Institution of Ministries (S.C. Sacr. et Cult Div., 27 Oct., 1977) Private.
Reported below is a letter addressed to an unidentified cardinal by the Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Sacraments and Divine Worship on the institution of ministries over and above those of acolyte and lector.
Your Eminence has, assuredly, been aware that the question of admission of lay persons to the discharge of ministries is very greatly discussed in the Church in these times of ours. This is true especially since Vatican Council II, in many of its documents, has set forth the Catholic doctrine on the roles of lay members of the faithful in the apostolic mission of the Church and has exhorted them "that, in accordance with their abilities and the needs of the times, they also diligently participate in the salvific work of the Church" (Const. on the Church, n. 33).
Several documents of the Holy See have, in recently past years, stimulated the lay members of the faithful to a fuller participation in the pastoral activity of the Church. This was especially done in the motu proprio, Ministeria quaedam, which, after having abrogated the minor Orders and after having attributed to the Order of Deacon incorporation into the clerical state, sanctioned [ministries] of a new kind which emanate [not from the sacrament of Orders, of course, but from institution by the Church].
Furthermore, the above-mentioned apostolic letter institutes for the total Church of the Latin rite the ministries of lector and acolyte, but it adds: "In addition to the offices common to the Latin Church, nothing prevents episcopal conferences from petitioning the Apostolic See for others whose institution in their region, for special reasons, they judge to be necessary or very useful.”
However, since not even one episcopal conference has asked the Holy See to institute other ministries in accord with the faculties granted in the above-mentioned papal document, the Supreme Pontiff has stipulated that the Sacred Congregation for the Sacraments and Divine Worship draw up a plan of new ministries to be instituted outside the sacrament of Orders, which could be introduced into the practice of the Latin Church with the power granted to confer the same on women, especially women religious.
This quite complex issue was handled with earnest diligence by a commission composed of men (viris) who were experts in the matter, and of delegates of the Dicasteries concerned in the matter. Later, on the 22nd and the 23rd of November, 1976, the same issue was subjected to examination by the members of the Sacred Congregation for the Sacraments and Divine Worship who had assembled in Rome at that time to take part in its plenary session.
From this kind of consultation, it became obvious that various questions and difficulties stood in the way of the timeliness of instituting new ministries in the universal
Reported in C.L.D., 7, pp. 690-695.
C.L.D., 7, p. 692.
Church at this time. As a result, the opinion of those who urged that action on this matter be refrained from, won out, until evidence would be had of the effects and the evolution of local experiences.
In view of all this and after the consideration of the provisions in the motu proprio, Ministeria quaedam, our Holy Father has decided to grant to episcopal conferences which request the faculty from the Apostolic See, to institute new ministries which they shall have judged to be truly necessary or very useful in their region. Wherefore, the episcopal conferences which find themselves in these circumstances, will be able to send a petition to this Dicastery. In it they should set forth the reasons for the petition together with the statutes which should contain individual and distinct norms concerning the selection, the spiritual and cultural formation, and the duties and activities of the new ministries as well as the method of pastorally following up on them and assisting them in the exercise of their proper ministry.
It seems superfluous to note that these new ministries can also be conferred on women.
(Private); S.C. Sacr. et Cult. Div., letter, 27 Oct., 1977, Prot. N. 1837/ 77; reported in Com. pro Rel., 59 (1978), 360-361.