NCR: the ban on lay preaching Archd. St. Paul & Minneaapolis

This is interesting.

Take a look at this piece from the ultra-lefty National Catholic Reporter.

My emphases and comments.

Lay Ministries: Minnesota parishes tussle with impending ban on lay preaching

By KRIS BERGGREN, Minneapolis

Publication date:  June 13, 2008

An archbishop’s recent order to end lay preaching in the St. Paul-Minneapolis archdiocese has brought a deep sense of loss to Catholics who believe in the practice and the theology behind it. In some parishes, lay leaders are seeking ways to register their disagreement with the new ban or to keep lay voices alive despite it[Okay… right off the bat we have a stress on feelings and personal " belief" that clashes with the Church’s law and teaching.]

And some people are voting with their feet and finding other places to worship.  [Where?  If this is for the whole Archdiocese, they are going outside the diocese or to non-Catholic churches?]

Archbishop Harry Flynn sent the letter in January to all archdiocesan pastors instructing them to end lectionary-based liturgical lay preaching by May 2, his retirement date, calling such preaching a “liturgical abuse.”  [He was trying to clear the deck for the new Archbishop.] While Canon 766 of the 1983 revised Code of Canon Law states that lay preaching may be permitted when deemed useful  [Apparently the Archbishop did not deem it useful.] or necessary according to norms developed by episcopal conferences, Flynn’s directive appears to be guided by the restrictions in the 2004 Vatican instructional document Redemptionis Sacramentum, which narrows the criteria for allowing lay preaching only to accommodate a scarcity of priests or the needs of a specific community.  [Yes… we do have to pay attention to Redemptionis Sacramentum.]

Some 29 parishes  [Good grief!  Do they have General Absolution in those places too?] here are affected by the ban. Some offered formal ministry training and formation for lay preachers, while others offered informal support and resources.

The targeting [Interesting choice of words.  It makes the Archbishop seem like the enemy and the lay preachers victims.] of lay voices deeply disturbs Patricia Hughes Baumer who, with her husband, runs Partners in Preaching, an Eden Prairie, Minn., organization that has trained 500 lay preachers here and in five other dioceses since 1997.

[Lay preaching] isn’t an abuse now and it wasn’t even by constructionist standards,” said Baumer, who believes the ban ignores “the direction of canon law” away from prohibition and toward authorization of lay preaching since Vatican II.  [GREAT!  Patty doesn’t think its an abuse.  But Patricia doesn’t get to make that decision, does she?  She has decided first that there is a new "direction" or vector hinted at in Canon Law, that is to say that down the line sometime Canon Law will permit lay preaching.  That is her dreamy opinion.  Maybe she is right.  Maybe she isn’t.  But the fact is that the present Code not only says what it says, but there are other documents governing liturgical life that may not be ignored.  I am also pretty sure this will make a dent in her budget.]

Some have speculated that Flynn was cleaning house for his successor. [Of course he was.  He knew what the new man would do about it and took some of the heat off of him ahead of time.  A good thing to do.]

Baumer said, “It was widely anticipated that Archbishop [John] Nienstedt would not be open to the continuation of [lay preaching] and that Archbishop Flynn made the request so that parishes could attempt to respond with grace, that it was not going to be an immediate termination, [which] would be experienced as far more harsh. [Look how she paints the new Archbishop.] Clearly, if you believe something is an abuse, you don’t give people four months to terminate it.

Bishops can and do interpret instructional documents and episcopal norms differently, said Passionist Sr. Elissa Rinere, a canon lawyer. “The fact that it can change easily is the nature of the system.” It is important to understand how that system works, she said. For example, instructional documents such as Redemptionis Sacramentum may well inform a bishop’s decision-making but should not supersede canon law itself.   [She pits the documents against each other.]

In a 2006 article for Preach magazine, Rinere called the language on lay preaching in the instruction “chilling.”  [Oooooo!] She explained that the instruction not only lacks the legislative standing to trump existing canon law or episcopal norms, but contains discrepancies in wording compared with the canon’s text. Rinere wrote: “The instruction cites the canon as saying ‘Laypeople may preach outside Mass in churches or oratories (161).’ Canon 766 does not contain the words ‘outside Mass.’ ”

Catholics who support lay preaching have expressed dismay, even grief, at the ban.

“I just feel as if somebody stole my church,” said Miriam Meyers, a retired professor of linguistics and a longtime member of St. Stephen Parish in Minneapolis, which has involved lay preachers for almost two decades. “I think the loss [of lay preaching] is profound and really rather devastating.”

Mary Wilmes, also of St. Stephen, resents the effective silencing of the voices of women and gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people[Thanks be to God!] As the unofficial archivist at St. Stephen, she has collected 336 sermons, which she e-mails to parishioners who request them.

“Different things appeal to different people,” Wilmes said.  “When you have a range [of preachers], you are going to be touched more than you will ever be touched by one preacher. Many parts, one body, isn’t it? It is an incredible richness.”  [Or great confusion, depending on what is being preached.  I am forced, unpleasantly, to wonder what they were preaching, these "gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people".]

Frank Schweigert of St. Frances Cabrini in Minneapolis spoke emotionally [Lot’s of emotion so far to supplement the opposition to the Church’s law and the local Archbishop.] about the importance of lay preaching in setting an example of living with faith for other laypeople, especially “in a formative way for boys and girls. It did a lot to enhance ecclesial understanding of what it means to be a baptized Christian.”

Parishes are wrestling with how to comply yet retain lay presence and perspective. A typical solution is to schedule the lay preacher before Mass.   [And then we can implement Summorum Pontificum in those parishes and see what happens.]

St. Joan of Arc [One of the strangest parishes in the USA.  Remember this?] changed its preaching model well before Flynn’s letter, said associate pastor Fr. Jim Cassidy. Formerly, lay preachers spoke after the Gospel. Now they’re scheduled before Mass. The priest preaches a homily. The advantage to the community, Cassidy said, “besides wanting to respect the guidelines of the liturgy,” is that the two often complement each other. “It is a win-win situation.”

Others find two speakers unwieldy. Staff liturgist Chris Kosowski at St. Frances Cabrini said laypeople have preached for some four decades with the “invitation, encouragement and support of pastors. We have had a feeling of mutuality between lay and clergy.” Parishioners feel various proposals to keep lay preaching in different ways have shortcomings, said Kosowski. “The proposals we have to consider place [clergy and laypeople] on different planes. [You see, this is really about eliminating the Catholic distinction of ordained priesthood and the priesthood of the baptized.] There’s the sense of not wanting two ‘homilies’ in one Mass. And just the feeling of how can something that was OK, allowed by canon law since 1983, all of a sudden not be OK?”   [Right.  Let’s ask these people if it was right to virtually supress the older form of Mass.]

St. Joseph Parish in suburban New Hope will schedule its usual rotation of lay preachers before Mass but they will not vest or process, said Martha Blenkush, a lay preacher and a board member of Partners in Preaching. “[We’ll be] pointing to the readings rather than referring to them. [?] It’s outside of Mass but still allows for diversity of voices, [bzzzz   This is the common theme.] which we think to be important.”

Lay preachers are important in parishes without a resident priest, and where members and pastor aren’t fluent in the same language, advocates of lay preaching say.

“People have the right to have the Gospel proclaimed and hear the word preached in a language they can understand,” said Blenkush.  [Hmmm… ]

Spanish-speaking lay preachers have been active in the St. Paul-Minneapolis archdiocese for about six years.

Wilmes has decided to worship with a breakaway group from St. Stephen that retains ties with the parish but has arranged for offsite worship space on Sunday mornings. She’s joined by at least 100 parishioners who feel similarly, including Miriam Meyers.

Others aren’t taking the order lightly, either: One parish council is considering its finance committee’s request to withhold 10 percent of the parish assessment to the archdiocese until lay preaching is restored, according to a lay preacher at that parish.   [Oh my.  I think I wouldn’t want to test Archbp. Nienstedt that way.]

Even as they await unwelcome changes, many advocates of lay preaching are grateful for the opportunities they’ve enjoyed. Art Zannoni, a lay preacher at St. Cecilia Parish in St. Paul, [and signer of the infamous pro-abortion ad in the NYT many years ago.] said, “We chose as a parish to thank Archbishop Flynn for allowing [lay preaching] the number of years he did.”  [A far more gracious response than the others.]

Partners in Preaching will continue to offer training. Its board has commissioned Baumer to work on a book documenting the impact of lay preaching on the Catholic church. She said, “We will continue to advocate for diversity of voices, believing it really is a need of God’s people.”

Kris Berggren writes from Minneapolis.

National Catholic Reporter June 13, 2008

A couple things.

First, there is issues of law, which perhaps our canonists con comment on. 

