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The Catholic laity refers to the majority of Catholics, who are not a part of the clergy. Much of the work and ministries of the Church is performed by lay people, particularly since the Second Vatican Council of Bishops (1962-1965), and other advocacy organizations have been formed for the purpose of bringing about changes or reform in the Church. Many of these organizations or fellowships are sanctioned by the Church, but others are not. Within the Roman Catholic Church, the rights of the laity in regards to the Church are recorded in the Code of Canon Law. Prior to 1972, there were no sanctioned lay ministries within the Roman Catholic Church, only the major orders and minor orders, and the minor orders were reserved for those who were preparing for the priesthood. However, Vatican II effectively replaced the minor orders with two ministries: the lector and acolyte, allowing ministries to be assigned to lay Catholics. As a result, several lay ministries have been established within the Roman Catholic Church, and many other Catholic bodies make similar use of Catholics who are not part of the clergy. There are thousands of Catholic lay organizations at the local, national, and international level, covering a wide spectrum of Catholic life, some of which were created and are operating without ecclesiastical authority or approval. The structure of some Catholic Religious Orders allow for associated lay branches, as well; but, for the purpose of categorization, these will be listed within the appropriate categories for Catholic Religious Orders. A number of Catholic advocacy groups have been established for the purpose of bringing about reform within the Church, or with the hope of forcing change upon the Church. Some of the better known lay organizations within the Catholic Church include the Knights of Columbus, the Knights of Malta, the Catholic Police Guild, the Guild of Catholic Doctors, and the Catholic Association of Performing Arts.


Knights of Columbus

Knights of Malta

Legion of Mary

Order of Saint Lazarus



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