Friday, July 19, 2013


Continuing our look at Lumen Gentium . . .
Let’s say you belong to a club – say the Slovenian Beneficent Society.  They purpose of the club is to raise funds and then give them to worthy causes.  Sounds simple enough.  There is a president, and the usual suspect of leaders – VP, secretary, treasurer, etc . . . and then there is the main body of the club.  It could be that the president and one of his cohorts starts making a lot of decisions concerning funds that the rest of the group has no say in.  The feel that they do not have power.  They come then to lose interest unless the president starts giving some if his power to the stake holders of the society.
That is understandable and is the type of view people have about the Church.
There was an article in the paper yesterday about a “controversial priest” who is coming to Cleveland to speak.  An equally controversial nun said of him, “he is about empowering the laity.”  This comes from the idea the “Church” is nothing but the local parish, diocese, and Rome.  But this is only a small part of “Church.”  Church is everything: it is you at your job, it is literature, it is movies, it is science, it is the billboard at the end of the block, it is your home, it is what’s playing on your TV, it is what you spend your spare time doing and your spare resources supporting.  Church is society – Church is culture – Church is everywhere we bring it.  Hierarchical Church is really a very small part of this.  Faith may inform what one should do in their bedroom, or at work, or when paying bills, but there is no priest standing over your shoulder telling you what to do.  He could tell you what perhaps you should be doing, but he has no power.  That the laity’s freedom, the arena in which they act as priest, prophet, and king. 


The point is this: unlike the Slovenian Beneficent Society, the totality of the society consists within the meeting of the society and the officers have usurped the power.  The rest of the group is powerless.  That a clergyman would run a parish and pray the sacraments does not make the laity powerless outside of that realm.  The Church is much bigger than that.  There is far too much to do.  It is really a very small part that clergy have any kind of control over if Church is properly understood.
By empowering the laity, what many people want is the clericalization of the laity and the laicizing of the clergy.  There is not to be a distinction in roles.  Neither should there seem to be more perceived “power” at the parish by the clergy than by anybody else.  (Of course NOBODY is suggesting the clergy then should share more in the direct “power” of determining what you do with you day . . .
Granted . . . clergy has, at time, overstepped their boundaries and have been too dictatorial at the parish to the parish’s harm.  Conversely, parishes have been declericalized at times to the opposite problem.  But what paragraph 32 of Lumen Gentium is trying to say is that we are all one.  Nobody is more powerful in the Church (meaning the whole Church – not just institutional Church) than the other.  We are equals but with different roles and each of us are endowed with roles and responsibilities in each.  We are each equally gifted with grace toward salvation.  There is only one People of God springing from one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one common dignity, one common vocation toward sanctity, one salvation, one hope, one call to charity.
True, when human beings enter the equation, this delicate balance can and does go out of whack, sometimes terribly so, but it the calling – what Christ gave us to work with.  It is our goal and our ideal.  It is what it is to be Catholic, Christian, and a part of the One, Holy, and Apostolic Church.


Pat said...

Apparently even St. Paul had to deal with the idea that "some people are more equal than others." Thus, he wrote about how we are one body with various parts and that each one provides a unique service to the whole body of Christ.

Great explanation of how "Church is everything . . . ."

HR said...

Whenever people promote empowerment of the supposed downtrodden, I ask what they are empowering these beneficiaries to do. Merely feeling empowered is pointless. To empower me against drowning, my dad taught me to swim; he didn't give me a speech about how I'm so much better than water my lungs won't fill with it. If the power is useful, such as managing finances responsibly, being able to make charitable outreach more effective, or even learning a new prayer, then I'd love to go learn it. I don't know what this priest is going to come teach us poor benighted laity. Priests are usually good listeners who deal with a huge range of humanity, so maybe he will give tips on how to be better at hiding our annoyance while dealing with stressed out weirdos. That's a skill probably every lay person could go take into the workplace or home.

Anonymous said...

I don't know much about Slovenians. They had a church in Barberton at one time. It was a real nice church, but there was no place for the parishioners to put their cars when they came to Mass. So a property was bought out on Shannon. A small school was built, and later a new church was built on Shannon. The parishioners wanted to take a giant stone statue of the Sacred Heart off of the church on Hopocan. I arranged to have the statue removed. It was done, but it was a scary operation. It was laid in a garage out on the Shannon property

Fr. V said...

"I don't know what this priest is going to come teach us poor benighted laity. Priests are usually good listeners who deal with a huge range of humanity, so maybe he will give tips on how to be better at hiding our annoyance while dealing with stressed out weirdos."

Dear HR., while thinking of stealing the first part of your comments for a homily or post - this part made me laugh out loud. Thanks.

Dear Anon, I know the parish and the statue (and how precarious it must have been to remove it from it's pearch.) It now sits out on the grounds of the parish which is now called Prince of Peace. The demensions now seem off because it was designed to be looked up at - but it is still a nice statue.

Anonymous said...

Father Valencheck, the statue was put on a new stone pedestal near the front door of the church on Shannon. Then the name of the parish was changed, and the statue was relegated to the back yard.

by the way, is the Slovenian Beneficent Society still alive?