| Year 1996 Canonical Studies PP. 6-33
Participation of the Laity in the Governing, Teaching and Sanctifying Office of the Church
(Fr. A. Anandarayar)
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When we turn the pages of early church history we find that lay people had played a significant role in the mission of the church. But due to clericalism in the Middle Ages lay people came to be considered as second grade members of the church and their role was reduced to a passive one. The 1917 code defined laity in negative terms and it had just two canons on laity. Vatican II restores the positive image of lay people and their vital role in the mission of the church. The 1983 code spells out concretely the various possibilities of greater involvement of lay people in the three-fold function of the church. The 1987 Synod of Bishops devoted its attention to the important theme of: “Vocation and mission of the Laity in the Church and in the World, twenty years after the second Vatican Council”. The status and functions of the lay people in the church is certainly one of the foremost ecclesiological phenomena or our time. In this presentation we would like to make a study on the participation of lay people in the governing, teaching and sanctifying office of the church. This study consists of two parts. In part one, we analyze some important concepts such as “Lay Person,” “Ecclesiastical Office”, “Ministry” and “Jurisdiction”. In the second part we make a study on the actual provisions made by the 1983 Code for the participation of the Laity in the governing, teaching and sanctifying office of the church.



Who is lay person? The answer, like the question, is simple but at the same time complex. A lay person is a baptized christian faithful; lay persons have a secular quality; the functions of lay people differ from those of the clergy.1 Complexity arises when we reflect on issues such as the role of the laity in the mission of the church and the interrelationship of the clergy and the laity.

1. The 1917 Code

Canon 87 states: “By baptism a human being becomes a person in the church of Christ, with all the rights and duties of a Christian”. By baptism on becomes a person in the church. A person, in a juridical sense, is a subject of rights and duties.2 Hence, baptism introduces one to rights and duties proper to a Christian. This Canon gives a ontological definition of “person in the church”. The essence of personhood in the church differs for the clerical or lay status.

Canon 107 introduces the subtle canonical distinction between the clerics and the laity: “By divine institution there are in the church clergy distinct from laity”. The context of this canon indicates that it is

1. Cf. James Provost, The Obligation and rights of Lay Christian Faithful”: The Code of Canon Law-Text and Commentary, James A. Coriden, New York, 1985, p. 159.

2. Cf. Felix M. Capello, Summa Iuris Canonici, Vol. 1, Rome, 1961, p. 159.

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