This is for anyone to answer: Does your diocese have the ministry of instituted acolyte?

I’m asking because I recently discovered that this is the ministry that altar servers and extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion are based upon. Only when an instituted acolyte is not present are these ‘ministries’ to be present. What’s the solution for dioceses across the world? Simply have no instituted acolytes. Problem solved. Now the duties of the acolyte can be assigned to whomever without regard to the actual teaching on this ministry.

Here’s a breakdown of what I understand, and I welcome all input and correction:

  • Canon 230 of the Code of Canon Law states, “Lay men who possess the age and qualifications established by decree of the conference of bishops can be admitted on a stable basis through the prescribed liturgical rite to the ministries of lector and acolyte. Nevertheless, the conferral of these ministries does not grant them the right to obtain support or remuneration from the Church.”
  • The USCCB, in their complimentary legislation on Canon 230, state, “The National Conference of Catholic Bishops, in accord with the prescriptions of canon 230§1, hereby decrees that a layman who is to be installed in the ministries of lector or acolyte on a stable basis must have completed his twenty-first (21) year of age. The candidate must also possess the skills necessary for an effective proclamation of the Word or service at the altar, be a fully initiated member of the Catholic Church, be free of any canonical penalty, and live a life which befits the ministry to be undertaken.”
  • However, in their Guidelines for Altar Servers, the USCCB states “Although institution into the ministry of acolyte is reserved to lay men, the diocesan bishop may permit the liturgical functions of the instituted acolyte to be carried out by altar servers, men and women, boys and girls. Such persons may carry out all the functions listed in nos. 98-100 of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal.”

So there it is. The ministry of instituted acolyte should be reserved for men of a certain age, determined by the conference of Bishops. Okay. So what does our conference of Bishops do? They provide a loophole so that in the absence of instituted acolytes, their duties (short of purification of the Holy Vessels) can be done by anyone. And naturally, any loophole provided the American Church becomes standard procedure.

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