Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

The Role of the Lay Pastoral Administrator in the Mass

February 4th, 2010, Promulgated by Dr. K

This is the fourth installment of Cleansing Fire?s book review of Bishop Matthew Clark?s Forward in Hope. In this article, we will take a look at what Bishop Clark has to say about lay ministers, in particular lay pastoral administrators, and their role within the celebration of the Holy Mass. As we have mentioned here earlier, you will get more out of these posts if you follow along at home with a copy of Forward in Hope. So if you have not acquired a copy, be sure to do so. Remember, when you are done with the book, be sure to pass it along to a friend. Perhaps even a friend who wears a red hat and lives in Rome?

Beginning on page 84 of the book, Bishop Clark shifts the conversation to the role which lay administrators may perform during the Mass. As you and I already know, this role is limited to what the average layperson may do during the Mass; the lay administrator is not ordained but just another layperson. Some examples of LEGAL roles that an administrator can take in the Mass are: lector, Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion, and altar server. Note that I did not list lay homilist, because these are not permitted no matter how much the diocese wishes to fool us on this matter. But I digress? (that discussion is for another day).

Bishop Clark raises the question concerning whether or not the lay administrator should be granted a greater role in the Holy Mass. The Bishop acknowledges that presently, the lay administrator is not entitled to any sort of special role in the Catholic liturgy. This is seen when he says,?But what this law [Canon 517.2], and our current practice, does not offer is any provision of a liturgical role for the lay pastoral administrator or parish life director where so titled? (85). No argument here on that. Apparently, however, this is a problem for Bishop Clark. In fact, this represents ?difficulties? for him. Here is what he says, ?The difficulties for me, as bishop, in welcoming this new role into our diocesan and parish life are made more numerous and perhaps more pronounced because of the disconnect with the liturgy between the role of spiritual and pastoral leader of the parish community and the one who presides at Eucharist.? (85)

Now, it is painfully clear that such a problem would not even present itself were we to appropriately interpret Canon 517.2, and realize that laypeople may not run a parish as its ?pastoral leader.? However, this is the situation which has been fabricated here in Rochester, which he now feels the need to address. Bishop Clark is saying in the above passage that there is a problem because lay administrators are not given a role in the Mass which correlates with their role as leader of the parish community. This is seen once again in the following passage, ?there is a defined and noticeable disconnect when it comes to the liturgical roles associated with the position? (85).

After suggesting that it is a problem that these lay leaders can?t do more in the Mass, the bishop begins to provide various ?solutions? to this alleged problem. The bishop begins by offering the following ideas, ?Both parishioners and pastoral administrators might expect the administrator ? a pastoral leader of the community ? to do things like walk beside the presider in the entrance procession and then sit beside them in the sanctuary. Because the pastoral leader is so obviously charged with the spiritual care of the community, many see that these liturgical positions and gestures should follow from that very role.?(85) Why is it that either of these things necessary? To have the lay administrator walk alongside the celebrant, who is an ordained priest about to offer the sacrifice of the Mass, is to suggest that the lay administrator shares an equally important office with the priest. This is hardly the case. A community can survive just fine without a lay administrator, but without a priest, there is no Mass, no Confession, and no sacramental life. Sorry to burst some bubbles, but the lay administrator is not ?equal? to the priest with regard to their necessity or role in the community?s worship and pastoral life. There is also a problem when you have the lay person sit alongside the priest. There is no need for this to happen other than to prop up the lay administrator?s ego and create the symbolism that the administrator is equal in significance to the priest. The lay person will not be offering the Mass; the priest will. There is no need to take a seat more appropriate for a deacon, or an altar server who assists the priest.

