Those separated to the work of the Christian ministry. The apostolic ch. knew of no ranks in the clergy (see Acts 20:17, 28: elders identified with overseers, i. e. bishops). From the time of Cyprian,* of Carthage, father of the hierarchical system, the distinction of clergy (from laity) as an order in the ch. and of ranks in the clergy became universal. In the RC Ch. the clergy became not only a separate order but were regarded as a priesthood with the office of mediatorship bet. God and men. To the distinction of presbyters (elders*) and bps., as differentiated in rank, was added the distinction of various classes of sacerdotal clergy: higher (subdeacon, deacon, priest, bishop,* metropolitan,* patriarch,* pope*); lower (doorkeepers, lectors, exorcists [see Exorcism], acolytes). Beginning in the later Middle Ages the regular clergy were mems. of monastic orders (under a regula, rule), the secular* clergy those who live in the world. Benefit of clergy was the privilege granted clergymen because of their office, e.g., exception from trial in civil courts (see Ap XXVIII 1, 2); the term refers also to the ministration or sanction of the ch. In Am. the clergy are gen. not considered a separate caste under civil law. See also Deacons; Hierarchy; Ministerial Office.
Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
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