Bishop Morlino, Platteville, and the Rights and Responsibilities of Pastors

The pastoral crisis in Platteville, Wisconsin, has entered another round.  The story was first discussed on Vox Nova in November, 2010.  To quickly summarize:  Platteville is a small town in Southwestern Wisconsin, part of the Diocese of Madison.  In 2010, Bishop Morlino replaced the pastor with two Spanish priests from a small, conservative order (perhaps traditionalist is a better term), the Society of Jesus Christ the Priest.   The pastors instituted a number of changes in practice that angered a large number of parishoners:  for instance, eliminating the use of altar girls and lay eucharistic ministers during mass, and eliminating a ministry in which lay people took communion to folks in nursing homes.   Other complaints focused on their dogmatic, inflexible style.   The breadth of dissatisfaction can be seen first in a petition sent to Bishop Morlino that was signed by more than a quarter of the parish, and a 50% drop in donations.

The bishop responded with a letter to the parish in which he sided firmly with the priests.  (The original petition has not, to the best of my knowledge, ever been posted on the web.)  The controversy has been ongoing since then and has recently come to broader attention again.  The bishop has written to the parish (pdf file).  The purpose of the letter was twofold:  first to confirm the decision by the pastors to close the parish school.  Apparently donations to the parish have remained well below their previous levels, and the school is no longer financially viable.  Second, the bishop again firmly sides with the priests in their dispute with their parishoners (and I suspect, former parishoners).  He admits that the priests “undertook some changes in a way that was abrupt for many people” and “this resulted in some misunderstanding, instability and hurt.”  He urges the priests to heal these divisions, but he does not suggest (in the letter) that they undo any of the changes they made or otherwise act differently.   Moreover, he continues to place the majority of the blame on the parishoners, going so far as to accuse them of calumny and rejecting the faith.    He hints very strongly that canonical sanctions may be necessary, and concludes his letter with quotes from a variety of church documents on the authority of bishops and pastors and the canonical penalty of interdict.  (He is not threatening interdict, per se.  As one commentator put it, he appears to be threatening to threaten interdict.) Press reports can be found in every Wisconsin paper:  here is a report from the Wisconsin State Journal in Madison.  Bishop Morlino’s curt response to this article, including charging the paper with being anti-Catholic, can be found here.  The blogosphere has, predictably, erupted:  one sort of discussion can be found at PrayTell, another at Fr. Z’s blog.

There are many different ways to view this affair.  But after reflection it seems to me that at its heart  this conflict is about the rights and responsibilities of pastors to their flock.  First, to get one point out of the way:  the priests in Platteville were within their rights to make the changes they did to liturgical practice.  That is not up for question.   Bishop Morlino is also correct in pointing out that the lay Catholic faithful have a responsibility to obey their bishop and their pastors and to work for peace and harmony.

But what are the responsibilities of pastors to their flocks?  This seems to be an important counterpoint and, I suspect, is the foundation of the grievances shared by so many of the parishoners in Platteville.   In his letter, Bishop Morlino briefly and obliquely summarizes his view on this:  he says that he is confident that the pastors “will provide Jesus Christ, the teachings of His Church, and the Sacraments.”  These are necessary, but are they the sum total of pastoral responsibility?   Shouldn’t pastors also have a responsibility to respect their communities and their practices?  To seek input before making radical changes in practice?  To respect the legitimate desires of their parishoners, even when they are not fully in accord with their own preferences?   Priests are called not just to lead, but also to serve.  As the Catechism puts it:

The sacrament of Holy Orders communicates a”sacred power” which is none other than that of Christ.  The exercise of this authority must therefore be measured against the model of Christ, who by love made himself least and the servant of all.  “The Lord said clearly that concern for his flock was proof of love for him.”  (CCC 1551)

If abuses are found, then change (even painful change) may be necessary.  But no one has suggested that this was the situation in Platteville:  indeed, the practices mentioned are canonical and definitely within the mainstream in the United States—indeed, they are the norm in most parishes.   Making these changes unilaterally, even for the best of motives (and I do not accuse them of acting with malice) shows a lack of respect for their parishoners and for the community they are called to serve.

