Theology and Practice, with Special Reference to the 1997 Papal Instruction Ecclesiae de Mysterio
GOAL: The thesis examined the notion of Catholic volunteers in literature. Although a historical survey included 199 ecclesiastical
documents, special treatment was given to Ecclesiae de Mysterio, because it gives principles and practice, is recent,
was approved line-by-line by the pope, was published by papal order, and allows no exceptions.
LIMITS: The study directly concerns Catholic dogmatic theology
UNTREATED: Prior to this dissertation, the treatment of Catholic volunteers is missing from dogmatic theology. In 1954,
Yves Congar treated lay Catholics, but not volunteers. Gregorian University professors Bonnet and Ghirlanda treated laity
in the 1983 book De Christifidelibus, but not as volunteers and only in canon law. The 1984 symposium at the Gregorian
University in Rome on laity did not treat volunteers.
DISCOVERY: Literature from the Bible, early Ecumenical Councils, early canon law, and the First Vatican Council, showed
volunteerism as a personal charism. Up to the Second Vatican Council there was no Catholic Church public mandate for volunteers.
MODERN ORIGINS: Cardinal Cordes, in charge of volunteers at the Vatican, noted volunteerism is modern. Eleven different
movements in the modern world which empowered ordinary people were explored in the documents of the Second Vatican Council
and papal teaching. Laity already empowered by the world were subsequently empowered by a Catholic Church mandate by the Second
Vatican Council, the Lex Ecclesiae Fundamentalis, the 1983 Code of Canon Law, Chistifideles Laici, and
Eccleisae de Mysterio. The word "volunteer" was first used by the pope only on 5 December 2001.
METHOD: Generally, in Catholic dogmatic theology manuals, a standard system of thesis evaluation is followed: the definition
of terms, the listing of adversaries, and then the poof of the thesis. Because of the nature of this project, namely that
the theology of the Catholic volunteer is relatively new, a different presentation, more accommodated to the subject, was
used. First, a survey of literature illustrated that, instead of adversaries, there was a development, from a clerically dominated
hierarchical Church that actually fit a former social structure, to a new understanding of Church as a cooperative People
of God. Secondly, the causes of this development had to be considered, so movements in the modern world were examined by actual
citations from conciliar and papal documents. Thirdly, there was an examination of terms and definitions. Fourth, another
fruit of the survey of literature was a list of dogmatic theses. Finally, each thesis was "proved" by the use of conciliar
and papal documents.
DOGMATIC PRESENTATION: A dogmatic synthesis was presented in the form of seven theses, which could form an academic course.
These theses considered whether the obligation of volunteer ministry was assumed at Baptism, whether shaped by the common
priesthood, whether exercised in communion with the Church, whether exercised for the mission of the Church, whether more
than parochial, whether essential in the Church, and whether essentially distinct from the ordained ministry. Each thesis
was proved from documentation. Modern opposing opinions were also considered.
PROOF OF NOVELTY: The allegation that the seven theses were new had to be proved. An "external proof" of this novelty was
the inability to find a volunteer mandate in Church documents much before the twentieth century. "Internal proof" arises from
the practice of Church documents in footnoting from the Bible or prior documents. In an exact reference, the quote and its
location are given. In merely supporting text, the citation says "confer." In something new, no citation or a very recent
citation is given. Both external and internal proofs verify the newness of the lay volunteer mandate.
DEVELOPMENT OF DOCTRINE: Catholic dogma presentations are rooted in tradition. Can development of doctrine take place?
The First Vatican Council cites the teaching of Vincent of Lerin: just as a human person can grow, so can the Church grow
in age, and with the passing of time, grow in understanding, science and wisdom, but only according to its own kind, namely
the same doctrine, the same sense, and the same meaning. Development from private charismatic volunteers to the present public
mandate for Church volunteers is one of a very few examples of the development of doctrine. Vatican I maintained papal infallibility
was another example.
LEVEL OF CERTITUDE: Not every dogma is equally certain. Each of the dogmatic theses presented is graded according to its
increasing theological level of importance: probability, common and certain, firm papal doctrine, near-to-faith issues, defined
doctrine, or defined Bible doctrine. Most theses were clearly firm papal doctrine.
FUTURE STUDIES: In dogmatic theology, the presentation is comprehensive. In fundamental theology, the study of Catholic
literature is complete. In biblical theology, indirectly included in this dissertation, Pope John Paul II already treated
Catholic volunteers in Christifideles Laici on 30 December 1988. In systematic theology, the idea of "communion" was
elaborated as central, as noted in the document Ecclesiae de Mysterio. In communication theology, noted by the Vatican
II Decree on the Laity, #32, the dogmatic theses form an outline to be adapted to the level of the audience.
BIOGRAPHY OF DAVID JAMES MULVIHILL, J.C.D., Ph.D.: David James Mulvihill earned a doctorate in canon law (J.C.D.)
at the Gregorian University, Rome, in 1990, and his doctorate in philosophy (Ph.D.) was defended at Oxford, England, in 2008,
under the auspices of the Graduate Theological Foundation. He is a Knight Commander of the Equestrian Order of the Holy
Sepulcher of Jerusalem. Rotary International honored him as a "Paul Harris Fellow" with a citation and a gold medal. He is
an ecclesiastical judge in the Court of Appeals for Illinois, and also for Wisconsin. Since ordination to the priesthood on
10 May 1972, he has served the Archdiocese of Chicago in four local churches. He is currently pastor of Our Lady of Humility
Church, 10655 Wadsworth Road, Beach Park, IL 60099, U.S.A. His email address is: