Is it OK for a non-Catholic to be reader or commentator during Mass?

Just wondering. This question applies to any kind of mass, whether done in a church or in more secular areas (e.g. during a retreat outside a church building).

This is from the Directory for the Application of Principles and Norms on Ecumenism source]:

  1. The reading of Scripture during a Eucharistic celebration in the Catholic Church is to be done by members of that Church. On exceptional occasions and for a just cause, the Bishop of the diocese may permit a member of another Church or ecclesial Community to take on the task of reader.
  1. The reading of Scripture during a Eucharistic celebration in the Catholic Church is to be done by members of that Church. On exceptional occasions and for a just cause, the Bishop of the diocese may permit a member of another Church or ecclesial Community to take on the task of reader.

Does “members of that Church” mean parishioners of that particular church or just Catholics in general? And what does ecclesial community mean?

It may be the case that for retreats (e.g. Catholic school where students may not be Catholic), weddings (non-Catholic family and friends), and the like… that the bishop regularly grants such permission and delegates the authority to make such decisions to pastors.

Mass is usually never celebrated in an ecumenical setting, unless the Bishop is involved. Other liturgical services can be ecumenical (such as a prayer service for Christian unity) and can share duties.

Ecclesial Communities are what most people call in error Protestant “churches”, A “Church” is only a Church by virtue of it’s valid Apostolic Succession and Priesthood celebrating valid Sacraments. At Mass any Catholic may participate in the lay ministries.

In my Diocese we had a former Episcopal Bishop being ordained to the Priesthood, and one of the readers was the still Episcopal Bishop who had ordained him to the Episcopal Priesthood.

My interpretation of that is that it means that particular Catholic Church sui iuris.

I realize that in itself might require some explanation. If the Mass is according to the Latin Rite (and only the ordinary form would apply here) then the reader should be a member of the Latin Church, as opposed to an Eastern Church–even an Eastern Catholic one. At first reading, it might seem odd that the words “member of that Church” is used rather than to say simply “a Catholic.” But there’s more involved here. The different Eastern Churches all have their own liturgical discipline. In Eastern Catholic Churches (Churches with a capital C, not parishes) they have not done away with ordained readers as the Latin Church has. So there is a potential conflict with either an Eastern Catholic layman acting as a reader in a Latin-rite Mass or with a Latin-rite person (who cannot be ordained a reader because that order no longer exists in the West) reading during an Eastern Divine Liturgy; or even for that matter the same problem when a person (laity or minor cleric) of one Eastern Church visits a Liturgy at another Eastern Church. This isn’t necessarily a problem, but it is a potential problem.

In my opinion, that’s why the text reads as it does. It does not outright prohibit a Catholic of one Church reading at the services of another Church, but neither does it permit it–since to permit it would have the potential to be in violation of the discipline of some of the Eastern Churches. To put that another way, this is something that would be either permitted or forbidden depending upon the discipline of the Churches of both the place and the person.

For a non-Catholic to be a reader at Mass, the bishop’s permission would be required, and should only be sought is there is both an exceptional occasion and a just cause.

At our Catholic grade school weekday Masses, we allowed non-Catholic Christian students to read the readings. There’s nothing prohibiting that.

Well there appears to be, but your school seem to be ignoring that.

I could not agree with you any more

The criteria is “On exceptional occasions and for a just cause…”

That eliminates the possibility that this could be something which occurs on a regular basis.

You’re not just saying the school is ignoring it, then, you’re saying our Bishop is. Which I know is not true.

So you are saying that the school is not ignoring the norm, instead they are choosing to disobey the norm of law.

No, I am saying what I said: the person who claimed the school I referred to is ignoring a prohibition is therefore saying the same thing about our Bishop.

There’s nothing prohibiting that where? I thought the appropriate rule was cited at the beginning of this thread?

How do you know that your Bishop is aware of the regulations concerning who may be a reader at Mass? Maybe he just doesn’t know. It’s possible.

I’d like to believe he doesn’t know about it, rather than that he does know and chooses to circumvent the regulation. (Or it’s possible he has an indult permitting the different practice.)

I also wonder whenever people say “my bishop allows it” just how much the bishop himself actually allows it. I hear that all the time as a priest. Sometimes people tell me “the bishop allows it” or even requires it, when I know that I have a circular letter signed by the bishop in the parish files, or it’s in the particular law of the diocese that something is not allowed. Sometimes a bishop makes an exception in unusual circumstances, or simply decides not to say anything at the moment (or might not even be aware), and people take this to mean it’s a matter of policy.

Because he’s been at our school Masses. I know our pastor would not do anything if he thought the Bishop would be concerned. Our Bishop keeps quite tight reins on the liturgy. Sorry if he disappoints you.

No, and I can give you a good reason why.

At a chapel I used to attend for Mass, there was a young woman who read the first and second readings. Immediately after, she said “And God is a woman.” It caused confusion, and the woman was never allowed back. Things like this are one reason why non-Christians aren’t allowed to be readers.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.