Lay people reading Scripture in Mass


#1

I was browsing around Wikipedia in the Pope Paul Vi Mass and I was surprised to see that one criticism of the Mass was that lay people were allowed to read the Scripture except for the Gospel. What possible reason could there be for this criticism?


#2

In the Tridentine form the priest reads.


#3

[quote="Warandpeace, post:2, topic:326179"]
In the Tridentine form the priest reads.

[/quote]

More accurately, the Subdeacon reads. The Subdeacon was a major order in the Latin Church until its suppression by Pope Paul VI, and before priests were ordained, they were first ordained Subdeacon then Deacon. In Masses without a Deacon and Subdeacon, the Priest would read the Epistle as an exercise of his office of Subdeacon, and the Gospel as an exercise of his office of Deacon; the latter is still true today.

Further, in the absence of a Deacon or Subdeacon, if a Lector (a minor order in the Latin Church) was present, he could also chant the epistle.

The criticism stems from the fact then that the reading of Scripture in church used to be reserved to clerics, that is, the Lector, Subdeacon or Priest.

However, the minor orders and the subdiaconate were of ecclesiastical institution, not of divine institution as are the orders of Deacon, Priest and Bishop and could be suppressed by the supreme authority in the Church, which is the Pope. The transferral of their duties to laypeople is also within the Pope's authority. The response to that criticism, therefore, is simple: Rome has spoken; the debate is ended.


#4

[quote="porthos11, post:3, topic:326179"]

However, the minor orders and the subdiaconate were of ecclesiastical institution, not of divine institution as are the orders of Deacon, Priest and Bishop and could be suppressed by the supreme authority in the Church, which is the Pope. The transferral of their duties to laypeople is also within the Pope's authority. The response to that criticism, therefore, is simple: Rome has spoken; the debate is ended.

[/quote]

Do you have a source for the bolded part? I've been under the impression that Christ himself instituted these three offices.


#5

[quote="xixxvmcm85, post:4, topic:326179"]
Do you have a source for the bolded part? I've been under the impression that Christ himself instituted these three offices.

[/quote]

That's what the sentence says. Read it carefully. The part after the conjunction applies to the the ecclesiastically instituted offices, not the divinely instituted ones. These three are listed for contrast.


#6

[quote="pnewton, post:5, topic:326179"]
That's what the sentence says. Read it carefully. The part after the conjunction applies to the the ecclesiastically instituted offices, not the divinely instituted ones. These three are listed for contrast.

[/quote]

Ah! Thank you! Probably a sign that I should hit the hay. :p


#7

[quote="RaphaelJ, post:1, topic:326179"]
I was browsing around Wikipedia in the Pope Paul Vi Mass and I was surprised to see that one criticism of the Mass was that lay people were allowed to read the Scripture except for the Gospel. What possible reason could there be for this criticism?

[/quote]

I don't know about that one but one of the complaints my boss had back in the 60's was that groups reciting in "cadences" weren't really praying so he quit going to church altogether.


#8

[quote="RaphaelJ, post:1, topic:326179"]
I was browsing around Wikipedia in the Pope Paul Vi Mass and I was surprised to see that one criticism of the Mass was that lay people were allowed to read the Scripture except for the Gospel. What possible reason could there be for this criticism?

[/quote]

With all due respect, you do realize that the last sentence of your question is a bit condescending, don't you? When one is not familiar with new subject matter, one should not respond to its discovery with a flippant response such as "What possible reason could there be...," which implies that there could be no such reason in existence. This is especially true when the matter in question was the Church's practice for nearly all of its history. One should instead wonder why such a radical change was made. ;)


#9

[quote="Chatter163, post:8, topic:326179"]
With all due respect, you do realize that the last sentence of your question is a bit condescending, don't you? When one is not familiar with new subject matter, one should not respond to its discovery with a flippant response such as "What possible reason could there be...," which implies that there could be no such reason in existence. This is especially true when the matter in question was the Church's practice for nearly all of its history. One should instead wonder why such a radical change was made. ;)

[/quote]

And since this change falls under a "discipline" of the Church, which is not of the essence of the mass, it is capable of being changed by those who have the authority to do so. Those who object most strongly to disciplinary changes are usually uninstructed, or who refuse to accept them, using human reason as their basis, rather than filial submission to those who are entrusted with liturgical matters.


