Instruction on the
On 18 October 2002 the Congregation for the Clergy published
"The Priest, Pastor and Leader of the Parish Community".
According n. 30 of this one, it is in continuity with:
Directory on the Ministry and Life of Priests (1994)
Ecclesiae de mysterio (1997)
The Priest and the Third Christian Millennium, Teacher of
the Word, Minister of the Sacraments and Leader of the Community
What's new in this document? There is additional attention
to others in the parish. But despite this it does not mention
"instituted acolyte" or "instituted lector".
There are encouraging words about the need for law and order
in the Church:
"... In order to make progress, the life and mission
of the Church requires order, rules and laws governing conduct
- in short, a disciplinary regime. Prejudice against ecclesiastical
discipline has to be overcome, beginning with the very expression
itself. Fear of citing ecclesiastical discipline or requiring
the fulfilment of its demands must also be overcome. When the
norms of ecclesiastical discipline are observed, tensions are
avoided which otherwise would compromise the unitary pastoral
effectiveness which the Church needs so as to fulfil her mission
of evangelization. ..." (n. 15)
Of these laws special attention is given to liturgical laws:
"... Among the various aspects of ecclesiastical discipline,
docility to the Church's liturgical laws and dispositions, that
is to say, fidelity to the norms which organize divine worship
in accordance the will of the Eternal High Priest and of his
Mystical Body, merits special importance. ..." (n. 15).
There is some mention of responsibilities that lay people
"... The ministerial function of service to the community,
which is based on configuration with Christ, demands a knowledge
of, and respect for, the specific role of the lay faithful, and
the encouragement of every possible means of having all assume
their proper responsibilities. ..." (n. 16)
Regarding movement between parishes there are sensible instructions:
"... The increasing mobility of contemporary society
makes it all the more necessary that the parish does not become
introspective. Rather, it should welcome the faithful of other
parishes and avoid discouraging its own parishioners from participating
in the life of other parishes, rectories or chaplaincies. ..."
But I find this passage confusing:
"... In its title dedicated to the rights and duties
of the lay faithful, the Code distinguishes between those competencies
or functions which properly belong to all the lay faithful by
right or duty, and those deriving from collaboration with the
pastoral ministry. These latter are a capacitas or habilitas
whose exercise depends on being called by the Church's lawful
pastors. Thus, they are in no sense, "rights". ..."
The heading or title being referred to is "TITLE II:
THE OBLIGATION AND RIGHTS OF THE LAY MEMBERS OF CHRIST'S FAITHFUL".
It begins by saying these canons give people rights: "Lay
members of Christ's faithful have the obligations and rights
enumerated in the canons of this title ...". What basis
can there be for saying the canons do not give rights?
Take a specific example. Who should do the first reading at
Mass? Is it the priest's duty? Clearly not.
"The reader has his own proper function in the eucharistic
celebration and should exercise this even though ministers of
higher rank may be present." (General Introduction to the
Lectionary for Mass (LM), n. 51, Cf: 1970 & 1975 GIRM 66,
2000 & 2002 GIRM 99.)
So is the reader "collaborating with the pastoral ministry"?
In a sense -- bishops, priests, deacons, acolytes and lectors
all collaborate, they all work together. But it is also reasonable
to say an instituted lector is performing his ministry and has
a right to do so. If he is present other lay people should not
do the first reading, nor should a deacon, priest or bishop.
For this job he is the ordinary minister and others are extraordinary
ministers. "The readers ministry, which is conferred through
a liturgical rite, must be held in respect." (LM 51).
Hopefully there will be more conversation, documentation and
action to promote respect for the ministry of Instituted Lector.
By J.R. Lilburne, 24 October 2002. I give what I have written
on this page to the public domain. Canon Law extracts from 1997
Harper Collins edition.