Remember when dealing with people or arguments like those presented here that at times you simply must reject the premise.  For example, above we read: "the importance of lay preaching in setting an example…".  I think we can simply reject the premise.  I am not convinced that lay preaching is important in most of the places mentioned in this article.  I can see that it might be in the case where a non-Hmong speaking priest is assigned to the Hmong personal parish.  But in that case, the person should probably work with the priest to translate his sermon and make adjustments for cultural peculiarities. 

Secondly, note the phrase "diversity of voices".  Not "a diversity", just "diversity".  Why do liberals hate articles, anyway?  They talk about "Church" and not "the Church".  This "diversity of voices" is a buzz phrase they have had instilled into them probably by their trainer(s) and workshops.  Tell me this isn’t ideological.

Also, note the hyper-exaltation of feeling.  Feelings trump everything – law, reason, tradition – everything.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Garrett says:

    Well, honestly, why does the 1983 Code allow lay preaching in any circumstance? It seems to me these flimsy rules and allowances are part of the problem. We can see that these dissenters use the more liberal approach to lay preaching allowed by the 1983 Code to their advantage, however much they twist the actual meaning (and it’s clear they do).

    But, you know, “give someone and inch and he takes a mile.” The hierarchy would be wise to consider that in the future.

  2. Mike says:

    Note also their concern with acting like true baptized Christians. I truly believe that they seek to minimize what it means to be Catholic.

  3. Scott W. says:

    “Also, note the hyper-exaltation of feeling.”

    It’s no mystery. Feelings in this context are therapy-speak. And modern societies’ love affair with therapy makes sense because it is all about the self.

  4. Dave says:

    Why can’t they form a chapter of the Catholic Evidence Guild if they want to preach so badly? Oh, that would require learning what the Church actually teaches…

  5. Sacramento Mom says:

    Why do dissenters of this flavor always lump Women into their statements like this: “silencing of the voices of women and gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.”
    We women do not appreciate being lumped together for your slanted agenda. We are called to a much higher calling than that, and quite frankly think it is an evil slanted agenda at that. To try to dupe women into lies that deny thier true dignity, just as they are trying to deny the dignity of the human body by promoting gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people’s lifestyle is an especially evil and slated agenda authored by satan. It create disobedience, disorer, chaos and confusion. Anything to get you far away from or to question actual Truth.
    Please, stop using “women” this way, it is disgusting and degrading.
    Maybe I’m wasting my breath as they are probably not going to employ reason anytime soon.

  6. Sacramento Mom says:

    Oops I’m so sorry I forgot a much needed Thank you.
    Thank you Father Z for this staement: [Or great confusion, depending on what is being preached. I am forced, unpleasantly, to wonder what they were preaching, these “gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people”.] and for taking women out of that group. It is VERY much appreciated.

  7. Mark says:

    “Wilmes has decided to worship with a breakaway group from St. Stephen that retains ties with the parish but has arranged for offsite worship space on Sunday mornings.”

    I wonder if this is in addition to attending Mass, instead of? Surely they wouldn’t choose the “offsite worship” over the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass?

  8. Another Tom says:

    Scheduling lay preachers before Mass means that the people can sleep a little later and not get to church until after the lay preacher finishes.

  9. TJM says:

    I have a practical concern with lay preaching. By virtue of ordination, a priest or deacon is presumed to have the competence to preach. Perhaps lay
    preachers need to pass a test with the bishop in order to preach (hey, don’t some bishops require a test for a priest to celebrate the TLM?). Yes,
    a test would be “fair.” Tom

  10. Johnny Domer says:

    There seems to be a premise throughout this article that Canon Law allows lay preaching during Mass, and that big mean ol’ Redemptionis Sacramentum doesn’t. Well, this is bunk. Here are the quotes:

    Can. 766 Lay persons can be permitted to preach in a church or oratory, if necessity requires it in certain circumstances or it seems advantageous in particular cases, according to the prescripts of the conference of bishops and without prejudice to ? can. 767, §1.

    Can. 767 §1. Among the forms of preaching, the homily, which is part of the liturgy itself and is reserved to a priest or deacon, is preeminent; in the homily the mysteries of faith and the norms of Christian life are to be explained from the sacred text during the course of the liturgical year.

    §2. A homily must be given at all Masses on Sundays and holy days of obligation which are celebrated with a congregation, and it cannot be omitted except for a grave cause.

    §3. It is strongly recommended that if there is a sufficient congregation, a homily is to be given even at Masses celebrated during the week, especially during the time of Advent and Lent or on the occasion of some feast day or a sorrowful event.

    §4. It is for the pastor or rector of a church to take care that these prescripts are observed conscientiously.

    Redemptionis Sacramentum 161:
    [161.] As was already noted above, the homily on account of its importance and its nature is reserved to the Priest or Deacon during Mass.[260] As regards other forms of preaching, if necessity demands it in particular circumstances, or if usefulness suggests it in special cases, lay members of Christ’s faithful may be allowed to preach in a church or in an oratory outside Mass in accordance with the norm of law.[261] This may be done only on account of a scarcity of sacred ministers in certain places, in order to meet the need, and it may not be transformed from an exceptional measure into an ordinary practice, nor may it be understood as an authentic form of the advancement of the laity.[262] All must remember besides that the faculty for giving such permission belongs to the local Ordinary, and this as regards individual instances; this permission is not the competence of anyone else, even if they are Priests or Deacons.

    Here’s a 2002 clarification from the USCCB, given a recognitio by the Congregation of Bishops, on Canon 766:

    I’d say all three of these seem to be in perfect harmony with each other. The clarification from the USCCB makes it clear that lay preaching ONLY OUTSIDE OF MASS can be allowed in specific cases where it is to the advantage of the faithful. All of them say lay preaching at the homily is outlawed.

  11. Paul says:

    It does all sound very protestant to me. Maybe someone should inform them that even though the homily, when preached by someone ordained not only to administer the sacraments to but also teach God\’s people, is useful, it is not the principle reason why we go to Mass.

  12. Chironomo says:

    Consider the significant irony that the liberal/ progressives have to say their Mass off-site so that they can worship as they see fit. Hmm…

  13. Bob says:

    Sr Elissa seems a bit of a disingenuous canon lawyer. It is true that c.766 simply allows lay people to preach in certain circumstances and doesn’t actually state “outside Mass”. C. 766 does however finish “without prejudice to c.767~1”. that canon states that “the homily, which is part of the liturgy itself … is reserved to a priest or deacon.

    Canon 767~1 clearly prohibits lay people from preaching the homily at Mass. They can preach on other occasions where suitable (e.g. children’s liturgy, talks for speakers of other languages, during devotions, appeals etc.). This can be outside Mass or during Mass but not instead of the homily rather as well as it.

  14. Neil, Cambridge UK says:

    Fr. Z – I suspect that “liberals” hate articles since they suggest a difference between the “definite” and the “indefinite”. I shouldn’t have put it past some of them to have thought that through as part of their ongoing effort to get paid by other people for being destructive.
    The word “diversity” which sounds lovely, is a euphemism for “chaos” which is surely diabolical.

  15. B Knotts says:

    I’m no expert, but it seems to me that there is a common theme in many of the documents produced in the period between 1965-1990 or so. They include a great deal of vagueness, allowing those who wish to significant leverage with which they can (mis)interpret the documents to say what it is they wish it to say.

    It has been twenty-five years since the 1983 Canon Law was promulgated. Perhaps it is time for an updated version. In particular, one that removes almost every instance of this:

    according to norms developed by episcopal conferences

    which seems to be the source of many problems in the Church today.

  16. RBrown says:

    Reading the article brought two thoughts to mind.

    First, it’s going to take some time for the archdiocese to recover from 20 years of Archbishop Roach, the man who took the phrase “running into the 7-11” literally.

    Second, as JRatzinger has mentioned, it might be time for some pruning in the Church.

  17. Carthusian says:

    Why do dissenters of this flavor always lump Women into their statements like this: “silencing of the voices of women and gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.”
    Sacramento Mom

    There are people in each of these groups that would not agree with the dissenters. There sweeping over generalizations would get them a repeat year in the school of Logic 101

  18. Perhaps we have gotten off the mark here. I think that questions of the “looseness” of 20th century Canon Law overlook the fact that the Church’s official directives have been pretty well crafted. The problem has been with individual bishops assuming authority they do not have (for whatever reasons). In the current issue, the Church has stated that the homily can only be offered by the clergy, in keeping with its long tradiion that unschooled laymen may not interpret Sacred Scripture. And, as Mr Domer points out, Canon 767.1 makes it very clear that the homily can only be preached by an ordained deacon or priest (…homilia, quae est pars ipsius liturgiae et sacerdoti aut diacono reservatur). There is no room here for the local ordinary to overide what the Canon defintively states.