Bishop Morlino wrote to the parish: “I think, however, that at the end of the day, the Catholic faith is being taught according to the proper understanding of the Second Vatican Council.”  Reading about this imbroligo, I do wonder, however, if the Catholic faith is being lived according to the precepts of the Council.  There is a lengthy passage in  Lumen Gentium that speaks directly to this situation.  It is worth quoting in full:

The laity have the right, as do all Christians, to receive in abundance from their spiritual shepherds the spiritual goods of the Church, especially the assistance of the word of God and of the sacraments. They should openly reveal to them their needs and desires with that freedom and confidence which is fitting for children of God and brothers in Christ. They are, by reason of the knowledge, competence or outstanding ability which they may enjoy, permitted and sometimes even obliged to express their opinion on those things which concern the good of the Church. When occasions arise, let this be done through the organs erected by the Church for this purpose. Let it always be done in truth, in courage and in prudence, with reverence and charity toward those who by reason of their sacred office represent the person of Christ.

The laity should, as all Christians, promptly accept in Christian obedience decisions of their spiritual shepherds, since they are representatives of Christ as well as teachers and rulers in the Church. Let them follow the example of Christ, who by His obedience even unto death, opened to all men the blessed way of the liberty of the children of God. Nor should they omit to pray for those placed over them, for they keep watch as having to render an account of their souls, so that they may do this with joy and not with grief.  Let the spiritual shepherds recognize and promote the dignity as well as the responsibility of the laity in the Church. Let them willingly employ their prudent advice. Let them confidently assign duties to them in the service of the Church, allowing them freedom and room for action. Further, let them encourage lay people so that they may undertake tasks on their own initiative. Attentively in Christ, let them consider with fatherly love the projects, suggestions and desires proposed by the laity.   However, let the shepherds respectfully acknowledge that just freedom which belongs to everyone in this earthly city.

A great many wonderful things are to be hoped for from this familiar dialogue between the laity and their spiritual leaders: in the laity a strengthened sense of personal responsibility; a renewed enthusiasm; a more ready application of their talents to the projects of their spiritual leaders. The latter, on the other hand, aided by the experience of the laity, can more clearly and more incisively come to decisions regarding both spiritual and temporal matters. In this way, the whole Church, strengthened by each one of its members, may more effectively fulfill is mission for the life of the world. (Lumen Gentium, 37)

Is there a way out of this situation, one which brings about the peace that the bishop so earnestly desires?  There is, but I think both sides need to give ground.  If the parishoners have indeed been guilty of “caluminous inciting of hatred of [the] priests, the faith” and the bishop, then apologies are in order.  (Though in their defense:  while not privy to what they have written privately to the bishop, that have been very circumspect in what has been said publicly.)  If possible, the parishoners should consider whether there school can, at this late date, be resurrected.

On the other hand, before this can happen I think that for the good of their parish, the priests need to give ground and restore many of the practices that they abolished when they took responsibility for their parish, in particular, those that have strong symbolic importance (which they may not recognize) such as lay eucharistic ministers and altar girls.  Moreover, they need to develop a leadership style that is more affirming of the dignity and responsibility of the lay faithful.  In the end they still have to make decisions, but they need to do so in a way that unites rather than divides their flock.  Only then will they be able to “more effectively fulfill their mission for the life of the world.”

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  • http://renegadetrad.blogspot.com A Sinner

    “that have strong symbolic importance (which they may not recognize) such as lay eucharistic ministers and altar girls.”

    Oh, I’m certain they recognize it. I’m sure it’s exactly because of the “political” symbolic capital of these practices that they were considered important to stomp out.

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

      “Stomp out” is precisely the pastoral attitude (or lack thereof) that I am criticizing. Why do you think that this is an effective pastoral approach?

      • http://renegadetrad.blogspot.com A Sinner

        I never said I did, I just said the symbolic value of these things that caused such a strong reaction when they WERE stomped out is exactly why they were targeted in the first place.

