Saturday, September 01, 2018

Lay Control is Not the Answer

In the midst of this crisis, I am seeing many well-intentioned Catholics reaching a point of total loss of faith in the hierarchy and calling essentially for lay oversight of the Catholic episcopacy.

This is just another dead end. Besides being antithetical to the entire hierarchical constitution of the Church, lay control in other areas of the Church has been a debacle. Has lay control of Catholic schools improved their quality? It's interesting that in the memoirs of Fr. Theodore Hesburgh, former President of Notre Dame, he essentially identifies the turning of the university over to lay control as the moment when it lost it's Catholic identity. Have our Catholic dioceses become any better managed over the past fifty years since being stocked with lay committees? Is religious education in our parishes more vibrant that priests and sisters have been replaced with lay volunteers? 

Lay people do have an active vocation within the Church. I do not believe that lay people simply need to shut up and pray. They can work for change in the Church by how they allocate their resources. They can form organizations whose purpose is to advocate for certain reforms. They can leverage their numbers to put moral pressure upon corrupt diocesan officials to act justly. Those lay persons who are employed in diocesan administration can commit themselves to total transparency if they see any civil crimes being committed and can refuse to participate in any cover up or obfuscation. Lay persons who have knowledge of criminal activity on the part of the clergy can take this information to civil law enforcement. Lay people who are in the media or gifted writers can use their positions to advocate for needed reforms within the Church. They can protest the transfer or rehabilitation of known abusers. All of these things are valid and praiseworthy exercises of the energy of the laity directed towards reform.

But the laity themselves are not the answer. The laity cannot be exalted above the clergy. The laity cannot be put in positions of authority over the bishops, as if the bishops are answerable to some lay committee. The laity cannot become a functional part of the hierarchy. Besides being totally foreign to the Church as it was constituted by Christ, this risks turning the laity essentially against the clergy. If the laity are taught to believe that lay "policing" actions are all prevents the clergy from descending into criminality and abuse, it's hard to see how the laity will not end up holding the clergy in contempt. They will essentially become infected by the secular spirit that sees all celibate clergy as suspected criminals. It treads the same waters as the spirit of persecution where every clergyman is de facto an enemy of the state by virtue of being ordained.

Lumen Gentium, the Church's most authoritative document on the lay vocation, says:

"Upon all the laity, therefore, rests the noble duty of working to extend the divine plan of salvation to all men of each epoch and in every land. Consequently, may every opportunity be given them so that, according to their abilities and the needs of the times, they may zealously participate in the saving work of the Church" (LG 34:4).

It is clear that the laity have a role in building up the Church, "working to extend the divine plan" and that they are to have opportunities to do so "according to their abilities." But in what sphere does the Church envision these lay persons "extending the divine plan?" Does this really entail giving lay people supervisory control over clerical bodies?

Lumen Gentium goes on:

"Let them not, then, hide this hope in the depths of their hearts, but even in the program of their secular life let them express it by a continual conversion and by wrestling "against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness" (LG 35:1)

The Council does call for the laity to "zealously participate" in the life of the Church, but that participation is to be carried out "in the program of their secular life" by means of "continuing conversion," not by assuming literal control of institutions run by clergy. The laity are to sanctify their own lives and act for change specifically within the spheres of their secular activity—not by assuming the roles the clergy. That actually goes against what LG specifically calls for. It's very similar to the way people misunderstand the concept of "active participation" when it comes to the liturgy.

Let's look at one final paragraph from Lumen Gentium:

"Let the spiritual shepherds recognize and promote the dignity as well as the responsibility of the laity in the Church. Let them willingly employ their prudent advice. Let them confidently assign duties to them in the service of the Church, allowing them freedom and room for action. Further, let them encourage lay people so that they may undertake tasks on their own initiative. Attentively in Christ, let them consider with fatherly love the projects, suggestions and desires proposed by the laity.However, let the shepherds respectfully acknowledge that just freedom which belongs to everyone in this earthly city"(LG, 37).

Pastors are to respect the ambitions of the laity, support their plans, and "assign them duties," but nowhere does it suggest that the managerial roles of the laity and the clergy be switched, especially within the hierarchical administration of the Church itself.

The calls for lay oversight of the clergy will simply exacerbate the problems within the Church. To posit the current situation as continued clerical corruption vs. lay control is nothing other than a Scylla and Charybdis dilemma. One of the central characteristics of liberalism is that the liberal cure for the problems of revolution is always more revolution. The revolution of the Lavender Mafia is producing a tidal wave of chaos; predictably, people are calling for greater revolution as the cure to the ills of the revolution.

One more thing...it is indicative of the modern mentality that we always seek institutional, structural changes to address what are ultimately personal failings. To be sure we need our institutions to be strong and our structures just, but bureaucratic solutions will not ultimately fix what is, at is core, a moral rot.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this insight. To me, it seems that many of the proposed solutions to this crisis are things that we might deeply regret in the future.

