I have been pondering the words of the Holy Father to the Bishops of England and Wales, in part because they sum up a vision for our Church, as well as criticism of it. In a way it is a examination of conscience.
What I am having difficulty with is what he has to say aboout "functionalism".
"Help them [the laity] to avoid any temptation to view the clergy as mere functionaries but rather to rejoice in the gift of priestly ministry, a gift that can never be taken for granted."
Are we clergy in E&W, especially, seen as "functionaries", compared to clergy elsewhere? I think that one of the frustrations often voiced by priests is that they tend feel diocesan offices lay on them a great deal of "bean counting", in truth a lot of it is the result of government "elfin safety" legislation.
I am not sure that we are especially concerned with "doing" rather than "being".
Earlier he had said:
I urge you to hold up to your priests his example of dedication to prayer, pastoral sensitivity towards the needs of his flock, and passion for preaching the Gospel. You yourselves should set a similar example.
Again, I am not sure that we priests are especially lacking in these areas. Perhaps priests and bishops could be accused of not have a great "passion for preaching the Gospel", especially as the Pope's remarks are set in the context of proclaiming the Gospel in a secular age and society.
Is the Pope possibly suggesting we concentrate too much on maintanence or management rather mission? The shortage of priests perhaps results in a mentality that wants to "manage decline", rather than get on with Christ's commission to preach to the nations. In his address to the Scottish Bishops he speaks of the distinction that should be made between lay apostolate and ministry.
Hand in hand with a proper appreciation of the priest’s role is a correct understanding of the specific vocation of the laity. Sometimes a tendency to confuse lay apostolate with lay ministry has led to an inward-looking concept of their ecclesial role. Yet the Second Vatican Council’s vision is that wherever the lay faithful live out their baptismal vocation – in the family, at home, at work – they are actively participating in the Church’s mission to sanctify the world.
A renewed focus on lay apostolate will help to clarify the roles of clergy and laity and so give strong impetus to the task of evangelizing society.
Is the Pope perhaps suggesting there is a tendency in E&W that we are confusing the roles of priests and laity and neglecting the Apostolate that springs from our baptismal vocation, "in the family, at home and at work"? According to Lumen Gentium the role of the clergy, principly the Bishop, is to teach, sanctify and govern, recent statements from Catholic Education Service might suggest a certain lightness of touch in the teaching and governing realm, allowing Ms Stannard to usurp the role of the individual Bishops and committing them and their diocesan Churches to policies some Bishops would find inimical to the faith.
In the parish it is possibly easier to gauge commitment not by the depth of holiness in family life but by the number of names on the ministry rotas.
It seems the Pope is saying to the Scottish bishops that they have clericised the laity, is he saying to English bishop that they have in some way laicized the clergy?