This ministry goes by a lot of different names: catechist, pastoral administrator, pastoral associate, or whatever is politically correct in today’s church or in a diocese. Essentially, these next two sections talk about what happens when a lay person is in charge in a viable community that lacks an ordained minister to lead it.
“Assistant” is an interesting title I don’t see much in the US. But I suppose lay people in such positions do assist their parishioners.
[149.] More recently, in some dioceses long since evangelized, members of Christ’s lay faithful have been appointed as “pastoral assistants”, and among them many have undoubtedly served the good of the Church by providing assistance to the Bishop, Priests and Deacons in the carrying out of their pastoral activity. Let care be taken, however, lest the delineation of this function be assimilated too closely to the form of pastoral ministry that belongs to clerics. That is to say, attention should be paid to ensuring that “pastoral assistants” do not take upon themselves what is proper to the ministry of the sacred ministers.
What is proper? Spiritual direction? Signing checks? Representing the community at diocesan or ecumenical/interfaith functions? Being told by parishioners that such a person makes a good case for a married clergy, or women priests?
[150.] The activity of a pastoral assistant should be directed to facilitating the ministry of Priests and Deacons, to ensuring that vocations to the Priesthood and Diaconate are awakened and that lay members of Christ’s faithful in each community are carefully trained for the various liturgical functions, in keeping with the variety of charisms and in accordance with the norm of law.
RS 150 strikes me as spectacularly dense. A rural or urban parish of a few hundred families that develops a vocation to the priesthood is not going to see their candidate returned for duty locally, except in rare circumstances. When a priest visits weekly or less, there’s not much facilitation involved. Five minutes on the phone. Another five minutes an hour before Mass. 59 hours and 50 minutes unaccounted for.
Deacons still cannot preside at the Eucharist, hear confessions, or anoint the sick.
Blaming small communities for the failures shared by the institution is not only poor politics, but of questionable morality.