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Jesuit vs. Catholic: What's the Difference?

Edited by Harlon Moss || By Janet White || Published on March 5, 2024
Jesuits are a Catholic religious order focused on education and missionary work; Catholics are members of the Christian denomination led by the Pope in Rome.

Key Differences

Jesuits are members of the Society of Jesus, a Catholic religious order founded in 1540 by Ignatius of Loyola. They are known for their work in education, intellectual research, and missionary efforts. The Catholic Church, on the other hand, is the largest Christian church, with the Pope as its spiritual leader.
The term "Jesuit" specifically refers to a member of this religious order, who takes special vows and is dedicated to certain missions within the Catholic framework. Being Catholic is more general, referring to anyone baptized into the Catholic Church, which includes a variety of religious orders and laypeople.
Jesuits are often involved in higher education and run prestigious institutions worldwide, contributing significantly to Catholic education. Meanwhile, the Catholic Church encompasses a broader range of educational, charitable, and spiritual activities, serving millions globally.
Jesuits follow a specific charism or spiritual focus outlined by their order's founder, which emphasizes discernment, education, and a deep commitment to social justice. Catholics, while sharing many core beliefs with Jesuits, may not necessarily focus on these specific areas in their personal spirituality or ministry.
The relationship between Jesuits and the broader Catholic community is one of service and ministry, with Jesuits working within the larger Church to fulfill their specific mission, while Catholics, in general, participate in a wide range of religious practices and beliefs within the same faith tradition.

Comparison Chart


Founded by Ignatius of Loyola in 1540.
Dates back to the time of Christ.

Primary Focus

Education, intellectual research, missionary work.
Sacraments, doctrine, universal church leadership.


Take special vows, including obedience to the Pope.
Lay Catholics do not take religious vows.


Organized in a hierarchical structure led by the Superior General.
Led by the Pope, bishops, and priests.

Spiritual Exercises

Emphasize the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola.
Emphasize a variety of spiritual practices.

Jesuit and Catholic Definitions


Engaged in missionary work and spreading the Catholic faith.
The Jesuit missionaries traveled to remote areas to teach about Christianity.


Encompassing a wide variety of beliefs and practices within Christianity.
The Catholic festival was celebrated by many different cultures.


A member of the Society of Jesus, a Catholic religious order.
The Jesuit priest led the community service project with enthusiasm.


A member of the Christian denomination led by the Pope.
She was raised Catholic and attended mass every Sunday.


Known for rigorous education and intellectual contribution.
He attended a Jesuit university known for its academic excellence.


Adhering to the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.
The Catholic school taught both religious and secular subjects.


Practitioners of the Spiritual Exercises developed by Ignatius of Loyola.
The retreat was guided by a Jesuit expert in the Spiritual Exercises.


Participating in the sacraments, such as baptism and communion.
As a devout Catholic, he received communion every week.


Adherents emphasize social justice and service to others.
The Jesuit's speech on social justice inspired many to volunteer.


Pertaining to the universal Christian church.
The Catholic doctrine emphasizes the importance of charity.


Roman Catholic Church A member of the Society of Jesus.


Of broad or liberal scope; comprehensive
"The 100-odd pages of formulas and constants are surely the most catholic to be found" (Scientific American).


Often jesuit One given to subtle casuistry.


Including or concerning all humankind; universal
"what was of catholic rather than national interest" (J.A. Froude).


One of a religious order founded by Ignatius Loyola, and approved in 1540, under the title of The Society of Jesus.


Fig.: A crafty person; an intriguer.


A member of the Jesuit order


Having qualities characteristic of Jesuits or Jesuitism;
Jesuitical education


Can a Jesuit be a priest?

Yes, many Jesuits are ordained priests, but the order also includes brothers who are not priests.

Who are Catholics?

Catholics are members of the Roman Catholic Church, the largest Christian denomination, led by the Pope.

How do Jesuits differ from other Catholics?

Jesuits are part of a specific religious order with a focused mission within the Catholic Church, emphasizing education and social justice, whereas Catholics can belong to various groups within the Church.

What is a Jesuit?

A Jesuit is a member of the Society of Jesus, a Catholic religious order focused on education, missionary work, and social justice.

What is the role of the Pope in Catholicism?

The Pope is the spiritual leader of the Catholic Church, guiding doctrine and overseeing the administration of the Church globally.

Are all Catholics part of a religious order?

No, most Catholics are laypeople and not members of religious orders like the Jesuits.

Do Jesuits take special vows?

Yes, Jesuits take vows of poverty, chastity, obedience, and a special vow of obedience to the Pope regarding missions.

How do Catholics view the sacraments?

Catholics consider the sacraments, such as baptism and communion, essential means of grace and central to their faith practice.

How do Jesuits approach social justice?

Jesuits actively engage in social justice issues, advocating for the marginalized and working towards societal change.

How are new Jesuits trained?

New Jesuits undergo a rigorous formation process, including spiritual, academic, and pastoral training.

What is the significance of education for Jesuits?

Education is central to the Jesuit mission, with a focus on forming individuals who are intellectually competent and committed to serving others.

How do Jesuits contribute to the Catholic Church?

Jesuits contribute through education, intellectual work, missionary efforts, and promoting social justice within the Church.

What is the Jesuit motto?

The Jesuit motto is "Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam," meaning "For the Greater Glory of God."

What distinguishes Catholic worship?

Catholic worship is characterized by liturgical traditions, including the Mass, and a strong emphasis on the sacraments.

What is the Catholic catechism?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church is a comprehensive exposition of Catholic doctrine, serving as a guide for faith and morals.

Do Jesuits have their own churches?

Jesuits often serve in Catholic parishes and have their own chapels in institutions like schools and retreat centers.

What role do laypeople play in the Catholic Church?

Laypeople participate fully in the life of the Church, engaging in worship, ministry, and various forms of service.

How do Jesuits engage with other religions?

Jesuits often engage in interreligious dialogue, promoting understanding and cooperation among different faith traditions.

Can women be Jesuits?

No, the Society of Jesus is a male-only order, but many women work alongside Jesuits and share in their mission.

What is the Catholic Church's teaching authority?

The teaching authority, or Magisterium, of the Catholic Church comprises the Pope and bishops, interpreting faith and morals.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.

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