Saturday, August 27, 2011

Ecclesiae de Mysterio - On Certain Questions Regarding the Collaboration of the Non-Ordained Faithful in the Sacred Ministry of Priest - Part 6

Article 1
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 emphasised 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 (offices) and non-ordained munera (functions) 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)

Article 2
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" [sense of the faithful] 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 [Code of Canon Law] establishes the conditions under which competent authority may admit the non-ordained faithful to preach in ecclesia vel oratorio [in churches or oratories]. The use of the expression admitti possunt [may be admitted] 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 accordance with the bishops' conferences directions]. 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.

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