Does the Church allow lay people preach?

Hi I am at a top Catholic University in the US, and my theology professor said that lay people are not allowed to preach and that this is only reserved to the ordained ministry, is he correct?

I dont want to preach within the liturgy/Mass, but in the style of Billy Graham, I would like to preach in large arenas to play my part in bring people back to Christ and the Church he founded.

Can anyone enlighten me on whether lay people are allowed to preach?

Your professor is correct.

You may not preach as a lay person.

You can give speeches and you can teach, but you cannot preach.

He is correct that lay people are not allowed to preach a homily at mass. This is reserved to the celebrant priest, and may be delegated to a concelebrating priest or to a deacon, but never to the laity.

Laity, however, can speak (preach is probably not the right word)outside of the mass as this does not require ordination. Thus you see teachers like Dr. Scott Hahn, Tim Staples, Rosalind Moss, and others speak to Catholic audiences outside of liturgical celebrations.

You can find this in the Vactican Document *Redemptionis Sacramentum, *Chapter 3:64. The homily, which is given in the course of the celebration of Holy Mass and is a part of the Liturgy itself,142 “should ordinarily be given by the Priest celebrant himself. He may entrust it to a concelebrating Priest or occasionally, according to circumstances, to a Deacon, but never to a layperson.143 In particular cases and for a just cause, the homily may even be given by a Bishop or a Priest who is present at the celebration but cannot concelebrate.”14465. It should be borne in mind that any previous norm that may have admitted non-ordained faithful to give the homily during the eucharistic celebration is to be considered abrogated by the norm of canon 767 §1.145 This practice is reprobated, so that it cannot be permitted to attain the force of custom.66. The prohibition of the admission of laypersons to preach within the Mass applies also to seminarians, students of theological disciplines, and those who have assumed the function of those known as “pastoral assistants”; nor is there to be any exception for any other kind of layperson, or group, or community, or association.146
Hope this helps.

According to the Code of Canon Law, canon 766:
“The laity may be allowed to preach in a church or oratory if in certain circumstances it is necessary, or in particular cases it would be advantageous, according to the provisions of the Bishop’s Conference and without prejudice to Can. 767§1.”
(The Code of Canon Law: New revised English Translation, HarperCollins Liturgical, 1997, ISBN 000599375X.) Another translation can be looked up at .

Canon 767§1 is about the homily.

Of course any Baptized person is called to preach the Gospel every where to their maximum ability. The only place where a person cannot preach is during a liurgy of the Church.

This prohibition also includes relgious men and women. They cannot “preach the homily”.

I meant “Liturgy” and yes everyone not in Holy Orders is generally prohibited from preaching during a Liturgy of the Church.

I make that mention because there is a common misconception in my area that relgious men are somehow counted as clergy. Just because a religious brother was named chancellor, that does not make him part of the clergy. When I explained this to some folks, they looked at me as though I were nuts.

That’s why I had to insert that distinction.

And it is an important distinction. That applies to non-ordained parish Pastoral Assistants, Lay Parish Administrators, Nuns, Monks, etc. I’m not certain but I do believe that a Bishop can allow a special one time exception.

Redemptionis Sacramentum doesn’t make that exception. I think one of the posters put the section in the second post. Don’t want to nitpick, but I often wonder what part of “no” people don’t understand (not you, it’s the ones who insist on giving laity a greater role, like "preaching).

I don’t have a commentary available, but my suspicion is that this is intended to apply to communion or prayer services led by laity.

The reservation of the homily at the Eucharistic liturgy has been addressed, Eric. However, you will find the complementary legislation on canon 766 directly useful for your question, and I suggest you follow this link:

Both Redemptionis sacramentum and the complementary legislation take cognizance of an authentic interpretation of canon 767 and it is referenced in the USCCB legislation.

“Preaching” is a quite suitable word to describe what the qualified and approved laity may do apart from the Eucharistic liturgy. In fact, preaching the homily is one of the forms of preaching, and the two terms, “preaching” and “homily”, are not identical according to canon 767 §1.

In the general sense, the laity do “preach” in many ways. But in these canons, the sense is the more restricted one. Hence, they do not convey a right to preach by the laity. Instead, they make it possible under the restricted conditions (apart from Eucharistic liturgy) and with permission of competent authority who determines qualifications of a person. Canon 765 will also add another restriction related to preaching to religious.

A lay member of the Christian faithful who is authorized to conduct Communion services outside of Mass may or may not be also authorized to preach at them. The same is true if he or she is authorized to lead some prayer service. In either case, that would depend on the diocesan bishop, although a case could likely be made that the bishop should give such permission if the person has been found appropriate to those tasks. Sometimes they are not so given, and the lay person may only read from a sermon or the like from someone else. Details and practices vary.

Permission to preach a la Billy Graham would seem to me to require permission of a local ordinary in which this occurs, especially if outside of one’s own diocese. See canon 772 :
§1. The norms issued by the diocesan bishop concerning the exercise of preaching are to be observed by all. §2. The prescriptions of the conference of bishops are to be observed in giving radio or television talks on Christian doctrine.

Laymen have preached in the past. No reason to stop now.
Some wastrel son of a merchant from Assisi did a lot of preaching in his day. He was never ordained; he didn’t want to be. Although many churchmen objected to the Pope that they didn’t like the content of his talks or speaches or preaching or whatever word you want to use, the Pope never censured him. They even managed to canonize the fellow.


Drafdog, you really don’t have any regard for liturgical norms, do you? As for St. Francis, you have your story wrong. He was ordained as a deacon; it’s the priesthood he did not want.

Bennygal, please save your castigations for persons who earn it. I never once mentioned liturgy. Either you didn’t read my post or you intentionly misrepresented it.
An apology would be nice.


The thread concerns preaching during Mass, as I believe the question was raised by the original poster. You didn’t make yourself clear, either, and, no, I’m not intentionally misrepresenting you. The post you wrote (which I quoted) appeared to support lay preaching at Mass. Evidently, from your comments, you didn’t mean to present that and I didn’t mean to intentionallly mirepresent you.

He was Ordained actually.

There are many reasons not to preach like Billy Graham, as he relied on the cult of personality to spread heresies. :wink:

Lay people cannot preach duing Mass/Liturgy. But certainly they can preach in non-Liturgical settings. We have a lot of lay theologians.

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