        It wasn’t like the priests targeted a practice they thought was minor or politically neutral and accidentally discovered what a divisive hornet’s nest it was and in response, having “learned their lesson,” should just concede and put it back. They knew it was a flashpoint and “indicator” when they targeted these things in the first place. They probably expected more complacency than they got, but my point was that they knew these things have a strong symbolic importance and that’s exactly why they were eliminated.

        In truth, I don’t consider this an “effective” pastoral approach necessarily, but might consider it possibly necessary nonetheless. These practices, for the most part, delineate two radically different conceptions of the sacred, and those for whom they don’t (usually a naive but well-meaning sort) are also the type that would submit willingly when they are eliminated. The very fact that people have gotten into an uproar about an alleged “right to serve,” essentially, exposes how very wrong their outlook was in the first place. And sometimes that sort of sense of ENTITLEMENT to things that admit of no notion of entitlement…can only be, yes, “stomped out.”

  • Melody

    At first I thought it was a matter of Platteville being THAT town. You know; the town in every diocese which is small and farthest from the diocese seat, and seems to be an afterthought, if it is thought of at all. Where if they get a priest at all, it might end up being someone from a religious order which is a bit “different” than the mainstream. Kind of, “Take it or leave it, guys, this is all we have to offer, and all you’re going to get.” I could halfway understand that, even though it wouldn’t be fun to be them. But from what I later read, it’s not that kind of a situation at all. Platteville isn’t all that small, or all that “frontier”. It is a college town, and the largest town in the county. The religious order, the Society of Jesus Christ the Priest, is one whose purpose is to foster vocations to the priesthood. This seems to be a pilot project to grow vocations, using the supposedly tried-and-true recipe of, first, get the women and girls out of the sanctuary, and super-glue them to the kneelers. Then get rid of any lay involvement with the liturgy, particularly anything to do with handling the Blessed Sacrament. Foster a pedestal, specialist model of clergy. One could say, if that is what it takes, that’s what we have to do (as in, the ends justify the means). But is that what it actually takes? If one does a bit of research, one finds that there are many dioceses which have had an increase in vocations lately. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach; and there are a number of innovative and successful programs. One of the things cited as most helpful in encouraging vocations is family support. And if you have alienated half the families in the parish, how is that going to happen?
    As you pointed out, both sides need to bend. And maybe the bishop needs to realize that the pilot project isn’t turning out very well

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

      When I was growing up in Wisconsin, the rural, back of beyond parishes were used as exiles by the bishop: alcoholics and womanizers ended up in them.

    • http://undeetmemores.wordpress.com Jordan

      While I have a great love of the Extraordinary Form, I must agree that Bishop Morino is certainly quite misguided in his attempt to revert St. Mary’s parish to traditionalist liturgical disciplines. The laity of the parish do not deserve to have their valid and licit customs taken away from them even if the ordinary of the diocese disagrees with these practices. The denial of these practices renders the church and community alien ground to families who have worshipped in this parish for generations.

      I can also see why traditionalists balk at extraordinary eucharistic ministers, for example. Traditionalist objections to extraordinary eucharistic ministers are not necessarily based on misogyny or general prejudice against the laity. Some traditional Catholics object to extraordinary eucharistic ministers out of a firm conviction that priests and deacons, by virtue of major orders, are the canonical ordinary ministers of the eucharist. Hence, the multiplication of extraordinary eucharistic ministers is at best unnecessary when a sufficient number of priests or deacons are present, and at worst a deliberate clericalization of the laity.

      I will agree that the exclusion of girls and women from altar service carries a misogynist strain. Gender inclusive Mass-serving by laypersons has always been theoretically licit, even if long-standing canonical law and custom have reserved this custom to men. Custom and previous canonical restrictions, however, do not overrule current canonical licity.

      A characterization of the traditionalist understanding of eucharistic administration as necessarily clericalist and prejudiced merely furthers strife between different liturgical factions. Traditionalists, for their part, must examine misogyny and other prejudices within their tradition. Progressive Catholics, however, perhaps could consider that traditionalist concerns are often multifaceted and not entirely bigoted.

      • Kurt

        Jordan,

        What a refreshing statement! I’m no Traditionalist but appreciate your thoughtful and civil reflection.

