Minor orders

Minor orders

The minor orders are the lowest ranks in the Christian clergy. The most recognized minor orders are porter, lector, exorcist, and acolyte. In the Latin rite Catholic Church, the minor orders were in most cases replaced by "instituted" ministries of lector and acolyte, though communities that use earlier form of the Roman Rite communities continue to retain all four minor orders. In the Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches, the minor orders are reader (lector), chanter (cantor), taper-bearer (acolyte) and subdeacon.



The minor orders were until 1972 a part of the clergy of the Latin rite Catholic Church. During the Counter-reformation, the Council of Trent decided to formally define the "Orders" of the clergy. After induction into the clerical state through the tonsure, a seminarian could receive the first four, which were the minor orders. They consisted of:

These four were called "minor orders" because perpetual celibacy was not a requirement for them; a seminarian who quit the seminary before becoming a subdeacon could still get married. After receiving all the minor orders, a seminarian could receive the major orders (in the Latin Church: subdeacon, deacon and priest or bishop). However, the cantor merely exercises an office and is not an order.

Neither the minor orders nor the subdiaconate were a part of the sacrament of Holy Orders, but were instead viewed as preparatory offices and sacramentals. Although several medieval theologians regarded minor orders as offices in Holy Orders, this view was abandoned, for the fundamental reason that neither minor orders nor the subdiaconate are of direct Divine institution. The rites by which they were conferred are quite different from ordination to holy orders. Minor orders were conferred by the presentation to the candidate of the appropriate instruments. The usual minister of minor orders was a bishop; but some abbots could give the tonsure and minor orders to their subjects.[1]

Present situation

By Pope Paul VI's motu proprio Ministeria quaedam of 15 August 1972, the term "minor orders" has been replaced by that of "ministries".[2] Two such ministries, those of reader and acolyte are to be kept throughout the Latin Church, and national episcopal conferences are free to use the term "subdeacon" in place of that of "acolyte".[3] The motu proprio specified the functions of each of these two ministries,[4] A prescribed interval, as decided by the Holy See and the national episcopal conference, is to be observed between receiving them.[5] Candidates for diaconate and for priesthood must receive both ministries and exercise them for some time before receiving holy orders.[6] The two ministries are not reserved solely for candidates for holy orders,[7] but can be conferred only on men.[8] The ministries are conferred by the ordinary: either a bishop or, in the case of clerical religious institutes, a major superior.[9]

Use of the rites by which minor orders were conferred until 1972, including those of "porter" and "exorcist", is still authorized for institutes, such as the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, under the care of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei; but those who receive them remain laypeople, since admittance to the clergy now occurs only on ordination to the diaconate.[10]

Old Catholics

Numerous Old Catholic denominations throughout the world still use the Minor Orders as a preparation for Major Orders. The various churches making up the Liberal Catholic Movement are among those who still confer Minor Orders.

Eastern Christianity

Eastern Christianity traditionally views the subdeacon as a minor order,[11] unlike the practice of the West which considered it a major order. The other common minor order is lector (reader). The minor order of porter is mentioned historically in some service-books, but no longer is given; all of the rights and responsibilities of each minor order are viewed as contained in the subdiaconate.[1]

Each of the 22 Eastern Churches Sui Iuris that are in union with Rome are permitted their traditional minor orders, governed by their own particular law.[12] In all Eastern Catholic Churches, subdeacons are minor clerics, since admission to major orders is by ordination as deacon.[13] The Byzantine tradition allows for several orders of minor clerics. The Byzantine Catholic Metropolitan Church of Pittsburgh, Sui Iuris, also called the Byzantine-Ruthenian Church, permits the minor orders of candle bearer, cantor, lector and subdeacon, and still uses the term ordination for their cheirothesis.[14] The minor orders of candle bearer and cantor are given before tonsure during the ordination to the lectorate.[15]