#10

[quote="RaphaelJ, post:1, topic:326179"]
I was browsing around Wikipedia in the Pope Paul Vi Mass and I was surprised to see that one criticism of the Mass was that lay people were allowed to read the Scripture except for the Gospel. What possible reason could there be for this criticism?

[/quote]

It is probably an indication of the new Mass being introduced without adequate explanations. There appear to have been many instances of this, even though the changes were supposed to be explained to people, not just dropped on them. If changes are not explained, people make up their own.

The change that allowed lay readers was perceived as an attempt to blur the distinction between laity and priests. It was seen as moving towards a rejection of ordained priesthood to be replaced by a "priesthood of all believers" - a Protestant idea. If this were actually true, it would be very serious and they would be right to be concerned.


#11

[quote="floresco, post:10, topic:326179"]
It is probably an indication of the new Mass being introduced without adequate explanations. There appear to have been many instances of this, even though the changes were supposed to be explained to people, not just dropped on them. If changes are not explained, people make up their own.

The change that allowed lay readers was perceived as an attempt to blur the distinction between laity and priests. It was seen as moving towards a rejection of ordained priesthood to be replaced by a "priesthood of all believers" - a Protestant idea. If this were actually true, it would be very serious and they would be right to be concerned.

[/quote]

I cannot fathom a Catholic making such a deplorable statement, alleging it as fact. As I read your post, I sense that this one of those "made up" explanations that "some" people assumed. Anyone who needs an explanation can read the authorization in Canon Law.

Can. 230 §2. Lay persons can fulfill the function of lector in liturgical actions by temporary designation. All lay persons can also perform the functions of commentator or cantor, or other functions, according to the norm of law.
§3. When the need of the Church warrants it and ministers are lacking, lay persons, even if they are not lectors or acolytes, can also supply certain of their duties, namely, to exercise the ministry of the word, to preside offer liturgical prayers, to confer baptism, and to distribute Holy Communion, according to the prescripts of the law.


#12

[quote="Sirach2, post:11, topic:326179"]
I cannot fathom a Catholic making such a deplorable statement, alleging it as fact. As I read your post, I sense that this one of those "made up" explanations that "some" people assumed. Anyone who needs an explanation can read the authorization in Canon Law.

Can. 230 §2. Lay persons can fulfill the function of lector in liturgical actions by temporary designation. All lay persons can also perform the functions of commentator or cantor, or other functions, according to the norm of law.
§3. When the need of the Church warrants it and ministers are lacking, lay persons, even if they are not lectors or acolytes, can also supply certain of their duties, namely, to exercise the ministry of the word, to preside offer liturgical prayers, to confer baptism, and to distribute Holy Communion, according to the prescripts of the law.

[/quote]

This authorization from Canon Law did not exist until fifteen years after the new Mass had been promulgated, so it was not available during the earliest period of adjustment to the changes. Even when it became available, it was an authorization rather than an explanation. When a father backs up his order to his child with "because I said so" he may be within his rights, but it does not help the child to understand the reasons for the order.

If people did not understand the positive reasons for allowing lay readers, they were left to imagine their own reasons. It is, of course, disturbing that they should imagine such a bad reason. It suggests that their trust in the Church had been destroyed.


#13

[quote="floresco, post:12, topic:326179"]
This authorization from Canon Law did not exist until fifteen years after the new Mass had been promulgated, so it was not available during the earliest period of adjustment to the changes. Even when it became available, it was an authorization rather than an explanation. When a father backs up his orders to his child with "because I said so" he may be within his rights, but it does not help the child to understand the reasons for the order.

If people did not understand the positive reasons for allowing lay readers, they were left to imagine their own reasons. It is, of course, disturbing that they should imagine such a bad reason. It suggests that their trust in the Church had been destroyed.

[/quote]

True, the Law was enacted many years after the changes due to the extensive care the Commissioners made to adapt it to the documents of V-II. This entailed a lot of work and review during the process. However, the changes that were made years earlier were not done without authorization. It is important to understand that they did not suddenly become legal after the Code was promulgated. The Code simply gave expression to that which had lawfully taken place.

I'm not sure I can agree that explanations were not given, Floresco. I had just converted about the time of these changes, and our pastor gave many homilies explaining the reasons. Perhaps those who were born after those initial years did not have the benefit of these explanation as you and I were given. But it is very easy to make a phone call to the pastor and have one's mind put in peace. I don't see any justification for rebellion when it is made independent of knowledge.


