In religious organizations , the laity comprises all lay persons, i.e. non-clergy, collectively. The term is often used more generally, in the context of any specialized profession, to refer to those who are not members of that profession.
In previous years the laity had a much smaller role in the work of the Catholic church. In the past, church leaders felt that the role of the laity was little more than to "Pray, Pay, and Obey."
In the years following the Second Vatican Council the role of the laity in the church has been greatly expanded. Also, as a result of the priest shortage, members of the laity have had to take on some of the roles previously performed by priests.
See also: Laicization