12 June 2012

Priests And Laity: Whose Role Is It Anyway (Part 3 And Final)

The response of the Bishops' Conference to all of this was much as one might have expected: it endorsed all that the Congress had asked for but dressed up in language the Vatican would accept.  The relevant section of the Bishops' response - The Easter People - was called Different Ministries But Shared Responsibility: just how the Congress report back had characterised the relationship!

Here are some extracts:

In the light of what we have been considering about the Church we now wish to add something about the various forms of ministry, or service, in the Church, some ordained and some not ordained, but each in its own way sharing responsibility. In the Congress in Liverpool the maturity, strength and apostolic courage of the lay delegates were clearly to be recognised, together with their desire for a more responsible role in the future. We should like to see the lay members of our Church, men and women, young and old, become steadily more aware of their true dignity as the people of God and of their daily calling as baptised Christians to evangelise the society in which they live and work. Their role brings out an essential dimension of the work of the Church, an extension of Christ's kingdom to wherever they are in God's creation. For they are not simply delegates of the bishops and clergy, they are gospel-inspired lay-people, members of the laos (or people) of God, and in their own right missionaries of Christ to the world.  In many ways the lay contribution to the Congress was its most striking feature. We desire to see its development, not in a spirit of take-over from one ministry or another - any more than was the case in the Congress - but as a proper, fully recognised and responsible extension of the Christian mission of our Sharing Church.

We should like to see our religious, both men and women, as outstanding and up-to-date examples of single-minded fidelity to Christ and his Church in all their apostolates, whether contemplative or active, reminding us all by their lives and dedication of the supreme values of God's kingdom. We have the impression that, so natural and easy was their relationship with the other delegates in the various sectors of the Congress, perhaps inadequate attention was drawn to the role religious men and women are already playing in the post-conciliar Church, where their specialised vocation is gradually becoming more integrated within the life of the local dioceses and parishes and in Catholic lay organisations.

Elsewhere we shall develop the indispensable role of the priest in calling, helping to form and to sustain his lay brothers and sisters in the Church's apostolate to today's society. A recent pamphlet of the National Conference of Priests says: ‘No longer can we be in charge of everything. The priest must be for lay apostles, small groups, communities within his care, the one who gives new life, enabling people to work by themselves' (Set Priests Free to Preach and Pray, n. 12). But we are convinced that it is in their very collaboration with fully active lay men and women that priests will discover the depth of spirituality in their ministry. Priests are not required of necessity to be expert in all the secular concerns which are the primary sphere of the apostolate of the laity. But lay men and women will expect a priest to help them to set the problems which challenge our lives today within the light of the gospel.

If you haven't already given up, the phrase "the role religious men and women are already playing in the post-conciliar Church" might have rung a new bell in all of this.

And so the new role of the new laity was defined in this New Church, and the old role of the old priest was diminished.  This was the starting gun for all of the dreary apparatus we have today, run by a semi-professional Catholic laity who belong to a caste which parallels the Hierarchy: Catholic Brahmins at whose head are the Directors of the big Charities and the Trustees of The Tablet and the rest of the Magic Circle, and in which the poor struggling priest is pestered from all sides as the demands of the inflated bureaucracy of the dioceses are matched by the demands of self-important lesser Brahmins in the parish who demand their right to play what they have defined as their part.
The really depressing part of this has only really dawned on me as I have been writing these pieces.  I have wondered for a while, and have expressed the thought once or twice, that I don't understand why these people have remained in the Catholic Church: aren't there more congenial places for them elsewhere?

The answer is a resounding "No!"  The point of Liverpool 1980 was to give the Church in England and Wales to them.  They believe, because they have been taught that it is true, that their view of the polity of the Church is correct, and that their belief system is the Catholic belief system; that Pope Benedict is a reactionary throwback. 

And they probably wonder why people like me are still in their Church causing trouble: they probably wonder why I didn't go off to join the Lefebvrists.  How many of us have faced the incomprehension of people who cannot understand why any normal person (especially one who regularly attends a normal Sunday Mass in E&W) could possibly want to attend an EF Mass - in fact who view any attempt to have an EF Mass in "their" parish (especially if the Parish Pastoral Council is not consulted) as something personally insulting.

Summorum Pontificum, the reconciliation (DV) of the SSPX: these are big deals on the world stage: but not in England and Wales, where "our way of doing things", which is already ensnaring a second generation, is gradually cutting us off from Rome.

No comments: