Catholic laity are the ordinary members of the Catholic Church who are neither clergy nor recipients of Holy Orders or vowed to life in a religious order or congregation. The laity forms the majority of the estimated over one billion Catholics in the world.
The Catholic Church is served by the universal jurisdiction of the Holy See, headed by the Pope, and administered by the Roman Curia, while locally served by diocesan bishops. The Pope and the bishops in full communion with him are known collectively as the Catholic hierarchy, and are responsible for the supervision, management, and pastoral care of all members the Catholic Church, including clergy, religious, and laity. But since the Second Vatican Council of Bishops (1962-1965) the laity have emerged as a greater source of leadership in various aspects of the church's life; and its teaching on their equal call to holiness has led to greater recognition of their role in the church.
The responsibilities of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, a dicastery of the Roman Curia based in Vatican City, were transferred to the newly established Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life as of 1 September 2016.
The council "...assists the Pope in all matters concerning the contribution the lay faithful make to the life and mission of the Church, whether as individuals or through the various forms of association that have arisen and constantly arise within the Church."
This dicastery emerged from the Decree on the Lay Apostolate of the Second Vatican Council, Apostolicam Actuositatem. It was officially created by Pope Paul VI on 6 January 1967, with the motu proprio Catholicam Christi Ecclesiam.
Within the Catholic Church, the rights of the Catholic laity in regards to the Church are found in the Code of Canon Law. A new Code of Canon Law was promulgated in 1983, to incorporate teachings from the Second Vatican Council. In particular, Canons 224-231 of the 1983 Code outline the general and specific canonical rights of lay persons in the Catholic Church.
Prior to 1972, no lay ministries existed, only the minor orders and major orders. The minor orders were, in effect, the lower orders of the clerical state and were reserved for those preparing for the priesthood: Acolyte, Exorcist, Lector or reader, and Ostiarius or porter.
As a result of the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, on 15 August 1972 Pope Paul VI issued the Motu Proprio Ministeria Quaedam which in effect suppressed the minor orders and replaced them with two ministries, those of lector and acolyte. A major difference was: "Ministries may be assigned to lay Christians; hence they are no longer to be considered as reserved to candidates for the sacrament of orders."
The following are requirements for admission to the ministries:
The ministries are conferred by the Ordinary through the liturgical rites De institutione lectoris and De institutione acolythi as revised by the Apostolic See.
An interval, determined by the Holy See or the conferences of bishops, shall be observed between the conferring of the ministries of reader and acolyte whenever more than one ministry is conferred on the same person."
However, "In accordance with the ancient tradition of the Church, institution to the ministries of reader and acolyte is reserved to men." Due to this reservation these ministries are rarely formally instituted in many regions of the Catholic Church. In their place has evolved the widespread use of commissioned readers, altar servers and extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist as these functions can be undertaken by both men and women.
Conditions for the extension of these roles can be found in The General Instruction of the Roman Missal. In relation to readers, Instruction #101 says: "In the absence of an instituted lector, other laypersons may be commissioned to proclaim the readings from Sacred Scripture. They should be truly suited to perform this function and should receive careful preparation, so that the faithful by listening to the readings from the sacred texts may develop in their hearts a warm and living love for Sacred Scripture." As regards altar servers and extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist Instruction #100 says: "In the absence of an instituted acolyte, lay ministers may be deputed to serve at the altar and assist the priest and the deacon; they may carry the cross, the candles, the thurible, the bread, the wine, and the water, and they may also be deputed to distribute Holy Communion as extraordinary ministers."
It is worth noting that an option to institute the other minor orders was retained in this document, in that a Bishops Conference may request permission from the Apostolic See "if they judge the establishment of such offices in their region to be necessary or very useful because of special reasons. To these belong, for example, the ministries of porter, exorcist, catechist, as well as others to be conferred on those who are dedicated to works of charity, where this ministry had not been assigned to deacons."
The 1983 Code of Canon Law does not permit the laity to have any kind of executive or juridical powers in Ecclesiastical affairs. This curtails the extent of influence the laity has over how the Church is governed on a day-to-day basis. However, lay experts and advisors were appointed to participate during the deliberations of the Second Vatican Council. After the Council members of the Laity were routinely appointed to sit on Commissions & Committees established at every level – Curial, Bishops Conference, Diocesan, Deanery, and Parish. Each parish is advised to have a parish council and a finance council of laypersons which are advisory to the pastor.
