Non-Catholic cantor?

Q.I have attended a Catholic church with my husband for 15 years. I am not a Catholic, but I am Christian. We have raised our children as Catholic, and we all attend Mass each week. When I go up in the Communion line with my family, I cross my arms and receive a blessing. Now I have been asked to be a cantor at Mass. Am I allowed to? (Indianapolis)

A. I wish that every Catholic were as helpful to the church as you have been. I believe that you can be a cantor, and in our own parish I would welcome you as one.

The technical answer to your question involves the sort of pedantic parsing for which I have little patience. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal, known as the GIRM, which is the most authoritative "guidebook" on the liturgy, says in No. 107 that "liturgical functions that are not proper to the priest or deacon" may be entrusted to "suitable laypersons chosen by the pastor."

So what are "laypersons"? Are they necessarily Catholics or simply any person who is not a member of the ordained clergy? I would opt for the latter.

Some might take the opposite view, based on a document put out in 1993 by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity ("Directory for the Application of Principles and Norms on Ecumenism"). It says in No. 133 that "the reading of Scripture during a eucharistic celebration in the Catholic Church is to be done by members of that church" or, by way of exception and with the permission of a bishop, by a member of another church.

Since the cantor leads the psalm response, (which is taken from Scripture), they might argue, he or she must be a Catholic. But I would contend that the GIRM, issued in 2011, supersedes that 1993 document and is more authoritative; had the GIRM wanted to limit cantoring to Catholics, it easily could have said so plainly, and it did not.

The role of the cantor, according to the GIRM (No. 104), is "to direct and support the people's singing." If you can do that well, in my view you deserve to be a cantor.

Questions may be sent to Father Kenneth Doyle at and 40 Hopewell St. Albany, N.Y. 12208.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015