(Fr. A. Anandarayar)
When we turn the pages of early church history we find that lay people had played a significant role in the mission of the church. But due to clericalism in the Middle Ages lay people came to be considered as second grade members of the church and their role was reduced to a passive one. The 1917 code defined laity in negative terms and it had just two canons on laity. Vatican II restores the positive image of lay people and their vital role in the mission of the church. The 1983 code spells out concretely the various possibilities of greater involvement of lay people in the three-fold function of the church. The 1987 Synod of Bishops devoted its attention to the important theme of: “Vocation and mission of the Laity in the Church and in the World, twenty years after the second Vatican Council”. The status and functions of the lay people in the church is certainly one of the foremost ecclesiological phenomena or our time. In this presentation we would like to make a study on the participation of lay people in the governing, teaching and sanctifying office of the church. This study consists of two parts. In part one, we analyze some important concepts such as “Lay Person,” “Ecclesiastical Office”, “Ministry” and “Jurisdiction”. In the second part we make a study on the actual provisions made by the 1983 Code for the participation of the Laity in the governing, teaching and sanctifying office of the church.
PART ONE: LAITY AND JURISDICTION
I. LAY PERSON
Who is lay person? The answer, like the question, is simple but at the same time complex. A lay person is a baptized christian faithful; lay persons have a secular quality; the functions of lay people differ from those of the clergy.1 Complexity arises when we reflect on issues such as the role of the laity in the mission of the church and the interrelationship of the clergy and the laity.
1. The 1917 Code
Canon 87 states: “By baptism a human being becomes a person in the church of Christ, with all the rights and duties of a Christian”. By baptism on becomes a person in the church. A person, in a juridical sense, is a subject of rights and duties.2Hence, baptism introduces one to rights and duties proper to a Christian. This Canon gives a ontological definition of “person in the church”. The essence of personhood in the church differs for the clerical or lay status.
Canon 107 introduces the subtle canonical distinction between the clerics and the laity: “By divine institution there are in the church clergy distinct from laity”. The context of this canon indicates that it is
1. Cf. James Provost, The Obligation and rights of Lay Christian Faithful”: The Code of Canon Law-Text and Commentary, James A. Coriden, New York, 1985, p. 159.
2. Cf. Felix M. Capello, Summa Iuris Canonici, Vol. 1, Rome, 1961, p. 159.
concerned with the clergy and ordering of the hierarchy and not with matters of the laity. The laity are considered as distinct from, even in opposition to, the clerics who are the active subjects or sacred power in the church. According to canon 108/1 one becomes a cleric by reception of first tonsure. Two more canons dealt with the laity: canon 682 states that the laity have the right to receive from the clergy spiritual goods and helps necessary for salvation. Canon 683 forbade lay persons to wear ecclesiastical garb.
The 1917 Code manifests the ecclesiology of that time. The Church was seen as a perfect society and its members sharply divided in two groups: the clerics and the laity, the active and the passive, the teachers and those who were taught, the pastors and the sheep, those who belonged to the hierarchy and those who did not belong; those who could exercise the power of order and jurisdiction and those who could exercise the power of order and jurisdiction and those who could not. It emphasized more on the juridical status (clergy-laity) than on the baptismal status (personhood in the church). It lacked a thorough understanding and appreciation of the interrelationship between the clergy and the laity and accentuated the powers and functions of the clergy. The identity of the laity in the 1917 Code was negative. They were considered as “non-clerics”.
2. The Second Vatican Council
The Second Vatican Council has revolutionized the understanding of the identity and function of lay persons in the church. It is the direct result of the new vision of the church as “the people of God”, as “christian faithful” as christifideles. The dogmatic constitution on the church brings out the nature and function of the church through various biblical images such as sheepfold, flock, field of God, vineyard, edifice, household, family, temple, mother, spouse, and body of Christ. The second chapter of this constitution, entitled “The people of God”, comes as a completion and culmination of the understanding of the nature of the church. The church is “the new people of God”. By this title the council puts more emphasis on the human and communal side of the church, rather than on the institutional and hierarchical aspects. The term “Christian faithful” occurs frequently in the documents of the council, and it refers to the clerics, the laity and the members of religious institutes. It brings out the equality and dignity of all the baptized and the responsibility flowing from baptism.
Lumen Gentium no.31 is an important text for the conciliar understanding of lay person: “The term laity is here understood to mean all faithful except those in holy orders and those in religious state sanctioned by the church. These faithful are by baptism made one body with Christ and are established among the people of God. They are in their own way made sharers in the priestly, prophetic and kingly functions of Christ. They carry out their own part in the mission of whole christian faithful with respect to the Church and to the world. A secular quality is proper and special to laymen”.
This text does not give any definition but rather a typological description of the laity. It has been observed that “the laity are here defined not only negatively (as those not ordained and not in the religious state) but positively, in terms of their baptism and their active role in the people of God. The Council retains the necessary functional differentiation between the clergy and the laity and at the same time emphasizes the quality and dignity of all the Christian faithful and their common responsibility in the mission of the church. There is a sacramental grounding for the laity for participation in the mission of the church. It is baptism that gives one a share in the three-fold mission of Christ as carried on by the church. The distinction between the clergy and the laity remains a matter or internal ordering of the church and it is based on the distinction between the common priesthood and ministerial priesthood. The Council brings out also the typically “secular quality” of a lay person. It includes engagement in temporal affairs, employment I a secular profession and living in ordinary circumstances of family and social life. Like leaven the laity are called to live in the world and transform the world. The laity is called to do God’s work in the world.
3. The 1983 Code
The 1983 Code has adopted the conciliar concepts of “People of God” for its understanding of the church and its mission. Canon 96 gives the classical definition of personhood in the church. Canon 96 gives the classical definition of personhood in the church: By baptism one is constituted a person in the church; a person is a subject of rights and duties which are proper to Christians and which flow form baptism. Canon 204 is a juridical formation of Lumen Gentium No.31. It describes the christian faithful in terms of communion and mission. The baptized constitute the people of God and they share in the three-fold function of Christ. Canon 208 makes an explicit statement on the equal dignity of all the Christina faithful rather than separation and differentiation.