The National Council for Lay Associations (NCLA) was the idea of the late Monsignor Derek Worlock, who later became Archbishop of Liverpool, England. It became one of the Consultative Bodies of the Bishops' Conference in England & Wales and was formed from all the large Catholic lay organisations. The NCLA was initially called the National Lay Apostolic Group and was formed after the First World Congress for the Apostolate of the Laity held in Rome in October 1951. In 2003 the NCLA celebrated its 50th birthday with a Golden Jubilee Mass in Salford Cathedral. Today however the NCLA appears to no longer exist as a viable organisation.
One country where a Council of the Laity appears to be thriving is Venezuela. The National Council of the Laity (Consejo Nacional de Laicos) in Venezuela routinely issues statements and press releases often criticising the policies of the current President Hugo Chávez.
The Council of the Catholic Lay Apostolate Organizations of Korea, formerly The Catholic Lay Apostolate Council of Korea, was renamed during the 2010 Autumn General Assembly of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Korea. This was ratified at the 44th Ordinary General Meeting of the Council which was held at the Catholic Center in Myeongdong, Seoul, on 19 February 2011.
Archbishop Derek Worlock, supported by the late Archbishop of Westminster Cardinal Basil Hume, convened the National Pastoral Congress in Liverpool, England in 1980. The Congress consisted of some two-thousand lay people. The Congress deliberated on issues that the gathering agreed were of particular concern to lay Catholics in England & Wales at that time. The results of these deliberations were drawn together in a document entitled "The Easter People". This document was very publicly rejected by Pope John Paul II when it was presented to him by Cardinal Hume and Archbishop Worlock in Rome, Italy, in 1980. There has not been another National Pastoral Congress since this time in England & Wales.
There are many thousands of Catholic lay organisations existing at a local, diocesan, national / bishops conference or international level. They cover the whole spectrum of Catholic lay life, from their faith and social action to the professions in which they work.
The majority have sought and been given backing by the appropriate ecclesiastical authority. However, others have invoked the right contained in Canon 215 to form a Catholic Association without ecclesiastical approval. In these circumstances the only prescription on them is that they cannot use the term "Catholic" in their name (Can. 216).
The structure of some Religious Orders allows for lay branches to be associated with them. These are sometimes referred to as Third Orders.
Some of the best known Catholic lay organizations are Knights of Columbus, Knights of Columba, Catenians, and Knights of Malta. There are also many lay Catholic guilds and associations representing a whole range of professions. These include the Catholic Police Guild, Holy Name Society (NYPD), the Association of Catholic Nurses, the Guild of Catholic Doctors, the Catholic Phyicians Guild, the Catholic Association of Performing Arts (UK), and the Catholic Actors Guild of America.
In the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the Queen of Angels Foundation was established in 2011 by Mark Anchor Albert. The Foundation, an association of lay faithful dedicated to fostering devotion to Mary, Mother of Jesus, is a volunteer group of lay men and women who "...strive together in a common endeavor to foster a more perfect life for themselves and their community by promoting reverence for the Blessed Virgin Mary, in whose name, as Our Lady of the Angels, the City and Archdiocese of Los Angeles were founded..." and whom Catholics revere as Queen of Heaven and Empress of the Americas. The Queen of Angels Foundation is the official sponsor of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles' annual celebration of the City of Los Angeles' founding. This Votive Mass & Grand Marian Procession take place in Downtown Los Angeles on the last Saturday of August.
Organisations such as Opus Dei and Miles Jesu are ostensibly Catholic lay organisations which are overseen by clergy associated and / or affiliated with them. The structure of these organisations is termed a "personal prelature".
In recent years many lay advocacy groups have formed, some in response to the clerical sex abuse crisis.
Reforms advocated by these groups would include:
Lay Catholics have contributed to Catholic media online in such avenues as blogs, online columns, and newspapers. The Vatican hosted a conference of bloggers on 2 May 2011. This was sponsored jointly by the Pontifical Council for Culture and the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. One hundred and fifty bloggers were invited from across the world. Richard Rouse, an English layman who works for the Pontifical Council for Culture, has stated that this meeting was not held in any attempt by the Vatican to control Catholic blogs. He has also stated that there will not be another Vatican Blogmeet, but individual Diocese may hold similar conferences.
There are many Catholic newspapers and periodicals produced around the world by lay Catholics, which are independent of the Church hierarchy. Examples in the United Kingdom are The Catholic Herald and The Tablet. In the United States the Catholic Reporter is entirely a work of the laity and the National Catholic Register, a subsidiary of EWTN, is run by laypersons. Secular newspapers such as The Boston Globe and The Daily Telegraph are also heavy in Catholic content.
