Lumen Gentium 37

From 312 CE, the long association of the Catholic Church with the political elites of Europe, with the states they ruled and then with the colonial empires they built across the world in the modern era c.1450-1945, compromised the church’s integrity and led to a widespread perception of Catholicism as an essentially reactionary and anti-democratic rather than egalitarian force. The strongly Christian impulse for ‘liberty, equality and brotherhood’ got consequently diverted into a secularising movement, allied with science, from the 1770s – the ‘Enlightenment’.

When that secularising movement captured the moral high ground in Ireland in the wake of the global revelations of Catholic clerical sexual abuse from c. 1985, it became time for Catholics to address the contradiction of its elitist clerical culture claiming to stand for justice and the equal dignity of all. By 2019 this need in Ireland became too obvious to ignore – and a campaign to fulfil the promise of Vatican II (1962-65) in Ireland began in the summer of that year.

Lumen Gentium 37 – Full Text

Like all Christians, the laity have the right to receive in abundance the help of the spiritual goods of the Church, especially that of the word of God and the sacraments from the pastors.
To the latter the laity should disclose their needs and desires with that liberty and confidence which befits children of God and brothers of Christ.
By reason of the knowledge, competence or pre‑eminence which they have the laity are empowered‑indeed sometimes obliged‑to manifest their opinion on those things which pertain to the good of the Church.
If the occasion should arise this should be done through the institutions established by the Church for that purpose and always with truth, courage and prudence and with reverence and charity towards those who, by reason of their office, represent the person of Christ.
Like all Christians, the laity should promptly accept in Christian obedience what is decided by the pastors who, as teachers and rulers of the Church, represent Christ. In this they will follow Christ’s example who, by his obedience unto death, opened the blessed way of the liberty of the sons of God to all men. Nor should they fail to commend to God in their prayers those who have been placed over them, who indeed keep watch as having to render an account of our souls, that they may do this with joy and not with grief (cf. Heb. 13:17).
The pastors, indeed, should recognize and promote the dignity and responsibility of the laity in the Church. They should willingly use their prudent advice and confidently assign duties to them in the service of the Church, leaving them freedom and scope for acting. Indeed, they should give them the courage to undertake works on their own initiative. They should with paternal love consider attentively in Christ initial moves, suggestions and desires proposed by the laity.
Moreover the pastors must respect and recognize the liberty which belongs to all in the terrestrial city.
Many benefits for the Church are to be expected from this familiar relationship between the laity and the pastors. The sense of their own responsibility is strengthened in the laity, their zeal is encouraged, they are more ready to unite their energies to the work of their pastors. The latter, helped by the experience of the laity, are in a position to judge more clearly and more appropriately in spiritual as well as in temporal matters. Strengthened by all her members, the Church can thus more effectively fulfil her mission for the life of the world.

The relationship idealised here never eventuated in Ireland – and both transparency and accountability remain as elusive as ever. Can Synodality‘ resolve this problem – before the problem of clericalism is finally resolved by the disappearance of clergy altogether?

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