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In the past, the term lay brother was used within some Catholic religious institutes, to distinguish members who were not ordained from those members who were clerics . This term is now considered controversial by some because of the history of inequality between Brothers and clerics. The term "lay" has also been used in the past to designate someone as "uneducated" in contrast to "illiterate." Instead, the term "religious Brother" or simply "Brother" is appropriate when referring to a vowed male religious who is neither priest, deacon, nor seminarian. The vocational title "Brother" is generally capitalized in order to distinguish it from the generic use of the biologically relational term "brother."

In the past, the term lay brother was used within some Catholic religious institutes, to distinguish members who were not ordained from those members who were clerics (priests and seminarians). This term is now considered controversial by some because of the history of inequality between Brothers and clerics. The term "lay" has also been used in the past to designate someone as "uneducated" in contrast to "illiterate." Instead, the term "religious Brother" or simply "Brother" is appropriate when referring to a vowed male religious who is neither priest, deacon, nor seminarian. The vocational title "Brother" is generally capitalized in order to distinguish it from the generic use of the biologically relational term "brother."

In religious communities today, religious Brothers are no longer restricted by the institutional inequalities of the past and enjoy the same status, rights, and opportunities as their priest and seminarian confreres, except where sacramental ministry is concerned. Brothers today (at least in the U.S.) generally pursue academic, professional, or technical training that is appropriate to their interests and skills and can be found in a variety of ministries. Many Brothers also study theology, scripture, and philosophy to some degree, although there is a great deal of variance regarding the intensity and duration of these academic curriculums.