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How to Cover the Catholic Church

Holy See.

The primary official term of reference for the Diocese of Rome, as

the chief diocese of Catholic Christendom; used to refer to the pope and the

Roman Curia—congregations, tribunals, and various other offices—in their

role of authority over and service to the Catholic Church around the world. In

most news uses,


is synonymous with

Holy See

: A Holy See represen-

tative is a Vatican representative, a congregation of the Holy See is a Vatican

congregation, etc.


The process by which a priest is returned to the lay state. It is

sometimes used as a penalty for a serious crime or scandal, but more often it

comes at the request of the priest. A laicized priest is barred from all priestly

ministry with one exception: He may give absolution to someone in immedi-

ate danger of death. The pope must approve all requests for laicization. When

a priest is laicized without his consent, for a crime such as living in concubi-

nage, committing child sexual abuse or using the confessional to solicit sex, it

is sometimes called




. Those terms, which are not used

in church law, should be restricted to forcible laicizations, since they connote

a penalty.


In canon law, anyone not ordained a deacon, priest or bishop is a

layperson. In this legal sense women religious (sisters) and unordained men

religious (brothers) are laity. In the documents of the Second Vatican Council,

however, the laity are those who are neither ordained nor members of a reli-

gious order. The Vatican II sense is the one usually intended in most discus-

sions of laypeople and their role in the church.

lay ecclesial ministry.

Not a specific job title, but a general theological

description of the work of Catholics who are not ordained but are engaged

in substantial public leadership positions in church ministry, collaborating

closely with the ordained leadership and working under their authority. In the

United States well over 30,000 such lay ministers—an average of more than

1.6 per parish nationwide—are employed by Catholic parishes in full- or part-

time positions of more than 20 hours a week. Among those who are in paid

posts, about 40 percent are coordinators of religious education. Their other

key ministries include general pastoral associate, youth minister, music minis-

ter, and liturgical planner or coordinator. Tens of thousands of other Catholics

engage in volunteer lay ministry in U.S. parishes as catechists; as readers, altar

servers, music leaders or other liturgical ministers; as social justice ministers;

or in a variety of other health, charity, service or church-related ministries.