In addition to the issue that you raise, there are other solutions that can only lead to grief. With many of the suggestions that I've seen put forward, I think "be careful of what you wish for".

Some people have suggested that the US Federal Government hold the Church to account. They fail to consider that a great number of the problem behaviors in the current crisis are things that are being promoted and advanced by our government. If we turn to secular solutions, those very secular solutions might turn against us. Just look at how many Catholic agencies have had to close (or modify) their services because they are out of step with the modern paradigm.

Ana Milan said...

The logic of your argument can only exist in the OHC&A Church when it reigned supreme. It can no longer suffice us since the CC has been usurped by thugs who do not profess the True Faith, have no interest in saving souls, no Catholic God, no Hell & therefore no Sin. They are Masonic/Marxist/Modernist politicians who have been elected by the Sankt Gallen Mafia & now fill the most senior positions within the CC while the rest of the effeminate prelature silently look on, watching & waiting to see who is going to win this battle (God or Satan) before deciding whom to join. They don't have supernatural belief & only joined His Church because it enabled them to have a great life & to pleasure themselves with young men without getting caught - until now. Logic doesn't work with these demons (that's what they are) so we must now revamp our position & demand that silent Cardinals do their duty & spill the beans. It is very late, but Our Lady did say the Pope (?) would consecrate Russia to Her Immaculate Heart, but late. Will PBXVI the abandoner do it? She did allude to the Pope being a prisoner in the Vatican & suffering much. It just might be yet possible to unveil the truth about his resignation & PF's seizure of the Throne of Peter. One way of another, Divine intervention has to be involved. We cannot go on much longer. We don't have the spiritual armoury needed to fight Satan. Only the Holy Trinity can, & will yet, through Our Blessed Mother.

Boniface said...

I didn’t say let the bishops police themselves either.

Jack Collinson said...

Very well said. The only thing you missed was: the revolutionaries themselves are using this scandal precisely to push further revolution. Notice how they say the problem is not homosexuality but "clericalism."

AMalek said...

Responding to Anonymous...
in the past, I would say that you are correct in assuming that our government (CIA and many leaders, even Presidents) were part of the cabal; however, that is no longer the case. Sessions is looking into RICO charges for the Church and this administration has been conducting a worldwide dragnet to snare the human traffickers. This led them to the Vatican! Remember Pell, the exposed orgy with young men (trafficked teenagers from eastern Europe); the leaked letter from Chile, and now a protected whistleblower, Vigano? We need to let our administration finish its work, and this Pope and all of his minions will fall.

Anonymous said...

Quoting Lumen Genitum as a defence against problems? Really? Given all that's gone on post-VII? Sad.

Boniface said...

Vatican II is a legitimate council and LG is an authoritative (though certainly not perfect) document. I guess the point is that even by the standards of lay participation envisioned by Vatican II, lay control would not be called for.

Konstantin said...

The quotes from LG appear to be in perfect continuity with what was said about Catholic Action in the 1920's and 1930's under the reign of Pius XI.

Unfortunately, many well-intentioned but obviously uninformed Catholics come up with very harmful solutions these days. Two years ago the solution was Schism -- from Pope Francis -- now it is lay policing. Not good.

c matt said...

Francis humble?!?! It is pretty well known, at least throughout South America and most Latin countries, that there is no such thing as a humble Argentinean. Francis is the rule which proves the rule.

Anna said...

Recently someone pointed out that the Modernists want to do away with the priesthood, substituting the laity, but keep the Church Institution intact. PF blames "clericalism"for virtually everything. To your point that a rift will result if the laity become the bishops overseers. The French Revolution was extremely anti-clerical eventually killing both clerics, religious, and faithful laymen. PF can't be allowed to use this phantom to distract; the unintended consequences would be even worse. Badly stated, I'm sorry (using my phone) hope sense can be made of this.

Anonymous said...

I can't imagine what could have gotten into those crazy laity!!!

Why-ever would somebody in the pews not trust the hierarchy!?!?

Perhaps the old style of laity-led check on clericalism would be useful.

Just gang up, rip the bishop out of his cathedral, and give him a good pounding, before running him out of town.

Something must be done. God, in the past, has regularly chastised His faithful with foreigners and infidels. And anybody with a touch of awareness can see He has His chastisers on deck and ready to go.

If He is forced to act, it will go badly for both the good and the bad.

The scary part is, prophecy would seem to indicate His chastisement is already baked into the cake.

I would much prefer a good Federal RICO action and a bankrupt American church to a widespread and intensified version of what is happening in Europe now.

Bankruptcy would at least soak up the wealth that seems to attract so many differently-ordered types.

alan