Lay and Priest_roles
ON CERTAIN QUESTIONS REGARDING
THE COLLABORATION OF THE NON-ORDAINEDFAITHFUL IN THE SACRED MINISTRY OF PRIEST
LIBRERIA EDITRICE VATICANAVATICAN CITY 1997
The source of the call addressed to all members of the Mystical Body to participate actively in the mission and edification of the People of God, is to be found in the mystery of the Church. The People of God participate in this call through the dynamic of an organic communion in accord with their diverse ministries and charisms. The call has been forcefully repeated in the documents of the Magisterium, particularly since the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council(1) and thereafter. This is especially true of the last three General Ordinary Assemblies of the Synod of Bishops which reaffirmed the particular identities of the lay faithful and of sacred ministers and religious, in their proper dignity and diversity of functions. These Assemblies encouraged all the faithful to build up the Church by collaborating, in communion, for the salvation of the world.
The necessity and importance of apostolic action on the part of the lay faithful in present and future evangelization must be borne in mind. The Church cannot put aside this task because it is part of her very nature, as the 'People of God', and also because she has need of it in order to realize her own mission of evangelization.
This call for the active participation of all the faithful in the mission of the Church has not been unheard. The 1987 Synod of Bishops observed The Holy Spirit continues to renew the youthfulness of the Church and has inspired new aspirations towards holiness and the participation of so many lay faithful. This is witnessed, among other ways, in the new manner of active collaboration among priests, religious and the lay faithful; by active participation in the Liturgy; in the proclamation of the Word of God and catechesis; in the multiplicity of services and tasks entrusted to the lay faithful and fulfilled by them; by the flourishing of groups, associations and spiritual movements as well as by lay commitment to the life of the Church and in the fuller and meaningful participation of women in the development of society.(2) This was likewise verified in the preparation for the 1994 Synod of Bishops on Religious Life where it is stated: Through all, there should be a sincere desire to instill an authentic rapport of communion and of collaboration between the Bishops, institutes of consecrated life, the secular clergy and the laity.(3) In the subsequent Post-Synodal Exhortation the Supreme Pontiff confirmed the specific contribution of religious life in the mission and the building up of the Church.(4)
In effect, a collaboration of all the faithful exists in both orders of the Church's mission; whether it is in the spiritual order, bringing the message of Christ and his grace to men, or, in the temporal one, permeating and perfecting secular reality with the evangelical spirit.(5) This is especially true in the primary areas of evangelization and sanctification — It is in this sphere most of all that the lay apostolate and the pastoral ministry complete each other.(6) In these areas, the lay faithful of both sexes, have innumerable opportunities to be actively involved. This is possible through bearing consistent witness in their personal, family and social lives by proclaiming and sharing the gospel of Christ in every situation in which they find themselves, and by their involvement with the task of explaining, defending, and correctly applying Christian principals to the problems of today's world.(7) In particular, Pastors are exhorted to ...acknowledge and foster the ministries, the offices and roles of the lay faithful that find their foundation in the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation, indeed for a good many of them, in the Sacrament of Matrimony.(8)
The present reality is that there has been an astonishing growth of pastoral initiatives in this area. This is especially true after the notable impetus given by the Second Vatican Council and the Pontifical Magisterium in this regard.
The priority of the task of the New Evangelization, which involves all the People of God, requires that, today in particular, in addition to a special activism on the part of priests, there be also a full recovery of the awareness of the secular nature of the mission of the laity.(9)
This enterprise opens vast horizons, some of which have yet to be explored, for the lay faithful. The faithful can be active in this particular moment of history in areas of culture, in the arts and theatre, scientific research, labor, means of communication, politics, and the economy, etc. They are also called to a greater creativity in seeking out ever more effective means whereby these environments can find the fullness of their meaning in Christ.(10)
In this great field of complementary activity, whether considering the specifically spiritual and religious, or the consecratio mundi, there exists a more restricted area namely, the sacred ministry of the clergy. In this ministry the lay faithful, men or women and non-ordained members of Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, are called to assist. The Second Vatican Ecumenical Council refers particularly to this when it teaches: The hierarchy entrusts the laity with certain charges more closely connected with the duties of pastors: in the teaching of Christian doctrine, for example, in certain liturgical actions in the care of souls.(11)
Since these tasks are most closely linked to the duties of pastors, (which office requires reception of the sacrament of Orders), it is necessary that all who are in any way involved in this collaboration, exercise particular care to safeguard the nature and mission of sacred ministry and the vocation and secular character of the lay faithful. It must be remembered thatcollaboration with does not, in fact, mean substitution for.
