Directory of Clergy
A person who has been legitimately received into the ranks of the clergy. By clergy in the strict sense is meant the entire ecclesiastical hierarchy. Consequently a cleric is one who belongs in some sense to the hierarchy. For this it is necessary that he have received at least the tonsure. The clergy by Divine right form an order or state which is essentially distinct from that of the laity. (Conc. Trid., Sess. XXIV, De sac. ord., can. i, 6.) Christ did not commit the preaching of the Gospel and the administration of the sacraments to the faithful in general, but to certain carefullydefined persons, as the Apostles and seventy-two Disciples. They also received the power of governing the flocks; which power is represented by the Keys, a well-known Oriental symbol for authority. That the distinction between clergy and laity was recognized in New Testament times is plain from St. Paul's statement that the bishops have been placed by the Holy Ghost to rule theChurch (Acts 20:28), for the right to rule implies a correlative obligation to obey. Presbyters are continually distinguished from the laity throughout the Pauline Epistles.
The word cleric (Lat., clericus from clerus) is derived from the Greek kleros, a "lot". In the Septuagint, this word is used in the literal sense quite frequently, though not in its later technical sense. In the First Epistle of St. Peter (v, 3) it is applied to entire body of the faithful. The use of the word in its present restricted meaning occurs, however, as early as the third century. It is found inTertullian (De idol., c. viii), Origen (Hom. in Jer., xi, 3) and Clement of Alexandria (Quis dives salvetur, c. xlii) in this sense. It is not easy to determine exactly how the word came to have its present determinate meaning. The "Pontificale Romanum" refers to clerics as being those whose "lot" is the Lord Himself, and St. Jerome explicitly derives the name from that fact. These statements do not give us, however, the steps by which kleros, "lot" became "clergy" or "cleric". Probably the best suggested explanation is, that from lot or portion, it came to mean a particular lot or office assigned to some one, and finally the person himself possessing the lot or office.