|| Instruction on Lay Collaboration
The following are excerpts from the Instruction on Certain Questions Regarding the Collaboration of the Non-Ordained Faithful in the Sacred Ministry of Priest, a document signed by eight Vatican offices and issued with the specific approval of John Paul II. This material comes from a preliminary form of the document provided to Bishop Robert Hoffman of Toledo, Ohio, in preparation for the U.S. bishops meeting in mid-November.
It must be noted with great satisfaction that in many particular churches the collaboration of the non-ordained in the pastoral ministry of the clergy has developed in a very positive fashion. It has borne an abundance of good fruits while at the same time being mindful of the boundaries established by the nature of the sacraments and of the diversity of charisms and ecclesiastical functions.
The scope of this present document is simply to provide a clear, authoritative response to the many pressing requests which have come to our dicasteries [curial offices] from bishops, priests and laity seeking clarification in the light of specific cases of new forms of pastoral activity of the non-ordained on both parochial and diocesan levels.
Only the sacrament of orders gives the ordained minister a particular participation in the office of Christ, the shepherd and head in his eternal priesthood. This doctrine needs to be reaffirmed especially in light of certain practices which seek to compensate for numerical shortages of ordained ministers arising in some communities. In some instances, such have given rise to an idea of the common priesthood of the faithful which mistakes its nature and specific meaning. Amongst other things, it can encourage a reduction in vocations to the (ministerial) priesthood and obscure the specific purpose of seminaries as places of formation for the ordained ministry.
The document issues clarifications in several areas. They include:
It should also be understood that these clarifications and distinctions do not stem from a concern to defend clerical privileges but from the need to be obedient to the will of Christ, and to respect the constitutive form which he indelibly impressed on his church.
The complete text of the Instruction is available at
National Catholic Reporter, December 5, 1997