Gospel of Christ
14. Are part of an Ecumenical Council where infallible truths are established

The Pope is leader of all of the bishops in the world. He is leader and shepherd on earth, under Christ, of the whole church. The Pope, however, is still a bishop.

There have been 265 Popes or successors of Peter in the history of the Church.

Only the Pope can speak infallibly on “faith and morals” or in matters of doctrine. This has been done only two times in the past 2,000 years:

1. 1854 – Immaculate Conception of Mary by Pope Pius IX

2. 1950 – Mary’s bodily assumption into heaven by Pope Pius XII

An Archbishop is the bishop of the largest diocese in the state. There is no difference in their authority from another bishop.

A Cardinal is a bishop in an administration role.

Ecumenical Council

  1. When all of the bishops in the world gather in union with the Pope
  2. Speak infallibly because Christ promised He would guide His Church in all truth
  3. Cannot be led astray from the truth when it defines a doctrine under the guidance of the Holy Spirit
  4. Once a doctrine is formally defined, it NEVER has to be addressed again
  5. Has NEVER changed a formal doctrine
  6. Is usually called to address confusion about a doctrine

There have been 21 Ecumenical Councils in the history of the Church. They all follow the precedence of the Council of Jerusalem described in Acts 15.

* In almost every case, a council was called in order to formally define a matter of the faith that was challenged by a heretic

The last council was Vatican II held in the 1960’s.



We also find priests were also ordained in the early Church. The word presbyter was used in the Bible that translates into priest. Priests were appointed to various churches to serve as their leaders and lead the Mass.

Acts 14:23

1Tim. 4:14; 5:22

Titus 1:5


  1. The word presbyter was used in the Bible that translates into priest.
  2. Shepherd of a parish
  3. Subordinate to the bishop
  4. Leads the Mass
  5. Administers all of the sacraments except Holy Orders

A Pastor is in charge of a parish.

A Monsignor is a priest who has been given this title to honor him for some distinguished service.


Deacons were the servants of the bishops and priests so these two levels of clergy could devote their time to ministry.

Acts 6:1-6


  1. The word diakonos is used in the Bible to mean servant
  2. Deacons were ordained to help the apostles in Acts 6
  3. Helps out in assisting priest by performing duties that frees up the priest to do his job
  4. Administers the sacraments of Baptism and Marriage
  5. Can proclaim the Gospel at Mass and preach

Holy Orders is the Sacrament that gives all three of this ordained clergy their authority in the Church.



Christ and His Church are ONE

Eph. 1:22-23

* The church is called “His Body.” Paul is telling us here that the Church is Christ’s own body.

Eph. 5:31-32

* Christ and His church are ONE!

You cannot have one without the other. You need to know both to know the full Christ.

Need to know Christ first (Gospel message) - Then know the Church.

CCC 792 “Christ is the head of the body, the Church. He is the principle of creation and redemption. Raised to the Father’s glory, in everything, he is preeminent especially in the Church through whom He extends His reign over all things.”

CCC 795 “Christ and His Church thus together make up the whole Christ. The Church is One with Christ.”

The Writings of Vic Scaravilli

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