Laymen acting as “subdeacon” at Mass in both the TLM and Novus Ordo

I think you readers can help flesh out a discussion of this interesting topic.

Can a layman substitute for a "subdeacon" at celebrations of the TLM and also in the Novus Ordo.

Keep in mind that Paul VI’s Ministeria quaedam says that the instituted acolyte assumes the liturgical roles of the subdeacon and that the 1983 Code of Canon Law says that instituted acolytes can be substituted by others who are not so instituted.

I have lot of practical experience with this issue.  However, having a discussion from several points of view could bring greater clarity.

Here is an e-mail which sparked this entry (edited).

You may be the only man in the world who can settle a dispute I’m having at the moment with a friend of mine. We live in ____ where the is one Mass in the Ordinary form celebrated by the ‘Latin Mass Chaplain’ each day. Most Sundays are Missa Cantatas but since New Year we have been fortunate to have a old parishoner back visiting who has just been ordained a deacon. I have been acting as subdeacon. I’m only a ‘lay clerk’ with no minor orders to speak off.

The discussion came up as to whether I should/could act as a subdeacon. I said I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing so and the conversation moved to whether a married man who acted as subdeacon (whether as a ‘lay clerk’ or a lector) in the past could act as subdeacon if only a priest and deacon were available.

So, there are a few issues. 

It seems entirely proper that an instituted acolyte can substitute for a subdeacon at a TLM and also fill the similar roles in the Novus Ordo. 

The law says that others can substitute for the instituted acolyte.   Supposedly that could include married men, or those who are not either seminarians or have any intention of formation for the priesthood. 

We will leave aside the issue of females filling those roles, which would be appalling in the TLM and at least ridiculous in the Novus Ordo. 

Let’s shed some light on this question. 

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Ian says:

    Before the instruction of Pope Paul IV it was common for a tonsured cleric to serve as a “straw” subdeacon. This is still common practice with the SSPX in their seminaries. There are a few rubrical changes that must be followed, but this was allowed before 1962.

    Only a cleric could serve this role, not a lawman or a man who was extraordinarily serving as an acolyte.

    It may be simply a sticky situation, but it would seem that there is already a pre-existing custom for the extraordinary use of clerics, so barring other clarifications the “instituted acolyte” should be interpreted in harmony with the custom. (That most certainly would mean no women as the is no possibility of them becoming clerics).

  2. TNCath says:

    Would that mean that a layman would don the sub-deacon’s dalmatic?

  3. Henry Edwards says:

    Father Z: We will leave aside the issue of females filling those roles, which would be apalling in the TLM and at least ridiculous in the Novus Ordo.

    Hmm … Might we not agree as a useful general principle that what is appalling in one form of the Roman rite is appalling in the other form as well?

  4. Daniel Muller says:

    I think that you have already answered the question, Father. Anyhow, I could add a couple of considerations.

    1. A layman has taken the place of a subdeacon at Anglican Use Masses. (Remember that the Latin Rite has three missals in current use, one of which is exclusively in English.)

    2. Most instituted acolytes are actually seminarians. Even today, I think that many seminary staff members would ridicule the “sexist” idea of a “subdeacon” in the “post-Vatican-II” Church. (Just consider how many American dioceses — one! — formally confer the ministries of lector and acolyte on non-seminarians.) Can you say “formation issue?”

  5. Pope Evaristus, Martyr says:

    A “straw” subdeacon can only be used in case of necessity. He does not wear the maniple or stole, but he does wear the subdeacon’s tunicle. I have known cases where traditional communities have allowed men who were not seminarians to do this, in case of necessity.

  6. Henry: We’ll leave that aside for this entry, I think.

  7. Evaristus: A “straw” subdeacon can only be used in case of necessity.

    Okay… who says they can be used?