    As for those interviewed in this article, they are for the most part very good examples of why the Church is careful not to admit lay preachers to the pulpit. Sister Elissa apparently can handle reading only one Canon in a sitting and Mr Kosowski (“And just the feeling of how can something that was OK, allowed by canon law since 1983, all of a sudden not be OK?”) seems incapable of basic critical thinking.

    I apologize if I am being truculent. I have had to deal with “lay preaching” of all types in the same archdiocese for a quarter century. I will rejoice when the big screen TV, used for “meaningful homilies” (complete with titles and running credits) is tossed in the dustbin.

  19. JJ says:

    Mr. Domer rightly points out that lay preaching at Mass is prohibited by canon law, and RS simply emphazizes this point. Might I add too that several years before, there was an intruction on certain matters pertaining to the collaboration of the lay faithful which clarified the nature of preaching at Mass — that it is reserved to the priest or deacon– and that instruction was approved in forma specifica by the Holy Father.

    Theologically, Vatican II emphasized the ministry of preaching is of first rank in the priest’s ministry. Priests are ‘ordered’ to preach the word. It is an essential aspect of the priestly ministry. SC also emphasizes that each person should do that and only that which pertains to their ministry. I would therefore suggest that the reservation of the homily to the priest and deacon is in fact a “Vatican II” principle.

  20. Irenaeus says:

    Diversity. Whoever coined that word and concept should have been tied in a sack with seven rabid cats and flung into the sea after having been forced to listen to Pat Boone’s heavy metal album.

  21. RBrown said”Reading the article brought two thoughts to mind.”

    It only brought one thought to my mind after I fought from barfing all over the place. My thought was, “It is a good thing that I am not God because I would have flushed this toilet a long time ago!”

    Isn’t God good? He is patiently waiting for people to “get it”. We need to call in the Tidy Bowl Man though. A little clean up wouldn’t hurt.

  22. JPG says:

    the priest acts in persona Christi. End of discussion.
    The deacon preaches at the behest of the bishop. Recall St Francis accepted ordination as a deacon only so he could preach at Mass.
    I do not want to be a priest. I want my priest to be a priest.
    priest. I do not trust a layman to preach no matter how qualified.
    I wonder if those turkeys read the rest of Redemptiones Sacramentum and stopped the rest of their abuses?

  23. Matthew Mattingly says:

    Why don’t all these pro-lay preachers just become Protestants?
    It would save the Church alot of trouble.
    After all, by their comments it’s obvious that they are not really faithfully Catholic anyway.

  24. Trey says:

    “women and gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people”

    Wouldn’t these people need to have proper belief and style of life
    (orthodoxy and orthopraxy?)I thought that was nec. just to be a lector
    or an altar server. I’m sure they’re checking into this for the homilists

    “Partners in Preaching” Barf! All these consultant types that don’t have real
    jobs. Do you think these people learn anything in these “classes?”

    From my exp. these classes are for everyone to “share” and also complain about the “pre-Vatican II” church. (While being lectured to by a person in an “irregular” lifestyle.)

    (Once, we had to walk around the room, while being supervised by a
    sandalista, and “experience” items placed “artfully” around the room as a “prayer.” Stuff
    like a quote from a Psalm, a picture of people holding hands, a child, etc. All
    while listening to some hippy folk song with half the words in Spanish. Yick.)

    I’m allergic to this whole genre. All this lay ministry stuff is just so 70’s. (Not that it has to be / should be it just is…)

  25. Richard says:

    Canon 766 states that “lay persons CAN BE PERMITTED to preach”. Whether or not they preach in contingent upon whether or not they are PERMITTED. It appears as if the archbishop isn’t permitting them, doesn’t it?

    Secondly, when it states that lay persons can BE PERMITTED to preach in churches, it does not say expressly during the liturgy. One can easily envision a large Bible study or a like kind of talk being led in a church by a lay person. Fine. Canon 766 refers without prejudice to Canon 767, which identifies the homily as a preeminent form among different forms of preaching, stating that it’s reserved to the function priests and deacons. It also states that the homily is part of the liturgy. So, Canon Law itself points out that their are different forms of preaching and implies that other types of preaching may take place outside the liturgy. If the homily, which is part of the liturgy, is reserved for the function of deacons and priests, then those forms of preaching which lay persons can BE PERMITTED to perform in churches, according to the Code, may very well be outside the liturgy. (The Code also implies that any other type of preaching during the liturgy beside the homily would not be part of liturgy. But, I bet these folks wouldn’t be making a sign of the cross before and after such preaching, don’t you?)

    So if people are going to cite the Code as expressly permitting lay persons’ preaching during the liturgy, they are working from a presumption which is not in the Code. And, if they work from the assumption that the type of preaching which lay persons CAN BE PERMITTED to perform can only be that during the liturgy, this is also not what the Code provides.

    The archbishop is not PERMITTING lay people to preach. So, lay persons are acting against Canon Law by preaching in the archdiocese. Ironically, if they then try to pit the Code against Redemptionis Sacramentum by saying the Code is more authoritative, they purport themselves as being the real final authority in the manner, using Canon Law to support their case and acting against it simultaneously. Second, these folks are most likely trying to use the Code as expressly permitting lay people to preach during the liturgy, which is also not provided by Code 766. They seem to have recourse to Canon Law only when it suits them to twist it to their purpose.

  26. Sid Cundiff says:

    Maybe these lay preachers would be happier in an Quaker Meeting — an independent Quaker Meeting, for regular Friends have clerical preachers.

    Let me put another twist on this matter. There is absolutely nothing wrong with any Catholic telling another human being about his Catholic Faith. Indeed, “missionary activity” isn’t just done far across the deep blue sea. I happen to live in a part of the US of A (North Carolina) where people, esp. Evangelicals, gladly talk about their faith, some of whom also wish to know about the Catholic Faith, about which they very often have extreme misunderstandings. And such souls aren’t likely to be talking with Catholic Clergy, or present at Mass, but rather with laity and outside of church. Yet the point is where this is to be done. Catholics should be willing to discuss The Faith, even in a gentle hortatory manner — always respectful of the other person’s own faith and his personal dignity — in businesses, offices, factories, stores, bars, cocktail parties, baseball games — everywhere except at Mass, where an ordained clergyman preaches. So maybe these lay preachers, assuming that it is really The Holy Faith that they are preaching, might want to get out of the sanctuary and hit the streets.

    And we now need the Leonine prayers for the conversion of …. AMERICA!

    Another twist. People need to see the ordained clergyman preach, and preach from the pulpit, and preach after the Lesson from the Bible, because they need to see that what’s being preached isn’t the ordained preacher personal opinion, but that The Word is coming from a certain authoritative Source. Then if they don’t like what they hear, the proper response isn’t to fire the preacher (typical sadly among some denominations) or complain to the Bishop, but rather to turn in their Baptismal Certificates, because their quarrel is with Another.

  27. Corripe Cervisiam says:

    “I just feel as if somebody stole my church,” said Miriam Meyers


    Yeah, and thanks to the aberrations of the 70’s and continued liturgical abuses a whole group of us feel that some whackos stole our church! And yeah, guess what? We could only put up with it so long and are now taking our church back! Thanks to Benedict and his Marshal Plan that day will come sooner than we could have hoped for!

  28. Corripe Cervisiam says:

    I think this article only proves what our Lord told us about in regards to the wailing and gnashing of teeth.

  29. Jeff Pinyan says:

    I don’t mean to sound like a dunce, but what is the definition of the phrase “without prejudice to”? I feel like I’ve seen it in contexts where it means ONE thing, and in contexts where it means its OPPOSITE.

    If can. 766 & 767 do in fact prohibit lay preaching of the homily, then “without prejudice to” means “while respecting”, right?

  30. Kristen says:

    I cannot seem to make the St.Joan of Arc link work…

  31. Chris says:

    quote: “I just feel as if somebody stole my church,” said Miriam Meyers…

    HHHmmmm……you know what, Miriam? It’s not “your” church!
    I found that statement particularly bizarre.
    I had lots of other thoughts on this but I will simply say that I recently added St. Stephen and St Joan of Arc parishes to my daily prayer intentions. They seem to be very, very lost…

  32. All: What’s really sad in all this is that these brothers and sisters in Christ were permitted by the Chancery to have lay preaching for, oh, 3 decades. Of course, they are upset and reeling and confused, they were taught, indirectly, that it was fine by both the Chancery’s silence on the matter and the fact that they knew other parishes in town were doing it too. Now, they feel that the rug has been pulled out under them and, it’s not an act, they really don’t know why.

    Many of these people have been very poorly catechized. Many have absolutely, not the slightest clue as to why they are now being told they can’t do what they have been doing. They don’t read the Catachism, much less the actual documents coming from the Vatican or the USCCB. Really, it’s more than just reading documents anyway, isn’t it? There’s the entire intricate relationship among all the Church’s teachings that needs to be relayed too. It’s not enough to just say: “Here, read this and do what it says”

    I know, because I’ve lived in the Archdiocese of St. Paul/Minneapolis for most of my life and I used to be a member of some of the parishes listed here.

