From a reader:
I serve Low Mass five or six days out of the week as well as participating in Sunday Vespers, so my priest recently asked if I would be able to serve as the straw subdeacon for the Mass. I expressed my willingness, but when I started to read, I found out that the Church mandates straw subdeacons to be Instituted Acolytes. This was the first time I had even heard of such a status, and after researching it, I don’t know anyone that would be, unless it is the same thing as a “lay minister.”
My priest is prudent and knowledgeable man, so I don’t think he would ask me unless he thought it permissible. I want to be obedient to the Church, and I also want to help make a Solemn High Mass for the Easter Vigil possible. I plan on contacting a transitional deacon from an adjoining diocese to see if he would be able to do it, but if he can’t, is this something that, while not ideal, I could do this once.
If you can do it once, you can do it more than once.
When for good or ill Pope Paul VI suppressed the minor orders with Ministeria quaedam, he said that the role of the subdeacon was assumed by the new version of lector and acolyte. He also said that Acolyte 2.0 could be called “subdeacon”.
In the past, even though the rubrics assumed that those serving in all roles in the sanctuary were tonsured clerics, the non-tonsured, non-cleric substituted for altar servers in the natural course of things. So it is today. So it is that non-acolytes and non-lectors substitute for those installed ministries
now. Let’s say the “beta” version of Acolyte 2.0.
Moreover, the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei“ once responded to a question posed by the Australian Ecclesia Dei Society in the early nineties about this very issued. The reference for this PCED letter is 7 June 1993, Prot. 24/92 to the Australian Ecclesia Dei Society. The PCED said then that, yes, an officially installed acolyte could take the role of the subdeacon in a Solemn Mass if a cleric wasn’t there to take the role.
It seems to me quite reasonable that a non-installed lay person could substitute for an installed acolyte lay person in the role of subdeacon, who would not now be a cleric anyway in the Latin Church.
That said, I doubt that a non-installed acolyte substituting for an absent subdeacon in a solemn TLM is an “abuse”.
It is not the ideal, but it wasn’t an abuse in the past when things were far stricter in many ways. Someone who says it is an abuse should produce his own documentation saying that it is.
For notes and documentation, you need to 1983 Code, Ministeria quaedam, and you can get help from the new (and older) edition of Fortescue-O’Connell edited by Reid.
The can of worms opened up by this line of argument is that there has been an official interpretation of CIC 1983 can. 230 §2 indicating that females can substitute for absent acolytes and lectors in some liturgical actions. If that is the case, what – other than common sense, a horror of the downright wrong, and a healthy sense of self-preservation – would prevent a female from substituting for the absent acolyte who would be substituting for the absent cleric to take the role of subdeacon in a Solemn or even Pontifical TLM?