4. Juridic Condition
Canon Law deals with a variety of juridic conditions or status. Baptism establishes a distinct juridic condition vis-à-vis non-baptized persons; rite is a fundamental condition for catholics; age, domicile, physical or mental state are all juridic conditions. Marriage, holy orders give rise to distinct juridic conditions. A juridic condition distinguishes people from one another within the common condition of Christian faithful. Canon 207 expresses the distinction between the clergy and laity. It is interesting to note that this canon contains the elements of canon 107 of the 1917 code but its context is different and the content has been changed. “Clergy” and “Laity” are ecclesiastical juridic conditions. The old code was concerned with clerics within the context of the hierarchy; whereas the new code here is concerned with the entire Christian faithful. There is a fundamental equality of all the Christian faithful. Thus, the 1983 code has established a positive identity for all Christian faithful.
5. Specific juridic condition of laity
All the Christian faithful have equality of dignity and common responsibility for the mission of the church but functionally they are not identical. Each according to his or her own condition carries on the mission of Christ. Canons 224-231 develop the specific juridical conditions of lay persons, namely, the obligations and rights of lay Christian faithful. Because of the secular quality proper to lay persons, these obligations and rights belong to them specifically, though not exclusively.
II. ECCLESIASTICAL OFFICE
Are lay persons capable of holding offices in the church? “Do they have the capacity to exercise the power of governance? Can they participate in the exercise to the sacred power in the church? Those are some of the questions that are closely related to our reflections on the laity.
1. Office in the 1917 Code
Canon 118 of the 1917 code completely forbade the exercise of the power of governance to lay persons. Only clerics could possess and exercise ecclesiastical power, whether of order or jurisdiction. As per canon 108/1, one became a cleric by the reception of first tonsure. According to canon 145/1, an ecclesiastical office is an office or post or function that is permanently established by divine or ecclesiastical law of a spiritual purpose. It is conferred according to law and carries with it some participation in the ecclesiastical power of order or jurisdiction. Papacy and episcopacy are offices which are permanently established by divine law. The offices of Vicar General, parish priest are examples of offices constituted by ecclesiastical law. As per this definition lay persons are exclude form ecclesiastical offices which are reserved only to clerics.
2. Office in Vatican II
The council modified the notion of office in such a way that lay persons could be entrusted with some ecclesiastical offices. An ecclesiastical office “should be understood as any function which has been permanently assigned and is too be exercised for a spiritual purpose”. Another text of the council explicitly states thus: “The laity have the capacity of being appointed by the hierarchy to some ecclesiastical offices with a view to a spiritual end” . The conciliar understanding of office is influenced by its understanding of the Church as the Christian faithful who all have equality of dignity and common responsibility for the mission of the church.
3. Non-ordained ministry
The “novis habitus mentis” of Pope Paul VI found its concrete expression in some of the post conciliar legislation and structures. Pope Paul VI by his Apostolic letter, written Motu Proprio, Causas Matrimoniales, 28th March 1971, has allowed a laymen (vir laicus) to serve as judge on a collegiate tribunal. Ecclesiastical judges exercise juridical power and thus participate in the power of governance. Power of order is not strictly required for the office of judge in an ecclesiastical tribunal.
Pope Paul VI, by virtue of is Apostolic letter, Ministeria quaedam, written Motu Proprio on 15th August 1972, suppressed the four minor orders of Porter, Lector, Exorcist and Acolyte to which Laymen (viri laici) could be stably installed. By this document the Pope aimed at providing the laity with a structure within which they could become recognized ministers in the Church. He greatly exhorted the laity to a greater participation in the mission of the church by exercising a number of non-ordained ministers: “The laity can also feel themselves called to work with their pastors in the service of the ecclesial community, for its growth and life, by exercising a great variety of ministries according to the grace and chrism which the Lord is pleased to give them … It is certain that side by side with the ordained ministries, the church recognizes the place of non-ordained ministries which are able to offer a particular service to the church.
4. Office in the 1983 Code
The 1983 code contains a broad definition of ecclesiastical office in canon 145: “An ecclesiastical office is any post which by divine or ecclesiastical disposition is established in a stable manner to further a spiritual purpose”. In this definition we do not find any necessary link between an ecclesiastical office and the power of order or jurisdiction. Section 2 of canon 145 asserts that the rights and obligations for any office are defined either by the law whereby the office is established or by the decree of the competent authority who establishes and confers the office.
Canon 228/1 clearly affirms the capacity of lay persons to hold ecclesiastical offices: “Lay people who are found to be suitable are capable of being admitted by the sacred pastors to those ecclesiastical offices and functions which, in accordance with the provisions of law, they can discharge”. In this new canon on laity one finds the influence of the so called “Roman School” which holds that: (1) The sacred power in the church has aspects both of orders and of jurisdiction; (2) The source of this sacred power is ultimately sacramental but the immediate source for the jurisdictional aspect is not solely the sacrament of orders; and (3) the lay persons can possess and exercise this sacred power in certain circumstances. A concrete example for lay people having the capacity to hold ecclesiastical office is given by canon 1421/2. A lay person may be appointed a judge on a collegial tribunal. It is clear that the role of judge is an ecclesiastical office to which is attached the power of jurisdiction.
Canons 129 and 274 seem to introduce some ambiguities and uncertainties about the capacity of lay persons to possess the power of jurisdiction and to hold ecclesiastical offices. Canon 274/1 makes a categorical statement that only clerics can obtain offices the exercise of which requires the power of order or the power of ecclesiastical governance. Canon 129/1 equates power of governance with
jurisdiction and states that only clerics, that is, those who have received sacred orders, are capable of the power or governance. These two canons reflect the spirit of 118 of the 1917 Code and seem to be much influenced by the so called “German school” which holds that: (1) There is only one sacred power in the church; (2) The source of this power is the sacrament of orders; and (3) This power can be possessed and exercised only by those who have received sacred orders.