    This is the time for serious, yet compassionate, outreach to these brothers and sisters or they will be lost forever.

    Online Catholic media was instrumental in my reversion. We need to pray and help these brothers and sisters when and where we can. Being rude and judgemental and assuming they should just know this stuff because you do will get us nowhere. They will just circle their wagons even tighter.

  33. Neil, Cambridge UK says:

    The Church is the Church. No one can be robbed of it. While the sacraments are there for us, Christ is with us. And He shall be with us until the End of Time. He has promised us that. So let us rejoice.

  34. Nick says:

    I don’t know about you folks, but I sin a lot and so I seek the advice of priests or deacons who are spiritual physicians by training and grace of ordination.

    In the same manner when I am physically sick I go to a physician who has the training and licensing in medicine for advice and hopefully a cure. I do not expect to be treated by the receptionist…

  35. Jeff Pinyan says:

    There’s a bigger problem here. I’m reading the comments on the NCR article; there is serious deficiency in genuine Catholic catechesis. People just don’t know what the Mass is, what the Eucharist is, what a priest is, what ordinary vs. extraordinary means:

    What I wonder is, if the mass is already so rigidly structured, why does it have to be a priest who reads it? What is it that the priest has, other than his title, that makes his reading of the mass different from that of a qualified lay minister? My understanding is that it is the unity of the Holy Spirit in and through those present that creates the blessing of the mass. The priest’s role is that of facilitator. As far as communion, the church has already approved the administration of communion by qualified lay ministers. Granted a priest has to perform the blessing, however, is there any reason a priest traveling a circuit couldnt bless the eucharist ahead of time for future use?

    I’ve responded — who knows if they’ll accept my comment or not — with this:


    What is it that the priest has…

    The priest is ordained; he has received the sacrament of Holy Orders, so he has an indelible mark on his person: “This sacrament configures the recipient to Christ by a special grace of the Holy Spirit, so that he may serve as Christ’s instrument for his Church. By ordination one is enabled to act as a representative of Christ, Head of the Church, in his triple office of priest, prophet, and king.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church #1581). He has the ministerial priesthood, which is different in essence from the baptismal (or “royal”) priesthood of believers. See the Catechism of the Catholic Church #1536-1600 for additional information about what makes a priest different from a layperson.

    The priest’s role is that of facilitator.

    Not really. The priest doesn’t just “preside at” or “facilitate” Mass. Without a priest, there isn’t the Mass, because the priest acts in persona Christi to consecrate the bread and wine, by the power and promise of God, and then offer them to the Father. Without the consecration and offering and consumption of the sacrament by the priest, it’s not Mass.

    As far as communion, the church has already approved the administration of communion by qualified lay ministers.

    The Church only approves the use of lay ministers — “extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion” — when there are not sufficient priests and deacons — who are the “ordinary ministers of Holy Communion” — to do so. It’s not at all appropriate for a priest who is celebrating Mass to relegate the duty of distributing Holy Communion to a group of laypeople; it is part of HIS duty to distribute Holy Communion.

    Granted a priest has to perform the blessing, however, is there any reason a priest traveling a circuit couldnt bless the eucharist ahead of time for future use?

    The priest does more than just bless the bread and wine; through the sacramental character he received at his priestly ordination, he consecrates them by the words of Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit, and in accordance with the will of the Father, into the very Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ. Notice that after the consecration, the Eucharistic Prayer isn’t over — we don’t immediately receive Communion. The second half of the Eucharistic Prayer involves the offering of the Eucharist to God the Father. Only after the Eucharistic sacrifice has been offered to God, and a portion of it consumed by the priest (after the model of the Old Testament sacrifices), do the rest of us receive Holy Communion.

    Again, receiving Holy Communion outside the context of the Mass (at a Communion service in the absence of a priest, for example) is NOT the same thing as attending Mass. It is the Mass which is the public worship of the Church and which we are dutifully obliged to attend, and not specifically the reception of Holy Communion.

    It seems to me that the necessary structures are already in place for qualified lay ministers to perform mass and administer communion.

    No, a lay minister cannot “perform mass”. Again, there is a difference between Mass and a service at which Holy Communion is received by the faithful. An example is the Good Friday service. It’s NOT a Mass — if you pay close attention, there is no Eucharistic Prayer, and the Communion you receive is from the Hosts that were consecrated the night before on Holy Thursday.

    Would the magisterium rather see thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of faithful be denied the blessing of mass and communion…

    The Church is sorely grieved when there is no priest available to a community of the faithful! If there is no priest available, there cannot be a Mass, and the faithful are relieved of their obligation to attend (on Sunday). Now, there are some places where, because of a shortage of priests, there is Sunday Mass only once a month, with the priest consecrating enough Hosts to last the whole month; the other Sundays, the parish has a service of the Word with the distribution of Holy Communion. Some of these parishes have a deacon (as opposed to a layperson) preside over these services.

    The Church simply doesn’t have the power to dispense with the “formalities” of the Mass and priestly ordination. So, instead of seeking ways to get by with a shortage of priests, we should really be praying for more faithful and courageous men to LISTEN to God and hear Him calling them to the priesthood. Prayers for vocations (or rather, for vocations to be heard!) never fall on deaf ears.


    I think we could reach a lot of souls, misguided by NCR and its liberal “catholicism”, by speaking the truth with calmness and charity, replying to their articles and the poor comments.

  36. Fr. Marie-Paul says:

    Of course the modernists are losing one chance to preach sin, such as acceptance of homosexual lifestyles and the like, and are whining about it – their “hurt” feelings. If you cannot “convert” the priest, why not plant an infiltrator in the pulpit? What a pity for Partners in Preaching business plan, eh?

  37. Vianney33 says:

    I just may be in one of those 29 parishes that the article say are affected by the ban. We used to have to endure our DRE’s homily. Thankfully he is no longer employed here. But we have also had to endure outside “preachers”. A trick that our priest used on ocassion was to start the homily then ask the person who was to really give the homily to come up and do a “question and answer session”. You at least have to give credit to dissenters for being so creative. I wish I could say that our priests homilies were any different from the lay homilies but they all deal with social justice or the least offensive ones will give 80% of Church teaching on a given topic leaving out that 20% that might offend the more liberal among us.
    A group of us did confront our priest once after having to sit through 2 particularly bad sermon within the spad of one month. For one we had to sit through basically being told that we are bad if we hold contrary beliefs about the homosexual lifestyle. And to make matters worse, this came on respect life Sunday when we were supposed to hear about the life issue.
    I have heard members of our parish staff say that “we are trying to remain under the radar here”. Meaning that they are trying to get away with certain things like lay preaching during Mass without the Archdioces finding out. This probably was easy to do since complaints may have not made it to Archbishop Flynn’s attention due to accomplices in his office. That is about to change under the new sheriff (Neinstedt) who has already cleaned house a bit and gotten rid of some of them. We now have people monitoring the “radar” who will pass on the coordinates of parishes like mine. I say “commence the bombing” General Neinstedt.

  38. Kristin says:

    I think this article (written by a good canon lawyer) is particularly apropos:

    Who May Preach?

  39. Warren Anderson says:

    It seems the tree needs pruning. Some limbs have become a little rotten. In the words of Duane “The Rock” Johnson – “Know Your Role!” It seems yet another bunch of pushy lay folk have not grasped the real meaning of “active participation”.

  40. Fr. Z: Note the hyper-exaltation of feeling. Feelings trump everything – law, reason, tradition – everything

    Just think: Adam and Even were told not to eat from a certain tree, without much explanation, yet God expected them to obey. They could rationalize that the fruit is good for them, has vitamins, and so on, justifying their disobedience to God.

    In the end, can you imagine how the story would have been written if God had tip-toed around the feelings of Adam and Eve after the Fall?

    What if the Fathers of the Church tip-toed around the feelings of heretics?

    The list could go on.

    People will try to use any justification they can to live the mantra, “Your will God, as long as it agrees with mine”

  41. Mary Jane says:

    It all goes back to catechesis, which is some regions appears to have been non-existent or basically such that you could “make your own church.” And when people have done whatever they wanted to for decades, telling them to stop is not going to be a popular move.

    I was raised in Protestant churches where the sermon was the main event, generally lasting up to 45 minutes. In the last few years, I’ve watched Catholic homilies creeping up in length but not in quality. (There are only so many Fulton J. Sheens at any moment.) These were homilies by the clergy. I can only imagine that the problem is the same with “lay preaching.” A homily should be succinct and focused (“inspired” would be nice too).

    If the homilist wants to give a lecture, schedule it in the parish hall. Likewise, let the lay preachers talk all they want outside of the church and outside of the times when they have a captive audience. I didn’t join the Church to be talked to death.

