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Contrasting Perspectives on the Participation of the Laity in Priestly Ministry Robert A. Pesarchick In this essay I will reflect upon the participation of the lay faithful in the pastoral ministry of priests and of all the ordained through a commentary on 2 documents: the 1997 Interdicasterial Instruction “On Certain Questions Regarding the Collaboration of the NonOrdained Faithful in the Sacred Ministry of Priests”1 and Co-Workers in the Vineyard of the Lord: A Resource for Guiding the Development of Lay Ecclesial Ministry by the USCCB 2005.2 Given that the former document is particularly concerned to uphold the distinct character of the ministerial priesthood, I will explore the tensions between it and the latter document, which seeks to provide direction regarding the growth of lay ecclesial ministry in the context where sufficient numbers of ordained ministers are lacking. I will make references to the teaching of Pope John Paul II in Christifideles laici 19883 and his “Address on the Participation of the Laity in the Priestly Ministry” April 22, 19944 given to a symposium held in Rome on the subject organized by the Congregation for the Clergy which was also the origin of the 1997 Interdicasterial Instruction. I. The 1997 Interdicasterial Instruction In this first part of my reflections, I will offer a concise summary and commentary on the interdicasterial instruction, considering in turn its forward (subsection A), discussion of theological principles (B), and practical provisions (C). 1 Ecclesia de mysterio, laity/documents/rc_con_interdic_doc 2 3 The Lay Members of Christ’s Faithful People, Encyclical Letter, Pope John Paul II, St. Paul Books and Media (Boston, 1988). 4 con_cclergy_doc_20020804 Antiphon 15.2 (2011): 128-150 129 Contrasting Perspectives on the Participation of the Laity in Priestly Ministry A. Foreword The Instruction begins by stressing the necessity and importance of apostolic action of the laity in the Church’s mission of evangelization . It then recognizes the fact of a collaboration of all the faithful, whether in the spiritual order of bringing Christ’s message and grace to men and women or in the temporal order by permeating the secular realm with the spirit of the Gospel. Here the lay apostolate and the pastoral ministry are said to “complement one another”. It treats the specific “secular nature” of the mission of the laity through which the lay faithful bring the Gospel message to areas of culture, arts, science, labor, politics, social communication, the economy etc. This is the specific vocation of the lay faithful to engage in a consacratio mundi. The Instruction points out that these lay faithful are also called to “assist” in the more restrictive mission of the sacred ministry of the clergy. They can be entrusted with certain charges more closely related to the ministry of pastors, for instance catechetical instruction and certain liturgical functions. However, the Instruction makes the proviso that in this collaboration of the lay faithful in the ministry of the clergy, the sacred nature and mission of the clergy and the secular character and mission of the laity is to be clearly distinguished. It states bluntly that “collaboration with” the ministry of the ordained does not mean “substitution for” the ordained pastoral ministry. The Instruction notes that where this collaboration of the laity with the pastoral ministry of the clergy has occurred there has resulted positive fruits where the distinction of missions has been maintained. It also is clear that this collaboration is primarily in response to situations of “emergency” and “necessity” where a “shortage or scarcity of sacred ministers” exists. In these situations the lay faithful are called and deputed to assume certain roles and functions to assist the pastoral ministry of the clergy. The Instruction mentions that in these emergency situations, where the lay faithful are called to assume forms of “pastoral activity”, there have been “serious negative consequences that have caused the correct understanding of true ecclesial communion to be damaged”. The Instruction is intended to clarify the extent of the collaboration of the lay faithful in the pastoral ministry of the ordained. The Instruction first sets out the...


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