Majoritas (Precedence) is the form in ecclesiastical law to denote the preference of the clergy over the laity, as well as the rank of the Church officers. In the Roman Catholic Church the distinction between the clergy and the laity is greater than in the Protestant churches. In the former there is also greater distinction in the ranks of the clergy itself. Thus an older ordination has precedence over a more recent ordination, and a higher over a lower order (c. 1:15, X, De maj. et obed. 1:33), excepting only an ordination conferred by the pope himself, as his act takes precedence in any case (c. vii, X, eod). In ordinations equal in rank the secular clergy precede the regulars; and again, among the secular clergy, the canons of the chapter-house those of the collegiate; among the orders, the regular canons the monks, and all other orders the mendicants; and among the latter the Dominicans precede all others (compare Benedict XIV, De Syn. disc. lib. iii, c. x). This term expresses also the official authority, the legal power of the Church office. Persons who are invested with such offices are denominated in the Protestant churches officials (q.v.). In the Roman Catholic Church they are called Church superiors (superiores ecclesiastici), and as a body they make up the hierarchical rank (status hierarchicus). The Romish Church authority requires obedience not only of its subjects, i.e. non-officials, but also of its officials, who, on entering upon their office, vow submission and obedience to their superiors by a formal oath. Hence arose the dispute whether the pope should be accepted as the highest authority, or whether even he was subject to a council. SEE INFALLIBILITY; SEE PAPACY.

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