  • Bill Wilson

    The laity have voted with their pocketbooks, with palpable results. The bishop realizes this and doesn’t like it. Keep the pressure on. As Morlino continues to feel the heat, maybe he will eventually see the light.

    • Jimmy Mac

      Bill: will you let the rest of us know what kind of ganja you are smoking? I love your delusions.

  • Kurt

    As I mentioned previously, this is the parish church I was baptized in. It is all a very personal and painful matter to me. The parish school, thriving in a time that many nearby Catholic schools were troubled, is now closing. The parish has lost a significant part ot its membership, particularly parents with children. Its finances are a disaster, with its revenue cut in half. This is not Madison. It is a small town, surrounded by farming communities and people mostly of German heritage.

    I don’t see any hope here. Hundreds of children will not be raised Catholic. There will be a continued decline in working class and rural Catholics. It is not going to turn around.

    The best hope is that rather than irreligion, these folks will find a home in the Lutheran Church,

    I’m so very sorry for this situation.

    • Jimmy Mac

      I’m also from that area. Some of the “homeless” have found homes in Cuba City, Dickeyville, Lancaster, etc. But you are right – many will drift as “Roaming” Catholics for awhile and more than a few will join other churches that aren’t so clericalist, authoritarian or outright unChristian in their outlook and theology.

      But that won’t bother this “bishop” one whit. He’s in charge and, by damn, he’s going to prove it, no matter what the cost to the parish is and will be.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/voxnova/ Sofia Loves Wisdom

    Though not as horrible as what it is happening in this poor parish, something similar happened to my beloved parish. We received a Vietnamese priest who was hard core traditionalist and culturalist. He ruined our parish. He would say things like “I am the pastor of this parish. Obey me.” Blew me away. Thankfully I am in a city and could find another parish.

  • Anne

    Those symbolic liturgical practices they abolished — lay ministers and altar girls — are favorite targets of rightwing (traditionalist, uber-conservative) Catholics. My traditionalist friends become especially annoyed at the sight of females on the altar, which clearly, they say, drives boys away. I’ve also been assured that canon law specifically says lay Eucharistic ministers should only be employed if there is a truly debilitating shortage of priests. The “parade of laymen on the altar” as witnessed in most parishes every Sunday is allegedly a liturgical abuse.

    I don’t know about all that, but I have seen parishes ruined by jerks in priest’s clothing, one of my own by a “Jesuit Prussian” who fired everybody’s favorite cantor, bullied the office staff and altar servers until they cried (girls AND boys), walked among parishioners during the homily, stopping at times to ask questions, and demanded (this was especially weird) that *everybody* join hands during the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer so that we formed one, continuous human chain around the church. It was something to see, 120 sullen people holding hands and praying through gritted teeth. Oh, the love. Families left the parish in droves, including my own. Fortunately, we lived in a big city with other parishes close by. Last I heard, Sunday Masses scheduled at the Prussian’s church had gone from five to two.

  • http://speciouspedestrian.blogspot.com Dominic Holtz, O.P.

    Whatever else we can say, we can surely admit that the division here in the parish is not of God. God cannot will that men and women who, even in disagreement, are committed to Jesus Christ and his Gospel should be at such odds with one another, and all the less when the ones who have principally lost out are the children who will no longer be able to receive a Catholic education at their parish school.

    As an alternative to delineating rights, we might imagine rather a different model, that of obedience in a religious community. On the one hand, obedience demands that, when all is said and done, one is to follow the licit and legitimate directives of a due superior. Indeed, more than follow them, one is actively to seek the wisdom which is being expressed in the superior’s requests. At the same time, classic religious obedience called for the superior to seek counsel from the whole community, frequently in a council of senior members, but also (explicitly so in Benedict’s Rule) from the whole community, including the newest members. He does so not to take a vote or to poll the community, but rather because he is to take good counsel wherever it may be found.

    The key, I think, is that a good and flourishing community is one in which one can trust that he has been heard. Being heard, of course, is not convertible with having one’s way. A superior might see the wisdom in our counsel and the passion we have behind it and still choose to go another way. Still, it makes all the difference in the world in being docile in a mature way whether decisions come to me as though without any concern for whatever insight I have to offer and whether they come, even if against my deeply-held preferences, undeniably in light of and in the context my being able to make those concerns known.

