As we get to the meat of Ad Pascendum, Pope Paul VI acknowledges consultation with “experts” and bishops.
Having weighed every aspect of the question well, having sought the opinion of experts, having consulted with the episcopal conferences and taken their views into account and having taken council with our Venerable Brothers who are members of the Sacred Congregations competent in this matter. by our apostolic authority we enact the following norms, derogating–if and insofar as necessary–from provisions of the Code of Canon Law until now in force, and we promulgate them with this letter.
We start with norms on admitting candidates to either the diaconate or presbyterate:
1. (a) A rite of admission for candidates to the diaconate and to the priesthood is introduced. In order that this admission be properly made, the free petition of the aspirant made out and signed in his own hand, is required. as well as the written acceptance of the competent ecclesiastical superior, by which the selection by the church is brought about.
Professed members of clerical congregations who seek the priesthood are not bound to this rite.
The bishop or major superior accepts this commitment:
(b) The competent superior for this acceptance is the ordinary (the bishop and, in clerical institutes of perfection, the major superior). Those can be accepted who give signs of an authentic vocation and, endowed with good moral qualities and free from mental and physical defects, wish to dedicate their lives to the service of the Church for the glory of God and the good of souls. It is necessary that those who aspire to the transitional diaconate will have completed at least their twentieth year and have begun their course of theological studies.
This list of qualities is of interest. “Signs of an authentic vocation” covers a lot of necessary ground, which should include a spiritual life, and involvement in a substantive way in the lay apostolate. Age twenty seems young for the beginning of the transitional diaconate process, but my readers know my thoughts on that score. Age thirty strikes me as a better bar, with the rarely-used option of a dispensation for extraordinary candidates.
Candidates are not alone; the Church has an obligation to assist and foster this vocation:
(c) In virtue of the acceptance the candidate must care for his vocation in a special way and foster it. He also acquires the right to the necessary spiritual assistance by which he can develop his vocation and submit unconditionally to the will of God.
A note on the ministries of lector and acolyte:
2. Candidates for the permanent or transitional diaconate and for the priesthood are to receive the ministries of lector and acolyte, unless they have already done so, and are exercise them for a fitting time, in order to be better disposed for the future service of the word and of the altar.
Dispensation from the reception of these ministries on the part of such candidates is reserved to the Holy See.