Interrogation of John Lilburne (from Acta Processus, In Causa Lilburne - Dowling, 301 00 165, First Instance, Tribunal of the Catholic Church, Victoria and Tasmania, pages 13-17):







Interrogation of the Petitioner

The Petitioner, John Raymond Lilburne, gave evidence before the Very Reverend Ian B Waters, Judicial Vicar, at the Offices of the Tribunal, 402 Albert Street, East Melbourne, Victoria, on Tuesday, 6th February, 2001 at 2.30 p.m.

1. Do you understand the sacred nature of an Oath? Will you please give evidence under Oath?

Yes. (Oath taken).

2. Please give your name, address, date and place of birth, occupation, religion and its practice?

John Raymond Lilburne ... [address given] Victoria. Student, Catholic and practising.

3. What is your Parish?

I live in the parish of Park Orchards - Warrandyte. I attend Mass regularly at St Patrick's Cathedral, rather than at Park Orchards - Warrandyte.

4. Can you claim that you are a parishioner of St Patrick's Cathedral Parish? If so, how or by what title?

No. I do not live within the Cathedral Parish boundaries. I spent 18 months living at Corpus Christi, College, firstly at Clayton, then at Carlton. I first wrote to Dean Dowling on the 4th July, 2000, soon after ceasing to be a Seminarian, and with little involvement in my parish of Park Orchards-Warrandyte. The Cathedral is my normal place of worship.

5. You were instituted as a Lector on the 27th February, 2000. What rights did that institution give you?

The rights from Canon 230.3 flow from that institution. The Canon is stating that if ministries are available then non-instituted lay persons do not have a right to read. I see the fundamental right and duty si that of reading the Scriptures as Mass. Other rights and duties, e.g. instructing children and adults in the faith, and also given to instituted lectors. I believe some liturgical documents also give instituted lectors priority in rights and duties, such as reading the general intercessions and in performing blessings and in other liturgical actions such as the liturgy of the hours.

6. Do you believe that you, as an instituted lector, have the right to read anywhere or everywhere, that is, in any or all Catholic Churches?

Within the obvious limits of language (that is my being able to speak or read a particular language) I believe that as an instituted lector I have the right to make myself available to participate in the liturgy as an instituted reader within the Latin Church in all Latin Rite Churches. If several instituted readers are present, I do not have a right ahead of any of them. I recognise that the Parish Priest or Rector of the Church has the right and duty to plan the celebration of the liturgy. So, in being given the right to read, a reasonable amount of notice would need to be given of my availability.

7. You have been liturgically instituted as a lector, and believe that you have acquired the right to read. Does the Dean of the Cathedral or the Rector of any Church or the Parish Priest of a Parish Church have any rights in deciding who may read or function liturgically in the Church under his pastoral governance?

Yes. The priest has rights and responsibilities. But what he does needs to be in accordance with the law.

8. Would you hold that in the case of a Cleric - whether a Deacon or a Priest or a Bishop - that ordination alone gives him the right to carry out diaconal or priestly or episcopal functions anywhere or everywhere?

No. There are fairly clear rules of Bishops and Dioceses and Priests and Parishes. But, as I understand it, there are not similar restrictions on the instituted lector and acolyte.

9. You state in your Petitionn that the Respondent damaged unlawfully your good reputation. Could you name witnesses who would appear before this Tribunal to give evidence about this damaging of your reputation?

Witnesses could be brought forward, but I believe that they are unnecessary, becuase the damage to my reputation is clear from logic. Because I was instituted publicly before relatives, friends and parishioners, I believe these persons would henceforth expect to see me at Mass, not sitting in the pews, but performing the ministry of lector. If everyday in the Cathedral I was to be included in the entrance procession, wearing an alb, sitting in the sanctuary and reading the reading and intercessions, then clearly my reputation among the Catholic community in Melbourne would be enhanced.

10. Do you believe that people listening to the scriptures proclaimed in Church assign a good reputation to the reader?

Yes. I believe proclaiming the scriptures is a skill, and is something I have worked hard to become good at. In our first year as Seminarians, we had elocution training, and I also read the Jerusalem Bible from start to finish out loud. So, just as the reputation of the Cantor will be enhanced or diminished by how well he sings, the reader's reputation will be enhanced or diminished by how well and intelligently he proclaims the word of God. I see the Minstry of instituted lector as a ministry, as so a role of leadership in the Church.

11. You state you were denied "decent remuneration" despite the expenses incurred in appropriate formation. Would you kindly detail:

(a) What amount of renumeration do you consider you were entitled to and thus denied?

I was given no renumeration. Most instituted lectors are Seminarians and are therefore maintained. It seems to me that an instituted lector should receive less than a deacon, perhaps the same as an instituted acolyte, but not less than what is received by a member of a choir, a cantor or an organist. I realise demand and supply will affect the wage paid for services. Canon 230.1 states that institution as a lector or acolyte does not confer on lay men the right to support or renumeration from the Church. I see that as saying that mere institution does not entitle one to a wage. However, fulfilling the duties of an instituted lector does entitle one to remuneration in accordance with Canon 231.2. I would see myself as having pledged myself permanently to a special service of the Church as stated in Canon 231.1.

(b) What expenses did you incur in formation for this Ministry?

By being a student, I am not earning a full wage. The cost of subjects at Catholic Theological College is about $300 each. I have paid fees since I ceased being a Seminarian. The Minstry is not merely the reading, but also instructing children and adults in the faith. Canon 231.1 requires me to have appropriate formation and I am trying to do that. Perhaps other expenses include the purchase of books.

(c) Are you hinting or suggesting or requesting that the Respondent should provide remuneration as part or all of the just penalty you seek to have applied to him?

Not having performed the services as yet, I am not yet entitled to payment. I believe that I have been deprived of this payment because of the actions of the Respondent, that is, he has refused to use me.

12. Do you hold that where an instituted lector is present, he must read at a liturgical celebration, even though he does not belong to that community and does not have a parish appointment?

There needs to be adequate notice and planning. But with that qualification my answer is yes, provided no other instituted lector is available.

13. You refer to Canon 1375 and the breaching of the freedom of ecclesiastical ministry. Do you hold that the ministry of lector is ecclesiastical ministry as encompassed by the provisions of Canon 1375?

Ecclesiastical ministry clearly means Church Ministry, and the Minstry of Lector is clearly a Church Ministry as stated in Canon 230.1.

14. In your letter of 4th July, 2000 to the Respondent, you quoted the General Instruction to the Lectionary of the Mass, which indicates that during the celebration of Mass and instituted lector must wear the distinctive vestment of office. Is there such a vestment or what is this vestment?

It is simply the alb, based on the law. In the Book of Blessings, it is stated that the Conference of Bishops can decide on a distinctive vestment. To my knowledge, the Australian Bishops have not decided on such a vestment. The other option is the cassock and surplice mentioned in the Ceremonial of Bishops for the Ministers in the sanctuary. The general instruction to the lectionary of the Mass para. 54 says that instituted lectors must wear vestments, and non-instituted readers "may go to the lectern in ordinary attire".

15. Is there anything else you would like to say?

My arguments about the role of the lector have been strengthened by the recent issue of the New General Instruction for the Roman Missal.

Tribunal Office


John Lilburne

6th February, 2001.

I.B. Waters

Judical Vicar.


This interview commenced at 2.30 p.m. and finished at 5.05 p.m., with a 20 minute interval around the halfway mark. The Petitioner exercised great care in the phrasing and recording of the answers. There can be no question about his truthfulness, nor about his sincerity.

I.B. Waters.


Copyright J.R. Lilburne 8 Oct 2001. Last updated 13 October 2001.