The Social Structure of American Catholicism
In considering the social structure of American Catholicism it will be necessary to bear two distinctions in mind: the distinction between laity and clergy; and the social distinction between the Catholic community and the rest of the population. First, we shall look at the structure of the Church and its lay organizations in this country; second, we shall look at the social stratification of the Catholic population. The second inquiry will concern itself with the distribution of Catholics among the social classes in the country and the social prestige accorded Catholic groups and the various ethnic groups from which Catholics come.
Within the Church itself there are two definite strata, the clergy and the laity, whose relations to the functioning of the Church--the administration of the sacraments, the liturgy, worship, and the teaching apostolate--are, and have traditionally been, distinct. Rooted in distinctions already to be found in the Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, and the Epistles of St. Paul, this division into strata had by the second century evolved two recognizable social orders within the Church. Certain specific historical experiences of the Christian body imparted to these concrete social structures a content which tended to increase the difference in function and the social distance between them.
In addition there evolved in time another stratum within the Church which to some extent cut across the existing