May 21: The Laity (Part One)
What the Canons Say about the Obligations and Rights of All the Christian Faithful
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
All the Christian faithful have the right to be free from any kind of coercion in choosing a state of life.
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.
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.
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.
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
Documents of Saint John Paul II referencing aspects of the lay office
On Christ’s work of redemption:
On the Holy Spirit:
On the laity:
On the Church’s mission of evangelism:
On Catholic social teaching and the renewal of the temporal order:
On the mission of women:
On family life:
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