Canon 129/2 introduces a compromising position between canon 228/1 and canon 274/1 and canon 129/1; “Lay members of Christ’s faithful “can cooperate” in the exercise of this same power (power of governance) in accordance with the law”. Canon 129 makes a clear distinction between the clerics who have the capacity to possess and exercise the power of governance and the laity who can cooperate in the exercise of this power of governance. Does it mean that the laity do not have the capacity to possess and exercise the power of governance but can “only cooperate” in its exercise? It is not clear what it means to cooperate in the exercise of a power which a person cannot actively hold.
5. Summary Reflections
The 1917 Code is known for its language of “total exclusion” of the laity from the ecclesiastical offices and the power of governance which were reserved “only to the clerics” (c. 118). It should be kept in mind that according to the old code one becomes a cleric by the reception of the first tonsure (c. 108/1). The understanding of ecclesiastical office always implied some participation in the power of order or power of governance (c. 145).
Vatican II understood ecclesiastical office in a broad sense as we see in No. 20 of Presbyterorum Ordinis. In nos 32, 33, and 37 of Lumen Gentium and in nos 2 and 24 of Apostolicam Actuositatiem we have explicit statements that lay persons could be deputed by the hierarchy for certain ecclesiastical offices which imply some participation in sacred power. Pope Paul VI, by his apostolic letter Causas Matrimoniales explicitly gave such power to a lay judge in a collegiate tribunal.
The 1983 Code explicitly recognizes that the laity can hold ecclesiastical office and exercise jurisdiction (c.228/1). A concrete example of it is found in canon 1421/2 by which a lay person could be appointed as a judge in a collegiate tribunal. A judge in an ecclesiastical court truly exercises the judicial power of governance. But canons 129/1 and 274/1 restrict ecclesiastical offices and power of governance only to clerics. It should be kept in mind that the 1983 code has a broad notion of ecclesiastical office (c. 145) and a narrowed definition of clerics. Clerics are those who are in sacred orders and the term includes only the ranks of deacons, priests and Bishops (cc.207/1; 1009/1).
There seem to be some apparent conditions between canons 228 and 1421/2 and canons 129/1 and 274/1. Canon 129/2 brings in a compromise that lay persons “can cooperate” in the exercise of the power of governance. These few reflections on these selected canons makes us understand the tendency of the 1983 code to shift from almost total and absolute exclusion of lay persons form ecclesiastical offices and power of governance to cautions and qualified inclusion. There seems to be a certain tension between these two tendencies and the new code tries to maintain a balance.
1. Power of orders
It is the power which by its very nature directly and principally promotes the sanctification and salvation of Christian faithful through the celebration of sacraments and sacramentals. One receives this power from Christ through the sacrament of holy orders of Diaconate, Presbyterate and Episcopacy. The power of Order distinguishes the clerics from the laity (c.207/1) and it is exercised in the internal forum.
2. Power of Jurisdiction
Canon 129/1 of the new Code equates the power of governance with jurisdiction. It is the power to govern the faithful for the attainment of a supernatural end. This power is exercised in the external forum (c.130). It is called ordinary power when it is attached to an office by law itself, for example, the power of parish priest; it is called delegated power when it is granted to a person other than through and office, for example, the power of assistant parish priest. The ordinary power of jurisdiction is said to be proper when it is exercised in one’s name, for example, the power of the diocesan Bishop or Vicarios when it is exercised in the name of somebody else, for example, the power of the Vicar General (c.131).
3. One Sacred Power
Now arise some important questions: What is the source of the power of jurisdiction? Do lay persons have the capacity to possess and exercise the power of jurisdiction? There is only one sacred power in the church and Christ is the ultimate source of this power. The power of order and the power of jurisdiction are two distinct expressions of that one power. Baptism is required to participate in and to exercise both the power of order and of jurisdiction (c. 96). Hence, baptism is the intermediary source o this sacred power. The sacrament of holy orders is the proximate source of the power of order (c.207/1). Canonical mission or delegation or deputation by competent ecclesiastical authority is the proximate source of the power of jurisdiction. Since jurisdiction is not conferred by the sacrament of holy orders, nor dependent on it, lay persons are capable of participating in and exercising it. Jurisdiction is a relational power. It is essentially a relationship between the individual minister and community. Hence, lay persons can be deputed by canonical mission for an authoritative relationship with a given community to perform ministries.
4. Ministries to the Laity
The 1983 Code makes provision for many ministries for the laity.
i. Common Ministry
This form of ministry is proper to all the lay members of Christ’s faithful who are called to love and sere their neighbours and to proclaim the gospel by a life of witness in circumstances where only lay persons can effectively do so (cc. 225 and 226). It is an authentic form of ministry but requires no official designation.
ii. Public ministry
This type of ministry is less closely related to the hierarchy but it requires some kind of designation from ecclesiastical authority and is recognized by the community. Acolyte, lector, Communion minister (c.230), financial administrator (c. 494) are some of the public ministries which the laity can perform.
iii. Jurisdictional ministry
It requires the power of jurisdiction. The lay judge on a collegiate tribunal (c.1421/2), the lay theology professor (c.812), the lay witnesses assisting at marriages (c.1112) are some of the examples of jurisdictional ministries exercised by lay persons. Jurisdictional ministry is closely related to the hierarchy and is seen as a share in their own apostolate. Those offices or ministries which involve the power of jurisdiction, but which do not require the power of order, can be shared with lay persons. Just as the power of order empowers a cleric to perform certain ministerial acts that those without this power cannot perform, so too jurisdiction empowers a person to perform certain acts that the Christian without jurisdiction cannot do.
