2335 K Tue 18 Jun 2002
Today I wrote a 2000 word essay for Liturgy.
Using the following documents as your starting point: Lumen Gentium (1964), Christifideles Laici (1988) and Instruction on Certain Questions regarding the Collaboration of the Non-ordained Faithful in the Sacred Ministry of Priests (1997), what are the problems and challenges in our understanding and exercise of liturgical ministries in the Church today?
Problems and challenges of liturgical ministries in the Roman Rite of today's Catholic Church are discussed. In particular the lay liturgical ministries of lector and acolyte are considered. These ministries give a particular liturgical role to those men, setting them apart from other lay people. At Vatican II there was little discussion of these. More recent clarifications of these issues are presented.
The principle is outlined in a paragraph in Lumen Gentium 33:
In the previous chapter of Lumen Gentium 29: "At a lower level of the hierarchy are to be found deacons, who receive the imposition of hands "not unto the priesthood, but unto the ministry."" There is no specific mention of the minor orders of porter, exorcist, acolyte and lector.
They were discussed by those contributing to the reform of the liturgy at a meeting 1-3 July 1965. Archbishop Bugnini summarized the discussion:
He describes how the October 1966 meeting of the Concilium voted in favour of suppressing the minor orders of porter, exorcist, acolyte and lector.[Footnote 3: ibid 733-734.] However he wrote:
It seems to me there were grounds for him to be disturbed. But his direction of 4 May 1967 prevailed: "Minor orders must be retained, but their concept and functions must be developed, and they must be integrated into the preparation for diaconate and priesthood."[Footnote 5: ibid 737]
In the Motu Proprio Ministeria quaedam of 1972 Paul VI wrote:
In this document the ministries of instituted lector and acolyte were outlined and these changes were incorporated into the 1975 Roman Missal.
But there has been a reluctance to implement them. Some of the concerns are evident from John Paul II's 1988 Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles Laici, n 23:
But the only changes made have been to reinforce the role of the instituted lector and acolyte. For example in the 1997 Instruction on Certain Questions Regarding the Collaboration of the Non-ordained Faithful in the Sacred Ministry of Priests, Article 1.3 has:
Instituted lectors are not "extraordinary ministers" to do the first reading, they are the "ordinary minister" for this task.
According to the 2000 General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) 99, which is about instituted lectors:
The 2002 GIRM 99 made the instituted lector's role as even clearer, with the removal of the last words in the 2000 GIRM 99: "quamvis adsint ministri ordinati". The translation would now be:
Problems and Challenges
But in my experience, since being instituted as a lector on
27 February 2000, this is rarely followed. Even at the Pope's
2001 Christmas Midnight Mass a woman (who cannot be instituted
as a lector) did the first reading. So it seems that in Saint
Peter's Basilica they do not follow the 1981 General Introduction
to the Lectionary for Mass, n. 51: "When there are instituted
lectors available, they are to carry out their office at least
on Sundays and major feasts, especially at the principal Mass
of the day." It is difficult to accept that instituted lectors
are not available there.
What problems and challenges does this indicate for the Church today? Perhaps poor communication, education and enforcement of the liturgical books. But why is this done poorly? I see it as concern for the Church's structure and a reluctance to admit past mistakes.
The role of the instituted lector, according to the liturgical books, is to wear vestments, be in the entrance procession, sit in the sanctuary and read at the lectern. Its similar to the role of the priest. I think many bishops have judged it is too much like the priest. For a lay man to have this role is seen as too powerful. Perhaps this is what is meant by Christifideles Laici n. 23 reference to:
The lector would have this role without the controls for a priest or religious: no requirement for celibacy, no restrictions in running a business, and free to live anywhere, not just in a particular diocese. The lector could be seen as more like Jesus, the teacher who read in the synagogue (Luke 4:16-17), as opposed to the chief priests who offered sacrifice and had Jesus arrested.
Would men who would have chosen to become priests instead choose to become instituted lectors, if this were offered as a real alternative? What would that mean for the diocese and for those who had made a commitment to celibacy?
