Monday, May 19, 2008


This snippet from The Catholic Spirit, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis (RSCT to Gerald Augustinus, snarky comments mine):

Father Terry Rassmussen, pastor of St. Joseph in New Hope, finished reading, closed the Book of the Gospels, and stepped away from the ambo. From the congregation, Ginny Untiedt stepped forward.

Clad in a white robe, Untiedt bowed as Father Rassmussen laid his hands on her head and blessed her. She looked up, walked to the ambo and began preaching for the last time. (There should have never been a first time!)

As many as 29 parishes in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis have used lay preachers at Mass during the past 25 years. In January, however, Archbishop Harry Flynn instructed pastors to discontinue the practice. He gave his retirement date - May 2 - as the time by which parishes should develop "a pastoral plan" to end lay preaching at Mass. (Someone better get word over to St. Joan's. Here's their "upcoming speaker" list up to June 8.)

In his January letter to pastors, Archbishop Flynn referenced the 2004 Vatican instruction "Redemptionis Sacramentum," which called eucharistic lay preaching - a non-ordained person reflecting on the Gospel reading at the place in Mass usually reserved for a homily by a priest or deacon - a liturgical abuse. (And action is just taken in 2008 - four years later!)

Only an ordained person should preach after the Gospel at Mass, Archbishop Flynn said.

Many lay preachers have expressed "enormous grief and anger" over the directive to stop the practice, said Patricia Hughes Baumer, who co-founded the lay preaching training organization Partners in Preaching with her husband, Fred, in 1997.

Proponents of lay preaching argue that canon law allows the practice and that both the congregation and pastors benefit from hearing Gospel reflections from diverse voices. (Balderdash! Nothing could be further from the truth! Read on.)


Archbishop Flynn said he has explained to Baumer on two occasions why lay preaching during the Mass cannot be promoted. He said canon law does not support the practice of lay preaching at the place of the homily during Mass. The education, formation and ordination of priests and deacons make them uniquely suited to preach during Mass, he said.

"There has to be that kind of training and theological background that even a person with a master's degree in theology would not have," he said. "The church does not want people just standing up there and giving opinions or even things they've read in books, but [rather]: What is the clear teaching about this mystery of our faith?"

Exactly. Too bad this problem wasn't addressed a long time ago. Or better still, the practice of lay preaching should have never started to begin with.


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