PART TWO: OFFICES TO THE LAITY IN THE 1983 CODE
The 1983 Code of Canon Law has provided for the laity a number of offices and functions by which they could have greater participation in the mission of the Church and be recognized as ministers in the Church. In this part we would like to make an exploration of the offices and ministries available to the laity.
IV. LAITY AND OFFICE OF GOVERNANCE
Canon 135/1 divides the power of governance into legislative, executive and judicial power.
1. Legislative power of governance
Legislative power in the church is possessed by the Roman Pontiff (c.331) and the Ecumenical Council (cc. 337/1 and 341/1) for the universal church, by provincial and plenary councils for a given region of province (c.445), the Diocesan Bishops and those who are equivalent to them in law for the dioceses (c.446) and General Chapters of clerical religious institutes for their members (c.631). Legislative power of governance cannot be delegated by a legislator below the supreme authority unless the law
specifically provides for it (c.135/2). An example of this could be the legislative activity of Episcopal conferences only in certain cases where the universal law has so prescribed or by special mandate of the Apostolic see (c.445).
Legislative power is exercised through two types of votes, consultative and deliberative. Lay persons who are called to a legislative session, whether it be an ecumenical council (c.339), or a plenary and provincial council (c.443/4) or a diocesan synod (c.463/1,5) have the right and duty to express their opinions sincerely (c. 228/2). Their vote is only a consultative one. The final decision is reserved to the Bishops. But having consultative vote is no mean role, for the process of decision making relies heavily on the consultative process for effectiveness. The laity, by active and responsible participation in the legislative bodies, do contribute a lot to the quality of the decision to be made. Thus, they “cooperate” in the exercise of the power of governance, at least by the exercise of consultative vote.
2. Judicial power of governance
In the Diocese the Bishop exercises judicial power either personally or through others (c.391/2). Judicial power is exercised in virtue of office by the judicial vicar, associate judicial vicar and judges. It cannot be delegated except to carry out acts preparatory to a decree or judgement (c.135/3).
According to canon 1573/4 of the 1917 Code only clerics could be judges. Causas Matrimoniales of Paul VI explicitly gave judicial power to a lay man (vir laicus) who could be a judge on a collegiate tribunal. The 1983 Code goes a step further and states that lay person, both men and women, could be appointed a judge on collegiate tribunal (c.1421/2). At present only the offices of judicial vicar and associate judicial vicar are reserved to clerics (c. 1421/4). Lay persons, by being judges on collegiate tribunals, exercise truly judicial power of governance, not through delegation but in virtue of an office. This is in clear contradiction to canon 274/1 which says that only clerics can obtain offices, the exercise of which requires the power of order or of ecclesiastical governance. However, it should be kept in mind that lay persons cannot act as a sole judge (c.1425/4) but only as judges of collegiate tribunal.
It goes without saying that lay judges should have the same qualifications as other judges, namely, they are to be of good reputation and posses a doctorate or at least licentiate in canon law (c. 1421/3). They have all the rights and duties of other judges. The diocesan Bishop could commit to lay judges the cases of lack of canonical form, cases of presumed death and remarriage (c.1707), Pauline privilege cases and other cases of dissolution of the bond (cc.1143-1150). These cases do not involve properly a tribunal function but rather a pastoral administrative function. The lay judge, in such cases, acts as a delegate of the Bishop and not in a strictly judicial capacity.
Already in the 1917 Code (c.1657/1) advocates could be lay persons. The 1983 Code makes available to lay persons the office of assessor (c.1424), auditor (c.1428), ponens and relator (c.1429), promoter of justice (c.1435), defender of the bond (c. 1435) and notary (c.1437). It is understood that lay persons should be qualified and duly trained for these functions.
3. Executive power of governance
When we go through the canons (cc. 136-144) on the delegation of executive power of governance, we see that nothing is said about the passive subject or recipient of delegated executive power. From this silence we could conclude that the code does not exclude lay persons as recipients of delegated power of governance because where the law does not make distinction, no one should introduce them. The cooperation of lay persons in the executive power of governance cannot be through office but only through delegation, for the diocesan Bishop Exercises executive power either personally or through his vicar General or Episcopal vicars (c.391/2). Delegated executive power is not attached to an office, but is given to a determined person (c.131/1). Lay persons are called to exercise delegated executive power of governance both at the diocesan and parochial level.
At the diocesan level
i. Diocesan Pastoral Council
Vatican II strongly recommended the establishment of a pastoral council in each diocese to study and evaluate pastoral activities in the diocese and to make practical suggestions concerning future programmes in pastoral ministry. The new Code has implemented these recommendations (c.511-514). This council is composed of clerics, religious both men and women and especially lay people. They are designated in the manner determined by the diocesan Bishop (c.512). This council has only consultative vote (c.514). The laity, by actively participating in this council, share in the mission and ministry of the church.
ii. Diocesan Finance Council
It is obligatory for the diocesan Bishop to set up a finance council in the diocese. It should be composed of at least three Christ’s faithful who may be cleric, religious or lay persons. They should be experts in financial matters and in civil law. As a prudent measure the code gives the ruling that Bishops’ relatives upto the fourth degree of consanguinity and affinity are excluded from this council (c.492). The expertise and experiences of lay persons in financial matters and in civil law could be well used for efficient administration of the temporal goods of the Church. In the appointment and removal of the diocesan financial administrator and in other cases the Bishop should consult this council. The Bishop requires the consent of this council in some cases.
iii. Administrative Offices:
The diocesan financial administrator need not be a cleric. Any lay person, man or woman, who is an expert in financial matters and of truly outstanding integrity, can be appointed to this post (c.494). Lay persons can also hold other administrative offices such as diocesan chancellor and vice-chancellor (c.482/1-2) and notary (c.483/1). The code makes one exception concerning the notary: “In cases which could involve the reputation of a priest, the notary must be a priest” (c.483/2).
