Lay cardinal

A lay cardinal was a cardinal in the College of Cardinals of the Catholic Church who was a lay person, that is, who had never have been given major orders through ordination as a deacon, priest, or bishop.

Lay Cardinal Teodolfo Mertel

Properly speaking, they were not laymen after becoming cardinals, since they were all given what was called first tonsure, which at that time made them clerics and no longer laymen.[1] They were also given minor orders, which were no obstacle to marrying or to living in a marriage previously contracted; this is likely the reason they were popularly, though somewhat imprecisely, referred to as lay cardinals.[citation needed]