  42. Mark says:

    I very much agree with the line of thought proposed by Cathy of Alex. It seems to make sense, based on the facts that come out of the article (a long permitted practice), and the supplemental information Cathy of Alex presented (poor or no catechises for some decades). It is very plausible that this combination would produce the reaction that is so evident in the article, strong negative feelings and confusion.

    While that may be the case with the majority, at the same time, would you agree that there is also a cadre that knows the relevant facts, and is steering this situation their way? If so, what would be an effective yet pastoral way to de-laminate these faithful from this cadre, and re-laminate them to their new Bishop? I understand your personal experience of this process may offer good insights.

  43. James Garrison says:

    Fr. Z Wrote: [Good grief! Do they have General Absolution in those places too?]

    In my experience growing up here, yes, or at least they did until quite recently.


  44. Ioannes Andreades says:

    When I was an editor for the high school newspaper, I made sure my writers gave me the who, what, when, why, and how. Who are these lay preachers? What exactly have they been preaching (any oversight? reading a prepared homily by a bishop?)? Most importantly, when? (during mass?), why (were there no priests available for a worship service? to stick it to the “man”?), and how? (from the pulpit? wearing vestments? using pupets?)? Even if I were an ueber-liberal, I’d be disappointed in the sloppy reporting.

  45. Tim from St. Agnes says:

    The article mentions Art Zannoni. He is a regular columnist in The Catholic Spirit, the archdiocesan newspaper. With AB Nienstadt as publisher we will see how long that lasts.


  46. Brian says:

    “I just feel as if somebody stole my church,” said Miriam Meyers

    You’re right; they did steal your church. Keyword: YOUR church, the Transparent Schismatic American Church… no, no, Faith Community…

    And they’re replacing it with the One, Holy, Apostolic, CATHOLIC Church. I suggest you look into it, Ms. Meyers.

  47. Seems like, if Patty’s such a hot preacher, people’d show up to listen to her some place other than Mass. Maybe she’s afraid to find out.

  48. Barloga says:

    I think it’s great that Patty and other lay men and women in the Archdiocese of St. Paul wish to share God’s word among the Lay Faithful.

    The only real restriction is preaching at the Eucharist. Even then – in particular circumstances – permission may be granted by the Archbishop.

    Patty and her Partners in Preaching can make themselves available to offer the gift of biblical preaching at celebrations of the Liturgy of the Hours, Vigil Services for the Deceased, retreats, days of recollection, services of the Word at skilled care facilities, charismatic gatherings, or at any number of evangelization opportunities offered throughout the Archdiocese.

  49. Richard says:

    I think the argument about how we should sympathize with the lay preachers’ difficulties that they are suddenly being told they can’t preach anymore after three decades is a bit of a farce. It’s not as if they didn’t know that this was not the norm in the Church. After going to Mass regularly for about three decades I can say that I have seen lay preaching at Mass like two or three times. If I were in their position previously, I would think it were only a matter of time before someone like, say, the bishop or archbishop, told me along with other lay preachers that enough was enough. If they have indeed been sent “reeling” with the bishop’s “abrupt” directives, they perhaps should not have gotten carried away with the idea that they were going to be lay preachers ad saecula saeculorum or that no one would ever really direct them to stop.

  50. Hettie B. says:

    Giving these “lay preachers” the benefit of the doubt, I would say that maybe they need to be educated as to the many valid and necessary opportunities for them to preach. Someone above mentioned the Catholic Evidence Guild. That would be great! How about organizations like the Legion of Mary and the St. Vincent de Paul Society?

    I myself am a Lay Dominican, and my very mission in life is to preach my faith at every opportunity and in every way possible for a secular layperson. That can mean everything from blogging to chatting with colleagues over lunch to caring for sick relatives. The Church really doesn’t put that many limits on us. In fact, I think she expects quite a lot of us. And it’s not always easy to step up to the plate and put oneself on the line.

    The last thing I would ever want to do is preach at church. For me, going into a church for prayer and Mass and the Sacraments, and listening to our priests’ and deacons’ homilies, is a refreshing, inspiring, and much-needed respite! These are the things that give me the fuel I need to keep my fires burning so that I can go back into the world and fight the good fight!

    There are constant opportunities for laypeople to preach! But I’m afraid it sounds like some “lay preachers” only want limelight and recognition and a forum for their own opinions and agendas. That is a disgrace to authentic lay preaching. St. Dominic and I will pray for them.

    God be with you, Father and all.

  51. Stephen Morgan says:

    This is just one more example, allbeit an extreme example, of the clericalisation of the laity. The vocation of the lay faithful is to build the Kingdom of God by ordering temporal affairs to the mind and plan of God (Lumen Gentium 31). That is, that it is directed primarily ad extra ecclesiae rather than ad intra. In my idle moments, I often wonder what a place the world would be if all these people, who spend so very much of their efforts and undoubted talents messing about where they are neither wanted nor needed, actually heard the authentic voice of the Second Vatican Council and acted on their real vocation.

  52. EnglishCatholic says:

    “The targeting of lay voices deeply disturbs Patricia Hughes Baumer who, with her husband, runs Partners in Preaching, an Eden Prairie, Minn., organization that has trained 500 lay preachers here and in five other dioceses since 1997.”

    er…not exactly a disinterested observer, is she?

  53. berenike says:

    Oh, British cynicism. I was just scrolling down to put in my tuppence worth, only to find that EnglishCatholic has just said what I was going to say!

  54. Being a lay member of the Order of Preachers, I think these folks need to get a broader understanding of preaching (as sharing the Gospel) and not be obsessed with preaching from the pulpit. One of the distinct advantages lay people have over ordained and religious is being out in the world, so we should avail ourselves of that advantage in our preaching over and above preaching to each other.

    We need to take our lights out of the bushel and go light up the world.

  55. Craigmaddie says:

    Why not revive the Catholic Evidence Guild? I mean that seriously.

  56. Germanus says:

    Of course, lays are “evangelici nuntii” and they should preach if its usefull. Only the homily, which is only a special form of preaching, is for good reasons strictly reservated for the clerics (can. 767 §1). To avoid confusing, the preaching of the lay could take place before the service as a socalled “statio”.
    Isn’t the canon law wiser than liberal ignorance and pseudo-catholic “traditionalist” clericalism? ;-)

    Sorry for my bad english.

  57. peregrinus says:

    In the liturgy, I don’t want to listen to the voices of men or women, boys or girls, people living in sin or people living as saints. I only want to listen to the voice of Christ.

  58. Chironomo says:

    Matthew says:

    “Why don’t all these pro-lay preachers just become Protestants?
    It would save the Church alot of trouble. After all, by their comments it’s obvious that they are not really faithfully Catholic anyway.”

    This is a question that has plagued me from the beginning. Most Protestants seem to have no problem “switching” sects to accomodate their specific beliefs. They simply shop around for a community that upholds their values and become a part of it. But it seems as though Catholics feel the need to change the Church to match their beliefs. It is as though they understand that the Catholic Church is THE Church, but they want it to be THE Church, and still have it express their own personal beliefs. Perhaps someone should introduce these folks to the “reformed” Episcopal Church (Women Priests, Married Priests, Lay Preaching, etc..)… seems they would feel more at home there.

  59. Scott W. says:

    One has to watch out for submarine techniques around the instructions. I saw a priest give a 3-minute homily and then let a an old lady speak in a preachy manner for fifteen-odd minutes. Technically, a homily was given by the priest, so they might of thought they were kosher. Survey sez: BRRAAAAAAAPPP!!! The instructions are very clear that lay people are not to give things in mass that even appear like a homily or preaching.

    Which brings me to the comment about making Canon Law and other things less vague. I think they are plenty clear. I know many of the orthodox wish the Holy See would put out documents that would make the dissidents shut up and go away. Can’t happen when someone is in rebellion against legit autority. Heck, I recently commented on someone who accepted the teaching of an all-male priesthood and then proceeded to talk about since the Church has not defined what a male is, it is still an open question. See? No matter how air-tight the Vatican makes a teaching, rebels will always find a way to keep up their obstinance.

  60. Sam says:

    As a Protestant minister with considerable conservative/traditional Catholic leanings, I’m bothered by some of the posts here. I have several friends who are excellent, faithful pastors who would desperately love to cross the Tiber, except that the Catholic Church has almost no way of making use of their God-given ability of preaching; the Church might throw them a bone with a sermon, but they are clearly gifted with the ability to deliver a homily. So they are left with a choice – do I remain in schism with the Church and continue to use my gifts, or do I leave my gifts behind to join the Church? This is an awful position to put anyone in. With the poverty in Catholic preaching these days, it seems absurd to leave these men in the pews if the priest is clumsily bantering the Scriptures back and forth. Rather than shuffle these laypeople off to some second-class Bible study, why can’t the Church find a way to use them as a part of the holy obligation the Church has to rightly handle and proclaim the Word of Truth?
    I am not suggesting that a good lay preacher should absolve the priest of his preaching duties; nor am I in agreement with the people in this article who are clearly more concerned about their feelings and desires than right proclamation of the Gospel. I’m only saying that the Catholic Church impoverishes itself when it finds no way to utilize the gifts that God has clearly given to His people.