At the Parish Level
i. Parish Pastoral Council (c.536)
It is a representative body of the faithful working in close collaboration with the clergy of the parish. It helps the parish priest to identify pastoral needs in the parish, to plan out pastoral programmes and to evaluate them. It has only a consultative vote.
ii. Parish Finance Council (c.537)
A legitimately created parish has a juridical personality by the law itself (c.515/3) and every juridic person should have its finance council to assist the administrator in the performance of his duties (c.1280). In all juridical matters the parish priest acts in the name of the parish (c.532) and he should ensure that the parish goods are administered in accordance with both canon law (c. 1281-1288) and civil law. The parish finance council, which is mandatory, is a new concept in law.
It helps the parish priest in the administration of the temporal goods of the parish. Lay persons, who are experts in financial matters and in civil law, by being members in the parish financial council render a great service to the parish priest in the material administration of the parish.
V. LAITY AND THE TEACHING OFFICE
The office of preaching the Gospel belongs to the clergy by virtue of their sacred orders and office (cc.756-757). The lay person “can also be called upon to cooperate with the Bishops and priests in the exercise of the ministry of the word” (c.759). The divine law basis for the laity to exercise the ministry of the word comes from their baptism and confirmation and the ecclesiastical law basis stems from their capacity to hold ecclesiastical offices. (c.228/1).
1. Preaching and Homily
Canon 203 is new in the 1983 Code and it points out some ways in which lay persons can exercise the ministry of the word. First, Laymen can be installed in a stable manner as Lectors. Secondly, Laypersons can receive temporary deputation to the role of lector. Thirdly, when the needs of the church require and when Sacred ministers are not available, lay persons can supply some of their functions, starting with the ministry of the word to be done in accordance with the provision of law.
Preaching is a primary form of the ministry of the divine word. Proclamation of the word of God is the primary duty of the clergy. The 1917 Code (c.1342/2) forbade lay persons to preach in a church. As per the provisions of the new code (c.766) lay persons are allowed to preach in a church or oratory in some circumstances when it is necessary or advantageous, in accordance with the rulings of the Episcopal Conference. Permission is required for lay people to preach in a church and there should be necessity or utility in allowing lay persons to preach, for example, celebration of the liturgy of the word on Sundays without a priest or deacon. Such a permission could be presumed or implicit in an appointment to a pastoral office or it could be explicit and given for a specific occasion. The diocesan Bishop who is the moderator of the entire ministry of the word in the diocese (c.756/2) or the parish priest who has the responsibility of providing for the proclamation of the word to the people (c.767/4) can grant this permission.
Canon 767/1 states that the homily is the most important form of preaching and it is part of the liturgy. The context of this canon is Eucharist celebration. The mysteries of faith and the ways of Christian living are to be expounded in the homily.
An official document defines homily thus: “By a homily derived from the sacred text is understood an explanation either of some aspect of the readings from holy scripture or/of another text from the Ordinary or Proper of the Mass of the day, taking into account the mystery which is being celebrated and the particular needs of the hearers”. This definition also appears in the context of the instruction of Mass. The new Code (c. 767/1) has reserved homily to an ordained minister. But some propose that lay people could be also allowed to preach the homily in certain circumstances when there is a necessity or utility because there is nothing intrinsically contrary to lay people preaching the homily.
2. Catechetical Instruction
It aims at rendering the faith of the Christian faithful mature, lively and effective through organic and systematic teaching of Christian doctrine. There are two types of catechesis: (1) official catechesis which depends on and receives public recognition form authorities who direct it. (2) Unofficial catechesis which does not have an institutionalized character and which depends on the free action of the Christian people. The care for catechesis extends to all the members of the church, to each according to his or her role (c.774/1).
The 1983 Code points out the grave obligation of parents in forming their children in faith and Christian living. Christian parents have the responsibility to ensure the Christina education of their children in accordance with the teaching of the church (cc.226/2, and 793). In the family which is the “domestic church”. The parents are the first preachers of faith to their children. They are bound to form their children, by word and example, in faith and Christian living (c.774/2). “The family’s catechetical activity has a special character, which is in a sense irreplaceable. Family catechesis precedes, accompanies and enriches all other form of catechesis.
The same obligation binds godparents and those who take the place of parents (cc.774/2, and 793/1). Canon 776 mentions three groups of people as the object of parish priest’s catechetical concern. They are the adults, the young people and the children. It also points out three groups of people who are to help the parish priest in his catechetical ministry, namely, the clerics, the religious and lay members of Christ’s faithful, especially the catechists.
3. Missionary Activity
The pilgrim church is missionary by her very nature. Hence the work of evangelization is a fundamental duty of all the people of God (c.781). Lay persons are to be conscious of their responsibility in the missionary activity of the church. Canon 784 explicitly states that missionaries may be clergy, religious or lay members of Christ’s faithful. History testifies to the fact that catechists, who are lay members of Christ’s faithful, had worked with missionary priests and played a significant role in spreading the Gospel. Hence, canon 785 prescribes the employment of trained catechists in missionary work.
4. Laity and the Sanctifying Office
As sharers in the priestly function of Christ, Lay persons have their own share in the sanctifying office of the church. The common priesthood of the faithful and the ministerial or hierarchical priesthood of the ordained, though they differ for one another in essence and not only in degree, are nonetheless interrelated. The laity as “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people” (1 Peter 2:9) exercise their common priesthood in many ways. According to the 1917 Code (c.682), the laity had only the passive role of receiving sacraments from the clergy. But the 1983 Code contains various provisions for the active involvement of the laity in the sanctifying office of the church.