  8. Romulus says:

    It is lawful, but personally I doubt its prudence. The lay faithful, not always well-informed about liturgical matters, place great reliance on visual cues, not least of which is the vested state of the subdeacon. A great many lay people will assume that any man vested in tunicle is a cleric, if not a priest. We must remember that the liturgy (especially the classical form) is crammed with symbolism, so that the smallest alterations create a risk of confusing the laity. Much confusion in the pews these days flows from a casual and sentimental lack of care for established form.

  9. Scott Smith says:

    Either a layman can or a layman cannot.

    Before Paul VI changed the rules, a cleric was a man who had been tonsured.

    Since that requirement to fulfill the subdeacon’s role by a cleric was abrogated, it would seem that in the absence of clerics a layman may fulfill the role of subdeacon.

    A question that would be interesting would be one that asks whether the rites of ordination to the minor orders have any real effect.

    If they do, what kind of effect do they have?

  10. Caeremoniarius says:

    The “old” law (SRC 4181) taught that only those who had received First Tonsure
    could (rationabili causa) act as Subdeacon without having actually received
    the order. In practice, I remember well my first week in the FSSP Seminary
    in Wigratzbad, when the chief Master of Ceremonies asked all of the newly
    arrived Americans (none of whom had received Tonsure), “Who knows how to serve
    Low Mass?” (show of hands), “Who has ever acted as M.C. at High or Solemn
    Mass?”, and finally, “Who has ever acted as Subdeacon?” (several hands went
    up). So at least at that time, the FSSP appears to have tolerated laymen
    acting as “Subdeacon” (of course, in the Seminary itself, only duly ordained
    men exercised that office). As to the legality of this practice at the present
    time, I don’t know; but the Ecclesia Dei Commission has let it be known that
    those who are not at least instituted acolytes should not act as “Subdeacon,”
    and that such acolytes are not to wear the maniple.

  11. malta says:

    Married men in suits have been assisting the elderly Priest at the traditional
    Latin Mass at San Miguel in Santa Fe, NM. Of course, they are acting as altar servers
    and not as a subdeacon. Ideally, of course, this role should be filled by those
    who might want to pursue the priesthood, but in the absence of such boys or young

    Here is an image of San Miguel.

    As an aside, the TLM just returned to San Miguel, which is arguably the oldest
    active Church in the U.S., certainly the oldest Catholic chapel. Thus, the oldest
    rite just returned to the oldest church, a church where the TLM was held for
    over 350 years.

  12. Pope Evaristus, Martyr says:

    pg 49 and pg 119 of “Ceremonies of the Roman Rite described” by Fortescue/O’conell give the rubrics for “straw” subdeacons — they cannot purify vessles, wear the maniple, etc.

    This book says that it can be done “for a reasonable cause”

    The book says that only one in minor orders (or at LEAST having the tonsure) can do this.

    My edition is from 1958, before the minor orders were suppressed, i don’t know if that makes any difference or not — seems to me that the straw subdeacon really should be in a seminary

  13. Pope Evaristus, Martyr says:

    “vessles” should read “vessels” above; sorry for any other errors

  14. Romulus says:

    Caeremoniarius, are you able to refer me to a document from Ecclesia Dei pertaining to the wearing of the maniple by an unordained subdeacon? Thanks!

  15. Caeremoniarius says:

    @ Romulus:

    Here\’s a link to a facsimile of the letter from Ecclesia Dei:

    @ malta:

    Any Catholic male old enough to do so becomingly (and able to do so
    becomingly) may serve Mass, whether in cassock and surplice or (as one
    sometimes sees in the UK) lay apparel.

  16. David Kubiak says:

    We are again reminded of Pope Paul’s disastrous presumption in abolishing
    the minor orders. God willing they will one day be restored.

