The document was signed by the heads of eight different Roman dicasteries: the Congregation for the Clergy, Congregation for the Laity, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Congregation for the Sacraments, Congregation for Bishops, Congregation for Evangelization, Congregation for the Consecrated Life, and the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts.
The statement is the product of a symposium on the same topic, held in Rome in April 1994. At that time, a preliminary draft was prepared, and sent to bishops in the countries most directly concerned, for their comments. After a series of discussions and clarifications, a Vatican statement said, a "clear convergence" emerged to support the document published today.
The new statement responds to dangers that the distinctive character of the ordained ministry may become misunderstood as lay people assume roles for which they are not properly qualified. It is crucial, the document argues, "to carefully preserve both the nature and mission of the sacred ministry and the vocation and secular character of the lay faithful. Collaboration does not mean substitution."
The statement points out that in many dioceses, lay people have been able to collaborate with their pastors in very productive ways, without provoking any pastoral problems. However, it admits that in other areas, the entry of the laity into new roles has caused "grave consequences" for the understanding of ecclesial communion.
The "Instruction on certain questions concerning the collaboration of the lay faithful in the ministry of priests" sets out the theological principles that define the distinctive characteristics of the ordained ministry, and thereby set the limits for collaboration in that ministry. The central principle is that the priesthood involves a "sacred power" handed down from the apostles, which cannot be passed on except through ordination.
The special character of the priesthood is not negotiable, nor is it subject to change, the Vatican affirms. In a clear and direct contradiction of arguments for a greater "shared ministry" in which the lay faithful exercise priestly roles, the Instruction insists: "The ministerial priesthood is absolutely irreplaceable." Where non- ordained people are now performing ministerial duties, the Instruction says, Church authorities have an obligation to intervene immediately, to bring those abuses to a halt.
Among the abuses cited in the document are the designation of lay people as "pastors" or "chaplains" for Catholic congregations, and the use of lay people to deliver homilies. (Lay people may serve as chaplains for institutions such as hospitals, but their function must not include the routine ministry of the sacraments.) These roles are reserved for priests, the Instruction points out. Lay people are also prohibited from serving on presbyteral councils.
While it is possible for lay people to lead Sunday celebrations in the absence of a priest, the Vatican Instruction that such arrangements must be done with an explicit mandate from the bishop, and should always be viewed as "temporary arrangements" to be discontinued as soon as a priest becomes available. In any liturgical ceremonies, lay people cannot perform the roles reserved for priests; they may distribute the Eucharist, but may not recite the Eucharistic Prayers.
The Instruction makes it clear that lay people should serve as Eucharistic ministers only under "extraordinary" circumstances, and condemns "the habitual use of extraordinary ministers in the course of Masses." Lay people who serve in this role should not administer the Eucharist to themselves, the document added.
Lay people cannot be involved "too extensively" in baptisms, the Instruction says; nor can they lead funerals and burials except when there is no ordained minister available. Lay people cannot substitute for priests as witnesses to marriages except with an explicit mandate from the bishop, who in turn must obtain permission from the Holy See.
Although the Vatican Instruction contains no new teachings, Bishop Tarcisio Bertone, the secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, explained that a definitive document was necessary because "deviations in the Western world" had led to the rise of an inadequate understanding of the ordained ministry. He observed that some Catholics had begun to see the priesthood in terms of functions rather than its sacred character. The unfortunate result, he said, was a downgrading of the priesthood, together with a "clericalization of the laity."
One such inaccurate and inadequate presentation of news recently was the subject of homosexuality and the statement recently made by the United States Bishops. Actually, the Vatican precipitated the US Bishops statements with a series of 14 articles printed in the LíOsservatore Romano which reviewed homosexuality from historical, philosophical, theological and pastoral points of view.
Neither the articles in the Italian newspaper (not written by the Pope, by the way) nor the statement made recently by the US Bishops, sanctions, approves, condones or "blesses" the ACTS of homosexuality. Quite on the contrary, all statements in this regard uphold the TEACHING of the Church that engaging in homosexual acts ARE sinful.
One would NOT get that idea from the news media which gave listener or reader the impression that the Church was getting soft on this subject. What I saw and read could certainly give the ill-instructed Catholic or Christian the idea that the Catholic Church was weakening in its stand against homosexuality. Actually, if properly read and understood, the Church has NOT changed its teaching position on this evil any more than it has changed its teaching regarding adultery.
What the LíOsservatore Romano articles and statement of the US Bishops were trying to do was give Christian DIRECTION, GUIDANCE, and EXPLANATION of how Catholics should view and "handle" their lives in this matter. They were endeavoring to give the Christ-like approach in Christian behavior. Remember the Gospel account of the woman caught committing adultery? She was brought to Jesus Who forgave her readily, but did not condone the sin for He said to her: "Your sins are forgiven. Go, and sin no more!"
The INCLINATION or one can even say the TEMPTATION to homosexual acts are NOT in and of themselves sinful. Sin occurs when a person wants those temptations, entertains them and GIVES IN to them by engaging in homosexual acts or willingly desiring them. The INCLINATION to homosexuality is no more sinful, of itself, than it is for a thief to be TEMPTED to take something that does not belong to him.
If the INCLINATION or TEMPTATION in itself is not a sin, then charity dictates that parents of children who are so INCLINED or TEMPTED or anyone who has such a bent should know that tolerance and acceptance of the PERSON is in order, just as Jesus would. The condoning of the sin, however, the actual acts or desire for those acts, can never win an approval.
The Church has NOT changed its teaching in this regard, therefore, regarding the news media, I am reminded that "A little knowledge [on their part] is a dangerous thing." Beware, be careful! They do mislead!
God bless you!
Right on! Clinton has a track record of improprieties that stretch longer than satanís cape. Yet Americans blithely look the other way and say, "oh, well." The noted statesman Adlai Stevenson lost the election to Dwight Eisenhower back in the 50ís for one reason. He was divorced. Presidential candidate Gary Hart was drummed from the race because of a one-night affair with a love-starved, media-starved woman. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas was grilled to no-end for something he "said" that amounted to sexual harassment. So why has Slick Willy been able to dodge the same fate? Blame it on society. Blame it on hardened hearts that have turned from God, and throne themselves on the pseudo altar of culture of death. There is a saying that "misery loves company" and that accounts for the contrived campaign by radicals and the false prophets of the media to legitimize everything that, only three or four decades ago, almost every citizen of the country found reprehensible. Americans have become so jaded to the moral venue we were weaned on that to be reminded stirs up a coven of hate for all that is good. Look at the attacks on the religious right. Look at the undermining going on against the Church. The feeding frenzy of the media to besmirch Holy Mother Church rises its ugly head whenever any inkling of pedophilia emerges. Yet when a Baptist minister or a new age quacksalver is accused of the same thing it receives scant attention. Hollywood relishes depicting priests as morbid, perverted and psychological basket-casesÖabsolving it all away by claiming to present them as human. Sorry, but even humans donít act that way. Their whole agenda is to undermine the authority and stature of Christís True Church. In movies such as the infamous and obscene "Priests" and television programs such as the low-rated "Nothing Sacred" the blame is always traced to the "system" within the Church. This is the rallying cry of dissidents within the Church as well - the liberal theologians, the feminists, the gays, even bishops, priests and nuns including 43 modernist pastors in Chicago who bluntly stated to Archbishop Francis George a few days ago, "We will resist being treated as branch managers for some huge international corporation who simply take orders from headquarters, be that at the Vatican or at the Pastoral Center."
Should we be surprised? Not really, the Mother of God foretold these events almost a century and a half ago at La Salette. And she continues to echo the same warning today to visionaries and messengers all over the world. Many within the Church and even within the Marian movement choose to deny it or denigrate her messages, falling back on the age-old excuse that the Church teaches that we do not have to believe in private revelation. True, but they forget that passage in Divine Revelation where Saint Paul states in 1 Thessalonians 5: 19-22, "Do not extinguish the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies. But test all things; hold fast that which is good. Keep yourselves from every kind of evil."
Are we adhering to the apostleís advice? Me thinks not. At every opportunity pastors and so-called "experts" are extinguishing the Spirit, despising any kind of prophecy and denigrating the prophets. Testing consists of their opinion without any proof that these messages are contradictory to anything already revealed in Divine Revelation. Very little good is retained and because of that such "private revelation" devotions as the Rosary, the Fatima prayer, the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, Perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and other pertinent reverences that have long been held in high esteem, have been put on the back shelf by many pastors and even bishops. All of these spiritual "weapons" which God gives us through His Blessed Mother and other appointed Heavenly heralds He chooses to send, are being discarded and our flanks have been weakened because of it. Even the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass has been watered down so much at the parish level in favor of new experimentation that it has lost its central focus. When these things happen, then how can we keep ourselves from every kind of evil? Without the graces inherent through these devotions and prayers, it is impossible. That is why the Church is tormented today, and the troubles within each diocese and parish mirror society.