The two roles above are largely symbolic; however, the bishop does propose a ‘speaking role’ for the lay administrator in the Mass. When it comes to the Baptism of a child, Bishop Clark believes that lay administrators should be able to perform preliminaries to the Baptism, and stand alongside the Baptismal font. Here are his words, ?So when they approach the baptismal font on the day of their child?s welcome into the community, it is natural that they expect the pastoral administrator to take some role in the rite. Again, this is forbidden at the present time. It would seem that at least the preliminary parts of the rite, such as the opening questions, could be conducted by the pastoral administrator. He or she is indeed the one who will call these same children by name into and in that community of faith.? (86) Again, there does not exist any need for the Pastoral Administrator to take on a special role in a liturgy unless one wishes to promote some sort of ?advancement of the laity,? condemned by the Church in Ecclesiae de Mysterio. Take careful note that Bishop Clark states that this is forbidden as of right now. He follows that up by saying ?it would SEEM? that the administrator can perform the Baptismal preliminaries. ?It would seem?? ?It would seem??!? This sounds like he is uncertain about the matter. Well then, how come we have witnessed Sr. Joan Sobala performing the Baptismal preliminaries during Masses at St. Anne while a priest and deacon are both present?

If there is in fact any uncertainty whether such a thing is allowed, why are we witnessing this in our parishes? Is it the DoR?s hope that they?ll be able to keep pushing the envelope regarding lay involvement in the liturgy until someone complains to the Vatican, and they say ?no?? I thought the age of experimentation was supposed to have ended with the finalization of the Novus Ordo Mass. Apparently not in Rochester.

As was mentioned yesterday, the bishop once again tries to paint the inequality of lay administrators with priests as a form of discrimination. One gets thi
s sense when they read the following, ?A pastoral administrator described the disappointment of her parishioners at a confirmation liturgy held among five rural parishes in our diocese. She was the only pastoral administrator in that cluster, she was the only woman minister present there, and she was the only parish leader not present in the sanctuary that evening. She had come to know the ropes and was not at all troubled by the arrangements she had grown accustomed to and had grown to accept. But the parishioners from her parish were very upset. They found the arrangement hurtful and in some way diminishing to their community, and certainly to their leader.? (86) Notice the various ways he tries to suggest there is discrimination present in this situation: ?only pastoral administrator?, ?only woman minister?, ?only parish leader not present in the sanctuary.? The bishop is focusing on her characteristics to suggest that she was not granted the same privilege as the priest because of them. He also concludes this passage by saying that the administrator’s not being permitted to sit in the sanctuary was ?diminishing? to the administrator. I?m sorry, but this administrator is not a priest. She is not ordained, and therefore she is not entitled to the privileges of the ordained priesthood. It?s not unfair at all, rather, it?s perfectly fair. It?s fair to the priests who, by virtue of their ordination, deserve to be seated within the sanctuary. Such a right does not belong to any lay person, whether they are Joe pew-sitter or Nancy alb-wearer. There is no discrimination, because there is no right being violated.

Bishop Clark concludes his concentration on the role which lay administrators take in the Mass by issuing a challenge for what he thinks needs to be done by the Church in the coming years. The bishop says, ?As we continue to nurture lay ecclesial ministry, we will absolutely need to recognize and assign the lay leader charged with a community?s pastoral care an appropriate and clearly visible role within the community?s worship.? (86) I must disagree; we do not ?absolutely need? to give a lay administrator any special role in the liturgy. Here are the reasons why: 1) Pastoral administration as it exists in Rochester does not properly conform to Church laws, as will be discussed tomorrow, 2) The offering of the Mass is the realm of the priest and deacon, by virtue of their ordinations; the laity have their own roles in the Mass, which are already clearly defined by the Church, 3) There does not exist any entitlement for lay people to have a role in the liturgy because of some job in parish administration. Bishop Clark is sadly blending parish administration with the Mass, which is a consequence many of us worried about when this entire program was put into place in Rochester. End lay pastoral administration, and you will end this problem. It’s time to stop attempting to give the laity priestly roles in the Mass in order to let them have a ‘taste’ of a priesthood which many people may not enter into by virtue of their marital status or gender.

