The Rev. Daniel F. Hoye yesterday was named general secretary of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, the official organization of the American Catholic hierarchy.

Hoye, who has served on the conference staff since 1977, succeeds Archbishop Thomas C. Kelly, who will be installed as archbishop of Louisville on Feb. 18. Hoye, 36, also will be general secretary of the United States Catholic Conference, the service arm of the hierarchy.

He is a priest in the Fall River, Mass., diocese and a specialist in canon law whose most recent assignment at the NCCB has included oversight of the thousands of marriage annulment procedures filed annually in church courts throughout the country. He was selected by a mail vote of the 48 bishops who make up the NCCB's administrative committee.

Under the leadership of Kelly and his predecessors, the post of general secretary has become a major one in the church. The general secretary supervises activities the bishops carry on jointly, such as standards for religious education and changes in liturgy. In addition, the position has become a vantage point from which to articulate the church's positions on a variety of secular issues.

In recent months, the general secretary or persons whom he designated have testified before congressional committees on issues as diverse as nuclear armaments, aid to El Salvador, immigration policy, and abortion.

A native of Massachusetts, Hoye was educated in Catholic schools there and in Connecticut. He received his canon law degree at Catholic University in 1975. He was serving as the assistant head of the tribunal, or church court, of his home diocese in Fall River when he was named assistant general secretary of the NCCB in 1977.

Traditionally, appointment as general secretary is followed shortly by elevation to the rank of bishop, so he may be on a par ecclesiastically with members of the hierarchy who make up the organization.