Brief of the Advocate for the Petitioner (from Acta Processus, In Causa Lilburne - Dowling, 301 00 165, First Instance, Tribunal of the Catholic Church, Victoria and Tasmania, pages 50 - 52):







Brief of the Advocate for the Petitioner


John Lilburne was instituted as a lector at St Patrick's Cathedral Melbourne on 27 February 2000. At the time he was a seminarian for the Archdiocese of Melbourne. Subsequently, he departed from the Seminary and ceased training for the priesthood. He continues his theological studies and is still in good standing as an instituted lector. He offered himself for service as a lector at St Patrick's Cathedral by letter dated 4 July 2000.

On the 10 August 2000 John Lilburne met with Dean Dowling and he followed up this discussion with a letter of 14 September. The Dean's letter of 25 October 2000 declines the offer and further states that there are no vacancies and a waiting list for readers at the Cathedral. The petitioner claims that this rebuff damages his reputation since those who know of his role as an instituted lector may conclude that his failure to exercise this ministry derives from some imagined penalty.


The Code of Canon Law states:
For the most part the Code does not determine the rites to be observed in the celebration of liturgical actions. Accordingly, liturgical laws, which have been in effect hitherto, retain their force, except for those that may be contary to the canons of the Code. Canon 2 C.I.C. 83

The liturgical books, approved by the competent authority, are to be faithfully followed in the celebration of the sacraments. Accordingly, no one may on a personal initiative add to or omit or alter anything in those books. Canon 846.1 C.I.C. 83

Thus the faithful have a right to experience the liturgy of the Roman rite performed in conformity with the liturgical directions for that rite.

Other texts relevant to this issue are:

51. "The reader has his own particular functions in the Mass, and it is he who should fulfil them even though ministers of a higher rank may be present." (General Instruction on the Roman Missal, 55) The reader's ministry, conferred by a liturgical rite, is to be held in esteem. Commissioned readers should perform their task on Sundays and major feasts at least, especially at the principal Mass. They may also be given the task of helping to plan the liturgy of the word and, so far as it is necessary, of seeing to the preparation of others of the faithful who are asked to read at Mass from time to time.
52. Readers, whether commissioned or not, are required in the liturgical assembly. Arrangements should therefore be made to have qualified lay persons trained for this ministry. When there is more than one reading it is better to assign them to different readers than to have them all read by one person.
(General Introduction to the Lectionary for Mass, S.C. S.D.W. De verbi Dei, 2nd Edition 21 Jan 1981)

1144. In the celebration of the sacraments it is thus the whole assembly that is leitourgos, each according to his function, but in the "unity of the Spirit" who acts in all. "In liturgical celebrations each person, minister or layman, who has an office to perform, should carry out all and only those parts which pertain to his office by the nature of the rite and the norms of the liturgy." (SC28) (Catechism of the Catholic Church.)

In celebrations presided over by the bishop it is fitting that readers formally instituted proclaim the readings and, if several readers are present, they should divide the reading accordingly. Ceremonial of Bishops n. 31

In the Motu Proprio, Ministeria quaedam, Pope Paul VI reformed the discipline of minor orders and the subdiaconate. In this letter the role of reader or lector is specifically called a ministry (n.2). A ministry differs from an "office" as per canon 145 in that once instituted, the person may change from one place to another without requiring further installation or appointment. An office is restricted to one place.

The qualities required for installation in the ministry of lector are also listed in the motu proprio (n.8). The conferral of this ministry does not confer the right to sustenance or remuneration (n.12 and canon 230.1)


That the petitioner is an institued lector is a matter of fact. That the Dean of the Cathedral is the one responsible for the determining who reads at Mass at the Cathedral is also a fact. The letter of Bishop Hart establishes this. Thus the respondent in this case is the Dean and not the Parish Priest of the Cathedral (that is, Archbishop Pell).

The basic argument in this petition is that according to the law of the Church and the liturgical books there is a hierarchy of preference in lay ministries within the Catholic Rite. Just as extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist may only be used when there is a pastoral need and an absence of ordinary ministers (that is priests, deacons or instituted acolytes {Footnote: It is worthy of note that even in the presence of a number of concelebrants, an instituted acolyte is permitted to distribute the Eucharist, whereas an extraordinary minister of the Eucharist is not. See Letter of Cardinal Prefect of the Congegation of Sacraments to all Papal representatives, 21 September 1987.}, so too the readings at Mass are only performed by those of temporary designation (canon 230.2) when those instituted in the permanent and stable ministry of lector are unavailable.

Admission to the ministry of lector is only done after a person has been deemed suitable for such a role. It is a stable and continuing ministry and is uninterrupted unless the local ordinary takes steps to explicitly remove the ministry from a certain person. This may only occur if there is a just cause and a formal process followed.

The General Instruction on the Roman Missal (n.51) states that the reader's ministry must be held in respect. Where a legitimately instituted lector is deliberately and knowingly prevented from exercising his ministry and the service of temporary lay people preferred on a whim, this shows no respect to the ministry nor to the requirements of the liturgical books. Further, this consititutes the impeding of the freedom of ministry as outlined in canon 1375. A just penalty for impeding this freedom of ministry is specified in this canon.

There is an order of priority in the Church's hierarchy of service as demonstrated by the letter of Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation of Sacraments to all Papal representatives, 21 September 1987.

Perhaps an attitude of complacency has arise around the conferral of the ministries of lector and acolyte. They have come to be seen only as incidental steps on the path to diaconate and priesthood. However such ministries are not to be restricted to this (Ministeria quaedam n.3). Should a person, in good faith while preparing for the priesthood be instituted as a lector, then subsequently cease studies for holy orders, he remains an instituted lector with all its attendant rights and duties until such time a the local ordinary removes that ministry. I stress that this can only be done for a just cause and certainly not simply because the said person's presence inconveniences Cathedral reader's rosters.

Dean Dowling's reply that there is no present vacancies and a waiting list for readers at the Cathedral has validity only for an application made by a lay person who does not possess the instituted ministry of lector. An instituted lector must take priority over all lectors of temporary designation, even those who are already on the roster, just as a rostered extraordinarly minister of the Eucharist is automatically displaced by a priest concelebrant.

I urge the court to defend the petitioner's rights in this issue, to show respect for the ministry of lector and to direct the Dean of the Cathedral to include the petitioner as one of the lectors on the Cathedral reader's roster.

 Mrs Maree Rewell  
 Advocate for the petitioner. [Signed] Maree Rewell 
 East Melbourne  
  [Handwritten] 5 March 2001.

Copyright J.R. Lilburne, 16 October 2001.