It should be noted that the 1983 Code has suppressed the distinction of solemn and private baptism. There is no longer any use of the term “extraordinary” minister of baptism. The term “ordinary” minister
had been expanded and it includes the Bishop the priest and the deacon (c. 861/1). The old Code overlooked the Bishop as an ordinary minister and classified the deacon as an extraordinary minister of baptism (c.741). If the ordinary minister is absent or impeded, a catechist or other lay person deputed for this function by the local Ordinary could confer baptism licitly. In case of necessity, any person who has the right intention can baptize licitly (c.861/2). As per this canon catechists or other lay persons may be regularly and commonly deputed by the local Ordinary as ministers of baptism in many circumstances. In case of necessity, that is, in danger of death, any person even a non-Christian, can licitly baptize, provided he or she has the right intention and uses the proper matter and form. Hence this canon directs parish priests to instruct the lay persons the correct manner of baptizing. Among those who should baptize in danger of death the 1917 Code (cc.741-743) preferred a cleric to a lay person, a man to a woman. All these preferences are suppressed in the now Code.
Parents are obliged to see that their infants are baptized within the first few weeks. As soon as the child is born or better even before its birth, they should approach the parish priest and make the necessary preparation (c.867/1). The parents and the sponsors should present the child for baptism and help it to live a good Christian life (c.872). They are to be suitably instructed on the meaning of baptism and the obligation attached to it so that they can meaningfully participate in the right and duly fulfill their obligations by imparting catholic education to their children (c.851). This instruction can be done by the parish priest or the catechist or by other lay people.
The faithful are bound to receive the sacrament of Confirmation at the proper time. Parents and parish priests are to see that children are properly instructed and receive this sacrament at the opportune time (c.890). The sponsor’s function is to take care that the person confirmed behaves as a true witness of Christ and faithfully fulfils the duties inherent in this sacrament (c.892).
In the 1983 Code the term “ordinary” minister has been extended and it includes the Bishop, the priest and the deacon. The 1917 Code (c.845) overlooked the Bishop as an ordinary minister and classified the deacon as an extraordinary minister of Eucharist. It is quite proper that the now Code (c.910/1) includes the Bishop’s Eucharistic ministry and names the deacon as an ordinary minister of communion. Here we bring to our mind that Pope Paul VI, by his Apostolic letter “Sacrum Diaconabus Ordinem” written Motu Proprio in 1967, restored the permanent diaconate and made deacons as ordinary ministers of the Eucharist.
There is no mention of an Eucharistic ministry of lay persons in the 1917 Code. The second paragraph of canon 910 is totally now in the 1983 Code. “The extraordinary minister of Holy Communion is an acolyte or another of Christ’s faithful deputed in accordance with canon 230/3”. In 1966 an official document of the Holy See permitted the diocesan Bishops to mandate qualified religious men and women and
laymen to distribute the eucharist when there was scarcity of priest. In 1972 Pope Paul VI abrogated the minor orders and instituted the lay ministry of acolyte among whose duties is that of distributing holy communion whenever ordinary ministers were not available or the number of communicants was great. According to Canon 230/1 laymen can be installed on a permanent basis as acolytes by a special liturgical rite. Installation is not an order. Hence, Episcopal character is not required to install laymen validly as acolytes.
In 1973 by an instruction of the congregation for sacraments, all Local Ordinaries were given the faculty to depute lay persons, both men and women, as special ministers of holy communion when there was a just cause such as absence of a priest, deacon or acolyte or a great number of communicants. When the needs of the church require and when ministers are not available, lay persons can supply some of their functions such as to preside over the liturgical prayers and to distribute holy communion (c.230/3). The Local Ordinary’s authorization is required for lay person to distribute holy communion. The authorization can be given either directly by the Local Ordinary or by a priest delegated by him. The new law seems to make the distinction between those who are stably installed as acolytes and those lay persons who are authorized to act when ministers are lacking. From the careful wording of canon 230, we see that the law gives preference to the service of the ordinary ministers.
The new Code (c.911/1) lists the parish priest, the assistant parish priests, the chaplains and the superior of a community in clerical religious institutes and societies of apostolic life as ordinary ministers of Viaticum. It is their right and duty to bring the eucharist to the sick in the form of Viaticum (cc.530/3; 566/1). The 1972 Rite of Anointing permitted deacons and special ministers of holy communion to give Viaticum if no priest was available. In case of necessity such as danger of death or with at least the presumed permission of the ordinary minister of Viaticum, any priest, deacon, acolyte or an authorized special minister of communion can give Viaticum (c.911/2). Since the administration of Viaticum is a canonical duty of the ordinary ministry, he should be notified whenever this duty is fulfilled by somebody else.
As per canon 943, the minister of exposition of the blessed sacrament and the Eucharistic benediction is a priest of a deacon.
In the absence of a priest or deacon, an acolyte, a special minister of Holy Communion or another lay person deputed by the local Ordinary can be minister of exposition and reposition only without benediction. There was no such provision for the laity in the 1917 Code.
Lay persons can play the role of commentator and canter during the liturgical services (c.230/2). A properly instructed lay person can help a priest, who is blind or suffering from some other infirmity, to celebrate lawfully the Mass by using the text of any approved Mass (c.390/2). It is a great responsibility of parents and of those who take their place to ensure that children who have reached the use of reason are properly prepared to receive the eucharist (c.914).
With the suppression of the four minor orders and the institution of the lay ministries of Acolyte and Lector, Laymen can be stably installed as acolytes and lectors: lay persons can receive a temporary deputation to the role of lector (c.230). The clerics and other members of the Christian faithful are to be invited to an ordination service (c.1011/2). The presence of the clergy, the religious and lay people is concrete sign that an ordination is a celebration of the church and not merely of an individual or a group of individuals. The Christian faithful are bound to inform church authority of any impediments regarding the candidate for ordination (c.1043).
