France: Conference by cardinal Medina in Paris

Source: FSSPX News


To commemorate the one hundredth anniversary of the Motu proprio Tra le Sollecitudini by pope St. Pius X, dated November 22, 1903, on sacred music, cardinal Jorge Medina Estevez, emeritus prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, was in Paris on November 22, where he celebrated a Mass according to the rite of St. Pius V, in the parish church of St. Eugene and St. Cecilia.

In the afternoon, he gave a conference on participation in divine worship, during the course of which his audience heard, not without some surprise, the following remarks:

• It is up to the diocesan bishop to authorize women and girls to exercise this ministry (that of acolyte or altar server), in exceptional circumstances, bearing in mind the preference traditionally accorded by the Church to men and boys (…)

• The lack of ordained ministers for the distribution of Holy Communion justifies the service of extraordinary ministers for the distribution of the Holy Eucharist. These ministers may either be constituted on a semi-permanent basis, or called on in unforeseen circumstances. It is a matter of a supply ministry, and in no way is it a type of "promotion" of the laity. (…)

• The insufficient number of priests and deacons for the celebration of the sacrament of baptism may lead the bishop to authorize members of the laity to be extraordinary ministers of this sacrament (cf. Code of canon law, can. 203 §3). (…)

• For the same reason, the bishop may designate members of the laity as qualified witnesses for the canonical celebration of marriage. Canon 1112 requires a favorable opinion from the Bishops’ Conference and authorization from the Holy See. In France, such a possibility of the delegation of lay people does not exist.

• He can also give authorization to lay people to preside over Sunday worship, in the absence of the priest (can. 1248 § 2; Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship, Directory of Sunday celebrations in the absence of priests Christi Ecclesia, June 100 1988, Preliminaries, cf. Notitiæ 263 (1988) 366-378). (…)

• Finally, he may allow lay people to preside over funerals (cf. Ordo Exsequiarum, prænotanda, n. 19). The Interdicastic Instruction Ecclesiæ de mysterio, of August 15 1997 (Practical Dispositions, art. 12) says that such a possibility exists solely in the case of a real lack of ordained ministers. (…)

• It is appropriate to insist, once again that supply ministers may be called on, exclusively in the absence of ordained ministers, or when the latter are not in sufficient number to carry a service through to successful conclusion in a reasonable time. It is, therefore, imperative to have fresh in one’s mind, the Interdicastic Instruction Ecclesiæ de mysterio on the collaboration of the lay faithful in the ministry of priests, of August 15 1997 (AAS 89, 1997) 852-877.

So then, cardinal Medina has recalled all the authorizations that bishops may grant to the laity in the administration of the Sacraments, contenting himself with merely indicating the restrictions, which it is necessary to observe according to the "spirit of the Interdicastic Instruction Ecclesiæ de mysterio on the collaboration of the laity in the ministry of priests". It ensues from this that these supply ministers are perfectly legitimate (and even de facto legitimated by the absence or shortage of priests) and only the abuses must be suppressed. In other words: liturgical reform allegro ma non troppo. Was it in that spirit, that the disciplinary norms on the Eucharist, announced by John-Paul II in his encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia were drafted?