Recently, laypeople have started to act as public spokespersons for the Church in both official and unofficial capacities. One such example was the foundation of Catholic Voices by Opus Dei in preparation for the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the United Kingdom in 2010. The group has since been made a permanent part of their work and expanded to other countries. Primarily focusing on young Catholic professionals, it provides them with training to talk to the media about events happening within the Catholic Church. It has been replicated in Spain and in Germany where it is known as Catholic Faces. Other countries where interest in such an effort has emerged are Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Costa Rica, and the USA.
Clericalism might be described as any attempt to exaggerate the importance of the priesthood as a focus of power and privilege. It was described by a bishop at Vatican II as one of the three main evils that had typified the Church in the previous centuries. Some would say that it accompanies a new wave of traditionalism that grew during the pontificate of John-Paul II. In April 2011, during a conference in Milwaukee, United States, on the clergy child sex abuse scandal, the Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin said: "There are signs of a new clericalism, which may even at times be ably veiled behind appeals for deeper spirituality or for more orthodox theological positions." Martin added that he planned to require all seminarians to "carry out some part of their formation with lay people so that they can establish mature relationships with men and women and not develop any sense of their priesthood giving them a special social position."
Clericalism has been viewed as a barrier to improving lay rights and greater access to the supervision, oversight, and administration of the Church, as well as to increased involvement in Church ministry. A classic example of clericalism comes from Monsignor George Talbot in 1867, in his critique of the position of John Henry Newman in his article "On Consulting the Faithful in Matters of Doctrine", which was published in the Rambler in July, 1859. Talbot is quoted as saying to Henry Edward Manning, Archbishop of Westminster:
Dr. Newman is the most dangerous man in England, and you will see that he will make use of the laity against Your Grace. You must not be afraid of him.... What is the province of the laity? To hunt, to shoot, to entertain. These matters they understand, but to meddle with ecclesiastical matters they have no right at all, and this affair of Newman is a matter purely ecclesiastical.
John Henry Newman was a proponent of increased Catholic lay involvement in the life of the Church. After publishing "On Consulting..." Newman was looked upon with grave suspicion and distrust by many of the Catholic hierarchy in England and Wales, and in Rome where Talbot had worked in the Papal Curia. Newman was made a Cardinal by Pope Leo XIII in 1879; Talbot, whose "notorious want of judgment" was noted by the biographer C. Butler, died in an asylum at Passy near Paris in 1886. The subject of the same biography had asked Newman "Who are the laity" to which Newman responded that "the Church would look foolish without them."
The 108 Martyrs of World War II, known also as the 108 Blessed Polish Martyrs (Polish: 108 błogosławionych męczenników), were Roman Catholics from Poland killed during World War II by Nazi Germany.
Their liturgical feast day is 12 June. The 108 were beatified on 13 June 1999 by Pope John Paul II in Warsaw, Poland. The group comprises 3 bishops, 52 priests, 26 members of male religious, 3 seminarians, 8 female religious, and 9 lay people. There are two parishes named for the 108 Martyrs of World War II in Powiercie in Koło County, and in Malbork, Poland.Abortion and the Catholic Church in the United States
The Catholic Church and abortion in the United States deals with the views and activities of the Catholic Church in the United States in relation to the abortion debate. The Catholic Church opposes abortion and has campaigned against abortion in the United States, both saying that it is immoral and making statements and taking actions in opposition to its classification as legal.
Many Catholics in the United States disagree with the official position promulgated by the Church; the views of these people range from allowing exceptions in a generally pro-life position, to complete acceptance of abortion. There is a distinction between practicing Catholics and non-practicing Catholics on the issue; practicing Catholics, along with Latino Catholics, are far more likely to be pro-life, while non-practicing Catholics are more likely to be pro-choice.In recent decades, the church's opposition to abortion, and specifically the actions it has taken against pro-choice Catholics, has often been the subject of controversy.Association of Catholics in Ireland
The Association of Catholics in Ireland (ACI) is a voluntary association of Roman Catholic laity in Ireland. The association was established in November 2012 with the objective of pursuing a reform and renewal agenda in the Irish Catholic Church based on the pastoral teachings of the Second Vatican Council. The Association is organised on an all-island basis and membership is open to all who share its objectives. The views of the association may be contrasted with those who support Traditionalist Catholic positions.Cafeteria Catholicism
The term cafeteria Catholic is applied to those who assert a Catholic faith yet dissent from one or more doctrinal or moral teachings of the Catholic church or who are viewed as dissenting by those using the term. Examples include Catholics who are accused of dissenting from any or all of the Church teachings on human sexuality and things related (the so-called "pelvic issues", i.e., what it has to say about abortion, birth control, divorce, premarital sex, masturbation, pornography, prostitution and the moral status of homosexual acts). Or alternately, those who demonstrate no concern for any moral issues except abortion and contraception.Catholic Biblical Federation
The Catholic Biblical Federation (CBF) is a worldwide "fellowship" of administratively independent Catholic Bible associations and other organizations committed to biblical-pastoral ministries in 126 countries. It exists primarily to promote and coordinate the work of translating, producing, and disseminating Bibles among Catholic laity for devotional purposes.
