Communio Laica

Communio Laica in the language of the Church of Rome, means properly the rank of the laity, but is more commonly used to signify the status of a clergyman transferred from the privileged class of the clergy to the lay community. Only the clergy of the lower grades, SEE CLERGY, could voluntarily go back to the rank of the laity; those who had received one of the higher orders (upwards from the diaconate) could be transferred back to the laity only by legal dispensation granted by the pope, or by degradation. Clergymen of the lower grades can, according to the canon law, contract a valid marriage, but thereby lose their benefices and the privileges of the clergy. The Council of Trent allowed that in exceptional cases the lower orders be conferred upon married men (in case they had not been married oftener than once), and, on condition of their wearing the tonsure and the clerical habit, granted to them the privilegia canonis et fori, SEE CLERGY. Papal dispensation for members of the higher clergy to re-enter the rank of the laity (in particular, for the purpose of marrying) has only been given in rare instances. The transfer of a clergyman to the rank of the laity, as a punishment, took place, according to the ancient canonical law, in connection with deposition, but, according to the later law, only in consequence of degradation (q.v.). See Wetzer u. Welte, Kirchen-Lex. 2:718; Bingham, Orig. Eccl. 17:2; Farrar, Eccl. Dict. s.v.

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