It must be noted with great satisfaction that in many Particular Churches the collaboration of the non-ordained faithful in the pastoral ministry of the clergy has developed in a very positive fashion. It has borne an abundance of good fruits while, at the same time being mindful of the boundaries established by the nature of the sacraments and of the diversity of charisms and ecclesiastical functions. It has also brought about bounteous and tangible results in situations of a shortage or scarcity of sacred ministers.(12) In situations of emergency and chronic necessity in certain communities, some of the faithful, despite lacking the character of the sacrament of Orders, have acted appropriately and within their proper limits, in dealing with these realities. The necessary aspect of hierarchical relationship has been maintained while constantly seeking to remedy the situation of emergency.(13) Such faithful are called and deputed to assume specific duties which are as important as they are sensitive. Sustained by the grace of the Lord and by their sacred ministers journeying alongside them, they are well received by the communities which they serve. Sacred Pastors are extremely grateful for the generosity with which numerous religious and lay faithful present themselves for this specific service, carried out with a loyal sensus Ecclesiae and an edifying dedication. Particular thanks and encouragement should be extended to those who carry out these tasks in situations of persecution of the Christian community. This is also true for mission territories, whether these be geographical or cultural, and for places where the Church is newly planted or where the presence of the priest is only sporadic.(14)
This is not the place to develop the theological and pastoral richness of the role of the lay faithful in the Church which has already been amply treated in the Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles laici.
The scope of this present document is simply to provide a clear, authoritative response to the many pressing requests which have come to our Dicasteries from Bishops, Priests and Laity seeking clarification in the light of specific cases of new forms of pastoral activity of the non-ordained on both parochial and diocesan levels.
Though being born in very difficult and emergency situations and even initiated by those who sought to be genuinely helpful in the pastoral moment, certain practices have often been developed which have had very serious negative consequences and have caused the correct understanding of true ecclesial communion to be damaged. These practices tend to predominate in certain areas of the world and even within these, a great deal of variation can be found.
These matters cause the grave pastoral responsibility of many to be recalled. This is especially true of Bishops (15) whose task it is to promote and ensure observance of the universal discipline of the Church founded on certain doctrinal principles already clearly enunciated by the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council(16) and by the Pontifical Magisterium(17) thereafter.
This document came into being as a result of deliberations within our Dicasteries as well as from a Symposium attended by representatives of the Episcopates most affected by the problem. Finally, there was an extensive consultation of many Presidents of Conferences of Bishops, of individual Prelates, as well as with experts from the various ecclesiastical disciplines and from different parts of the world. From all of the foregoing, a clear convergence emerged which is faithfully presented in this Instruction. However, the document does not claim to be exhaustive nor can it address every possible variation which might present itself. It is limited to consideration of the best known of these as there is great variety of particular circumstance possible which can give rise to these situations.
This text was drawn up based on the solid foundation of the ordinary and extraordinary magisterium of the Church and is entrusted for its faithful application, first of all to the Bishops most affected by the issues raised. It is also brought to the attention of the Prelates of those ecclesiastical jurisdictions where, even though the practices described are not found in those territories at this time, given their rapid diffusion, such situation could change quickly.