Eastern Orthodox Churches rountinely confer the minor orders of lector and subdeacon, and some jurisdictions also ordain cantors. Ordination to minor orders is done by a bishop at any public worship service, but always outside the context of the Divine Liturgy.[16] The order of taper-bearer is now used as part of ordination as a lector. The orders of doorkeepers, exorcists, and acolytes are no longer in common use.[17]

See also


  1. ^ a b Catholic Encyclopedia (1913). Minor Orders.
  2. ^ Ministeria quaedam, II
  3. ^ Ministeria quaedam, IV
  4. ^ Ministeria quaedam, IV-VI
  5. ^ Ministeria quaedam, X
  6. ^ Ministeria quaedam, XI
  7. ^ Ministeria quaedam, III
  8. ^ Ministeria quaedam, VII
  9. ^ Ministeria quaedam, IX
  10. ^ Instruction Universae Ecclesiae of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei of 30 April 2011
  11. ^ Faulk, Edward. 101 Questions & Answers on Eastern Catholic Churches. New York: Paulist Press, 2007, p. 51
  12. ^ CCEO, Title X, Canon 327, 1992. Retrieved 2008-11-11.
  13. ^ CCEO, Title 12, Canon 560 and Canon 565, 1992. Retrieved 2008-11-11.
  14. ^ Particular Law for the Byzantine-Ruthenian Church in the USA (29 June 1999). Retrieved 2008-11-11.
  15. ^ Eparchial Newsletter (October-November 1998) eparchy-of-van-nuys.org Accessed 2007-11-28
  16. ^ The Sacramental Life of the Orthodox Church, Calivas (2005) Minor orders
  17. ^ Orthodox Wiki, Minor Orders, N.D. [1] Retrieved 2008-11-11.

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Minor Orders — • The lower degrees of the hierarchy are designated by the name of minor orders, in opposition to the major or sacred orders Catholic Encyclopedia. Kevin Knight. 2006. Minor Orders     Minor Orders …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Minor orders — minor mi nor (m[imac] n[ e]r), a. [L., a comparative with no positive; akin to AS. min small, G. minder less, OHG. minniro, a., min, adv., Icel. minni, a., minnr, adv., Goth. minniza, a., mins, adv., Ir. & Gael. min small, tender, L. minuere to… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • minor orders — plural noun The lower degrees of holy orders, ie porter, exorcist, lector and acolyte • • • Main Entry: ↑minor minor orders In the Roman Catholic Church those of acolyte, exorcist, reader and doorkeeper, in the Eastern Churches, reader • • • Main …   Useful english dictionary

  • minor orders — n. R.C.Ch. Historical four clerical ranks (porter, lector, exorcist, acolyte) conferred before the subdiaconate * * * …   Universalium

  • minor orders — n. R.C.Ch. Historical four clerical ranks (porter, lector, exorcist, acolyte) conferred before the subdiaconate …   English World dictionary

  • Minor orders — Order Or der, n. [OE. ordre, F. ordre, fr. L. ordo, ordinis. Cf. {Ordain}, {Ordinal}.] [1913 Webster] 1. Regular arrangement; any methodical or established succession or harmonious relation; method; system; as: (a) Of material things, like the… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • minor orders —    This term (from the Latin minor, meaning lesser or smaller ) contrasts with the major orders of subdeacon, deacon, priest, and bishop. Prior to the Second Vatican Council, there were four minor orders acolyte, lector, porter, andexorcist that… …   Glossary of theological terms

  • Minor orders — Those belonging to the minor orders were tonsured and members of the *clergy. Among their ranks were porter and lector, also *acolyte and *exorcist. Cf. Minor canon; Major orders …   Dictionary of Medieval Terms and Phrases

  • Minor Orders — the lower ranks of the Christian ministry, comprising the orders of acolyte, exorcist, reader and doorkeeper ♦ The first tonsure and the four grades of clerkship below subdeacon, committing recipients neither to a clerical career nor to celibacy …   Medieval glossary

  • minor orders — plural noun chiefly historical the grades of Catholic or Orthodox clergy below the rank of deacon …   English new terms dictionary

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