Next installment: The Diocese of Rochester’s Erroneous Interpretation of Canon 517.2

Previous installments:
3. Creation of a Parallel Hierarchy
2. Bishop Clark On Obedience
1. Backward In Obedience: A Book Review of Forward in Hope

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30 Responses to “The Role of the Lay Pastoral Administrator in the Mass”

  1. Ben Anderson says:

    Dr. K,
    You are doing perhaps the most important rebuttal of Bishop Clark's nonsense that we have to date. This has got to be the beginning of the end for him – don't you think? He has to know the gamble he's taken by putting his ideas in print. It's a bet we should take. When you've finished your reviews and we get instructions for how to raise this to the appropriate authorities in Rome, I suggest we promote this campaign as much as possible. I will certainly do so at my blog. If we can get 10, 20, 30, maybe even 100 copies of this book sent to Rome, I can't see any way that Rome will simply ignore this heretical work. What do you think?

  2. Gen says:

    I agree, Ben. Things like this NEED to be sent to Rome. I'll talk to my people. 😉

  3. Persis says:

    Dr. K-
    I have not yet read ?Forward in Hope?. I can tell you though, that not all women who want to have a role in the church feel the way that many of the women you quote here do.

    I for one, while at one point in my life did believe that I had just as much right to do what the priest did and that the Church was ?wrong?, have come to see that it was my attitude that needed adjusting. As I have said before, my service to the Church should not be about ME, it should be about GOD!

    I see the role of ?Pastoral Administrator?, as one of working in collaboration with the priest- seeing to the mundane little daily things that keep a parish running, as well as helping, the priest in ways that I can with planning dynamic liturgies, encouraging hospitality and outreach and helping with faith formation and catechesis. I see that role as being essential, so that as our number of priest dwindle, they can concentrate on the duties that only they can perform, and know that the day-to day stuff is being handled.

    I do not want to replace the priest, wear an alb, sit in the sanctuary, or take control away from priests by relegating them to ?sacramental robots?. I do not want to be the ?spiritual leader? of a parish, that is the priest?s job.

    What desire is to use the talents that God has given me, in service to Him and others, in ways that support and nurture the Church and all Her people.

    Just my 2 cents!

  4. Ben Anderson says:

    I think you have the right attitude and I think it would be consistent with Church teaching. Having lay helpers is fine. Having lay "pastors" (which Clark puts on the same level or sometimes higher than the priest) is not fine. The Bishop is showing his cards in full that what he is promoting is the latter, not the former. Would you agree?

  5. Persis says:

    To answer your question, from what I have read so far here on Cleansing Fire, I would have to say "yes".

  6. Gen says:

    Persis, you can rest assured that the portions of FiH which we have posted are in no way unique from the other parts of the book. In the reading I have done thus far, I have found maybe one sentence which doesn't openly enter into disobedience. Maybe.

    The way an "administrator" should be active in ministry is to, as you said, do the little things – paying the bills, helping with fund-raising initiatives, organizing volunteers for Mass, keeping the church running. The liturgy, though, is solely the priest's. In no document anywhere does the Church give the lay administrator the ability to interfere, for good or for ill, in the liturgy.

  7. RochChaCha says:

    So why can't we get the local news media to do a story about the dissatisfaction that some (perhaps a lot) of local Catholics have with the leadership we see in the Bishop, or lack therof? You mean to tell me that 13WHAM et al would not want to do an expose on this book and the division it is causing?

  8. Gen says:

    You make the calls – we'll supply the evidence.

  9. Sister Emily says:

    DR. K.
    Yikes !!!!

    The information you provide us with is amazing. I don't know where else you can go and get this stuff!
    Being somewhat new to the faith I appreciate so much the knowledge YOU, GEN, AND CHOIR pass on to us
    not to mention the readers responses. I certainly hope when we get our new Bishop you will be working in the front line with him. I wish I could buy 100 of those books and send the 3 of you to Rome myself.hmmmmmmmm I have an idea!
    (To think I could be sitting over there at St. Annes in the dark right now! shudder, shudder, shudder

  10. Christopher says:

    I think we should take special care with the media here in Rochester. The Cardinals in Rome don't watch 13WHAM, the Rochester protestants who feel the church is corrupt do. If I was a protestant, I could easily be swayed into thinking that the DOR is corrupt and Rome is corrupt in that they let corruption persist. The media will love to jump in and expose to the public all of the not so proud things going on about the religion we love and cherish. The media will put the most "sensational" slant on this and we must remember that believers, non-believers, proestants, muslims, etc will see this and make their own assessments. Most of these people are already opposed to the catholic church and they will view this as even further ammunition of why they shouldn't return or consider the Catholic church. We must remember that we all have a very important request from scriptures to spread the Gospel and unify the church (that not only means the Catholic church). We must not go into this only single focused on fixing liturgical abuses but I certainly agree we shouldn't ignore it either.