In the celebration of the sacrament of marriage the spouses themselves are ministers and recipients of the sacrament, as they establish between themselves a partnership of their whole life (c.1055/1) by their irrevocable personal consent lawfully manifested (c.1057/1). The canonical form of the celebration of marriage requires for validity that the spouses exchange their consent in the presence of the official witness of the church and two witnesses. The official witness of the church is the Local Ordinary or parish priest or the priest or deacon duly delegated by either of them. The church’s official witness has the role of asking the spouses to manifest their consent and receive it in the name of the church (c.1108). According to Canon 1094 of the 1917 code only a priest could be delegated to officiate at marriage. The new law includes the deacon as come one who can be delegated to be an official witness at marriages.
vi. Lay persons as official witnesses
canon 1112 of the new Code contains the most noteworthy provision on marriage for which there was no corresponding provision in the former Code: “Where there are no priests and deacons, the diocesan Bishop can delegate lay persons to assist at marriages, if the Episcopal conference has given its prior approval and the permission of the Holy See has been obtained. A suitable layperson is to be selected, capable of giving instruction to those who are getting married, and fitted to conduct the marriage liturgy properly”.
The power to act as official witness at a marriage is a commission to witness the exchange of the consent of the spouses. It is not an act that requires the exercise of the power of sacred orders nor is it an act of jurisdiction in the strict sense. Hence, in case of true pastoral needs the new law on marriage provides for the delegation of lay persons to act as official witness at marriages. At the same time we notice that there are a few restrictions or conditions for delegating lay persons.
First of all the conference of Bishops should vote to allow individual Bishops to request the power to delegate lay person. Then the Bishop should request the permission of the Holy See to delegate a lay person specifically chosen by him to assist at marriages within his territory. It should be noted that it is the Bishop who delegates the layperson and no the Holy See. However, without the permission of the
Holy See, the Bishop cannot validly delegate a lay person to act as official witness at marriages. The scarcity of priests or deacons is the motivating circumstances for this new canon. It may happen that in some circumstances as in mission territories priests or deacons are lacking. The various restrictions in this canon seem to indicate that the delegation of lay person to officiate at marriages is an exceptional provision and is not intended as an alternative to priests and deacons as ordinary official witnesses for marriages.
Lay persons can be given delegation for a specific marriage or they can be given general delegation which is to be given in writing (c.1111/2). The individual to be delegated must be personally chosen by the diocesan Bishop. Such a person should be a suitable one, that is, one who is a respected and exemplary member of the community. He or she should be able to conduct the prenuptial enquire, give instruction on marriage and perform the marriage liturgy correctly. In their role as official witness of the church, lay persons ask for and receive the consent of the parties. They can preside at the liturgy of the word and give an exhortation on Christian marriage. Since they lack the power of sacred orders, they can neither bless wedding rings nor impart nuptial blessing. They cannot grant dispensation from matrimonial impediments under any circumstances (cc. 1079-1081).
Canon 1063 obliges parish priest to prepare the faithful for marriage by providing general catechesis on marriage for all, special instruction for individual couples who are going to get married and post marital help and support. The canon further states that they should draw on the resources of the entire community in fulfilling this obligation. Lay person of proven experience and expertise such as doctors, lawyers, psychologist, exemplary couples could be of great assistance to the parish priests in this work of marriage preparation (c.1064). Since the celebration of a marriage is a matter of concern for the whole community, all the faithful are obliged to reveal to the parish priest or to the Local Ordinary any impediment of which they are aware (c.1069).
According to canon 1146 of 1917 Code only clerics could administer sacramentals. The new Code (c.1168) allows lay persons who are endowed with appropriate qualities, to administer some sacramentals in accord with the judgement of the local Ordinary and the norms of the liturgical book. Sacramentals such as the distribution of ashes on Ash Wednesday can be administered by lay persons.
VI. AN EVALUATION
By way of conclusion we would like to make an evaluation on the various provisions found in the 1983 Code for the greater involvement and participation of the laity in the governing, preaching and sanctifying office of the church.
The 1917 Code defined the laity in negative terms and their role was a passive one; it was almost a “paying praying and obeying” role. The Second Vatican Council understands the church as “the people of God” and brings out the equality of dignity of all the baptized and their common responsibility in the
mission of the church. By virtue of their baptism, the laity share in the priestly, prophetic and kingly functions of Christ in their own way. The council also points out the typically “secular quality” of the laity. The 1983 code closely following the conciliar understanding of the Church as the people of God, insists on the equality of dignity of all the Christian faithful and the interrelationship between the clergy and the laity (c.208).
The 1917 Code restricted ecclesiastical offices only to clerics. Vatican II modified the notion of ecclesiastical office in such a way that the laity could be entrusted with some offices. Some conciliar texts explicitly state that the laity have the capacity of being appointed by the hierarchy to some ecclesiastical offices. In 1972 Pope Paul VI instituted the lay ministries of Acolyte and Lector. The 1983 code gives a broad definition of an ecclesiastical office (c.145) and explicitly states the capacity of the laity to hold ecclesiastical offices (c.228/1) which do not require the exercise of the power of sacred orders. In the new Code we find a number of provisions by which the laity could participate in the triple office of the church.
The 1983 Code gives a number of provisions for the laity to participate in the governing office of the church. The power of governance is divided into legislative, executive and judicial power. The laity, by their active and responsible participation in legislative bodies, contribute to the quality of the decision to be made. The diocesan synod is very rarely held now a days. The participation of the laity at the diocesan synod and at provincial and plenary councils seems to be very little. Canon 1421 permits lay persons to be appointed as judge on a collegiate tribunal. It is indeed, a noteworthy provision for the laity. But how many lay judges do we find in ecclesiastical tribunal? In some dioceses, tribunals are not set up. There are many juridical functions such as assessor, auditor, pones, relater, promoter of justice, defenders of the bond and notary available to the laity. How many laity are performing these functions?
The new code has made provision for the establishment of consultative bodies at the diocesan and parish level. It is mostly through consultation that the laity participate in the executive powers of governance. The code seems to be more insistent on diocesan pastoral council (c.511) than on parish council (c.536) which is only recommended. The establishment of parish pastoral council also should be made mandatory. In many parishes parish finance council which is mandatory (c.537) is not yet set up. There are administrative offices such as diocesan financial administrator, chancellor, vice-chancellor and notary to which lay people could be appointed. For example, the diocesan financial administrator need not be a cleric. Any lay person who is an expert in civil law and financial matters and who is of truly outstanding integrity, can be appointed to this post. The expertise and experience of the laity in financial mater could be well used for better administration of the temporal property of the church.