Before addressing the concrete situations which were presented to us, it is necessary to look briefly at the essential theological elements underlying the significance of Holy Orders in the organic make-up of the Church. This is so that the ecclesiastical discipline will be understood better in light of the truth and of ecclesial communion which are concerned with promoting the rights and obligations of all, and for which in the Church the salvation of souls must always be the supreme law.(18)
1. The Common Priesthood of the Faithful and the Ministerial Priesthood
Jesus Christ, the Eternal High Priest, wished that his one and indivisible priesthood be transmitted to his Church. This Church is the people of the New Covenant who, through Baptism and the anointing of the Holy Spirit are reborn and consecrated as a spiritual temple and a holy priesthood. By living the Christian life, they offer up spiritual sacrifices and proclaim the prodigious deeds of Him who called them from darkness into his own wonderful light (cf. 1 Pt 2, 4-10).(19) There is but one chosen People of God: 'one Lord, one faith, one Baptism' (Eph 4, 5): there is a common dignity of members deriving from their rebirth in Christ, a common grace of filial adoption, a common vocation to perfection.(20) There exists a true equality between all with regard to the dignity and to the activity which is common to all the faithful in the building up of the Body of Christ. By the will of Christ some are constituted teachers, dispensers of the mysteries and pastors.(21) The common priesthood of the faithful and the ministerial or hierarchical priesthood though they differ essentially and not only in degree... are none the less ordered one to another; (since) each in its own proper way shares in the one priesthood of Christ.(22) Between both there is an effective unity since the Holy Spirit makes the Church one in communion, in service and in the outpouring of the diverse hierarchical and charismatic gifts.(23)
Thus the essential difference between the common priesthood of the faithful and the ministerial priesthood is not found in the priesthood of Christ, which remains forever one and indivisible, nor in the sanctity to which all of the faithful are called: Indeed the ministerial priesthood does not of itself signify a greater degree of holiness with regard to the common priesthood of the faithful; through it, Christ gives to priests, in the Spirit, a particular gift so that they can help the People of God to exercise faithfully and fully the common priesthood which it has received.(24) For the building up of the Church, the Body of Christ, there is a diversity of members and functions but only one Spirit who, for the good of the Church, distributes his various gifts with munificence proportionate to his riches and the needs of service, (cf. 1 Cor 12, 1-11).(25)
This diversity exists at the mode of participation in the priesthood of Christ and is essential in the sense that while the common priesthood of the faithful is exercised by the unfolding of baptismal grace, — a life of faith, hope and charity, a life according to the Spirit — the ministerial priesthood is at the service of the common priesthood... and directed at the unfolding of the baptismal grace of all Christians.(26) Consequently, the ministerial priesthood differs in essence from the common priesthood of the faithful because it confers a sacred power for the service of the faithful(27). For this reason the priest is exhorted ...to grow in awareness of the deep communion uniting him to the People of God in order to awaken and deepen co-responsibility in the one common mission of salvation, with a prompt and heartfelt esteem for all the charisms and tasks which the Spirit gives believers for the building up of the Church.(28)
The characteristics which differentiate the ministerial priesthood of Bishops and Priests from the common priesthood of the faithful and consequently delineate the extent to which other members of the faithful cooperate with this ministry, may be summarized in the following fashion:
a) the ministerial priesthood is rooted in the Apostolic Succession, and vested with potestas sacra(29) consisting of the faculty and the responsibility of acting in the person of Christ the Head and the Shepherd.(30)
b) it is a priesthood which renders its sacred ministers servants of Christ and of the Church by means of authoritative proclamation of the Word of God, the administration of the sacraments and the pastoral direction of the faithful.(31)
To base the foundations of the ordained ministry on Apostolic Succession, because this ministry continues the mission received by the Apostles from Christ, is an essential point of Catholic ecclesiological doctrine.(32)
The ordained ministry, therefore, is established on the foundation of the Apostles for the upbuilding of the Church: (33) and is completely at the service of the Church.(34) Intrinsically linked to the sacramental nature of ecclesial ministry is its character of service. Entirely dependent on Christ who gives mission and authority, ministers are truly ?servants of Christ' (Rom 1, 1) in the image of him who freely took for us ?the form of a slave' (Phil 2,7). Because the word and grace of which they are ministers are not their own, but are given to them by Christ for the sake of others, they must freely become the slaves of all.(35)
2. Unity and Diversity of Ministerial Functions
The functions of the ordained minister, taken as a whole, constitute a single indivisible unity in virtue of their singular foundation in Christ.(36) As with Christ,(37) salvific activity is one and unique. It is signified and realized by the minister through the functions of teaching, sanctifying and governing the faithful. This unity essentially defines the exercise of the sacred minister's functions which are always an exercise, in different ways, of the role of Christ as Head of the Church.
