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.