  61. There is plenty of opportunity for lay people to preach, especially without words. Having said that all one has to do is watch television and see how many lay persons are preaching the gospel, and have developed preaching ministries. Wh the need to preach in church unless there is a general need and blessed by the Bishop?

  62. Pleased as Punch says:

    *So they are left with a choice – do I remain in schism with the Church and continue to use my gifts, or do I leave my gifts behind to join the Church? This is an awful position to put anyone in.*

    With all respect, is the egotism of this not manifest? “I would rather continue experiencing the satisfaction and enjoyment I derive from exercising this particular talent of mine than sacrificing its use in obedience to almighty God for the salvation of my soul.” Is it not really that simple? What do they want? To be able to preach, or to be saved?

    Moreover, if they are “excellent, faithful pastors,” then I believe they will eligible for ordination as Catholic priests, assuming the requisite examination and training.

  63. peretti says:

    I must say your article smacks of anti-Catholicism. If your eloquent friends would “desperately” love to cross the Tiber, that would mean that they would accept all the dogmas of the Catholic faith, the Holy Trinity, the Holy Eucharist, Hypostatic Union, everything. It seems to me that if they really wanted to cross the Tiber, they would have no trouble giving up authority to deliver a homily. Furthermore, many former Protestant ministers are now Catholic deacons and priests. Your friends could work toward that end, and then they could give homilies. No, from what I gather in your post, it does not sound like your friends really want to make the swim, and the Church does not need any more folks on the inside who want absolute autonomous authority. Just my observation.

  64. Tim Ferguson says:


    God gives many gifts to the Church, both charismatically and hierarchically (though those two need not be seen in some sort of oppositional sense). Many lay people have been given gifts and talents in the area of preaching, and a good number of priests and deacons have not been so blessed. Yet, hierarchically, we understand and acknowledge that the gifts we have been given are given to be put to the service of the Church, which, exercising her divinely ordained hierarchical structure determines when and who and how those gifts will be employed.

    Taking a look at it another way – many lay people have been given the gift to be a good listener, and provide good counsel. Not all priests are so blessed. Should we then argue that those lay people who have been given these gifts should start manning confessional boxes? Of course not – they should instead be urged to use those gifts in a way that befits their state in life – as counselors, as good friends, as suicide hotline answerers, as teen mentors, etc.

    The same goes with preaching. If your friends have talents and gifts in the area of preaching and are not able to utilize them as ordained clerics, there are plenty of opportunities for them to use their gifts. I have a friend who is a talented storyteller/speaker who spends her Sunday afternoons at a senior center preaching on the readings to those who are unable to make it to Sunday Mass. I have friends and acquaintances involved in preaching through Catholic radio, TV and the internet – who reach thousands more than most priests who preach from the pulpit each Sunday.

    I think it’s quite myopic to confine our thoughts on preaching solely to the 10-15 minute moment between the Gospel and the Creed.

  65. LCB says:


    If that’s how you feel, then swim the Tiber and take your entire church with you. As part of the process you can probably seek priestly ordination. Of course, that means believing everything the Church believes.

  66. Miseno says:

    Don’t worry Sam, there is plenty of room for good former Protestants in the Church. If they are good preachers, there are plenty of places where their talents can be put to good use such as Catechesis. Just not at the liturgy. Also as other have said, if they want to be more involved in the Church’s life, depending on their situation and their sex, they could in time obtain the sacrament of Holy Orders as a deacon or priest and then do liturgical preaching. We all have our proper roles to play, and gifts can be utilized in many ways. If God is calling them or you home to the Catholic Church, there is plenty of room here for their/your talents to be put to good use.

  67. a catechist says:

    I said this when the news of the change first broke, and I think it still holds–give the priests some training and support. I think any priest who’s been allowing lay homilies has missed out on an essential function of his priesthood and needs support in reclaiming it. The new bishop will be a father to his priests by helping them rediscover the joy they can have in this duty, the encounter with Christ in immersing themselves in Scripture in order to preach well.

  68. Sam says:

    “With all respect, is the egotism of this not manifest? “I would rather continue experiencing the satisfaction and enjoyment I derive from exercising this particular talent of mine than sacrificing its use in obedience to almighty God for the salvation of my soul.” Is it not really that simple? What do they want? To be able to preach, or to be saved?”

    With similar respect, I think it would be better to assume that these faithful Christians (unlike those in this article) are not clinging to some egotistical idea of “my gifts” or my “enjoyment” of those gifts, but rather that they sense a call and a mission from God similar to Jeremiah’s prayer, “If I say, ‘I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,’ there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones.” For those of us caled to preach, preaching is “obedience to almighty God,” and to deny that endangers the soul.
    Furthermore, your point rings with anti-Protestantism; we are “separated brethren,” not damned souls.

    “I must say your article smacks of anti-Catholicism.”

    First time I’ve ever been accused of that!

    “I think it’s quite myopic to confine our thoughts on preaching solely to the 10-15 minute moment between the Gospel and the Creed.”

    I certainly agree; however, it is equally myopic to completely exclude capable preaching during the pinnacle of the Church’s life and worship. It denigrates God-given abilities to a second-class status, and diminishes the Church, to the detriment of everyone. Want to know why there are people like the National Catholic Reporter? The preaching is so incompetent! The ancient fathers were not just good theologians, they were outstanding preachers, and it was their preaching, as least as much as their theology, that kept the heretics at bay.

    “If that’s how you feel, then swim the Tiber and take your entire church with you. As part of the process you can probably seek priestly ordination. Of course, that means believing everything the Church believes.”

    I’m working on that! However, to swim the Tiber doesn’t do anything to improve the state of the catholic Church (small ‘c’ intended). Assume I “swim,” I may have a fuller sacramental life and be more in line with the apostolic Church; however, now I’m impoverished in the preaching of the Word. I shouldn’t have to make a choice – the truly catholic Church embraces and promotes Word and Sacrament; indeed, they are to be united and to serve one another.

  69. Tzard says:

    The dominicans’ comments are spot-on. The laity need to focus on attaining holiness in their daily lives – the exact place where they are called become a saint.

    In Mass there is already someone there to preach (at minimum the priest) – even putting aside that only ordained may preach at Mass. But in your homes, places of work, community gatherings, and streetcorners – there is a HUGE need to preach the word of God there – places where there is nobody else but them.

    (Now, I think you’ll all agree that many of these quoted are not catechized in Catholic doctrine properly to do such yet – but the need for them is *not* at mass, it’s everywhere else).

  70. Andreas says:

    As Paul VI states in his Enc. Mysterium Fidei: all the faithful should participate in the Church’s mission “… servata distinctione non gradus solum sed etiam essentiae, quae intercedit inter sacerdotium commune et sacerdotium hierarchicum.” (… having maintained the distinction between the common priesthood and the hierarchical priesthood which is not only a matter of extent but also of essence).

  71. Geometricus says:

    And so today in the same archdiocese we see this article

    Archdiocese halts church’s annual gay pride prayers.

    Praise God the silly season may be coming to an end. May God have mercy on us poor, mixed-up sinners. There but for the grace of God went I.

  72. Trey says:

    More from the Spirit of Vatican II Dictionary of Commonly Abused Terms:

    catechesis – the systematic destruction of the faith of orthodox Catholics.

    Sam – Humbly, as one who has already swum the Tiber, and with many friends who
    thought they had vocations to the priesthood in the Anglican communion, but have
    also come over, you aren’t quite ready to make the trip. This is a matter of
    Church Discipline. And as a Catholic (big “C”, there’s only one…) you would be
    obligated to follow it in humble obedience. Admitedly, there are times when we
    don’t understand, or don’t agree wholeheartedly, but these are times for prayer,
    visiting a good spiritual director, etc. Always know that the Church is not
    arbitrary about these things. There is a reason for the restriction…

    And as other posters have noted, many former Protestants who are from non-Anglican
    /non-Lutheran traditions have utilized their abilities in apologetics, teaching,
    etc. The homily is more than just giving a good talk, or “preaching” as it is
    understood in Protestant churches. It is a part of the liturgy, and the liturgy
    prescribes roles to people based on their vocation/ station in life. Even in a poorly
    written / delivered homily (and I’ve experienced many) we are promised a certain
    nourishment, if we prayerfully listen.

