Sharing the Job: Cooperation Between the Priesthood and Laity

  • Lisa McClain
Part of the Histories of the Sacred and Secular, 1700-2000 book series (HISASE)


In the frequent absence of priests, laypeople had to make choices: perform a religious role themselves or leave it undone. The consequences of leaving something undone could be disastrous: the loss of a soul. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the extent of lay participation in rituals, sacraments, and religious instruction formed the crux of the discussion. By the early eighteenth century, the discussion had broadened to include not only whether the laity would participate in fulfilling traditional clerical roles but also in defining how they participated. By the end of the eighteenth century, laypeople openly re-defined the larger structural relationship between laity and clergy in open letters addressed to every Catholic in the land. As the government gradually repealed the penal laws and removed restrictions on Catholic opportunities in the next decades, it would be difficult to turn back the clock on these changes in lay-clerical relations.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lisa McClain
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of HistoryBoise State UniversityBoiseUSA

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