Friday, September 18, 2009
Do not clericalize the laity
clericalisation of the laity in the Diocese of Linz
In his speech to the Brazilian bishops at the end of their as limina visit the Holy Father said “Do not secularize the clergy and clericalize the laity”. There is always a danger of priests becoming social workers, accountants, museum keepers, political agitators, it fact a whole host of things other than proclaimers of the Word, through the sacraments and preaching.
The problem is even more grave when the laity become clericalised, when lay ministry is seem primarily as doing something on the sanctuary. I winced recently when con-celebrating a funeral and the PP announced, unnecessarily, the arrangements for Holy Communion, drawing a distinction between priests and "ministers" meaning Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion. The ministers are after all extraordinary, in the sense of being auxiliary, helping the priest out when there are such great numbers that he is unable to cope.
Other parishes I know head rotas with terms such as "Ministers of the Word" meaning readers, "Ministers of the Altar" meaning altar servers, "Ministers of Welcome" meaning people who give out the hymn books. There are other "Ministers" and "Ministries" hospitality, liturgical environment, children's liturgy etc., etc.
I am sure these are real "ministries" the problem with highlighting them by the term, is that there is a tendency not to highlight the much lay ministries of Christian witness of simply living out the faith. The couple living out their marriage are fulfilling a real lay ministry through their loving and bringing up their children, the same with the old lady bearing her loneliness and illness, or the young man or women living chastely in a sexually charge world. By emphasis on doing things on the sanctuary or in Church we forget the the singular importance of the central teaching of the Second Vatican Council, which was that the Church's function was to sanctify the world.
Feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, being Christ in the world is the real function of the laity. Putting lay people on the sanctuary in as large a number as possible is an aberration. We need to find ways of spotlighting proper lay ministry.
Almost fifty years on that damned poltergeist, the Spirit of VII, has if anything stifled the real intent of that Council. There are now less committed Catholic families, less committed educators, less Catholic politicians, healthcare workers, trade unionists, business men and women, scientists, artists, writers.
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