    That said, I am all in favor of properly trained laymen acting as
    subdeacons, since otherwise many communities would be deprived of
    Solemn Mass. Most trad. apostolates are lucky to hunt up a Deacon of the
    Mass; if one needed a deacon or priest to act as subdeacon that would
    constitute an intolerable burden. I should say that the ‘straw’ subdeacons
    in our community all sing the proper tone for the Epistle or Lesson perfectly,
    which is more than I can say for many clergy I have suffered through in ‘recto

  17. Tomas Lopez says:

    Malta: You must mean on the *mainland* U.S. Here in Puerto Rico, over which fly the Stars and Stripes, we have churches older than that. In San Juan, there is a parish called San Jose whose church dates from 1523 and the Cathedral dates from 1540 (though substantially remodeled in the 17th and 19th centuries). In Coamo, there is the Church of San Blas which goes back to 1661 ( There are also some convents from the 16th century here on the island.

  18. Jeff Pinyan says:

    Can a layman substitute for a “subdeacon” at celebrations of the TLM and also in the Novus Ordo.

    What do you mean by a subdeacon in the Novus Ordo? The role does not exist. There is the acolyte that you referred to; is that the “equivalent”?

    What bothers me is that, by law, an instituted acolyte is permitted to purify the sacred vessels and is an ex officio extraordinary minister of Holy Communion. However, if a layman is substituting for the acolyte, surely that layman is not then permitted to purify the sacred vessels, is he? I mean, what’s stopping bishops and priests from taking “the easy way out” and having laymen continue to purify the sacred vessels in their stead?

    Just how much of the responsibilities and permissions are assumed when the role is substituted?

  19. Joshua says:

    Daniel Muller said “A layman has taken the place of a subdeacon at Anglican Use Masses. (Remember that the Latin Rite has three missals in current use, one of which is exclusively in English.)”

    Actually there are many more than 3. Take the Dominican Missale, or the Carmelite for instance

    That said, I have the 2003 Fortescue, O’Connell, and Reid. He takes this up. The old rule was that a cleric could substitute. A cleric was anyone who had received tonsure, which would be prior to even receiving porter. But now a cleric is a deacon or higher. Reid states that, in the modern system, an instituted acolyte or even a lector can fulfill the role, but not one without the instituted ministries. So a layman, but only one in at least a position as instituted lector. Thus Dom Reid

    IIRC the PCED said an instituted acolyte could do it. I think half of the difficulty would be because what a cleric is has been changed. Now I have been told on this site by another poster, so take this as what it is hearsay, that the PCED has said its previous decisions are null and void under the motu proprio…

    I think it would be clear that one in instituted ministry could act as subdeacon, with the changes of course (no maniple, or wiping the chalice), by analogy with the old minor orders. But I would consider it doubtful that a layperson without these ministries could substitute, and therefore such should be avoided to avoid scandal until a clear clarification

  20. Rafael Cresci says:

    What Romulus said can be easily refuted by giving in the example of the permanent deacons. They are ordained clerics who have the plenitude of the sacramental order of the deaconate, and are truly incorporated into the clergy, while keeping his married status (not going to enter the discussion on the validity of this, as the SSPX-friends may rise in their already known objections).

    Ministeria Quaedam from Paul VI did four things: 1) Extinguish all the minor orders completely, 2) Create two lay ministries with the same names and functions of their respective minor orders, 3) Attribute all the functions and prerogatives of the former subdeacon order, to the ministry of acolyte, 4) Shift the celibacy promises to the order of the Diaconate (and as said, may be omitted if the subject is being given the permanent diaconate), not anymore to the subdiaconate.

    So, based on this decree, we can say that since it wass published, every instituted acolyte can legally act as subdeacon, and the vow of celibacy (who basically divided the two orders) was not anymore the difference in practical terms: they are now both laymen with no vows.

    For traditional preferences, however, the restrictions placed by the SRC can still be applied also (not that they MUST be, they CAN be), so the acolyte can replace the subdeacon on a mass but without the maniple and without touching the vessels during the Canon – full details can be checked on Fortescue-O’Donnel, that, answering Fr. Z, quotes the laws that allow for substitute subdeacons in case there is no ordained one available.