    I think the right approach is to get Rome informed and try and solicit a response. The goal is to write some kind of professional note that shows 1) What problems the DOR is facing currently such schools closing, lack of priests ordained, churches closing, etc. using unbiased statistics.
    2) Then outlining the bishop's response to this in a purely factual way. The goal should be to present the quotes in full context. Along side the quotes, we should present the law passed down from Rome and ask humbly for a response in helping us understand the the vatican's position as it relates to the Bishop's writings.

    The goal is not to bash the Bishop, because if it comes across that way it is easier for the Vatican to set aside as emotional and uneducated interpretation of Canon law. The goal should be to just inform, seek clarification and ask for a response.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Some good points however we have written our Pope. We have sent emails, videos, pictures, documents to the Vatican. I am told they know all about Rochester. I wonder whose hands it goes to and what they do with it.
    It scares me to think some day my church could be on the chopping block. I don't want to someday have to carpool out of Rochester to attend a holy mass. I would hope we could find a devout Catholic reporter that may have our best interest at heart at the same time quality reporting.
    I bet Mike at Rochester DOR blog and Rich at Ten Reasons personaly know some good reporters.

    As far as the Protestants go, a year ago I was at a protestant wedding and someone tried to engage me in a distasteful conversation about Priests and young men. I pointed out that this has happended many times in other religions and the response I got from this Protestant was ' WELL EVERYONE KNOWS CATHOLIC CLERGY ARE MORE RELIGIOUS THAN ANY OTHER RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATION. (This was before the drinking started.!!)

    In the mean time we will keep on praying.

  12. Anonymous says:

    I guess what I am getting at is I think many prostestants know we have something more.

  13. Christopher says:

    "Some good points however we have written our Pope. We have sent emails, videos, pictures, documents to the Vatican. I am told they know all about Rochester. I wonder whose hands it goes to and what they do with it. "

    >>>> I don't know the answer to that but the only thing we can do is keep informing them of what's going on. This blog is great at getting information out there which noone else really reports on. It's a great first step, eventually we must trust in the "…household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth" 1 Timothy 3:15

    It scares me to think some day my church could be on the chopping block. I don't want to someday have to carpool out of Rochester to attend a holy mass.

    >>>> We must not go into the mindset of what is best for us individually. Obviously Rome is failing to deliever what is the pillar of truth to this area currently, however, I am going to go out on a limb and trust that rightousness will eventually prevail. I know it stinks but we are not priority #1 right now for Rome and there are places in the world right now where people can get killed for speaking Christ's name or congregating in any Catholic forum. We need to carry our cross to some degree and keep mindful of what the true goal is here. The fact remains there are MANY churches in Rochester you can goto that will allow you to be with God and be an acceptable offering to Him. Your response might be, "How can I make an acceptable offering to God if people are clapping and dancing during mass". Well that is difficult to answer, but we must keep focus on the Eucharist sacrifice being one of the primary reasons we go to mass. As long as that occurs to the official Church practices, I'm assuming that the mass is considered valid in the eyes of the Lord. I'm also assuming that if someday if a female lay minister ever participates in the consecration prayers and rituals that Rome will be sending a cardinal out here on the next flight out. At least I would have "Forward Hope" that is what would occur.

    "I would hope we could find a devout Catholic reporter that may have our best interest at heart at the same time quality reporting. I bet Mike at Rochester DOR blog and Rich at Ten Reasons personaly know some good reporters.

    >>>> While I would agree that may be a good idea with well intentions. How do you stop the liberal (unreligious) media from getting thier claws on it and distorting it to the secular public who already has an unfavorable opinion of us.

  14. Ben Anderson says:

    I would agree with Christopher. #1 – this isn't a good press type of thing. It wouldn't help us at all – I can't see any good coming from it.

