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134 • Part I. The Creed: The Faith Professed

The entire Church as a body is infallible because the Holy Spirit

ensures that she will not err in matters of faith and morals. But this

infallibility is exercised in a special way by the Pope and the bishops

when together they teach what has been divinely revealed either in the

ordinary way of their day-to-day teaching or the extraordinary way of

an Ecumenical Council or the Pope himself.

The Pope and bishops also together teach truths that flow from

Divine Revelation or that are closely related to it. Sometimes they

teach these truths as being definitive, which means they must be firmly

accepted and held. Sometimes they teach in a less than definitive way,

which requires a religious submission of will and mind.


By Baptism, every member of the Church participates in Christ’s role

as priest, prophet, and king (which is understood in terms of being the

shepherd of his people). The laity do this in the context of their lives

within families, parish communities, civic communities, and the work-

place. The everyday gift of themselves in love and care for others, often

done at great personal cost, is a priestly offering that is joined to the

sacrifice of Christ in the Eucharist. By words and deeds faithful to the

Gospel, they evangelize others, thus fulfilling their prophetic role. By

seeking to build the common good of society on the basis of moral prin-

ciples, they strengthen civic communities and thus fulfill their kingly or

shepherding role.

The laity are in the unique position of being able directly to infuse

culture and society with the Gospel. But they also contribute to the vital-

ity of the life of the Church through ministry as catechists and many

other ministries. Most are volunteers, but some have been called to serve

as salaried ministers.Working with their pastors, they enable the Church

to witness to Christian faith and love before the world.

In the post-conciliar period, a distinctly new and different group

of lay ministers has emerged in the Church in the United States.

This group consists of lay women and men performing roles that

entail varying degrees of pastoral leadership and administration