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( Latin majoritas )

Majority, the state of a person or thing greater, or superior, in relation to another person or thing. In canon law the expression has three principal acceptations:

  • (1) In the elections or deliberations of any assembly, majority signifies a higher number of votes. There is an "absolute majority when the number of votes exceeds half the number of the voters; a "relative majority" when the votes for the one candidate, or party, numerically exceed those given to any other. There are also certain special majorities required in certain cases, such as that of two-thirds required for pontifical elections ( see CONCLAVE ; ELECTION);
  • (2) In reference to persons, majority is the state of persons who have reached the age required for such and such definite acts; in particular for acts of civil life. As a rule, the age of majority is fixed at twenty-one years (see MINORS);
  • (3) In the hierarchical sense, majority is the superiority of certain persons over certain others by reason of the charge or dignity held by the former. It connotes authority, or at least precedence; and its correlative is obedience when there is question of jurisdiction, deference and respect when there is question of dignity. Thus, in the Church, the clergy are superior to the laity ; among the clergy, individuals are ranked according to their jurisdiction, their Holy orders, etc.

In a certain sense, even church buildings have a hierarchical precedence, the first of churches being St. John Lateran's, the pope's cathedral, "mother and head of all the churches of Rome and of the world"; next come the "major" basilicas, then the primatial churches, the metropolitan, cathedral, collegiate etc. (cf. Decretal, I, tit. xxxiii, "De majoritate et obedientia").


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