    #2 – unless someone really knows what they're doing (someone who's worked for or closely with the media for a while) the media will totally distort this. The message won't be "holy faithful not happy with dissident bishop". It'll be "modern enlightened bishop has the rough job of appeasing traditionalist catholics who cling to hateful ways"

    I also agree with you, Christopher, that we do what we can do to try and change things, but we shouldn't let it steal our peace. Once we've done what we can, we must accept the situation we're in and never stop praising God.

  15. Mike says:

    Rich will have to speak for himself, but I do not personally know any local reporters, good or otherwise.

    And I also have some serious reservations about going public. There are just too many ways for something like that to go wrong.

    Keep sending reports to Rome and keep praying. God is in charge and he knows what he's doing.


    [Totally off topic: My verification word is kinessen. Does that make me a familial cannibal? (It helps to know a little German.)]

  16. Christopher says:

    I would go as far as to say also that this blog is very dangerous if the liberal or protestant media got their hands on it. Though everything is intended posted on it is intended to be with good and sacred purpose. It can easily be warped into being example after example of the "church's corruption" (Protestant) or "church is bad" (Secular).

    CF must be mindful to report each infraction with this in mind providing the facts, the reason why the infraction is wrong, and also keep a clear focus on what this website is designed to do and WHY!

    Again, this sort of stuff scares me because it is ammunition that can be used for many different reasons depending on how you view it.

  17. Gen says:

    We do things the way we do for a reason; several good reasons, in truth.

    We take more precautions than anyone could ever suppose, and we only report FACT. Not rumor, not "whispers of war," but the "war" itself. As we have said, time and time again, "silence gives consent – qui tecet consentire." Is it not better to suffer physical punishment and have spoken the Truth, than to have watered down Truth to something so valueless that in so doing we have wronged ourselves and our Church?

    To hold one's tongue, to worry about chastisement and punishment, to bend the knee to error and fault – all this is to let ourselves be ruled by the Evil One. God made the Church, His Divine Spouse, and He made humans in His image. Humans have free will, and have used the free will, through sin, to corrupt the Church. We use our free will to address the ills that plague the local Church. And I say "local" because these problems stop at our borders. New York City doesn't have women in albs delivering homilies, or schismatic priests going unanswered.

    We are not the total solution. We are a preamble to it.

  18. Christopher says:

    Gen, Dr. K and all the contributers I can safely say you do an excellent job with this site. The only thing I think that I could critique is the following. The site needs a more in-depth and clarifying mission statement. Mentioning not only what the purpose and intentions of the site are and what they are NOT about as well.

    In addition, I think it our duty to link to a page about WHY we believe we need to uphold the tradition of the church well. Many Catholics do not care about tradition because they don't understand why it's important or that it's biblically based as well. Many Protestants don't understand why tradition is not important because they think it's not biblical (which it most certainly is).

    I think this site does an excellent job at explaining what is going on, but it just needs a little more meat in the beginning to explain why we believe what we believe.

    If you ask the average catholic what does the bible say we should hold to our traditions? I'm afraid of how they'd answer it.

    I'm sure there's several sites out there which do justice to this, I have a Catholic verse finder cheat sheet at home which I could post all of the versus in scripture about tradition. We don't need to re-invent the wheel but I think it is important to keep us informed but also educated.

  19. Anonymous says:

    Again, It's Balogney to think people, getting their childres baptized, want a lay minister to be part of the ceremony. No, it;s just another confabulation to push the envelope.

    Please, also, how many times have we sent items to Rome….and NADA. I am skeptical and don't expect anything to happen. This bishop sems to be protected. It's easier to disbar a lawyer or take a physician's license away than eplacing a bishop.

    This is my only beef I have with JP2 and Pope Benedict.

  20. Anonymous says:

    I'm only going to ask this question, and it's only a question. Bishop Clark has been bishop for over thirty years. People have been writing to Rome, visiting Rome, and in some cases, have met individually with high placed clerics (e.g. Cardinal Ratzinger when he was head of the CDF). After all of the "informing" of Rome that has been done for decades – Bishop Clark remains as ordinary of the diocese. Shouldn't that tell us something?

