May 21: The Laity (Part One)

What the Canons Say about the Obligations and Rights of All the Christian Faithful

 CAN. 208

From their rebirth in Christ, there exists among all the Christian faithful a true equality regarding dignity and action by which they all cooperate in the building up of the Body of Christ according to each one’s own condition and function.

CAN. 209

The Christian faithful, even in their own manner of acting, are always obliged to maintain communion with the Church.

With great diligence they are to fulfill the duties which they owe to the universal Church and the particular church to which they belong according to the prescripts of the law.

CAN. 210

All the Christian faithful must direct their efforts to lead a holy life and to promote the growth of the Church and its continual sanctification, according to their own condition.

CAN. 211

All the Christian faithful have the duty and right to work so that the divine message of salvation more and more reaches all people in every age and in every land.

CAN. 212

Conscious of their own responsibility, the Christian faithful are bound to follow with Christian obedience those things which the sacred pastors, inasmuch as they represent Christ, declare as teachers of the faith or establish as rulers of the Church.

The Christian faithful are free to make known to the pastors of the Church their needs, especially spiritual ones, and their desires.

According to the knowledge, competence, and prestige which they possess, they have the right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful, without prejudice to the integrity of faith and morals, with reverence toward their pastors, and attentive to common advantage and the dignity of persons.

CAN. 213

The Christian faithful have the right to receive assistance from the sacred pastors out of the spiritual goods of the Church, especially the word of God and the sacraments.

CAN. 214

The Christian faithful have the right to worship God according to the prescripts of their own rite approved by the legitimate pastors of the Church and to follow their own form of spiritual life so long as it is constant with the doctrine of the Church.

CAN. 215

The Christian faithful are at liberty freely to found and direct association for purposes of charity or piety or for the promotion of the Christian vocation in the world and to hold meetings for the common pursuit of these purposes.

CAN. 216

Since they participate in the mission of the Church, all the Christian faithful have the right to promote or sustain apostolic action even by their own undertakings, according to their own state and condition. Nevertheless, no undertaking is to claim the name Catholic without the consent of competent ecclesiastical authority.

CAN. 217

Since they are called by baptism to lead a life in keeping with the teaching of the gospel, the Christian faithful have the right to a Christian education by which they are to be instructed properly to strive for the maturity of the human person and at the same time to know and live the mystery of salvation.

CAN. 218

Those engaged in the sacred disciplines have a just freedom of inquiry and of expressing their opinion prudently on those matters in which they possess expertise, while observing the submission due to the magisterium of the Church.

CAN. 219

All the Christian faithful have the right to be free from any kind of coercion in choosing a state of life.

CAN. 220

No one is permitted to harm illegitimately the good reputation which a person possesses nor to injure the right of any person to protect his or her own privacy.

CAN. 221

The Christian faithful can legitimately vindicate and defend the rights which they possess in the Church in the competent ecclesiastical forum according to the norm of law.

If they are summoned to a trial by a competent authority, the Christian faithful also have the right to be judged according to the prescripts of the law applied with equity.

The Christian faithful have the right not to be punished with canonical penalties except according to the norm of law.

CAN. 222

The Christian faithful are obliged to assist with the needs of the Church so that the Church has what is necessary for divine worship, for the works of the apostolate and of charity, and for the decent support of ministers.

They are also obliged to promote social justice and, mindful of the precept of the Lord, assist the poor from their own resources.

CAN. 223

In exercising their rights, the Christian faithful, both as individuals and gathered together in associations, must take into account the common good of the Church, the rights of others, and their own duties toward others.

In view of the common good, ecclesiastical authority can direct the exercise of rights which are proper to the Christian faithful.

Sources of Catholic teaching on the role and mission of laity

Documents of the Second Vatican Council

Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium) 9-17, 27-28, 30-42 

Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity (Apostolicam Actuositatem

Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Guadium et Spes

Decree on the Bishop’s Pastoral Office in the Church (Christus Dominus), sections 6, 15, 17, 22, 7, 30 

Decree on Priestly Formation (Optatam Totius), sections 6, 11, 20

Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests (Presbyterorum Ordinis), sections 2, 9, 21 

Decree on the Church’s Missionary Activity (Ad Gentes), sections 1, 11-12, 15, 17, 20-21, 23, 26, 29, 30, 36, 41 

Documents of Saint John Paul II referencing aspects of the lay office

On Christ’s work of redemption:

Redeemer of Man (Redemptor Hominis)

On the Holy Spirit:

Lord and the Giver of Life (Dominum et Vivificantem)

On the laity:

The Vocation and Mission of the Lay Faithful in the Church and in the World (Christifideles Laici)

On the Church’s mission of evangelism:

On the Permanent Valididty of the Church’s Missionary Mandate (Redemptoris Missio)

On the Unicity and Salvific Universality of Jesus Christ and the Church (Dominus Iesus)

On Catholic social teaching and the renewal of the temporal order:

On Human Work (Laborem Exercens)

The Splendor of Truth (Veritatis Splendor)

Faith and Reason (Fides et Ratio)

The Gospel of Life (Evangelium Vitae)

On the Hundredth Anniversary of Rerum Novarum (Centesimus Annus)

On the Coming of the Third Millennium (Tertio Millennio Adveniente)

On the mission of women:

On the Dignity and Vocation of Women (Mulieris Dignitatem)

Letter to Women (on the eve of the Fourth World Conference on Women held in 1995 Beijing)

On family life:

On the Family (Familiaris Consortio)

Letter to Families

Sections of the Catechism that reference specifically the identity and mission of the laity:

CCC: 782-786, 794-795, 863-865, 871-873, 897-913, 928-929, 934, 940-943, 1141-1144, 1174-1178, 1213-1321, 1533-1535, 1546, 1591, 1601-1664, 1669, 1877-1948, 1934-1935, 2225-2231, 2442

Recommended books:

To Hunt, to Shoot, to Entertain: Clericalism and the Catholic LaityRussell Shaw.  Ignatius Press

Parish: Mission or Maintenance, Michael Sweeney, OP and Sherry Weddell.  Siena Institute Press.

Making Disciples, Equipping Apostles: the Parish as a House of Formation for Adult Catholics, Sherry Weddell.  Siena Institute Press.