| Year 2000 Canonical Studies pp. 161-180
PARTICIPATION OF THE LAITY IN THE DICISION-MAKING STRUCTURES OF THE LOCAL CHURCH
(Fr. Karambai S. Sebastian)
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In the final message of the Synod for Asia, the Synodal Fathers, speaking about the laity, said: “Many signs indicate that the Spirit is empowering them for an even greater role in the coming millennium, which could be called the age of the laity:. This change is definitely the fruit of the efforts taken to create awareness among the laity about their particular vocation and mission. In India at the national, regional and diocesan/eparchial levels, commissions, desks for the laity, women, youth have been established. Formation programmes exclusively for these groups are conducted. One important area where the lay persons are to be involved is in the ministry of governance of the Church. This is done either by way of giving them ecclesiastical offices and ministries or of including them in the process of consultation and decision-making in committees and councils.

Both the Latin and the Oriental Codes have legislated as many as ten decision-making structures within the particular church among which the laity can participate in six-three each at the diocesan and the parish levels. Besides these, each particular church can establish as many structures as needed involving the laity in the decision-making process at various levels. Collaboration of the laity with the ordained pastors in the decision-making ministry is not based on the concession arbitrarily granted by the latter, but on the legal provision originating from the fundamental obligation and right of all the christian faithful. CIC states: “Lay persons who excel in necessary knowledge, prudence and integrity are qualified to assist the pastors of the Church as experts and advisors in councils according to the norm of law (c.228, §2). The parallel canon in the CCEO is more explicit and forceful: “Lay persons who excel in the necessary knowledge, experience and integrity, should be heard as experts or consultors by ecclesiastical authorities, whether individually or as members of various councils and assemblies, whether parochial, eparchial or patriarchal” (c.408, §1). This paper attempts to study the juridical and pastoral impact generated by these canons. It consists of two parts: Part I presents the jus vigens in respect of the participation of laity in the six consultative bodies and Part II offers some critical observations.

I. PRESENT LEGISLATION

1. The Diocesan Synod/Eparchial Assembly (CCEO cc. 235-242; CIC cc. 460-468)

By virtue of Episcopal ordination, diocesan bishops possess power of governance which is distinguished as legislative, executive and judicial (c.135, §1). They have a sacred right and a duty before the Lord of legislating for their subjects (LG, 27). They may exercise legislative power not only to complement or determine superior juridical norms where such oblige or permit them, but also, bearing in mind the needs of the local Church and of the faithful, to regulate at diocesan level, with regard to any pastoral matters not reserved to the supreme authority or to some other ecclesiastical authority (c. 392).

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