Justice in the Church
Just Treatment for Church Ministers
Lay Ecclesial Ministers

Lay Ecclesial Ministers

Links to Helpful Articles About Lay Ministry

Can Lay Ministers Exercise the Power of Governance?

(Reprinted 2/28/98 from NCCB web page: www.nccbuscc.org/laity/, © July, 1997 USCC)

With the growing number of laity serving as lay ministers, the question of jurisdiction is becoming increasingly important. Fr. John P. Beal, Assistant Professor of Canon Law at Catholic University, tackles this difficult subject in a recent issue of The Jurist :"The Exercise of the Power of Governance by Lay People: State of the Question," Volume 55 (1995.) Beal asks, "Do the ecclesiastical offices or functions to which lay people are capable of being called include those which involve the exercise of ecclesiastical power of governance or jurisdiction?" Of course, there is no simple answer. What makes this article so helpful, however, is that Beal brings together the various schools of thought in a comprehensive manner.

In concluding, Beal acknowledges that "The doctrinal debate about the nature and source of power in the Church and its consequences for the exercise of the power of governance by lay people is not likely to be resolved in the foreseeable future. The positions of the various participants in the debate are based on ecclesiologies and premises that are not easily reconcilable. As the debate goes on, however, diocesan bishops, faced with increasing demands for pastoral care and declining numbers of ordained presbyters, must provide for the spiritual welfare of the particular churches entrusted to their care with the resources available to them."

This article serves as a valuable resource in better understanding the question of governance.

Canonical Resources for Lay Ministers

Two other resources that may also be of interest to those involved in the area of lay ministry are both available from the Canon Law Society of America (202-269-349l). The first, Pastoral Care in Parishes Without a Pastor, gives practical suggestions for the application of Canon 517.2. Topics covered include the role and responsibilities of lay and ordained ministers, a discussion of their special authorizations and faculties, and a process for selecting and installing a lay minister (including a sample installation ceremony and a sample contract).

The second document is Code, Community, Ministry: Selected Studies for the Parish Minister: Introducing The Code of Canon Law. Revised in 1992, this document "addresses the pastoral implications and opportunities of the 1983 Code, attempts to explain the 1983 Code's significance for various aspects of pastoral ministry, and sketches in broad strokes the numerous ecclesiastical structures which pastoral ministers often encounter." This short book can be a helpful entry into the area of canon law for lay ministers.

Two resources published in 1995 by the National Pastoral Life Center (2l2-43l-7825) as Center Papers may also be helpful. The first, "Pastoral Coordinators & Canon Law, " by Sr. Sharon Euart RSM, explores the meaning of canon 517 and how it should be implemented in U.S. dioceses. The second, "Pastoral Coordinators: Parish Leadership without A Resident Pastor," gives a summary of practical experience from those involved in this scenario.

As Reprinted in Focus on FutureChurch; Winter, 1997-98, Vol. VI-No.1