Structure of the Catholic Church in Australia

The popular image of the Catholic Church in Australia as a single organisation with a leader at its head is not accurate. There is no one person in charge of the Catholic Church in Australia.

In Australia the Church is made up of diverse groups of dioceses, religious institutes and societies of apostolic life as well as networks of lay organisations such as the St Vincent De Paul Society or the Focolare Movement providing education, health, welfare and other services.

There are 33 dioceses; 28 are geographically defined and the other five are for special categories of people such as the Military Ordinariate of Australia which has been formed for the spiritual and pastoral care of the Defence Force of Australia personnel.

These Dioceses are independent of each other except when they cede authority in a particular activity to another authority in the Church, as has happened with the establishment of the Truth, Justice and Healing Council. The bishop of each Diocese has only the Pope as his superior.

Here in Australia, and around the world, there are also many different Religious Institutes and Societies of Apostolic Life. These include orders and congregations of Sisters, Brothers and Religious Priests.

Members of Religious Institutes make public vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. Most of the works they undertake are in education, health, aged care and social welfare.

Religious Institutes are established by either the Holy See or the diocesan bishop. And while they are responsible for their own internal governance they are answerable, for the most part, to either the local bishop or the Pope.

There are more than 180 congregations of these Sisters, Brothers and Religious Priests living and working across Australia.

Societies of Apostolic Life resemble Religious Institutes with members living a life in common. They do not take religious vows but undertake to live lives of simplicity (though they may own their own assets), chastity and usually work at the direction of the leader of their society. A well known society of apostolic life is the Columbans, a Mission Society with many Australian members who work in Asia and Latin America.

List of Bishops and congregations can be found here

Australian Catholic Bishops

Catholic Religious Australia



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The Council concluded its work on 30 April 2018 and is no longer distributing any material about its work.