  • dominic1955

    I hope Bp. Morlino holds his ground no matter what happens. Of course, I do not envy the job of a bishop these days as there is so much clean up to be done after the last 40-50 years of a practically anything goes mentality. God bless him for having to put up with Madison.

    As to the parish itself, if only all parishes were lucky enough to have priests like they got. The priests did what needs to be done across the country. As A Sinner pointed out, the very fact that there was this sort of uproar shows just how far off they were. It is not a legitimate Catholic response of a mature and well-formed laity to act like Congregationalists or Trustee-ists and to not donate when they do not get their way.

    As to “legitimate” customs of generations, if you go back a mere, what two generations or so, what do you get? The TLM. Girl altar servers and EMHC can in no way be described as some sort of venerable custom that needs be respected on a number of grounds, not merely the short time they have existed.

    Altar servers are deputized laymen to stand in for the minor order clerics that did not exist in most parishes. As the altar server stands in for a cleric, and women cannot be clerics, it makes no sense to allow girl altar servers. That they are allowed (most unfortunately) does not make them obligatory or even encouraged. This isn’t an issue of “misogyny”, its tradtion, its proper concept of ecclesiology and the roll of clergy and laity. The practice had been condemned all the way from the Early Church until, maybe 1994 or so?

    I’ve seen this tactic promotes in many progressive circles and blogs as a way of making the bishops see their way of thinking because supposedly, all they care about is money. Stop giving, try to make them capitulate by pocketbook pressure. This is completely destructive of proper church order and cannot be tollerated. Anyone who would be so rash as to organize or promote such an action should be immediately sanctioned with the appropriate canonical penalties.

    The above quoted passage from Lumen Gentium is assuming the laity in question to be mature and well formed as Catholics-solid in every field as can be reasonably hoped for. However, the mere fact that they are laity doesn’t in and of itself mean that their opinion is valid. If the condition is such that they are basically Catholic in name only, then its time to teach and not consult or build consensus. Imagine what would have happened had St. John Vianney came to Ars to consult and build consensus…

    • Kurt

      Altar servers are deputized laymen to stand in for the minor order clerics that did not exist in most parishes.

      They are not deputized clerics. The minor orders have been abolished. Altar servers are deputized for the lay (not clerical) ministry of acolyte.

      Even before the abolition of minor orders, persons in these orders were canonically and not sacramentally clerics. Women can have the non-sacramental but canonical status of clerics, as women religious have been decalred at some times and in some societies.

      Then lastly, in the ever-changing stories of those who think they are Traditionalists, let’s remember that the basis of the Traditionalist opposition to the dialogue Mass was that the altar server, who they said stood in for the congregation of the laity, had the duty of saying the responses.

      • dominic1955

        By tradition, not by law. The altar boy stands in to do a job once done by minor clerics. The minor orders still exist in religious orders that still make use of the traditional books (FSSP, ICRSS, etc.) but regardless, even if you want to look at altar boys as being a deputized fill-in for the Ministry of Acolyte, only men can be made acolytes so it still doesn’t work.

        The Minor Orders are/were sacramentals, not sacraments anyway. Women religious orders (I’m thinking of Carthusians) fulfilled certain “clerical” roles in liturgical functions on account of them being so strictly cloistered. They were never put in the same line as Minor Clerics and they were never conceived as having a liturgical role at the altar. We have a number of papal decrees specifically condemning the practice.

        That was one aspect of it (the dialog Mass issue) but what of it? Can the altar boy not only stand in for the cleric who would have done his job way back in the day and ALSO stood for the congregation (or rather the Faithful in general)? I don’t see why not, they stand for the Faithful in a private Mass when no one else is there. The Church is the Mystical Body of Christ, its also the Bride of Christ-symbolism can have multiple, non-conflicting imagery. Also, as standing for the Faithful, there was never any attempt to simplistically “represent” the Faithful in kind or diversity etc.