  73. Pleased as Punch says:

    Dear Sam,

    Thank you for your response. I sympathize greatly with the spiritual and psychological predicament of your preacher friends, as I know a married Catholic man who has struggled deeply with what he feels to be a call to the priesthood. He does not oppose the discipline of celibacy at all. He merely feels a great urge to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and his disqualification has caused him great pain in the past. He has consoled himself with the knowledge, though, that a vocation, a calling, is ultimately *not ours to judge*. The judging is for the one who calls. In this case, it is God and His Church. The Church has laid down for her children in the West a law, that no married man (save certain converts) may be ordained a priest. Thus she has made clear that, while my friend is married, he is not called to the priesthood.

    You and your preacher friends are immensely blessed indeed to have the possibility of the priesthood open to you, whether you are married or not, should you enter the one true Church. For the Catholic Church is the one true Church, and the small-c catholic Church of which you speak does not exist. This is not a matter of the quality vel non of the preaching or possibilities for preaching available to you or your friends. This is about the salvation of your soul. If you or your friends have become convinced of the truth of the Catholic faith, then holding back merely because the opportunities for preaching seem bleak is a grave, soul-threatening mistake.

    No one here is denying the power and importance of good preaching. I am sure all Catholics would agree we need more of it. But to refuse to enter the Church, outside of which there is no salvation, simply because the chance to fulfill and exercise one\’s as-yet self-adjudicated vocation seems shaky? Non sequitur. Make the leap, and if you and your preacher friends are truly called to preach, then you will. If not, not. Isn\’t heaven more important than giving a great sermon?

  74. Cathy Dawson says:


    Your impoverishment in preaching if you should become Catholic is miniscule in
    comparison to your impoverishment from being separated from the Church. You are
    not a damned soul, but you are cutting yourself off from the tremendous source of
    grace which the Church is. Plus, Jesus gave us the Church so that we might be one
    and not only be nourished by Him but also be a unified witness of Him in this
    world. How can you stand to be separated from His Church?

    I am a convert too and I know how difficult it is to see what the Church is
    through all the false preaching, liturgical abuses, lukewarmness, etc., etc.
    When you enter into full communion with the Church you will understand more fully
    the impoverishment of being a separated brethren.

    My children and I will offer our Rosary for you today and I will remember you in
    my Mass intentions.

    God bless,

  75. LCB says:

    Great comments from the last few posters.


    You wrote, “…exclude capable preaching.” It is not an issue of capable preaching. It is an issue of sacramental character. It is the priest who delivers a homily, capable or not. If sacramental character matters for the confection of the Eucharist, then it also matters for homilies. Your line of thought can lead to a conclusion that sacramental character doesn’t matter for the Eucharist… so the best showmen or the holiest individuals should (attempt to) offer the mass.

    What’s more important, the fullness of Sacramental Life, or good preaching? Which one is necessary for salvation? If you say the fullness of Sacramental Life, then you should swim the Tiber despite the bad preaching.

    If you say good preaching, then you are clearly not ready to become Catholic, nor are you really thinking with the Church in the way you suspect.

  76. LCB says:

    One final comment–

    How can you claim to follow a King but refuse to be a citizen in his Kingdom? “I totally serve the King of England, but I refuse to become a citizen of England or be involved with England, travel to England, or be a part of Englishness in any substantive way.” Doesn’t make sense.

    If you follow the King, and you believe the Church is His Kingdom, then you should be a full citizen of that Kingdom. If you refuse, you have opened yourself up to serious charges of not actually following the King. “Sorry Your Majesty, but I refuse to join your Kingdom because I dislike the way some of the mayors in small towns talk. But I still totally serve you in every way, honest!” Doesn’t make sense.

    Join the Church, help foster vocations, and press for better preaching. Nothing else makes sense, Sam.

    You remain in my prayer.

  77. Mitchell says:

    Give an inch and people will take a mile….Maybe these same people would like to continue to follow Church law and do their readings in Latin as a way to foster better understanding and usage of our Mother tongue by lay people as decreed. Part of the greater, active participation that Vat. II called for. The individual writing the letter seems so concerned with allowances and interpretations based on ambiguous language. I agree with your comments Father whereas people seem to be wishing to take the sacred role of Priest for themselves…Lay ministry works well outside of Mass where it truly belongs…There seems to be alot of confusion as to whose “hour” this is. Theirs or Gods’. BTW I attend a TLM where this is one arguement that we never have.

  78. Chironomo says:


    I hope that my post was not one that you found offensive… if so, please accept my apology as I would certainly not intend it to be so in your situation. I am more perplexed by those who are lifelong Catholics, but want the Church to change it’s beliefs so that they can remain lifelong Catholics and not have to change their beliefs, even if they are so obviously in conflict. I can speak from experience as a certain situation in my life has put me in an “irregular” status according to the Church’s teachings. I have not gone out and called for the Church to change it’s teaching on my situation, but have instead accepted it and have submitted to what the Church says I should do in my situation. Nothing is more pathetic than to whine and cry that the Church should accept our view of what the Church should be, and then decry it as “unbending” when we discover that we must submit to the Church, not the other way around. Sorry if I sound a bit harsh here, but this kind of attitude needs to end, both among the laity and the clergy.

  79. Sam says:

    Chironomo –

    Thank you for your kind words, and I’ve been agreeing with you, and many others, that “this kind of attitude needs to end.” Because I am currently serving in a mainline Protestant church, where the fabric of orthodox Christian faith is being eroded daily, few things do my heart as much good as seeing Catholics like yourself stuanchly defend the ancient faith. That is why I frequent this blog – it lets me know that Truth still exists in the catholic Church (I still hold to my use of small ‘c’ as something meaningful and necessary).

    My point is that there are Protestants who feel they have something meaningful to contribute to the Catholic Church (should they decide to convert) in an area where the Catholic Church (at least in America) is emaciated. It is a gift that isn’t self-diagnosed or egotistically wielded, but discerned as our unique vocation from God. But the current state of things keeps us from exercising that gift at the pinnacle of the Church’s life and faith – the Mass. This is not a deliberate attempt to change the Church (though, I acknowledge, canon law is very clear on this issue). We who long for “one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church” view it as a way to enhance the sacred mission of the Church, and there is a great deal of sadness on our part that we are prevented from doing that. Whether its right or not, that’s the feeling.

    As for those who have offered to pray for me, it is much appreciated (Cathy, I’ve never had anyone pray a rosary for me before, besides myself!). For those who have come into full communion with the Church, you know it is difficult to stand on the other shore. May the Lord bless you and keep you all.

  80. Nancy says:

    Sam said:”I shouldn’t have to make a choice – the truly catholic Church embraces and promotes Word and Sacrament; indeed, they are to be united and to serve one another.”

    But Word and Sacrament are not all about you and your gifts… Jesus never promised that following him would be easy. He told his followers to *give up* what they had and follow him. Remember the rich young man who asked what he had to do to follow Jesus? And Jesus said, give up all your money to the poor. And the young man went away dejected because he couldn’t do it.

    I doubt (though I’m sure Father Z can set this straight) that most priests seek holy orders so that they can preach homilies, or because they have a gift for public speaking. There are so many other ways to save souls. If you believe in the Catholic Church, you need to be ready to embrace her teachings, whether it’s ideal for you or not.

  81. Gladiatrix says:

    I have said this before but will say it again, Father Z should take his comments up directly with the journalist who wrote this article and the editor of the newspaper. At best the journalist has not done his/her research properly, at worst the article is deliberately divisive. If the latter, this is journalistic misconduct and Father Z should make a formal complaint.

    If necessary, this should be pursued with the newspaper’s proprietor(s).

  82. LCB says:


    So in other words, there hasn’t been a truly Catholic Church for well over 1500 years?

    But didn’t Christ promise there will always be a Church?

    Isn’t it time to join the Church, warts and all?

  83. Sam says:


    I feel that I’ve been very clear that “it’s not about me.” Far be it from me to suggest that I’m a decent preacher – I am not. My point the entire time has not been that the Catholic Church loses something by not finding space for me, but rather that she may lose something by not finding space for good (meaning biblical, traditional, expository) preaching at the pinnacle of her life and worship.

    And certainly, I agree with you that following Christ is not easy. I am in full-time ministry and am familiar with the challenges that are a part of the vocation, not to mention the challenges that each and every Christian face on a daily basis. I’m not sure I see how the story of the rich young ruler applies to the choice between Word and Sacrament. Are you saying that Word is less important, that I should sacrifice the preaching of the Word? To me, that is the same as, “Which of your children do you like best?” What are we to make of St. Paul’s final words to Timothy, which were not, “Celebrate the Eucharist” (though undoubtedly that was a fundamental part of his mission), but rather, “Preach the Word”? A truly catholic Church does not sacrifice one for the sake of the other; and a truly Eucharistic community can only call herself Eucharistic to the extent that she accurately and boldly proclaims the Word of God, just as a Church that proclaims the Word of God only does so inasmuch as she directs her children to the Eucharist.

