The Council of Trent and Lay Lectors

Greetings Everyone!

Recently, I’ve come across something quite concerning which has set off my scruples.

A while ago, I read canon 230~2 which states the following:

“Laypersons can fulfill the function of lector in liturgical actions by temporary designations.”

A little while after that, I came across a Canon from the Council of Trent that says this:

“If anyone saith, that all Christians have the power to ADMINISTER THE WORD, and all the sacraments, let him be anathema.”

I find it hard to see how this canon from canon law can reconcile with the Canon from the Council of Trent. Perhaps someone who is more knowledgable that I could help relive worries and explain how these two Canons can reconcile?

Pax Domini Sit Semper Vobiscum!

I think the key here is the function of a lector. In generally, the lector only reads the epistle (and maybe the psalm). He (or she) does not read the Gospel. What the Council of Trent is referring to is the Gospel, often referred to as the WORD. So both canons are correct. They are just referring to different things.

  1. This a discipline, not dogma.
  2. The old code of canon law is superseded by the current one.
  3. The Church via the magisterium has the power to change discipline.

Also, Trent anathematizes the proposition that laymen can minister “the word AND ALL the sacraments.”

Lectors do not do this.

Even if it did contradic (which it does not) canon law is not infallible - it is disciplinary.


Thank you very much! But, laymen are allowed to read part of the Gospel on Palm Sunday and Good Friday as part of the passion narrative. What would you say to that?

Negative assertions condemning propositions ought to be read narrowly. See my comment above.

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I would say that the priest is still the one reading the Gospel. The laymen are merely facilitating the priest’s reading of it. Without the priest, it could not be read.

I’m pretty sure it’s not merely a disciplinary matter, because it was pronounced Infallibly, and disciplinary matters can’t be infallible, because they can be changed. The Council of Trent has many more decrees which are paragraphs talking about disciplinary matters, and they don’t use the language “if anyone saith X, anathema.” But the canons are infallible pronouncements, which hold forever.

It is infallible, because it’s a Canon; all Canons from all Councils are infallible.

I wasn’t referring to Trent’s anathema, but to the section of canon law he cited, which regulates whether you can have lay lectors.

Canon Law can and does change.

Looks to me that what Trent is addressing there is the fact that there is a real “power of orders” and so if someone were to say that all Christians have the “power of orders”, this would mean that the person is denying the ministerial priesthood/sacrament of orders. That’s heresy then and now.



I wouldn’t exactly call it “facilitating,” because the lay people read the majority of it, and it’s still the gospel.

Right, sorry. I misread your comment.

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That may be the case, but technically the priest is still the one reading it. The other lectors are not needed and can be dispensed with if they are not available. You cannot dispense with the priest. That is true in both the OF and the EF. In fact, with the EF (which is the Mass of Trent) says people can help read the Passion narrative as well. In my Latin Mass parish we are going to have a Seminarian who does not have any Holy Orders read the Passion with two priests.

I doubt it’s true that Canon law is infallible. Actually, I’m sure it isn’t.

The doctrine of infallibility is a rather modern concept and has been used only a handful of times. Further, it applies to the pope, not councils.

Yes, it does apply to Councils. Actual, ecumenical councils that define things, that is.


You joined CAF seven hours ago just to claim that the Church is somehow in conflict with the Council of Trent by using lay lectors?

In the words of Sgt. Hulka: Lighten up.


Ask your priest about this and trust him.

From what I understand ecumenical councils can be infallible. However, I think the Pope has to approve the Council before that happens.

This is an interesting question. In addition to what I said above, I would simply point out that the two texts are addressing different things. The 1983 Code of Canon Law, in c. 230, is merely addressing who can take part in certain liturgical functions and allowing laity to do so, in some circumstances. The Council of Trent, in Session 7, addressed the Sacraments of the Church. In the canon you quoted (as pointed out by GodSoughtMe), the notion that all Christians can “administer the word and all the sacraments” is condemned. We have to read this as it is stated (in the Latin, if we want to be precise) and not pick out part of it as if the part is equal to the whole.

For example, everyone would say that all Christians can actually administer baptism. This is not heresy and the Council of Trent was not anathematizing anyone who thought so. Or, we’ve had laity, in choirs, singing Scripture in Mass for many years. There’s nothing heretical about that.

So, the two canons might seem to have a connection but they really don’t.


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