Catholic minister

From Academic Kids

Unlike in several Protestant churches, in the Roman Catholic Church the term minister is not commonly used to refer to a member of the clergy nor as a common term of address.

In some parishes of the Catholic church in the United States there are ministers of hospitality, music ministers, etc. There are also lectors who read scriptural passages to the congregation, altar servers and acolytes who assist the clergy at the altar, cantors who lead the singing, and ushers who direct the seating and procession of the congregation. These are all called lay ministers or liturgical ministers. They are lay persons; they are not ordained, nor is the word minister used as a form of address in speaking to them. In the United States, and to a lesser extent in other countries, Catholic deacons, priests, and bishops are sometimes called ordained ministers.

The other kind of minister in the Roman Catholic Church is a person who ministers a sacrament, meaning that he or she is a conduit of the sacramental power. This is not an office or position but instead a function that different kinds of people may perform, depending on the sacrament. There are two kinds of ministers in this sense. The ordinary minister of a sacrament has both the spiritual power to perform the sacrament (i.e. a valid sacrament) and the legal authority to perform the sacrament (i.e. a licit sacrament). An extraordinary minister has the spiritual power but may only perform the sacrament in certain special instances under canon law (i.e. emergencies). If an extraordinary minister performs a sacrament illegally, the sacrament still happens but the person ministering could be liable for an ecclestiastical penalty, such as the interdict. If a person who is neither an ordinary nor an extraordinary minister attempts to perform a sacrament, no supernatural effect happens, i.e., the putative sacrament is not merely illicit, but invalid).

Below is a table outlining each sacrament, its ordinary ministers, and its extraordinary ministers (if any), with stipulations regarding its exercise by extraordinary ministers in parenthesis.

Ministers of Sacraments in the Roman Catholic Church
Sacrament Ordinary ministers Extraordinary ministers
Baptism clergy1 laity (illegal except in emergencies, but still valid)
Confirmation bishop priest (illegal except in emergencies or with permission of the bishop, but still valid)
Eucharist (consecration)2 bishop or priest none; always invalid
Eucharist (communion)3 clergy acolyte (legal when not enough clergy are available)
other laity (legal when not enough clergy or acolytes)
Reconciliation bishop or priest none; always invalid
Anointing of the Sick bishop or priest none; always invalid
Holy Matrimony husband and wife none
Holy Orders (bishop)4 three or more bishops fewer than three bishops; legal with permission of the Pope
Holy Orders (priest and deacon) bishop none; always invalid


  1. Clergy means a bishop, priest, or deacon.
  2. The Eucharist has two parts. The first part of the Eucharistic sacrament is the consecration, or the prayer over the gifts that the priest or bishop says. This is when transubstantiation occurs, according to Catholics.
  3. The second part of the Eucharist is communion, or the distribution of the consecrated elements. More people may participate as ministers in this part, so it is treated separately.
  4. Since Holy Orders has special rules when ordaining a bishop, the bishop ordination is treated separately.

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