Secular Orders : LUSENET : Catholic Pages Forum : One Thread

I am attempting to educate myself on the subject of secular orders. My understanding so far is that "secular" and "laity" are the operative words, that the lay person may consecrate themselves to a rule of life that somewhast mimics holy orders, yet remains free of any vows and therefore more independant and free to persue their own lifestyle and occupation. Given that the above is true, how is it that someone who is a consecrated member of a particular secular order has the right to distribute the Holy Eucharist at a Mass? Does not the very definition of "secular" and "laity" prohibit this action since touching and distributing of the Eucharist is reserved by Church law for priests? The only exception I can find is when there are "dire circumstances" that make communion necessary and desirable and no priest is available.

-- Anonymous, May 27, 1998


Hello Martha,

Let me respond to the second half first. There is no Church Law limiting touching and distributing of the Eucharist to priests. Unless you listen to some of the ultra fringe that say Vatican II was not a lawful council and The Mass is no longer valid etc. and all that other junk. There are guidelines set down for "Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharistic" and I will admit that some churches take much too much liberty with them. Anyway the first question. Secular orders are not just for lay people but also many Priests and Bishops and even Popes have been "Seculars". The name is misleading they are truly called "Third Orders" and were called this untill 10 or so years ago. The word Secular and Religious Order in the same sentence is strange. Also don't get confused with "Secular Institutes" and "Confraternities" they are something different.

Third Orders are affiliated with a monastic Order. Third Orders are are distinguished from the others in that their members do make a public profession to the Church and are entitled to wear and be buried in a habit, and are subject to a religious superior. Third Orders are distinguished from the First and Second, because they do not impose the obligation of keeping the evangical councils of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience. However they do profess to follow the "Rule" of the Order, live out the ideals of the Order including the daily office and may also add Private Vows to the public profession.

Rich Pohlman S.F.O.

-- Anonymous, May 27, 1998

re: secular orders

Thank you, Rich. I did some more research, too, and came up with the following. OSV STORY FOR NOV. 30 A new laying down of the law on lay ministries An unusual Vatican instruction worries that the line between the laity and priesthood has grown far too fuzzy By Greg Burke [ROME] Under orders from Pope John Paul II, the Vatican on Nov. 13 issued an unusual teaching document aimed at curbing abuses in so-called lay ministry and drawing clearer distinctions between the clergy and laity. The document, titled "On Certain Questions Regarding the Collaboration of the Non-Ordained Faithful in the Sacred Ministry of Priests," was drafted and signed by the heads of eight different Vatican offices, and approved in forma specifica by the Pope, which means that it carries the full weight of papal authority. Some Vatican-watchers say that "collaborative ministry" is the heart of the matter that is being aimed at in the document. In many developed countries, including Switzerland, Belgium, Germany and the United States, this phrase has become the ideological vehicle for breaking down distinctions between lay people and priests, effectively resulting in the "laicization" of the clergy and, at the same time, a "clericalization" of the laity. The document is based on the solid Catholic teaching that there is an essential difference between the common priesthood of all the faithful and the ministerial, or ordained, priesthood. But sometime in the last few decades, especially in the United States and some European nations, many in Rome believe, the waters got muddied: Everyone became a "minister." And what started as "extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist" then became just "eucharistic ministers." However, the instruction does acknowledge the legitimate collaboration of the lay faithful in the ministry of priests. In places where a true shortage of priests exists, the generous response of the laity is lauded. But the document states clearly that in all of these situations, such measures must be seen as a temporary response to a severe  and not a contrived  shortage of priests. "It must be remembered that collaboration with' does not, in fact, mean substitution for,' " the instruction cautions.Copyright Our Sunday Visitor, 1997; from the 11-30-97 edition The following is a comment from Phillip F. Lawler: To address the problem, the 37-page Vatican document listed certain "abuses and transgressions" in which lay people: - are designated as "pastors" or "chaplains" for Catholic congregations, - participate as members of presbyteral councils; - deliver homilies at Mass; - join priests at the altar to recite the Eucharist prayer; and - serve routinely as Eucharistic ministers, even when there are no "extraordinary" circumstances requiring their involvement. Again, this Vatican document was released in November. What has happened since that time? As we survey the Catholic scene, we see no change whatsoever. In the parishes where those abuses occurred last year, they are still occurring today. Just for example, take the use of lay Eucharistic ministers--perhaps the least serious of the offenses listed above, but certainly the most widespread. The Church has made it quite clear that lay people should distribute the Eucharist only under "extraordinary" circumstances. Yet that practice was ubiquitous before the latest Vatican statement, and it remains ubiquitous today. It would be one thing to say that we could find parishes where that abuse was routine; in fact, we have trouble finding parishes where it is not routine. This latest Vatican document contained very little, if anything, that was new. Certainly there was nothing new in the cautions regarding the employment of "extraordinary" Eucharistic ministers. The Church has already condemned the "reprehensible" attitude of priests who leave lay people to distribute the Body and Blood of Christ, while they--the men who have been ordained to the Eucharistic ministry--leave the sanctuary to chat with parishioners in the vestibules. Yet that practice, too, remains routine. Also, everyone should try to read an article entitled: "What Catholics used to know" by Maximilian Korecki. This article addresses many of the issues being discussed here in the forum such as kneeling at communion, what is a genuflection and when is it proper. Also, refer back to Encyclical of His Holiness Pope Pius XII on the Sacred Liturgy, Mediator Dei. These sources cleared up a lot of questions I had, I hope they will help others.

-- Anonymous, May 29, 1998

confusion on secular and sacred orders

Dear Martha your statement on secular orders is very misleading and actally instulting to secular Franciscans, Dominicans, etc. As the official delegate of the Carmelite friars to the Lay Carmelites, (the name of the "secular" branch of the Carmelites of the Ancient Observance), let me say that they do not "mimic" religious but are full members of the religious order to which they are affiliated. I am not sure about other orders, but in the Lay Carmelites our members take promises (actually some do take private vows) at the end of their period of probation. They are expected to live the full Carmelite life as it applies to lay people. (The recitation of the Divine Office, daily mental prayer, etc.) Many of our Lay Carmelites are very advanced in the spiritual life, and many are more knowledgable of our spiritual heritage than some of the friars and nuns. Do not confuse lay or secular orders with sacred orders which are something quite else. Those ordained to the ministry of bishop, presbyter (priest), and deacon are in sacred orders. But the word order here has something very different in meaning. It refers to a person's position in the community of the baptized. In the ancient church there were many different orders: bishops, presbyters, deacons, subdeacons, acolytes, lectors, widows, virgins, catechumens, etc. In this sense order refers not to a religious family but to one's position in the Ordo Ecclesiae. There is much to learn about our Catholic heritage, you can't be expected to know everything. Get a good book--like the Catechism of the Catholic Church--and study up on it. It can take a lifetime to learn. Patrick

-- Anonymous, June 22, 1998

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