Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Lay leaders in the Church?

I'd be interested in hearing (reading? LOL) others' thoughts on the subject of lay leadership in the Church. I'm not talking about the most obvious (and obnoxious) kind of lay leadership, in which a parish (or, ahem, "community") is being run by a layperson, but the more subtle kind, in which laypeople arrogate for themselves the authority that, in normal times, is the provenance of those in holy Orders. For example, while Catholic Answers' "Voter's Guide for Serious Catholics" seemed to be a commendable effort, I found it somewhat disturbing that it was produced by laymen. Likewise, a very prominent Catholic apologist has a blog in which he doles out advice on various issues related to Canon Law and moral theology although he is neither a canonist nor a moral theologian, let alone a priest. This makes me uncomfortable.

Surprisingly, such "lay leaders" as I have described are not found exclusively in the mainstream Church, but also in the traditional movement.

I'm not a "clericalist" by any stretch of the imagination, but something about investing the laity with such authority strikes me as un-traditional.

7 Comments:

At 9:14 PM, Blogger David Hopkins said...

If we had more religious this would not be as widespread, and I do not see this situation changing anytime soon. Priests are spread so thin nowadays - they hardly have the time to run a parish, let alone engage in aplogetics and/or evangelization. ISTM that religious order priests and brothers would be ideally suited to this work, but their numbers are decling at an even faster rate. The exception being orders such as the LOC. I wouldn't mind seeing the Legionaries getting more involoved in apologetics. However, given the choice between no apologetics and apologetics by the laity, I can live with Karl Keating and his voter's guide. Soemone has to carry the torch.

 
At 2:22 AM, Blogger Kokopelli said...

Ironic that a post describing a certain level of...mistrust?...for laity taking on too much responsibility would appear in this blog wherein the (I presume) laity here would presume to know what is and is not "sinful...for the heirarchy of the Catholic Church". Are we to ordain ourselves bishops or submit to the authority of the Church even when we disagree with her?

 
At 9:47 AM, Blogger dcs said...

I think there's a difference between trying to correct one's superiors and giving other lay Catholics advice that might not be consonant with the instruction they're receiving from their superiors. The former is our right and duty as Catholics, the latter is arrogating an authority that is not ours.

 
At 10:55 AM, Blogger Jimbo the Terrible said...

At some point someone in the Church needs to take a truly managerial mindset and review our progress and effectiveness. By any quantifiable measurement, the experiment in lay leadership has been an unmitigated failure. The larger the organization, however, the more inertia mastakes have...

 
At 4:54 PM, Blogger dcs said...

In retrospect, I think my original post is too easily misunderstood. Fraternal correction is a spiritual work of mercy and I did not mean to denigrate it in any way. What I was getting at was the tendency among laymen of presenting themselves as authorities rather than relying on recognized authorities. It's one thing to cite a passage from a moral theology text like Jone or Pruemmer but quite another to give someone moral advice without citing an authoritative opinion on the matter. It's especially treacherous in this day and age when so many important questions are unsettled.

 
At 6:20 PM, Blogger Kokopelli said...

"It's one thing to cite a passage from a moral theology text like Jone or Pruemmer but quite another to give someone moral advice without citing an authoritative opinion on the matter." Yes. But I would add that theologians in general, and Catholic theologians in particular, are heady and thick stuff for the laity in general. Gather all you can from them individually, BUT do not presume to think that without a dedicated education in such matters you are in any way qualified to offer more than a very humble, explicitly non-expert opinion.

 
At 6:28 PM, Blogger dcs said...

BUT do not presume to think that without a dedicated education in such matters you are in any way qualified to offer more than a very humble, explicitly non-expert opinion.

Isn't that what I just said? Or was I insufficiently humble? ;-)

 

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