Every now and then, we are confronted by issues affecting secular institutions—and yet, among us from the laity, we have had as every now and then a very vague idea what these institutions are, who are within them, what rules are being followed there, from whom and by whom.
With relatively reasonable intervals, people from various walks of life are bombarded by pastoral letters and similar documents—asking them to do what the authorities require them to do for the betterment of the group or the masses.
There is in these secular institutions a particular area: obedience by the secular sector.
But what is this secular sector in the first place anyway? As related to the Catholic Church, there is what is described as the secular clergy as contra-distinguished from the regular clergy.
The secular clergy are religious ministers, like deacons and priests, who do not belong to a religious order—like the Order of Preachers, the Order of Saint Benedict, the Society of Jesus, to name just three.
The regular clergy take vows of chastity, poverty and obedience and place themselves under a rule or regulum, the secular clergy do not take vows and live in the world or saeculum.
Celibacy and obedience
But they remain bound to Canon law. For Latin rite priests, this means they are bound to obligations of celibacy and obedience.
Like the regular clergy, the secular clergy are also bound to the recitation of the Divine Office.
Very quickly, and for an easier understanding—or at least hopefully—of the issue, what is celibacy, what is obedience, and what is this recitation of the Divine Office?
Chastity is one of the three traditional vows, the two others being poverty and obedience. These must be understood in their anthropological, theological—or Christian—and religious dimensions to have a better understanding of these vows.
Authorities say the anthropological dimension of each vow justifies the idea that chastity, poverty, and obedience are basically and essentially human realities and values.
In turn, these are deeply rooted in the hearts of all human beings regardless of religion, belief, race, culture, status, sex, and other circumstances in life.
Values of poverty
The Christian (theological) dimension, according to authorities, explains the truth that these human values of chastity, poverty, and obedience are Christian/Kingdom values.
These were taught and lived by Jesus Christ Himself.
Christians, the radical followers of Jesus Christ, ought to live these values as their master did.
But one must have a deeper understanding of chastity here, particularly when one is part of the laity—from the Greek laos, or the people; whence laikos, or one of the people—and therefore outside of the secular clergy.
For the laity particularly, chastity as part of human values is sexual behavior of a man or woman acceptable to the ethical norms and guidelines of a culture, civilization, or religion.
In the Western cultures, the term has become deeply associated (and is often used interchangeably) with sexual abstinence, especially before marriage.
But the term remains applicable to persons in all states, single or married, clerical or lay, and has implications beyond sexual temperance.
In Catholic morality, chastity is placed opposite the deadly sin of lust, and is classified as one of seven virtues.
In the theological dimension, Jesus Christ becomes the central point of reference and identification in understanding and living these virtues.
Another biblical figure who is outstanding in living out these Christian virtues and who is venerated as the model and prototype disciple of Christ is the Blessed Virgin Mary.
From her, the faithful learn also the meaning of chastity, poverty, and obedience.
The general idea, when we talk of the laity, is that this refers to the faithful, which is opposed to infidel, unbaptized, or simply one outside the border of Christian society.
The word laity is opposed to clergy. But while the laity and the clergy, or clerics, belong to the same society, they do not occupy the same rank.
Who comprise the laity?
The laity are the members of this society who remain where they were placed by baptism, while the clergy, even if only tonsured, have been raised by ordination to a higher class, and placed in the sacred hierarchy.
There are those who suggest that the Church is a perfect society, although all who are within that society are not equal.
Some are the depositaries of sacred or spiritual authority under its triple aspect: government, teaching, and worship, that is, the clergy, the sacred hierarchy established by Divine law.
There are those over whom this power is exercised, who are governed, taught, and sanctified, the Christian people, the laity.
Again, there are the clerics, also taken as individuals, who are governed, taught, and sanctified.
But the laity are not the depositaries of spiritual power.
They are the flock confided to the care of the shepherds, the disciples who are instructed in the Word of God, the subjects who are guided by the successors of the Apostles towards the last end, which is eternal life.
It is thus that the laity, having come to supernatural life through the sacrament of baptism, belong to a chosen race and have become adopted children of God.
HBC, who used to teach cathecism under the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, is an officer of the Elderly Ministry of the Sacred Heart of Jesus of Brookside Hills.