#14

[quote="Sirach2, post:13, topic:326179"]
True, the Law was enacted many years after the changes due to the extensive care the Commissioners made to adapt it to the documents of V-II. This entailed a lot of work and review during the process. However, the changes that were made years earlier were not done without authorization. It is important to understand that they did not suddenly become legal after the Code was promulgated. The Code simply gave expression to that which had lawfully taken place.

I'm not sure I can agree that explanations were not given, Floresco. I had just converted about the time of these changes, and our pastor gave many homilies explaining the reasons. Perhaps those who were born after those initial years did not have the benefit of these explanation as you and I were given. But it is very easy to make a phone call to the pastor and have one's mind put in peace. I don't see any justification for rebellion when it is made independent of knowledge.

[/quote]

I am certainly not questioning whether the change was lawful, but whether the reason for the change was widely understood is very much in question. I am not sure that we can even answer that question other than by collecting a variety of anecdotal evidence.

Nor is it possible to say much about the culpability of those who did not understand. This is known to God alone. I did think, however, that I could answer the question of the OP about the reason for objecting to the lay people doing readings during Mass. I have encountered people who take the position I described.


#15

In the Tridentine form the priest reads.
More accurately, the Subdeacon reads. The Subdeacon was a major order in the Latin Church until its suppression by Pope Paul VI, and before priests were ordained, they were first ordained Subdeacon then Deacon. In Masses without a Deacon and Subdeacon, the Priest would read the Epistle as an exercise of his office of Subdeacon, and the Gospel as an exercise of his office of Deacon; the latter is still true today.

Further, in the absence of a Deacon or Subdeacon, if a Lector (a minor order in the Latin Church) was present, he could also chant the epistle.

The criticism stems from the fact then that the reading of Scripture in church used to be reserved to clerics, that is, the Lector, Subdeacon or Priest.

However, the minor orders and the subdiaconate were of ecclesiastical institution, not of divine institution as are the orders of Deacon, Priest and Bishop and could be suppressed by the supreme authority in the Church, which is the Pope. The transferral of their duties to laypeople is also within the Pope's authority. The response to that criticism, therefore, is simple: Rome has spoken; the debate is ended.

Since the second Vatican Council has permitted the laity to read the first, psalms and the second reading


#16

[quote="Aran_Houlihan, post:15, topic:326179"]

Since the second Vatican Council has permitted the laity to read the first, psalms and the second reading

[/quote]

I don't believe Vatican II has anything to do with this. This permission was given by the Pope himself, not the Council. These changes did not come into play till some years after the Council ended.


#17

[quote="porthos11, post:16, topic:326179"]
I don't believe Vatican II has anything to do with this. This permission was given by the Pope himself, not the Council. These changes did not come into play till some years after the Council ended.

[/quote]

Irrelevant. The permission was given by the authority designated to bestow it. It does not matter when it was given. There should be no argument about its present licitness.


#18

[quote="floresco, post:12, topic:326179"]
This authorization from Canon Law did not exist until fifteen years after the new Mass had been promulgated, so it was not available during the earliest period of adjustment to the changes. Even when it became available, it was an authorization rather than an explanation. When a father backs up his order to his child with "because I said so" he may be within his rights, but it does not help the child to understand the reasons for the order.
**
If people did not understand the positive reasons for allowing lay readers**, they were left to imagine their own reasons. It is, of course, disturbing that they should imagine such a bad reason. It suggests that their trust in the Church had been destroyed.

[/quote]

I'll bite. What are the positive reasons for allowing Lay Readers?


#19

[quote="Mike30, post:18, topic:326179"]
I'll bite. What are the positive reasons for allowing Lay Readers?

[/quote]

Since we were speculating on how many people understand this, I'm interested in seeing how others answer this question. I hope you don't mind if I delay giving my answer.


#20

[quote="RaphaelJ, post:1, topic:326179"]
I was browsing around Wikipedia in the Pope Paul Vi Mass and I was surprised to see that one criticism of the Mass was that lay people were allowed to read the Scripture except for the Gospel. What possible reason could there be for this criticism?

[/quote]

IMO, it's like a lot of other things. It's new, it's different, we didn't used to do it back when Cokes were a nickel and homburgs were in fashion.

.


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.