View from the choir

I am a Catholic layperson and Secular Franciscan with a sense of humor. After years in the back pew watching, I have moved into the choir. It's nice to see faces instead of the backs of heads. But I still maintain God has a sense of humor - and that we are created in God's image.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Lay Preacher = No Contributions

I have always been a faithful financial supporter of my parish. No more - for now.

The issue is over preaching.

The guidelines from the U.S. Bishops are clear: the Homily is reserved for the priest or deacon, not lay people.

Preaching the Word of God is among the principal duties of those who have received the sacrament of orders (can. 762-764). The lay faithful can be called to cooperate in the exercise of the Ministry of the Word (can. 759). In accord with canon 766 the National Conference of Catholic Bishops hereby decrees that the lay faithful may be permitted to exercise this ministry in churches and oratories, with due regard for the following provisions:

If necessity requires it in certain circumstances or it seems useful in particular cases, the diocesan bishop can admit lay faithful to preach, to offer spiritual conferences or give instructions in churches, oratories or other sacred places within his diocese, when he judges it to be to the spiritual advantage of the faithful.

In order to assist the diocesan bishop in making an appropriate pastoral decision (Interdicasterial Instruction, Ecclesiae de Mysterio, Article 2 §3), the following circumstances and cases are illustrative: the absence or shortage of clergy, particular language requirements, or the demonstrated expertise or experience of the lay faithful concerned.

The lay faithful who are to be admitted to preach in a church or oratory must be orthodox in faith, and well-qualified, both by the witness of their lives as Christians and by a preparation for preaching appropriate to the circumstances.

The diocesan bishop will determine the appropriate situations in accord with canon 772 §1. In providing for preaching by the lay faithful the diocesan bishop may never dispense from the norm which reserves the homily to the sacred ministers (can. 767 §1; cf. Pontifical Commission for the Authentic Interpretation of the Code of Canon Law, 26 May 1987, in AAS 79 [1987], 1249). Preaching by the lay faithful may not take place within the Celebration of the Eucharist at the moment reserved for the homily.

Lay people can preach under special circumstances, but only with prior permission of the Bishop, and not at the time of the Homily.

At my parish, unfortunately, the pastor has decided to permit a lay person to preach in place of the Homily on a regular basis. (She's actually a better preacher than any of the priests are!)

Now granted, he is the only priest assigned to the parish - there are two retired priests in residence, but they are often at other parishes substituting. On the other hand, he is not entirely alone when it comes to preaching duties: There is also a deacon assigned to the parish.

I do feel bad for the pastor, who seems at times almost overwhelmed. He is loaded up with administrative duties, a slew of funerals, the loss of a school in the recent Diocesan closings, and decreasing attendance - so he's go a lot on his mind.

But preaching is a major duty that should not just be divested by a priest on his own volition.

I have seen services in which both the priest and deacon are present sitting on the altar, and still the lay preacher preaches in the spot reserved for the homily.

I approached the pastor about this, and asked if she had been approved by the bishop or gone through the diocesan process. He said no. I then pointed out the regulations. His response was a frustrated, "Do you expect me to preach every week?"

Well, yeah, that is part of your job description. I hate grading papers, but that's part of my job as a teacher, so I do it.

When she preached again, I spoke to another staff member. I was told it was what the pastor decided.

The next time the lay person preached, I pocketed my weekly envelope. I then wrote out a donation for the same amount to a Church-related charity.

It happened again this past Sunday. Another pocketed check. Another donation going out elsewhere.

I have decided that until this situation changes, I will be continue sending my contributions elsewhere whenever she preaches. Catholic Family Center. Women's Place. Andrew's Center. Mt Carmel House. The American Chesterton Society. I will also help out individual parish programs. I'm sure they will be happy.

I will, of course, let the pastor know what I am doing and why. I will also contact the parish council, and I will also let him know that I plan to contact the diocese.

I could just leave the parish, but I don't want to. I am heavily involved in the music ministry there in a way I have not been able to be elsewhere. Maybe that's selfish. But I also like the people at the parish, and so much else going on there. And given the way things are in other area parishes, I'm going to run into issues elsewhere as well.

Sometimes being an orthodox Catholic is not easy. But then, Jesus kind of warned us about that.


Blogger Dr. Knowledge said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

7:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A couple of obervations.

I'm glad to see that you are not leaving the parish. A lot of that going around in the diocese lately.

I'm glad that you are donating the money to other worthy organizations and not just pocketing the money.

6:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds a bit finicky to me. On everybody's front.

You and I share a history in another parish with people of questionable preaching credentials, but you also concede this particular preacher is effective and superior to others.

Withholding one's financial obligations seems a bit petty. Do you add extra to the collection basket if the authorized preacher is better than usual? Are the bishops' standards on tithing and church support predicated on the lay assessment of faithfulness of the pastor?

Lots of fringe Catholics apply the adjective "orthodox" to themselves. It's a novelty one wouldn't have seen more than ten years ago. Yet people have always used the power of the purse to attempt to persuade the institution to do something in line with the donator's mind.

I'm not saying you're just as wrong as a pastor permitting a lay preacher, but there's a lot more to consider than personal outrage. On the other hand, maybe you can suggest that playing all that music at Mass is getting to be too much, and you'll opt to play a tape recorder instead of a closing song.


10:05 AM  
Blogger Lee Strong said...

Todd - I didn't say that she was effective - just better than the other regular preachers. Actually, she hit or miss.

As to that other parish, it got to the point when I quit attending that one because they had pushed things too far.

5:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

According to St Paul, "the Law kills - the Spirit gives life". Is this a case of another Catholic law killing? If she's doing the job right (or better than the priest), then there must be a reason she was put there. You should have faith that God speaks not just through the priest, but can even be this lady! /James (Singapore)

10:20 AM  

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