    Besides, and also as said, the number of instituted acolytes that are non-seminarians is so small that the “odd” situations (subdeacon with wife) are very few, in fact, fewer than the married deacons. Why worry with the exceptions, in this case? It would be a barely noticeable case and not a harmful precedent to be opened, if opened along the lines of tradition (i.e., no women allowed).

    We would need an official interpretation of the intermingling of laws, from the part of the Holy See, for the substitution by non-instituted acolytes in an Ecclesia Dei situation, because it would be needed to have the boundaries defined in respect to: a) The validity of the extincted minor orders nowadays, did Summorum Pontificum or the prior Motu Proprios only regulate for the Mass and people sacraments, or did they also allow the former orders to be fully existent? In which scenarios, on the whole church or only valid inside Ecclesia Dei communities?, and b) Would be the usage of non-instituted acolytes, an abuse according to the old law, or acceptable according to the new law? Which should be applied? Interpret by tradition or by current novus ordo usage?

    Maybe this could be added on the near-to-come clarifications on SP that are “about to be published”?

    More confusing that it seems…

  21. Fr Renzo di Lorenzo says:

    The 1983 Code of Canon Law reflects a Novus Ordo mentality that, for all intents and purposes, neglects to take into account the 1962MR. That is simply an historical perspective of the 1983 Code. Because the MP broke into this situation, there are many issues like this which need fixing with the 1983 Code. No one was prepared for two forms of one rite at that time.

    I think it is a false question to discuss such details in the sense of effectively discussing whether one can make the 1983 Code do what it had no intention of doing. None of this was the intention of the legislator. Not in the least. Really. Historical fact. To make the 1983 code do what it had no intention of doing would be to promote a hermeneutic of discontinuity. To give it a chance by pushing for a legislative reexamination of the texts is to promote the hermeneutic of continuity.

    The 1983 Code must be updated to reflect the MP, that is, according to the mind of the legislator. The Holy Father himself now knows there are things he failed to mention for the reason that some things only came to light with the passage of these months and the reactions of many from whatever direction. This is the reason for the coming intervention of the PCED.

    Are we to suppose that PCED has the same capacity to posit legislative interpretation as the Pontifical Commission for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts? I\’m guessing the process will be long, and that PCED is being used to smoke out some of the rabbits from the rabbit holes so that those over at Legislative Texts can get a better grasp of the situation.

    In that sense, I suppose this discussion has some remote value. But really, only if it is kept in mind that the 1983 code really had no idea about two forms of one rite, and what that would mean in practical application. Ministeria quaedam… same thing.

    At least that\’s my take on it… Fr Z?

    I mean, really, if we step back from all of this, the MP SP did what usually takes a Council or many Councils to do. This is massively historical. We are only in the early stages!

    Thank God for Pope Benedict!

  22. Pope Evaristus, Martyr: “My edition is from 1958, before the minor orders were suppressed…”

    Joshua: Reid states that, in the modern system, an instituted acolyte or even a lector can fulfill the role, but not one without the instituted ministries…”

    Actually, the footnote goes a bit farther, stating that a “straw” subdeacon must have at least undergone Admission to Candidacy for either the priesthood or diaconate. Does this not precede actual admission to installed ministries of Lector and/or Acolyte?

    Be that as it may, it was not uncommon “back in the day” for a mature gentleman of the parish, such as the sacristan or even the janitor, to be pressed into service. It is also not uncommon now. It seems to me that this was a stretch of the rules that was sort of “winked” at by the mid-20th century. It goes without saying that they would not wear the maniple, nor perform certain other functions proper to the subdeacon.

    Personally, I hope the PCED allows for greater latitude here in the near future. Many places would simply be hard-pressed to ever have a Missa Solemnis for the lack of three bona fide clerics.


    I posed this question to the Ecclesia Dei Commission in 1992. The question and their decision are shewn at the above link.

    This subject has been discussed twice before on WDTPRS. Let’s not keep going over it.

    Thank you,


    PS Make sure you take a look around on my Blog whilst looking for subdeacons.

