The Roman Catholic Church has never been and never will be, a democratic institution. The Church bases it position on Scripture and Tradition and does not hold that all members be in agreement with what it teaches. It does insist that the hierarchy accept the basic teachings and all ordained men are bound to obedience at their ordination.

The path to ordination is perhaps different to most's developmental experience and therefore, is not for everyone. Many of the teachings are dogmatic!

The People of God (Laity): More than 1.1 billion people make up the laity of the Roman Catholic Church around the world. While they are not part of the authority of the Church, many fulfil roles in the lay ecclesial ministry (roles similar to priests and deacons except they are not ordained), while others may serve as lay ministers (catechists, acolytes, lectors, etc). The vast majority are christians who live the gospel message.
The Religious are also part of the laity who live a consecrated life. Men join brotherhoods (monks) and women, the sisterhood (nuns) of which there are a number of Orders. Contrary to popular perception, these 'religious' are not part of the hierarchy - apart from those ordained as ministers of the Church.
Bishop - Priest - Deacon
Hierarchy of the Catholic Church

It comes as a surprise to many! The hierarchy is only threefold: bishop, priest and deacon. Collectively, this is the Clergy.

So, what happened to a cardinal, a sister, and of course the big one, the pope?

Here's how it works:

Bishop (Episcopate): A number of titles describe the office a bishop might hold and the title defines his role within the church. The pope is the Bishop of Rome and as such, all other bishops submit to his authority.A cardinal is also a bishop but is called by the pope to be part of the college that sits when the time comes to elect a new pope.

 

Priest (Presbyterate): Again, a priest may have different titles. A monsignor is an honourary title conferred upon a priest. A parish priest is often called a pastor and we all are familiar with the term, father - padre in Italian!

 

 

Deacon (Diaconate): There are permanent deacons, usually married men and they remain deacons for life, and there are transitional deacons. A transitional deacon is usually found in a seminary where he is studying to become a priest and of course, is unmarried!