  21. Dave says:

    Having dealt with this at St. Anne at the onset of Joanism sadly the ordinary of the diocese has TREMENDOUS power no matter how misguided. Every Catholic is obligated to, while being charatible, to do evertyhing in there power to let the Church know of the joke of a bishop we have. CF is doing that. They all know and we will be rewarded when the next bishop is selected.

  22. Gen says:

    Christopher – we have released a "mission statement." You can find it at this address:

  23. Ben Anderson says:

    I just want to jump in and also commend you guys. It can be off-putting to read this stuff sometimes, but it's not the messenger's fault. It's the reality of the situation we're in. Yes, it's embarrassing. It's hard to evangelize to protestants and others when you have to give a disclaimer ("Catholicism is awesome, but be careful in this diocese because there are many Catholic leaders who really aren't Catholic"). But again, that's the reality of the situation. I'd say that it's more respectful to be honest. As a new member of the Church and a former protestant, I find it much more appealing that people stand up for what they believe than the progressive nonsense being spouted by so many Catholic leaders around here. I found it encouraging to know that the "real" Catholics – the ones who take their faith seriously are just as opposed to wishy-washiness Catholicism as I was. It can actually help non-catholics distinguish between the real thing and the imposter. What I found much less encouraging was the fact that 500 people could sit and listen to a priest make heretical claims in his homily and think nothing of it. I guess it's the whole "boil a frog slowly" thing that has gotten the average dor parishioner thinking everything is just hunky-dory as is.

  24. Anonymous says:

    I worry what will happen after this bishop retires. You know, he will continue trying to spread his filth and undrmine any attempts by his successor to change the face of Catholocism in Rochester.

    Bishop Kickey was pro life and if I remember correctly, used to pray in front of abortion clinics until he was "Taken to the woodshed" by bishop Clark. Fr. Muggavaro would protest in front of Dr. Morris Wortman's office until he was granted a trip to the woodshed, took a 6 month leave of absence and as a result, has never been as active in pro life since.

    The new bishop will have to be a strong tough Patton like person. I think he will have to take Bishop Clark to the woodshed and read him the riot act or else, his efforts will fail.

  25. Persis says:

    Fr. Mugavero was not "taken to the woodshed and given a 6 month leave of absence" he was on sabbatical, learning Spanish, so he could better serve the people of Holy Apsotle's where he is the new Pastor. I know that he is still very "pro-life" although now as a pastor, he may not have as much time to be out on the front lines as much as he used to be.

  26. Anonymous says:

    Bishop Hickey (not Kickey) was never told to stop anything by Bishop Clark. The man simply grew older and found it more difficult to get around. Bishop Clark and Bishop Hickey had a fantastic friendship and working relationship, with tremendous respect for each other. I don't know where you are getting your information from, but it's clearly wrong.

  27. Christopher says:

    Gen, first, the image in that post is busted. 2nd, is there a link to that documentation on the opening page of cleansing fire?

    I think it's very very important for people to have that info readily available and easy to find when they see this site for the first time. You may disagree….

    Sorry to be a stickler, again, I love this site and our religion so I'm protective…

  28. Isabel says:

    There are many good Catholic bloggers all over the world. If you want to shine a spotlight on DOR, maybe that could be a route to look into. Why not write to some of them and ask them to get the word out?
    Anyone who listens to EWTN knows of these people.
    Here a just a few:
    Scott Hahn
    Mark Shea
    Johnnette Benkovic
    Raymond Arroyo
    James Akin
    Marcus Grodi
    Father Mitch Pacwa
    Father Benedict Groeschel
    Franciscan Friars of the Renewal
    Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal

  29. alanhitchings says:

    Thank you for the review. We have been seeing the examples of this policy in our parish (5 Saints West.) Our pastoral administrator has been allowed several times to give the homily, though they deny that is what she is doing, instead say she is reflecting on the homily. When there is no Homily from the priest, there is nothing to reflect on. We have been in communication with both the priest and the pastoral admin, and been told repeatedly to contact the Bishop. Which I have done. We will see what happens.

  30. alanhitchings says:

    Isabel, If I might add to your list, Patrick Madrid and Michael Voris (of Real Catholic TV)

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