        As for saying the responses, have you ever been to a Dialog Mass? Unless the people are really up on things, and even then, it usually ends up a cacaphony. Maybe they can pull it off better in Europe or other places, but I’ve never seen it done well. Limiting the (audible) responses to a particular server or servers is a practical consideration. It more easily maintains a semblance of order and proper flow of the rite.

        • Melody

          Just a memory; we used to do dialogue Masses in my Catholic grade school days (circa 1957-1962 or so). It was well-done and not a cacaphony. All of us had daily missals. I could still say the responses, though I’m not wanting to turn back the clock. My point is that if grade school kids could do it, with a little practice; limiting responses to the servers isn’t necessary to maintain order and proper flow. I think the dialogue Masses somewhat anticipated the day when a stand-in would no longer be required to say the responses for the congregation.

        • http://renegadetrad.blogspot.com A Sinner

          Dialogue masses are fine, and I’ve rarely been to an Old Rite Mass that WASN’T “dialogue,” even in the States. Don’t anyone think there is any sort of united front among liturgical trads about that.

        • Kurt

          Hence the term neo-trad would be more accurate than traditionalist.

        • http://renegadetrad.blogspot.com A Sinner

          Depends where the idea is coming from. If your support for dialogue mass is a “progressive” one, that’s one thing. If, however, the “ideal” you are invoking in supporting the dialogue mass is the Medieval one, I’d hardly call that “neo”…it goes back to BEFORE the “tridentine” trads! Likewise, there is support for ending mandatory celibacy for secular priests which is purely liberal in its origins, but there is also support which is rooted in ancient and early medieval practice, as well as Eastern practice. While the end result might be the same, I’d think the two paradigms are worlds apart (and the latter is not “neo” anything; it might be accused by some of the “Trent” trads of being primitivism or “archaeologism,” but it is certainly not progressive…)

        • Kurt

          Sinner,

          No debate there. Almost all of the reforms are motivated by a view that they are based in Catholic history and tradition and would be of pastoral benefit in the present time — vernacular liturgy, restored diaconate, communion in both forms, concelebration, married clergy, gothic vestments rather than fiddleback, lay ministries, the restored Easter Vigil, communion in the hand, etc. etc.

      • http://renegadetrad.blogspot.com A Sinner

        “the lay (not clerical) ministry of acolyte.”

        Under a total and very recent redefinition of who constitutes a “cleric.” A cleric used to be, by definition, anyone who acted as a Public minister of the Church, so the idea of “lay” liturgical roles was just an oxymoron; if you had a public liturgical role, you weren’t lay.

        Of course, this development (limiting the class of “clergy” to the sacrament of Holy Orders itself) was probably long in the making given for how long canonically lay men stood in for minor-ordained clerical acolytes. In my opinion, they should have been ordaining those men as real minor-order Acolytes all along (as opposed to leaving them as “lay substitutes”) then this confusion in distinction would never have evolved.

        As for clerical status for women, yes, certainly there were deaconesses, and one would be hard-pressed to deny a clerical status to mitred Abbesses, or even choir nuns (as opposed to the “lay sisters”)…because otherwise their communal singing of the Office wouldn’t have been Public Prayers strictly-so-called.

        Frankly, I think the whole current problem with “lay ministers” (to me, still an oxymoron; the defining feature of “cleric” is being a public minister)…is this desire to continue the priesthood and “clerical” status as something restricted or limited (especially, in the priesthood, to celibate full-time men).

        We’d have no problem with “extraordinary lay ministers” of the Eucharist if the Church simply ordained a bunch of men (yes, even married men who worked regular jobs the rest of the days of the week!) as priests or deacons (without making them go through a lot of unnecessary training)…

        • Kurt

          The altar boy stands in to do a job once done by minor clerics.

          And the minor clerics stand in for a job once done by lay ministires. The Early church had a great variety of lay ministries, many of them charismatic. Over time, these ministries were reduced to mere liturgical functions and even them rarely performed by persons in these offices.

          The Church, also, for reasons unrelated to the liturgy but for the protection from civil powers, gave laypersons the canonical status of clergy in order to make them subject to church courts and both the protect beneficies they controlled and protect the beneficies from the person controlling it.