The evils permeating common humanity today are a bi-product of not following the Will of God, of not obeying His Commandments, of choosing to turn our backs on His gifts and graces. More and more the headlines shout of possible war again with Saddam Hussein in the Gulf and rumors of an imminent, violent, hateful war rise ever more steadily from the Holy Land. A new threat is mustering its hordes on the horizon: China. Should we be worried? Not if we trust in Godís Divine Mercy and obey His laws; have faith, hope and love for Him and our fellow man. But, sadly, that is not the case. Cal Thomas sums it up best regarding our state-of-moral turpitude today and the problems with an engineer who has no idea how to steer the runaway train heading for the abyss, "When we change the original standard, there can be no standard left, except popular opinion. And that has historically led to destruction of people and of nations." That is happening not only to our country but to our Church for the latter is not a congregation of majority-rules or a democracy, but rather a sacramental institution established by the Son of God Himself Who has promised that the "gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matthew 16: 18) We believe that with our whole heart, despite the fact that our society is numb to the scorching flames of hades. Trouble is, all the double-speak and double-dealing Clinton has foisted on the public could soon double up America in contortions of anguish and regret as the flames sear closer.
Many, far, far too many of us in these days, particularly many who have followed Medjugorje and other reported messages from visionaries and locutionists, have assumed that when Our Blessed Mother or Our Lord have spoken in these messages of warnings, chastisements, and the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary that the signs spoken of in this Gospel are imminent for our own generations. I have a feeling that in the time of the apostles, the people thought the same thing too.
The truth is revealed, but our understanding remains clouded, for we are not open to the Holy Spirit, and, in fact, often demand in our prayers, that we be given knowledge that is not our to have, for God alone knows what is best for each one of us.
Taking collectively the plethora of messages disseminated by various locutionists and seers regarding the times in which we live, there are two things that God has made me aware of that He wishes me to share with you, regarding the understanding of these messages.
First, these Heavenly messages speak of two different time periods. The first time period is the one in which we live, and the near future, within our lifetime, or the lifetime of our children. The signs of this time period are far different from those spoken of in todayís Gospel.
Secondly, as our Heavenly Mother Mary often does speak of the End of All Time, rather then these End Times which will usher in the Triumph of her Immaculate Heart. We confuse the two, and start looking for the sun to darken, the moon to not shed its light, and for stars to fall out of the sky, etc. In fact, the signs we need to look for are present to us every day, and our Blessed Mother wants us to pray very much from our hearts, so we donít get confused.
What does the Triumph of Maryís Immaculate Heart consist of? I donít know. I feel strongly that it is an on-going process, that it is already in progress, and will culminate in a time when we, Godís Children, will realize His True presence in the Eucharist in a way we cannot do now, nor even imagine, a time when there will be His Peace on earth, not manís definition of peace.
There are signs and wonders for the End Times, this is certainly true. They are varied, and are both Heavenly, that is signs and wonders in the skies, plus the plethora of all the varied disasters occurring throughout the world in our own country and all over the globe. Also, keep in mind that if your heart is open to God, then you will see what you need to see, know what you need to know when you need to know it, and to search for anything more, to seek knowledge out of curiosity rather than the love of God, is dangerous for each one of us.
Too many of us have applied our own fallible logic to many messages, weíve jumped to conclusions, weíve not prayed from our heart, and therefore, we feel let down because certain things have not yet come to pass. Keep in mind that when a Heavenly message is given it is done so in Godís Infinite Plan, which is without time, and we are forever trying to pinpoint God down to a specific time. When we do this, we box God in, deny the truth, close our hearts, and make ourselves ripe for disappointment, even setting ourselves up to criticize and judge certain messages and the messenger chosen to give that message.
That we are in the End Times is what our Blessed Mother is telling us. She urges us to wait, watch, and pray. To do what she asks, is to live the Gospel. Jesus, in todayís Gospel, told all of us what we can look for when He is to come again, The Second Coming.
His instructions at the end of this Gospel passage should be hope and encouragement for all of us. "As to the exact day or hour, no one knows it, neither the angels in Heaven nor even the Son, but only the Father."
Amen! So be it!
Dying you destroyed our death,
rising you restored our life.
Lord Jesus, come in glory.
When we eat this bread and drink this cup
we proclaim your death, Lord Jesus,
until you come in glory.