Therefore, since the exercise of the munus docendi, sanctificandi et regendi by the sacred minister constitute the essence of pastoral ministry, the diverse functions proper to ordained ministers form an indivisible unity and cannot be understood if separated, one from the other. Rather they must be viewed in terms of mutual correspondence and complementarity. Only in some of these functions, and to a limited degree, may the non-ordained faithful cooperate with their pastors should they be called to do so by lawful Authority and in accordance with the prescribed manner. He (Jesus Christ) continually provides in his body, that is, in the Church, for gifts of ministries through which, by his power, we serve each other unto salvation....(38) The exercise of such tasks does not make Pastors of the lay faithful, in fact, a person is not a minister simply in performing a task, but through sacramental ordination. Only the Sacrament of Orders gives the ordained minister a particular participation in the office of Christ, the Shepherd and Head in his Eternal Priesthood. The task exercised in virtue of supply takes its legitimacy formally and immediately from the official deputation given by Pastors, as well as from its concrete exercise under the guidance of ecclesiastical authority.(39)
This doctrine needs to be reaffirmed especially in the light of certain practices which seek to compensate for numerical shortages of ordained ministers arising in some communities. In some instances, such have given rise to an idea of the common priesthood of the faithful which mistakes its nature and specific meaning. Amongst other things, it can encourage a reduction in vocations to the (ministerial) priesthood and obscure the specific purpose of seminaries as places of formation for the ordained ministry. These are closely related phenomena. Their interdependence calls for careful reflection so as to arrive at well considered conclusions in their regard.
3. The Indispensability of the Ordained Ministry
For a community of the faithful to be called a Church, and indeed to truly be a Church, it cannot be guided according to political criteria or those of human organisations. Every particular Church owes its guidance to Christ since it was He who fundamentally linked apostolic mission to the Church and hence no community has the power to grant that mission to itself(40) or to delegate it. In effect, a canonical or juridical determination made by hierarchal authority is necessary for the exercise of the munus of teaching and governing.(41)
The ministerial priesthood is therefore necessary for a community to exist as Church: The ordained priesthood ought not to be thought of as existing (...) posterior to the ecclesial community, as if the Church could be imagined as already established without this priesthood.(42) Indeed, were a community to lack a priest, it would be deprived of the exercise and sacramental action of Christ, the Head and Pastor, which are essential for the very life of every ecclesial community.
Thus the ordained priesthood is absolutely irreplaceable. As an immediate consequence of this there is the necessity for a continuing, zealous and well-organised pastoral promotion of vocations so as to provide the Church with those ministers which she needs and to ensure a proper seminary training for those preparing for the Sacrament of Holy Orders. Any other solution to problems deriving from a shortage of sacred ministers can only lead to precarious consequences.
The duty of fostering vocations falls on the whole Christian community, and they should discharge it principally by living full Christian lives.(43) By following Christ more closely and in overcoming indifference, all the faithful have a responsibility to foster a positive response to priestly vocation. This is especially true for those nations where a strong sense of materialism is evident.
4. The Collaboration of the Non-ordained Faithful in Pastoral Ministry
Among the various aspects of the participation of the non-ordained faithful in the Church's mission considered by the conciliar documents, that of their direct collaboration with the ministry of the Church's pastors is considered.(44) Indeed, when necessity and expediency in the Church require it, the Pastors, according to established norms from universal law, can entrust to the lay faithful certain offices and roles that are connected to their pastoral ministry but do not require the character of Orders.(45) In this way, it is not one merely of assistance but of mutual enrichment of the common Christian vocation. This collaboration was regulated by successive post-conciliar legislation and particularly by the Codex Iuris Canonici.