          With the Council of Trent, the seminary system for the training of priests was developed and a new innovation in that these offices became neither real ministires in any sense but stages in training for the priesthood. This extended even to the diaconate that ceased to be a real ministry and was simply a year or even a day before a priest was ordained.

          With the Reformation, clerics lost some civil status so the state no longer recongized those in minor orders as clergy, reducing the reason for the status.

          Paul VI abolished the minor orders, although seminarians and religious of both genders are sometimes given clerical status by local law for their and the church’s benefit (i.e. exemption from National Service; right to a benefice, etc). He restored the lay ministries, modeled after the early church as well as the true ministry of the diaconate.

          The minor orders still exist in religious orders that still make use of the traditional books (FSSP, ICRSS, etc.)

          They do not have clerical status and are not clerics. There are fairly significant issues in giving a person clerical status under canon law.

          but regardless, even if you want to look at altar boys as being a deputized fill-in for the Ministry of Acolyte, only men can be made acolytes so it still doesn’t work. As a discipline, not dogma. Under the current discipline, acolytes must be men of a certain age and training. Most altar servers fail in at least two of these three requirements.

  • dominic1955

    Early Church “lay ministries” as you describe them are questionable. Do you have a time machine? Paul VI didn’t “restore” anything but a declericalized minor order system with most of them now gone or subsumed into the two that were left. Even though its opened up, almost no one uses it. Irony of ironies…

    Regardless, its never been the tradition of the Latin or Greek Church to allow women to serve at the altar or perform liturgical functions outside of extraordinary situations or cloistered communities of religious.

    As to the FSSP and ICRSS, yes, their “clerics” do not have canonical clerical status but they certainly consider that something actually happened when the bishop conferred tonsure and minor orders. Even if they no longer have Canon Law status as clerics, a blessing or sacramental can certainly still be conferred. Otherwise, the bishop would just be up there whistling Dixie when ordaining to the minor orders.

    • Kurt

      Well, you seem to accept my principal point that altar servers do not substitute for clerics.

      I do note that whiel neo-trads generally insist that Special Ministers of Holy Communion be limited in preference for actual ministers (or less frequent reception), in my parish that happens to have two adult members of the congregation that are actual acolytes, no one ever suggest that they should march up to the altar and tell little Bobby and Billy’s parents that their kid’s altar service has been trumped and they should go sit down in the pews.

  • dominic1955

    In the all encompasing sense of not admitting any other explanation/rationale (which I didn’t intend anyway), no. They do, not exclusively and not singly, but in a real sense that is part of the fittingness to have only boys/men serve and why they (at least used to) just wear cassock and surplice or Order equivalent.

    I would think that most “neo-Trads” or whatever would be more in favor of complete elimination of EMHCs. As to acolytes taking over from servers, that’s actually what the book says-that actual instituted ministers (acolytes and lectors) have precedence over those deputized to perform the same roles (servers, EMHC, and readers). When I was in the seminary, we did that in the parishes if we happened to have a pastor who knew what was going on (as mine did).

    As to your acolytes, most people (priests included) are wholly ignorant about what even an instituted acolyte is. On the priest’s part, even if they know the rules and such around their service, they’d be mortified to possibly piss off the regular deputized laypeople who think its their right and the only way they can actively participate if they put instituted ministers in a preferential spot. Now, I’ve never invoked my precedence (I’m at a TLM parish anyway)and don’t plan on it any time soon. However, personally I see it as a good idea to have the Minor Orders/ministries opened up to non-seminarians as the diaconate was. That was probably one of Paul VI’s best ideas, even though in practice it hasn’t always turned out as well as it should. Even the Council of Trent thought of doing this.

  • Kurt

    personally I see it as a good idea to have the [lay] ministries opened up to non-seminarians as the diaconate was. That was probably one of Paul VI’s best ideas, even though in practice it hasn’t always turned out as well as it should.

    I would agree. Calling both men and women.

    • dominic1955

      Absolutely not. Where is that in the tradition, outside of condemnations? (cf. Benedict XIV, Allatae Sunt of 1755)

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