Roman Catholic laity expected to preside at services and run parishes
May 29, 2005 (PRLEAP.COM) Business NewsUnder proposals drawn up by the London Diocese of Westminster, lay people are to be encouraged to take on huge new responsibilities in the Church, from running parishes to officiating at church services.
The London Telegraph reports that the Green Paper sees that the laity will increasingly assume many of the traditional roles of the parish priest as clergy numbers continue to decline.
In the future, full-time lay ministers could live in clergy houses in parishes where the priest is no longer resident and routinely preside at weekday services using pre-consecrated communion hosts. Lay people have often been regarded as secondary to the clergy and the re-organisation of the country's "mother" diocese, initiated by Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, could result in a sea change.
Traditional Roman Catholics are likely to resist the changes. But Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor, who is the Archbishop of Westminster as well as head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, said the Church should encourage "the gifts of all the baptised".
The paper revealed that the number of priests in the diocese fell from more than 900 in the 1970s to 623 this year. The projected number in 2015 will be 471. Congregations remain strong, however, with about 150,000 Catholics - a third of the total in the diocese - regularly attending Mass.
As a result, the paper said, there were too few clergy for every parish to have a priest in residence, and priests would increasingly look after clusters of parishes with the help of lay people, who would take over a range of tasks.
"As demands on parish priests have increased, there has been greater delegation to lay people of those tasks which have often been (wrongly) assumed to belong exclusively to the ordained priesthood," it said.
The Old Catholic Church of Great Britain, which is in Holy Communion with The Free Catholic Church of Europe and NOT under Papal rule, was shocked to read what the Roman Church had stated in their official "Green Paper". A spokesman for the Old Catholic Church stated "This highlights the main differences between the Old Catholic / Free Catholic Churches and the Roman Catholic Churches, where we seek to reach out to those who may have felt alienated by their prior church experiences. We believe that who a person is, and how a person has chosen to live, does not separate them from the love and compassion of God; thus, The Old Catholics rejects artificial barriers to the reception of the Sacraments based on marital status and views the use of condoms as a matter of conscience.
Many Roman Catholic Priests have joined the Old Catholic Church with its canon laws permitting priests to marry and with the present application level, the Old Catholic Church of Great Britain and the Free Catholic Church of Europe are expecting to incardinate almost 300 new clergy in 2005/2006..