Many of the world's religions train people—usually men—for leadership roles and confer authority on them in ordination rituals. Those people are called clergy. Because they wield power over people's lives, clergy have always been the subject of joking, and they sometimes use humor themselves in different ways.

In Judaism and Christianity, an important part of clerical training and service is working with scriptures, so rabbis, priests, and ministers must be literate and educated. Seminary training for Catholic priests, for example, has typically been 8 years beyond high school. In medieval Europe, only those in holy orders were usually taught to read and write. Clergy and clerk come from the same root, and clerical means both “pertaining to someone in holy orders” and “pertaining to a ...

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