on the role of the Laity

INSTRUCTION on Certain Questions regarding the Collaboration of the Non-ordained Faithful in the Sacred Ministry of Priest

Fourteenth installment: PRACTICAL PROVISIONS - Article 5
The Structures of Collaboration in the Particular Church

These structures, so necessary to that ecclesial renewal called for by the Second Vatican Council have produced many positive results and have been codified in canonical legislation. They represent a form of active participation in the life and mission of the Church as communion.

1. The norms of the Code with regard to the Council of Priests (Presbyteral Council) specifies those priests who can be its members. (81) Because the Council of Priests is founded on the common participation of the Bishop and his priests in the same priesthood and ministry, member ship in it is reserved to priests alone. (82)

Deacons, non-ordained members of the faithful, even if collaborators with the Sacred Ministers, and those priests who have lost the clerical state or who have abandoned the Sacred Ministry do not have either an active or a passive voice in the Council of Priests.

2. Diocesan and parochial Pastoral Councils (83) and Parochial Finance Councils, (84) of which non-ordained faithful are members, enjoy a consultative vote only and cannot in any way become deliberative structures. Only those faithful who possess the qualities prescribed by the canonical norms (85) may be elected to such responsibilities.

3. It is for the Parish Priest to preside at parochial councils. They are to be considered invalid, and hence null and void, any deliberations entered into, (or decisions taken), by a parochial council which has not been presided over by the Parish Priest or which has assembled contrary to his wishes. (86)

4. Diocesan councils may properly and validly express their consent to an act of the Bishop only in those cases in which the law expressly requires such consent.

5. Given the local situation Ordinaries may avail themselves of special study groups or of groups of experts to examine particular questions. Such groups, however, cannot be constituted as structures parallel to diocesan presbyteral or pastoral councils nor indeed to those diocesan structures regulated by the universal law of the Church in Canons 536, 1 and 537. (87) Neither may such a group deprive these structures of their lawful authority. Where structures of this kind have arisen in the past because of local custom or through special circumstances, those measures deemed necessary to conform such structures to the current universal law of the Church must be taken.

6. The Vicars forane, sometimes called deans, archpriests, or by suchlike titles, and those called "assistant vicars", "assistant dean", etc., must always be priests. (88) The non-ordained faithful cannot be validly appointed to these offices.

NEXT ISSUE: PRACTICAL PROVISIONS - Article 6 Liturgical Celebrations

DAILY CATHOLIC      Vicar of Christ Speaks     volume 8, no. 49

December 1997