John Paul II Warns Against Trend to "Clericalize the Laity"

Laments Confusion About Roles During the Liturgy

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CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, SEPT. 23, 2002 ( John Paul II warned against the tendency to «clericalize the laity,» which has resulted from erroneous interpretations of the Second Vatican Council.

When greeting a group of bishops from western Brazil in Rome for their once-every-five-year visit, the Pope said in his address that today there is a «confusion of functions,» which originates in erroneous theological interpretations.

«Among the objectives of the liturgical reform, established by Vatican Council II, was the need to have all the faithful participate in liturgical ceremonies,» the Holy Father told the bishops Saturday.

«However, in practice, in the years following the council, in order to fulfill this desire, the confusion of functions in regard to the priestly ministry and role of the laity was arbitrarily extended,» he explained.

Symptoms of this confusion are «the indiscriminate and common recitation of the Eucharistic Prayer,» «homilies given by lay people» and the «distribution of Communion by the laity.»

These «grave abuses often originated in doctrinal errors, especially in regard to the nature of the liturgy, of the common priesthood of Christians, of the vocation and mission of the laity, but also in regard to the ordained ministry of priests,» the Pope stressed.

The Holy Father said that one of the consequences of this phenomenon is «the lack of observance of certain ecclesiastical laws and norms, the arbitrary interpretation of the concept of ‘substitution,’ the tendency to ‘clericalize’ the laity, etc.»

Although «the liturgy is the action of the whole Mystical Body of Christ, of his body and his members,» it is true that «not everyone has the same function, because not everyone participates in the same way in the priesthood of Christ.»

John Paul II confirmed that the faithful who are not ordained may «carry out some tasks and functions of cooperation in pastoral service» only «when they are expressly appointed by their respective consecrated pastors, in keeping with prescriptions of the law.»

He clarified that the members «of the diocesan pastoral or parish council have only a consultative vote and, for this reason, may not be considered deliberative.»

The Pope emphasized that the bishop «must hear the faithful, clergy and laity, to form an opinion,» but «the latter may not formulate a definitive judgment on the Church,» as «it corresponds to the bishop to discern and pronounce himself, not on a mere question of conscience, but as a teacher of the faith.»

In this context, the Holy Father also referred to the «re-establishment of the permanent diaconate of married men,» which «constitutes an important enrichment for the mission of the Church.»

This service must «always be limited to the prescription the law, given that the exercise of full ministerial authority corresponds to priests,» avoiding «ambiguities that might confuse the faithful, especially in liturgical celebrations.»

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