  24. Tony says:

    @ Rafael –

    “…the number of instituted acolytes that are non-seminarians is so small that the “odd” situations (subdeacon with wife) are very few, in fact, fewer than the married deacons.”

    All candidates for the permanent diaconate are instituted as acolytes one year before their ordinations, which comes to 10-15 per year in the Diocese of Camden, compared to 6-8 non-ordained major seminarians (who, I believe, are instituted at the beginning of their studies in theology). These men, the vast majority of whom are married, could serve as subdeacon.

  25. Pope Evaristus, Martyr says:

    “I am deleting comments that don’t go in the direction I need this entry to go.”

    What is that direction, Father?

  26. Rafael Cresci says:


    I meant for the non-candidate non-transitory-to-the-deaconate layman acolyte, exclusively. Not going to develop on this to stick on topic.

  27. Rafael Cresci says:

    Fr. Renzo,

    That is why I think there should be a particular interpretation of this situation by the PCED or by the PC for interpretation of legislative texts (PCED would already refer itself internally to the CDWDS and/or the legislative texts one). The 83 codex was not designed for dealing with this specific case, but in law there’s the analogical-proximity process for dealing with non-written code for novelties, so for example, when TV was invented, there were no laws to regulate it alone, but it had to follow radio regulations until the TV specific regulations were released.
    The issue now is: while the specific clarification or law does not show up, should we use the old law (that forbids lay acting as subdeacons), or the new law (that allows lay acting as acolytes and then as subdeacons)? Is this a case of conflicting laws (when it would be needed to follow the most restrictive one or apply can 28)? Or it is simply a case of an open question that needs clarification (canons 19-21)? Shall we keep an eye on can 1752?

  28. Annon. says:

    Fr. Z,

    The problem here is one of equivocation. We have two distinct definitions for a single word “acolyte” (the same goes for “lector” as well). Before the reforms of Paul VI, the terms “acolyte” and “lector” denoted minor ‘orders.’ Technically speaking, not only were lectors and acolytes not laymen back then, but laymen were not even eligible to receive these orders. Previously, a man had to have already been elevated to the clerical state (through First Tonsure) before he could be considered for holy orders of any kind.

    A clerical state devoid of orders is a foreign concept to us now. If you look at its description in the old Code, however, you will see that it was an enduring consecration of an individual (male) specifically for the sake of divine worship and service of the Church. It lasted the entire life of the person who received it. He could be easily laicized, but if rehabilitated, it was unnecessary (and actually forbidden) to re-tonsure him.

    But why have these people around? Why not just use laymen? Well, as you know there is a great stress in the usus antiquior on the idea of ‘consecration’ being requisite for anything associated with divine cult. And this attitude is very Biblical. The chalice and paten, for instance, had to be consecrated; ciboria and altars were blessed as were the vestments and linens. The language of offering (even for the readings) was non-vernacular Latin. [Even when Latin was still widely spoken, the Latin used in worship was idiosyncratic. That is, the ancient practice of the Church did not tolerate ‘dynamic equivalency’.] Flowing from this principle: even the people in the sanctuary needed to be consecrated; set aside from the ‘rest’ (i.e., the laity) for the service of God like the levites of the old dispensation. Hence, they were clerics. The historical exception to this (out of nearly universal necessity) was the use of altarboys. [Females could give the responses in a case of necessity, but were forbidden to enter the sanctuary during the Mass. This was true for all rites of the Church, east and west, Roman and Sarum.] Altarboys could not stand in for a man in major orders, however. The role of men in major orders was considered too close to the Sacrificial action to be appropriate for someone lacking consecration, even when necessity would suggest. That is why the Missa cantata (Sung Mass) developed from the Solemn High Mass. That is the standard demanded and anticipated by the usus antiquior itself.

