There is a very interesting piece from the Irish Independent entitled "It's Mass by any other name as women lead faithful in prayer". It and the comments following it seem to show a very serious problem in Irish Catholicism. It is about a Sunday lay led Liturgy of the Word with the distribution of Holy Communion. Today too, the Archbishop of Liverpool commissioned some lay people to conduct funeral services in the absence of a priest.
Increasingly in the Europe we are going to be faced with not having enough priests to celebrate Mass on Sundays. There are it strikes me several possibilities.
- What happened in this particular parish, a deacon or lay led Liturgy of the Word with the distribution of Holy Communion.
- Some other liturgical action takes place such as the singing of the Divine Office. and people "fast" from the Eucharist because their community does not have a priest. Or some other liturgical action takes place such as the singing of the Divine Office. and Holy Communion is distributed.
- Nothing happens in a particular church and people are expected, if they can, to travel to the nearest Church where there is Mass
The form and structure of such lay led services, which mirror the Mass in everything but the Eucharistic Prayer, only seem to add to the confusion.
The use of women as leaders of such services circumvents the debate we should have, and which most Protestant communities have had, as to whether the Catholic and Apostolic faith actually allows for the oversight, the episkope, of lay women. It is not something which has ever happened in either the East or West, it is something new, we seem to be making a huge theological leap without much thought or debate.
Well, maybe that is not quite correct, I am sure that many liberal theologians have thought this through quite seriously and see it as indeed a way of introducing female priests through the back door.