The Code, having referred to the rights and duties of all the faithful,(46) in the subsequent title devoted to the rights and duties of the lay faithful, treats not only of those which are theirs in virtue of their secular condition,(47) but also of those tasks and functions which are not exclusively theirs. Some of these latter refer to any member of the faithful, whether ordained or not,(48) while others are considered along the lines of collaboration with the sacred ministry of cleric.(49) With regard to these last mentioned areas or functions, the non-ordained faithful do not enjoy a right to such tasks and functions. Rather, they are capable of being admitted by the sacred Pastors... to those functions which, in accordance with the provisions of law, they can discharge (50) or where ministers are not available... they can supply certain of their functions... in accordance with the provisions of law.(51)
To ensure that such collaboration is harmoniously incorporated into pastoral ministry, and to avoid situations of abuse and disciplinary irregularity in pastoral practice, it is always necessary to have clarity in doctrinal principles. Therefore a consistent, faithful and serious application of the current canonical dispositions throughout the entire Church, while avoiding the abuse of multiplying exceptional cases over and above those so designated and regulated by normative discipline, is extremely necessary.
Where the existence of abuses or improper practices has been proved, Pastors will promptly employ those means judged necessary to prevent their dissemination and to ensure that the correct understanding of the Church's nature is not impaired. In particular, they will apply the established disciplinary norms to promote knowledge of and assiduous respect for that distinction and complementarity of functions which are vital for ecclesial communion. Where abusive practices have become widespread, it is absolutely necessary for those who exercise authority to intervene responsibly so as to promote communion which can only be done by adherence to the truth. Communion, truth, justice, peace and charity are all interdependent terms.(52)
In the light of the aforementioned principles, remedies, based on the normative discipline of the Church, and deemed opportune to correct abuses which have been brought to the attention of our Dicasteries, are hereby set forth.
Need for an Appropriate Terminology
In his address to participants at the Symposium on Collaboration of the Lay Faithful with the Priestly Ministry, the Holy Father emphasized the need to clarify and distinguish the various meanings which have accrued to the term ministry in theological and canonical language.(53)
§ 1. For some time now, it has been customary to use the word ministries not only for the officia (officies) and non-ordained (functions) munera exercised by Pastors in virtue of the sacrament of Orders, but also for those exercised by the lay faithful in virtue of their baptismal priesthood. The terminological question becomes even more complex and delicate when all the faithful are recognized as having the possibility of supplying by official deputation given by the Pastors-certain functions more proper to clerics, which, nevertheless, do not require the character of Orders. It must be admitted that the language becomes doubtful, confused, and hence not helpful for expressing the doctrine of the faith whenever the difference 'of essence and not merely of degree' between the baptismal priesthood and the ordained priesthood is in any way obscured.(54)
§ 2. In some cases, the extension of the term ministry to the munera belonging to the lay faithful has been permitted by the fact that the latter, to their own degree, are a participation in the one priesthood of Christ. The officia temporarily entrusted to them, however, are exclusively the result of a deputation by the Church. Only with constant reference to the one source, the 'ministry of Christ' (...) may the term ministry be applied to a certain extent and without ambiguity to the lay faithful: that is, without it being perceived and lived as an undue aspiration to the ordained ministry or as a progressive erosion of its specific nature.
In this original sense the term ministry (servitium) expresses only the work by which the Church's members continue the mission and ministry of Christ within her and the whole world. However, when the term is distinguished from and compared with the various munera and officia, then it should be clearly noted that only in virtue of sacred ordination does the work obtain that full, univocal meaning that tradition has attributed to it. (55)
§ 3. The non-ordained faithful may be generically designated extraordinary ministers when deputed by competent authority to discharge, solely by way of supply, those offices mentioned in Canon 230, § 3(56) and in Canons 943 and 1112. Naturally, the concrete term may be applied to those to whom functions are canonically entrusted e.g. catechists, acolytes, lectors etc.