The Federation also encourages the formation of small study groups for Bible reading as well as the creation of educational tools for use in these settings. First organized under the name The World Catholic Federation for the Biblical Apostolate in 1969, the Federation shorted its name in 1990 at its fourth Plenary Assembly held in Colombia. With the support of Cardinal Augustino Bea, its establishment was made possible by several provisions concerning lay access to Bibles that were contained in Second Vatican Council documents, especially Dei verbum.
That document called for "easy access" to the Bible for "all the Christian faithful" and opened the way to cooperation with Protestant United Bible Societies, particularly in the work of translation. In 1972 the Federation moved its headquarters from Rome to Stuttgart and in 1986 began publishing the quarterly Bulletin DEI VERBUM. In 2009 the General Seceretariat was moved from Stuttgart to Sankt Ottilien in Germany.
Every six years the Federation holds a Plenary Assembly. The first was held in Austria in 1972 and the most recent from 19 to 23 June 2015 in Nemi. In 1985 the Federation adopted its Constitution which was approved by Rome in accordance with the norms of Canon Law. The Constitution was revised to its present form at the fifth Plenary Assembly held in Hong Kong in 1996 and approved by Rome the following year. The last revision was voted during the Plenary Assembly in Nemi.
The Plenary Assembly is the highest decision-making authority within the Federation and is presided over by the General Secretary and an Executive Committee. The General Secretary is elected by the Executive Committee for a six-year renewable term. The Executive Committee consists of three ex officio members, including the General Secretary, as well as six voting members. Of this latter group members are drawn from each of the Federation's four sub-regions: Africa, the Americas, Asia/Oceania, and Europe/the Middle East. Jan J. Stefanów SVD has been General Secretary since January 2014. The appointment of Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila as its President was confirmed by the Vatican on March 5, 2015.Catholic Union of Great Britain
The Catholic Union of Great Britain is an association of the Catholic laity in England, Wales and Scotland. Its purpose is to promote a Christian standpoint in public affairs.
Among their methods are:
Lobbying both Houses of Parliament
Through the media
Through the submission of papers to government Ministers and Departments
Through conferences and public functions
Through the work of its committees and its members.The current President of the Catholic Union is the Rt Hon Sir Edward Leigh MP.Catholic lay organisations
This a list of organisations covering Catholic laity. It aims to list ecclesial movements of unspecified standing. For international Catholic movements that have received official approval by the Catholic Church, see Directory of International Associations of the Faithful.Christian Life Community
The Christian Life Community (CLC) is an international association of lay Christians who have adopted an Ignatian model of spiritual life. The 'Community' is present in almost sixty countries.John Hawksford
John Hawksford (5 October 1806—3 September 1887) was a successful and wealthy solicitor and attorney, a prominent member of the Roman Catholic laity of Wolverhampton and served as Mayor of Wolverhampton from 1863/64, becoming the first Roman Catholic to do so.Katholikentag
Katholikentag (Catholics Day) is a festival-like gathering in German-speaking countries organized by the Roman Catholic laity. Katholikentag festivals occur approximately every 2–4 years in Germany, Switzerland, and Austria.Las Hermanas (organization)
Las Hermanas is a feminist, autonomous Roman Catholic organization created between 1970 and 1971 for Hispanic women who are involved in the Catholic Church. It was incorporated in Texas in 1972 and was the first group in the Church in the United States to represent Spanish-speaking women. Las Hermanas has worked for the improvement of the lives of religious Hispanic women and their communities. They are outspoken critics of sexism in the Church and their communities. Las Hermanas is very political and has taken part in protests and other civil rights actions. The organization is currently considered to be on "hiatus," with plans to continue their work in the future.Lay apostolate
The lay apostolate is made up from laypeople and consecrated religious who exercise a ministry within the Catholic Church. Lay apostolate organizations cooperate with ecclesiastical authorities. They operate "under direction of her pastors" but are not members of the official Church hierarchy nor in Holy Orders. Apostolates operate with the permission of the local Ordinary of a Diocese, but often without material support. In many cases, where the priests are unable to function in specialized situations, like dealing with computer technology, medical care, or broadcast equipment, a lay apostolate may be formed to provide those specialized technical skills.