    The modern use of the terms “acolyte” and “lector,” on the other hand, as defined in the 1983 Codex (and envisaged by the recentior Novus ordo Missae) are explicitly ‘lay’ ministries. The Latin Church (barring a few Institutes that have been granted special permission to continue to confer the minor clerical state, e.g., FSSP) no longer selects men for ordination from among clerics, but, rather, from the laity directly. The first order now usually received is that of deacon. Since this imprints an indelible mark upon the soul, the man is necessarily set aside from the laity by an everlasting consecration. Hence, deacons and priests are still clerics, even though the clerical state itself has been otherwise discontinued.

    Men who hold the lay ministries of lector and acolyte are by definition not clerics. Although the installation is reminiscent of the ordination ceremonies of the minor clerical state, it confers something different. Instituted acolytes and ordained acolytes (not to mention lectors) are two different birds. This was the ruling of the Congregation for the Clergy during the reign of Paul VI. As you can imagine, the issue arose from the situation that some men were still walking around ‘ordained’ and others ‘installed’ in the mid-70s. Were the ‘ordained’ men of the discontinued ‘minor clerical state’ still clerics? Yes. Were the installed lectors and acolytes? No.

    The Ecclesia Dei Commission (as we have seen) discourages the use of installed acolytes as straw subdeacons because they are laymen and, therefore, ultimately just glorified altarboys. It would be therefore, according to the ritual standards of 1962 (the terminus post quem assigned to the development of the extraordinary use by the Pope), a severe violation of the correct (and legitimate) expression of the usus antiquior Romanus to make use of one in that position. The term the Commission employs is one of “toleration,” which confirms that this is an abuse, but one that may be (temporarily?) overlooked because minor clerics (the only men actually eligible to act as ‘straw subdeacons’ according to the rite itself) are no longer available almost anywhere: something never foreseen. Remember, the Commission is charged with the task of ‘encouraging’ the spread of extraordinary use and they limited this toleration to ‘installed’ acolytes.

    A woman cannot, even now, be an installed acolyte. It would have been unthinkable in 1962 for a woman even to enter the sanctuary during Mass. If it is only tolerated by exception that an instituted acolyte (an albeit lay but nevertheless installed minister) be a straw subdeacon how can we seriously entertain the notion that any laymen or women especially could act as subdeacons? I find it ironic that somewhere along the course of our discussion we have completely lost sight of and rejected the authentic context for the correct interpretation of the extraordinary use (the norms and precedents of 1962) in favor of that of an adapted protestant liturgy, which is at best anachronistic and not Roman!

  29. Antoninus says:

    Apropos the concerns expressed above by ‘Annon’ [sic], I would agree with him that we appear to have drifted into using the OF dispensation as an interpretive tool in resolving this issue.

    Nevertheless, here in Australia, I understand there was a remit given to the Australian Bishops c.1958 to allow for the use of laymen as subdeacons (with the usual caveats, no maniple etc etc). It continues to be the practice here since the Ecclesia Dei Decree of 1988 – and there have been many laymen serving in that capacity at High Masses here since that time where no cleric was available to fulfil that role; although there has been a preference that a laymen at least be an acolyte, in many cases they have not been thus instituted.

    Notwithstanding this, the question remains, does the Motu Proprio effectively nullify all post-conciliar rulings (PCED)on this issue, or do pre-conciliar decisions, such as the 1958 remit to the Australian Bishops still prevail?

  30. There was no such 1958 permission for Australia as described by Antoninus: this is a fable.

    There was a 19th century decision of the Congregation of Rites which permitted Pontifical Mass at the Throne in the Archdiocese of Sydney to be celebrated without deacons-assistant. Over the years this decision (I can’t put my hands on it just now) morphed into a general permission for laymen to substitute for subdeacons. There never was any such permission.

    There was, however, in the 1960’s, permission given for a wider use of the “semi-solemn rite”, an extension of special form of the Easter Triduum celebrations, where the celebrant is only assisted by a deacon.

  31. Fr Renzo di Lorenzo says:

    Rafael Cresci,

    To use your analogy… in this case, the radio was understood to be, effectively, abolished, and was, therefore ignored entirely, including its regulations. Legislation was introduced as if there was no precedent. Benedict has reversed this 1983 “mind of the legislator” mindset entirely. The benefit is to be given to those for whom the benefit is being given.

