Archbishop proposes replacing priests with lay pastors

National Catholic Reporter

The Archbishop of Lima suggests replacing priests with laity in parishes in the Peruvian capital.

Archbishop Carlos Gustavo Castillo Mattasoglio (Castillo) says he has been asking the Vatican for permission for lay people to be allowed to administer parishes.

In his opinion “there is a philosophy of the simple daily life of the people that we have to take up again.

“I think that, as a Church, we are going to have to work hard to provide a Church closer to the people with greater equality,” he says.

Castillo says he spent a month in Rome encouraging them to give him permission “for various things that are not allowed.”

He says the “various things” included asking for “permission for families, or couples, or groups of married couples or older lay adults to take over parishes because it’s better to send priests to study a little…”

In their parish capacities Castillo proposes “the laity act as pastors or heads of churches, keeping the communities up and running as they do when they [the priests] go to Europe.”

Citing churches in Paris, for example, he says lay people “keep the Christian community going without the need for priests.

“Then there’s a priest who celebrates Mass for them once a week or twice on Sunday, whatever it may be; but we have to think of more egalitarian ways, closer to the people,” he says.

Castillo says this is what “synodality” refers to and that “we did that in the consultation we made in the synodal assembly” of the Archdiocese of Lima.

“There were 800 delegates and we agreed on how to make the Church of Lima,” he says.

Castillo says “the pope wants the Church on a Latin American and global level to consult about how the future should be and organise itself according to the agreement that the authorities have together with the people themselves and thus move forward.”

Although he would like replace priests with laity, Castillo is aware his proposal is contrary to canon law.

The Code of Canon Law defines a parish as “a certain community of the Christian faithful stably constituted in a particular church, whose pastoral care is entrusted to a pastor (parochus) as its proper pastor (pastor) under the authority of the diocesan bishop.” Canon Law also says “to become a pastor validly, one must be in the sacred order of the presbyterate.”

Only as an exception “due to a shortage of priests” does canon law allow a bishop to entrust “the pastoral care of a parish to a deacon, to another person who is not a priest, or to a community of persons.”

Even in these cases, the Code of Canon Law establishes that the bishop “is to appoint some priest who, provided with the powers and faculties of a pastor, is to direct the pastoral care.”


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