Temporary deputation for liturgical purposes — mentioned in Canon 230, § 2 — does not confer any special or permanent title on the non-ordained faithful.(57)
It is unlawful for the non-ordained faithful to assume titles such as pastor, chaplain, coordinator, moderator or other such similar titles which can confuse their role and that of the Pastor, who is always a Bishop or Priest.(58)
The Ministry of the Word(59)
§ 1. The content of that ministry consists in the pastoral preaching, catechetics and all forms of Christian instruction, among which the liturgical homily should hold pride of place.(60)
The exercise of its respective functions is properly that of the Bishop of each particular Church since he is the moderator of the entire ministry of the Word in his Diocese (61) and it is also properly that of his priests who are his collaborators.(62) In communion with the Bishop and his priests, this ministry also belongs to deacons.(63)
§ 2. The non-ordained faithful, according to their proper character, participate in the prophetic function of Christ, are constituted as his witnesses and afforded the sensus fidei and the grace of the Word. All are called to grow even more as heralds of faith in things to be hoped for (cf. Hebrews 11, 1).(64) Today, much depends on their commitment and generous service to the Church, especially in the work of catechesis.
Therefore, the faithful, especially members of Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life can be invited to collaborate, in lawful ways, in the exercise of the ministry of the Word.(65)
§ 3. To ensure the effectiveness of the collaboration mentioned in § 2 above, it is necessary to note some conditions relating to the operation of this same collaboration.
Canon 766 of the Codex Iuris Canonici establishes the conditions under which competent authority may admit the non-ordained faithful to preach in ecclesia vel oratorio. The use of the expression admitti possunt makes clear that in no instance is this a right such as that which is specific and proper to the Bishop (66) or a faculty such as enjoyed by priests and deacons.(67)
The terms in which these conditions are expressed — If in certain circumstances it is necessary..., ...if in particular cases it would be useful... in canon 766, make clear the exceptional nature of such cases as well as the fact that such must always be done iuxta Episcoporum conferentiae praescripta. In this final clause, this Canon establishes the primary source for correct discernment with regard to necessity or useful in specific cases. The prescriptions of the Conference of Bishops in this matter, which must receive the recognitio of the Apostolic See, are obliged to lay down those opportune criteria which may assist the diocesan Bishop in making appropriate pastoral decisions, proper to the nature of the same episcopal office.
§ 4. In some areas, circumstances can arise in which a shortage of sacred ministers and permanent, objectively verifiable, situations of need or advantage exist that would recommend the admission of the non-ordained faithful to preaching.
Preaching in churches or oratories by the non-ordained faithful can be permitted only as a supply for sacred ministers or for those particular reasons foreseen by the universal law of the Church or by Conferences of Bishops. It cannot, however, be regarded as an ordinary occurrence nor as an authentic promotion of the laity.
§ 5. Above all in the preparation for the sacraments, catechists take care to instruct those being catechized on the role and figure of the priest as the sole dispenser of the mysteries for which they are preparing.
§ 1. The homily, being an eminent form of preaching, qua per anni liturgici cursum ex textu sacro fidei mysteria et normae vitae christianae exponuntia,(68) also forms part of the liturgy.
The homily, therefore, during the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, must be reserved to the sacred minister, Priest or Deacon(69) to the exclusion of the non-ordained faithful, even if these should have responsibilities as pastoral assistants or catechists in whatever type of community or group. This exclusion is not based on the preaching ability of sacred ministers nor their theological preparation, but on that function which is reserved to them in virtue of having received the Sacrament of Holy Orders. For the same reason the diocesan Bishop cannot validly dispense from the canonical norm(70) since this is not merely a disciplinary law but one which touches upon the closely connected functions of teaching and sanctifying.
For the same reason, the practice, on some occasions, of entrusting the preaching of the homily to seminarians or theology students who are