The laity, can exercise a fruitful apostolate by their conduct in the areas of their labor, profession, studies, neighborhood, and social life. And according to the Apostolicam Actuositatem (AA) - Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity, they will look for opportunities to announce Christ to their neighbors through the spoken word as well (AA 13).As Francis Cardinal Arinze explains, lay persons "...are called by Baptism to witness to Christ in the secular sphere of life; that is in the family, in work and leisure, in science and cultural, in politics and government, in trade and mass media, and in national and international relations."Arinze notes that there are many things individuals may accomplish for Christ quietly without belonging to a particular association. In other instances, organizations are more efficient to address challenges beyond the capacity of one person.Lay ecclesial ministry
Lay ecclesial ministry is the term adopted by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to identify the relatively new category of pastoral ministers in the Catholic Church who serve the Church but are not ordained. Lay ecclesial ministers are coworkers with the bishop alongside priests and deacons. In other contexts, these may be known as "lay pastoral workers", "pastoral assistants", etc.List of lay Catholic scientists
Many Catholics have made significant contributions to the development of science and mathematics from the Middle Ages to today. These scientists include Galileo Galilei, René Descartes, Louis Pasteur, Blaise Pascal, André-Marie Ampère, Charles-Augustin de Coulomb, Pierre de Fermat, Antoine Laurent Lavoisier, Alessandro Volta, Augustin-Louis Cauchy, Pierre Duhem, Jean-Baptiste Dumas, Alois Alzheimer, Georgius Agricola, and Christian Doppler.
For additional Catholic scientists, see the List of Catholic churchmen-scientists.Roman Catholic Diocese of Ahiara
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Ahiara (Latin: Ahiaran(a)) is a diocese located in Ahiara in the region of Mbaise in Imo State in the Ecclesiastical province of Owerri in Nigeria.Teams of Our Lady
Teams of Our Lady (French: Equipes Notre Dame, END) is a Roman Catholic lay organization recognized by the Holy See under the Pontifical Council for the Laity. It is a movement of "Married Spirituality" which brings together Christian couples united by the Sacrament of Marriage; and who wish, together, to deepen the graces of the Sacrament of Marriage. The movement is active in 75 countries.Timeline of Opus Dei
Opus Dei: A Historical Timeline shows the historical development of Opus Dei.Urs Glutz von Blotzheim
Urs Glutz von Blotzheim (20 October 1751–8 December 1816) was a Swiss military officer and politician.Urs Glutz von Blotzheim was the son of the military officer Jacob Joseph Nicholas from the patrician class of the city of Solothurn, belonging to the noble family of Glutz von Blotzheim, and Anna Margaritha Josepha, born Wallier von Wendelstorf. From 1762 to 1769 he went to the Jesuit college in Solothurn, the predecessor of today's Kantonsschule Solothurn. In 1770 he was commissioned into the Swiss regiment "von Sury" of the Kingdom of Sardinia. He was a member of the St. Ursensift, an organization of Catholic laity.From 1798 he was a member of the provisional government of Solothurn. He then was a member of Solothurn's Education Council from 1800 to 1801, a member of the Administrative Chamber from 1801 to 1803, and a provisional Senator from 1801 to 1802, serving on the Kleinrat and as Head of the Department of the Interior. From 1896 to 1815 he was the treasurer (Seckelmeister) of the town of Solothurn. In 1814 he became a member of the Altrat from and 1814 to 1816 served as treasurer for the provisional government.1783 he married Magdalena von Sury, daughter of Altrat member Robert Georg. His sons were the writer and journalist Robert Glutz von Blotzheim and the priest Josef Konrad Glutz von Blotzheim.Voice of the Faithful
Voice of the Faithful (VOTF), a movement of professed faithful Catholics, arose in 2002 in response to shocking revelations in the life of the Catholic Church: widespread clerical abuse of children; silence of clergy in the face of known or suspected abuse; and the moral, governance, and pastoral failures of Catholic bishops in response to abusers and abuse survivors alike. In the face of such breaches of trust, VOTF emerged from the determination of Catholic laity to find their voice and to claim their proper role in the governance of the Church. It professes that drawing on members' baptismal responsibility for the life and work of the Church and nourished by their deep love for the Body of Christ, VOTF members seek full transparency and accountability in Church governance and full incorporation of lay Catholics in the life and work of the Church at every level.
of the faithful
of the faithful
of the faithful