The 1983 Code invites a laity for a greater participation in the exercise of the ministry of the word of God. It is noteworthy that the code lays great emphasis on the responsibility of Christian parents in forming their children in faith and Christian living. The lay minister of lector could be also made available to laywomen on a stable basis. At present the homily is reserved to clerics (c.767/1). Exemplary lay
persons, who are well trained in theology and in the art of communication, could be allowed to preach the homily in exceptional circumstances when there is necessity or great utility.
As far as the participation of the laity in the sanctifying office of the church is concerned, we find many significant provisions in the new code. In the absence of the ordinary minister of baptism an acolyte or other lay person, duly deputed, can confer baptism. The 1983 code has aptly suppressed the preferences of a cleric to a lay an, of a man to a woman as minister of baptism in case of necessity. It is worth noting that the 1983 Code includes the eucharistic ministry of lay persons both as communion minister (c.910/2) and as Viaticum minister (c.911/2). An acolyte, an extraordinary minister of holy communion or another lay person deputed by the Local Ordinary are permitted to expose and repose the Blessed Sacrament; as they do not posses sacred orders, they cannot give benediction (c.943). The restriction of the lay ministry of acolyte to laymen in canon 230 appears as an unwarranted discrimination. It could be suppressed; lay women too could be installed as acolyte on a stable basis.
As far as marriage is concerned, the new code contains the most noteworthy provisions for the laity in canon 1112 for which there was no corresponding provision in the 1917 Code. In case of true pastoral needs suitable and qualified lay men and women, with prior approval of the Episcopal Conference and with permission of the Holy See, should be delegated by the diocesan Bishop to act as official witness at marriages. Some sacramentals could be also administered by the lay persons.
If we have a close look at the canons of the 1983 Code which deals with the ministers of the sacraments, we find that the term “cleric” contains a restricted meaning. Clerics are those who are in sacred orders (c.1009/1). One becomes a cleric by the reception of the diaconate (c.266/1); where as in the old law one becomes a cleric by the reception of first tonsure (c. 108/1). The phrase “ordinary minister” has an extended meaning in the new law and it includes the Bishop (who was overlooked by the old code for baptism ad eucharist) the priest and the deacon whom the old law classified as an extraordinary minister. Some of the conditions or restrictions that used to apply to deacons in the old law have been transferred to acolytes or other lay person in the new law.
The new code as for as the laity is concerned is characterized by transition from passivity to activity (cc.212/1, 228/1); from non-recognition to recognition of vocation (cc.225/2, 226); from the absence to presence (cc.212, 228/2, 511); from silence to voice (c.212); from exclusion to inclusion. If we carefully analyze the terms used for the participation of the laity in the triple office of the church, we see that the new code makes a shift from almost absolute and total exclusion to partial, hesitant, cautious and qualified inclusion of lay persons; “can be admitted” (c.767/1), “are capable of assisting” (c.519), “can be appointed” (c.1421/2), “can be employed” (c.785/1), “can be called to” (c.463/1), “can b employed” (c.785/1), “can cooperate in the exercise of the power of governance” (c.129/2), “can be invited to participate” (c.1174/1), “can receive canonical mandate” (c.229/3,821), “can fulfill the function” (c.230/2), “can supply for” (c.230/3). (52) These are some of the expressions used for the ministries of the laity. Moreover, we note that the laity are included in the ministries more from a sense of absence or non-availability of the clergy rather than from consequence of a theologically grounded sense of
vocation and ministry in the church (cc.230/3, 1112). It gives the impression that the laity have a subsidiary status. Some of the offices, positions and functions available to the laity in the code seem to be heavily conditioned (c.216), carefully qualified (c. 212/3), institutionally circumscribed (c.230) or hierarchically controlled (c.223/2).
Lay persons can be entrusted with ecclesiastical office and roles that do require the exercise of the power of sacred orders. They are to be given offices and functions not simply by way of concession by recognizing their dignity and responsibility rooted in their baptism. Pope John Paul II directs the Bishops to entrust to lay person’s offices and roles when necessity and expediency in the church require it, but always in conformity to their specific lay vocation. This directive needs to be seriously considered and implemented. The charisms and competence, the expertise and experiences of lay persons are to be duly recognized. The clerics are to acknowledge and promote the mission which the laity, each for his or her part, exercise in the church and in the world (c.275/2).
Lay persons must be suitable for the offices to which they are assumed (cc.149/1, 1112/2) and they must acquire the necessary knowledge and skill needed for a particular function (c.1421/3). Lay people have a duty to acquire the appropriate formation which their role demands so that they may conscientiously, earnestly and diligently fulfil their role (c.231/1). It is clear that if lay persons are to participate more actively and efficaciously in the triple office of the church, the church should be prepared to set apart enough of resources and sufficient number of trained personnel to provide adequate formation to the laity. Lay persons as office holders are expected to exhibit due prudence, honesty (c.228/2) and zeal and diligence in fulfilling their functions. It should be also noted that lay persons like other ecclesiastical office holders need to be in communion with the church (c.149/1) and if they publicly defect from the Catholic faith or from communion with the church, they lose offices by virtue of law itself (c.194/1).
Before we conclude, we would like to mention the question of honest remuneration for the laity. The code points out that lay persons who work for the church have a right to a worthy remuneration. This includes the right, observing the prescriptions of civil law, to an income appropriate to personal and family needs as well as provision for retirement, social security and health insurance. (c.231/2). However, the new law makes an exception concerning the acolytes and lectors who do not have such a right (c.230/1).
The 1983 Code, which translates into juridical language the ecclesiology and theology of Vatican II, contains noteworthy provisions for the active and meaningful participation of the laity in the governing, teaching and sanctifying office of the church. These provisions need to be seriously considered and duly implemented.