    As for my use of the small ‘c’ catholic, I am in no way suggesting that there was no catholic Church for 1500 years. Anyone who would hold such an opinion is hardly worth paying attention to. What I am saying is that the the “one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church” today exists in a state of schism, and all Christians – Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant – need to acknowledge this fact and acknowledge that God is at work wherever the catholic Church is found. My use of a small ‘c’ highlights this fact. It is, to be frank, an assertion that you Catholics and me, a Protestant (for the time being), are brothers and sisters in Christ.

  84. dcs says:

    Are you saying that Word is less important

    When compared with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass itself? Absolutely.

  85. patrick f says:

    Does the phrase “authoritative teaching” mean anything to them? Its one thing to be in RCIA or an outreach group, but it should be done in a way that isnt “preaching”. We have priest’s and bishops and deacons for that. Thats why they are ordained. Thats why they have “authority”.

    I just dont get why there is such a fervent “Look what I can do” attitude with some people in the church these days, they are all singing in the key of “me”

  86. RBrown says:

    Are you saying that Word is less important

    When compared with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass itself? Absolutely.
    Comment by dcs

    NB: The Sacrifice is effected by the Word–and words. That is why it is appropriate that the priest give the homily.

  87. LCB says:


    The Church must find a place for you… before you enter? Shouldn’t you enter and let God find a place for you?

    Perhaps the Catholic Church isn’t what you think She is. We believe that, “The Church of Christ subsists in the Catholic Church.” That means that the Catholic Church IS the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. The protestants are only part of Christ’s Church insomuch as they are in Communion with the Catholic Church.

    If the Pope really is the Vicar of Christ, shouldn’t you join the Church he heads? It seems that doing otherwise is equivalent to declaring, “Non serviam!”

  88. Brian C. says:

    Hi, Sam!

    First of all, God bless your discernment! Please be assured of my praters through what must be a tempestuous struggle for you, and for your family…

    Re: the lament that the Catholic Church is denying itself good preaching by proscribing lay homilists/preachers at Holy Mass–you’re right, in one sense (i.e. the quality of homilies is quite bad, in the U.S., though I’d strongly tie that with a near-complete loss of an understanding of Christ’s saving death, a la poor catechesis and poor grasp of theology in the U.S.–I mean, how good of a homily can *anyone* give, if the main point is, “pat birdies on the head, talk nice to each other, and eat your veggies”?). But, as several people have already pointed out, homiletics/preaching is *not* the main point of the Holy sacrifice of the Mass; the Holy Sacrifice can be (and often is, given the current state of affairs) more reverent and Christ-centered if the homily is *omitted* (not that I’m recommending that!).

    There are other avenues, though (as many others have already suggested); perhaps you could, after solidifying your own position on the Tiber Swim Team (no pressure! :) ) and solidifying your own foundation in Catholic theology, you might well be an excellent seminary instructor, in homiletics… or, shades of Archbishop Fulton Sheen (when he was “Msgr. Sheen”) and Frank Sheed [a layman, by the way], you could resurrect the Catholic Evidence Guild and take up street preaching (or something comparable in whatever medium); Frank Sheed and Maisie Ward, G.K. Chesterton (no one should be allowed to die without reading at least something from Chesterton!), Arnold Lunn, Hilaire Belloc, and many more non-ordained giants of the Faith would keep you in good company…

    (Have you checked out Marcus Grodi’s website, The Coming Home Network, which is designed to handle questions just like yours? It’s a resource/support for Protestant ministers (among others) who feel drawn to the Catholic Church, but who need help negotiating the turbulent waters that sometimes need to be crossed before coming aboard the Barque of Peter!)

    Again, God bless your journey!

    In Christ,
    Brian C.

  89. Sam says:

    RBrown –

    That is the most sensible comment I’ve read since this foray began. That certainly is something worth thinking about. I thank you.

    LCB –

    “The Church must find a place for you… before you enter?” Is that what I said? I don’t think so. Even as a Protestant, by virtue of my baptism I’ve already entered the Church, a fact the Catechism states clearly, “For men who believe in Christ and have been properly baptized are put in some, though imperfect, communion with the Catholic Church….they therefore have a right to be called Christians, and with good reason are accepted as brothers by the children of the Catholic Church” (#1271). I accept that my association is imperfect, a fact which makes me deeply sorrowful; can you accept me as a brother in that imperfect state?

    Besides, this detracts from the point. All I’m saying, and all I’ve been saying, is that there is a reservoir of God-given vocations and gifts that the Church may not have found sufficient use for; something that could possibly further the identity and purpose of the Catholic Church. As the Spirit continues to move us towards a greater genuine ecumenism and a more unified catholic Church, this is a fact that should excite you and give you hope, just as I look hopefully to that day, God willing, when I will be blessed with the fullness of communion.

  90. LCB says:


    What, exactly, stops you from entering into full communion? That is what I have been trying to bring to the fore through our dialog.

  91. Sam says:

    LCB –

    A good question. What prevents me from entering full communion is that I am currently serving a church, a church that is exhibiting very positive signs of spiritual growth, and therefore a place where I feel God has called me and I place where I and others sense (including our local Catholic priest, a dear friend of mine) that I am doing God’s will. From where I’m sitting, to leave would be to go against what I discern to be God’s will for me at this point in my life. In fact, our local priest has encouraged me not to enter full communion, reminding me often that in God’s good time, He will call me.

    Furthermore, and an excellent point that many other posters have made: it is a foolish thing to quickly jump into the Church without careful consideration. It is easy to get out of the Catholic Church; it is not so easy to get in. This is as it should be. But if/when God calls me, I’ll be ready.

  92. Mark:

    Sorry I’ve been away for a few days and maybe you will not see this response now.

    Yes, I agree there are folks who may know the true teaching of the Church yet deliberately steer others towards their agenda. We combat them by educating those they are trying to deceive. I had exposure to people who knew the truth yet denied it, yet once I knew the truth, I knew the false teachers were false. Once the seed is planted and takes root, it’s hard to stop. It may take years for it to flourish but it keeps growing all the same.

    Sam: I disagree, it’s easy to enter the Church but it’s harder to LIVE it. :-) I appreciate that you are prayerfully considering it. God bless you. You are in my prayers.

  93. Mark says:

    Thank you for your response, Cathy of Alex.

    Would you agree that at the parish or school level, the Baltimore Catechism should be used to teach the basics of the Faith? I find the various contemporary “catechisms” (I’m not talking here about the Catechism issued under Pope John Paul II) as woefully inadequate corporate products, mere amateurish therapy. My experience is that the “cadres” resist the introduction of the Baltimore Catechism. How, on a practical level, in a typical parish or school, can this catechism be taught to the young Catholics? How can the resistance to it be overcome? This is the situation that frustrates me – disconnected parents, hostile forces in control, and priests who are either also disconnected from catechises, or in collusion with those who really run the show.

    What are your thoughts, Cathy of Alex?

  94. Mark: I agree that the Baltimore Catachism is great! I’m not sure it’s that resistence needs to be overcome so much as our church authorities need to step in and say “this is what we are using and why” I don’t think we need a lot of debate. I don’t have a lot of patience when it comes to the education of our children. I think if kids are in a Catholic school they should be taught Catholicism-straight up. Period.

    In my prior conversation I was talking about adults.

    However, as part of the education of children, you reach the adults teaching them.

    Do I think this is all easy? No. We have decades of distortions to combat. Do I think we will lose some people? Yes. Sadly. Yes.

  95. Mark says:

    Cathy of Alex:

    Thank you for your reply. The impression I get from my diocese is that catechisis of children has been completely subcontracted to a nationwide publishing company that specializes in religious “products”. The parish catechism directors and school teachers function as marketers of this company’s products. I don’t see much interest in catechisis from church authorities, from the priests to the Bishop. When I asked a couple of priests for the name of the catechism used in their parishes, or if they’ve read it, the reply was negative. And this came from conservative priests. Many parents also seem to be disconnected. This doesn’t inspire optimism, I see a lot of drifting away from the Church in the future. Unless, some way is found to teach the Baltimore catechism (or a catechism of equal substance) on a wide scale.

    Do you think that under these circumstances, it’s the Bishop that must be convinced first that his catechisis must change if he wants the children to know their faith? A rhetorical question perhaps, but I’m starting to see it that way. A group of concerned and articulate parents could convince a Bishop of this need.

  96. Mark: Sidebar? I invite you to continue this dialogue with me via my email address. I hate to tie up Father’s blog capacity and we are now off-topic from his original post.

    My email:

    God bless you. I hope to hear from you. I may have some ideas.

  97. matt1618 says:

    “Why do liberals hate articles, anyway? They talk about “Church” and not “the Church”.”

    I know! I have wondered that myself! I’m so glad that has annoyed someone else too! And they say things like “We are Church”. The only time they use the article is when they want to “sing a new Church into being”!

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