    Some of the comments above, playing to the time now, before more definitive legislation can be had, are excellent. However, we have to realize that this is stop-gap. We’ll have to see what comes.

    What the PCED has stated must be followed for now, and that other argumentation must not seek to obfuscate what was the mind of the legislator in 1962 and what it was in 1983, forcing what was promulgated in 1983, with zero reference to 1962, to do what it was not designed to do. It seems that the mind of the legislator NOW is to give latitude to the mindset of the legislator in 1962 for the usage of the 1962MR today.

    Again, clarification is, obviously, needed desperately, as Fr Z has pointed out, not just on this issue, but on others which touch canon law, not only liturgical law.


  32. Annon said this:

    The term the Commission employs is one of “toleration,” which confirms that this is an abuse, but one that may be (temporarily?) overlooked because minor clerics (the only men actually eligible to act as ‘straw subdeacons’ according to the rite itself) are no longer available almost anywhere: something never foreseen. Remember, the Commission is charged with the task of ‘encouraging’ the spread of extraordinary use and they limited this toleration to ‘installed’ acolytes.

    As the person who posed this question in very carefully considered terms to the Commission in 1992, I feel compelled to completely disagree with your interpretation of “toleration”, as you have written (above). To write that they regard this substitution as an “abuse” is utterly incorrect.

    The law of the Church respecting minor orders has changed by “Ministeria Quaedam”. The Commission has permitted an acolyte to act in the liturgical role of subdeacon. Maybe acolytes are not ordained, but they do have an ancient Office conferred on them by a bishop.

    Is all of that so hard to accept as legitimate?

  33. It’s a question whether transitivity holds for this case. “A” can substitute “B”, and “B” can substitute “C”. Can “A” substitute “C”? It’s not math, it’s liturgy.

  34. Jeff says:


    I’ll simple have to disagree with your logic when it comes to saying that fundamentally the office of acolyte is different before the council than after. Both were offices conferred by the Church, as the structure of the Mass has evolved on the centuries as does the function of those who assist in the celebration of the Mass.

    Personally I think the decision of the PCED stand unless they are in conflict with more recently legislation, in which case the encompassing phrase, “anything to the contrary notwithstanding” which gives the newer document the authoritative position. From this I think we can assume that decision of the PCED stands in regards to instituted acolytes acting as subdeacons, and I think that this is in conformity in how the Church views to the role of institutes acolytes, which took over many of the rolls of the subdeacon. Remember the subdeacon was included in the rubrics of the GIRM when the Mass was first revised, until the subdiaconate was supressed in 1972.

    I seem to recall an opinion issued by a well informed canon law, who pointed out that when making the Missal of 1962 the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite, those provisions of law which governed the celebration of Mass in the 1962 and were in force at the time were also to be considered in force at the time, I wish I could find the link. This would certainly settle many questions that have arisen.

    1962 Missal does not exist in a vacuum, it exists in a Church governed by the 1983 CIC, yet some of the things required by the 1962 Missal are no longer required or no longer exist in the Church. It is interesting to note the Summorum Pontificum is a document with legistlative force, and it concludes with the words, “whatever there may be to the contrary.” Thus if there is anything existing in current Church law that prevents the provision of the MP to be put info effect that no longer have force, at least in this particular case, and I think this would include the CIC.

  35. As the Australian friend of the young man who posed the question, may I add my two-pennorth? He was arguing — inter alia — that subdeacons couldn’t be married laymen. I objected that being married didn’t preclude ex-Anglican now Latin priests or married permanent deacons from liturgical participation in EF high masses and to apply a harsher test to an abolished order, the subdiaconate, was unreasonable.

  36. Flambeaux says:

    Anyone know a friendly bishop who would submit a Dubium on the question to the competent authority?

  37. Fr Renzo di Lorenzo says:

    Firstly, let’s see you write the dubium.

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