Perhaps these were the concerns of bishops in 1972. If the institution of lectors did not happen then it becomes more difficult to introduce them with each passing year. Embarrassing questions could be raised: Why wasn't it introduced earlier? Were seminarians instituted as required? Did they follow the liturgical laws to wear vestments and sit in the sanctuary? Who was responsible? Who went along with ignoring the liturgical books and was ordained?
Challenging as these may be it would be better if the 1972 Motu Proprio Ministeria quaedam were implemented in 2002 rather than in 2032. Continuing failure to implement it would mean undermining Church law and discipline. While some men may choose to become lectors instead of priests having a real choice between celibate and non-celibate ministries should lead to a better discernment of vocations.
On-going Liturgical Reform
Another challenge for the Church today is the on-going nature of the liturgical reform. In 2000 a new GIRM was published and the Third Edition of the Roman Missal was expected that year. But this was not published until March 2002. Now the Conferences of Bishops can make their adaptations, as bishops in the USA published in "Norms for the Distribution and Reception of Holy Communion under Both Kinds in the Dioceses of the United States of America" the May 2002 Newsletter of the USCCB Committee on the Liturgy.
An illustration of the complexity this creates can be seen in the ministry of giving communion by intinction. Who should hold the chalice? The priest or acolyte?
Further changes can be expected with the translations into English and the process of approving them. Questions will be asked of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments and answers published in Notitiae. Clarifications will be provided which will change how the liturgical books are interpreted. There are reports that Pope John Paul II is preparing an encyclical on the Eucharist which may lead to different interpretations of the liturgical books.
Adding to the problems of understanding is a reluctance to admit mistakes and instead look for "face saving" solutions. When the 2002 Roman Missal was published it was with the decree of Holy Thursday 2000, which was also the decree for the 2000 GIRM. Since the 2002 GIRM was different there must have been later changes. John Paul II wrote of approving them in 2001 in his letter to the Vox Clara committee on 20 April 2002: "... the editio tertia of the Missale Romanum, the publication of which I authorized last year. ...".[Footnote 8: From the Internet, Adoremus. http://www.adoremus.org/VoxClara.html 2 May 2002.] But this has not been headline news. It was reported in USCCB BCL Newsletter of March 2002 "Minor adjustments made to the Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani have not resulted in a text substantively different from that published by the Holy See in the Spring of 2000. The most significant change appears to be in GIRM, n. 43 ...".
Many changes were made and with its publication in March 2002 this Roman Missal is the liturgical book that should be faithfully followed. But in practice how could the world's Catholics do this? With liturgical laws that are so complex, inaccessible and ever changing it becomes difficult to distinguish genuine ignorance from deliberate disobedience.
The identification of problems opens the way for opportunities to improve the Church's effectiveness in its mission. This year John Paul II spoke to the US Cardinal about the issue of sexual abuse: "... so much sorrow must lead to a holier priesthood, a holier episcopate, and a holier church ...". Similar things could be said of the problems of liturgical abuse. By faithfully following the liturgical books and responding to these challenges there are opportunities to improve unity and justice in the church.
Documents on the Liturgy. Minnesota: Liturgical Press, 1982.
Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani July 2000 An English Language Study Translation. Washington: USCCB BCL Secretariat, 2000.
Instruction on Certain Questions Regarding the Collaboration of the Non-ordained Faithful in the Sacred Ministry of Priests. Strathfield: St Pauls, 1997.
Lectionary Volume 1, Study Edition. Sydney: Collins Liturgical Australia, 1983.
Missale Romanum Editio Typica Tertia. Vatican: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2002.
Bugnini, Annibale. The Reform of the Liturgy 1948-1975. Minnesota: Liturgical Press, 1990.
Flannery, Austin. Vatican Council II, Volume 1 The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents. USA: Costello Publishing, 1996.
John Paul II. Christifideles Laici. Post-Synodal Apostolic
Exhortation. Homebush: St Pauls, 1989.
Copyright J.R. Lilburne, 18 June 2002.