Author: ZONG Xiaolan, Lecturer, Department of Philosophy, Shaanxi Normal University
During the course of Roman Catholic history, two distinct classes formed in the church: namely the clergy (and all in holy orders) and the laity. At the Council of Trent, and especially after Vantican I, the Church hierarchies made it clear that the clergy were to oversee the Church by dint of their divine authority, while the laity took on a subordinate role, submitting to the power of the clergy. From the Middle Ages onwards, the Church has reflected on the role of the laity in the church. Vatican II made clear that as the people of God, the clergy and lay people shared an equal status before God. This paper considers the reality of the inequality which persists between the ordained and the lay in the post Vatican II era, and offers a historical review to analyse the reasons for this divide, given the scriptural and theological emphasis on equality. The paper argues that only when traditional patterns of thinking are changed can hierarchies be weakened and equality truly effected among all within the Church.
Church hierarchy, laity, church authority, equality
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