Q: In the Pontifical, the Rite of Admission to Candidacy says, “Because of its nature, the rite is never combined with the celebration of Holy Orders or with the institution of lectors or of acolytes.” My interpretation of this is that one does not admit men to candidacy at the same Mass as one institutes other men as lectors or acolytes–that is, these rites should not be combined in one Mass. However, others interpret this to mean, instead, that one does not institute as lector or acolyte the SAME MAN just admitted to candidacy, but that it is fine to admit Joe and Tom to candidacy and then, in the same Mass, go on to institute Adam and Basil as lectors. How do you read this instruction?
A: I agree with you, mainly because the liturgical book does not provide such a combination. It does, for example, in the ordination of a deacon and a priest in the same ceremony. That one clearly expects two different people will be there because the ceremonies are intertwined, not consecutive. But no such provision is made for the others.
The theological issue beneath this, I believe, is that lectors and acolytes are lay ministers. These ministries are even open to men who are not candidates for holy orders. Some bishops want candidacy first because tonsure used to be given before the minor orders. But these are ministries, not orders, and they have little to do with candidacy. They would logically precede candidacy, though in my experience they rarely do. At least by separating the ceremonies, each receives its proper treatment.