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I am a Third Order Franciscan of the Province of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Who speaks for the Church?

One of the main points that were made in my seminary days was the need to fight against the evils of clericalism, that as a priest it was my job to open the Church to the laity, that increasing lay involvement was the high point of Vatican II.

Well, like many theological ideas this one is full of brightness and sparkle but in the end seems to signify very little and the same clericalism that used to be rife in the parishes has simply moved to the ivory towers. If I talk down to you because I'm a priest and you are a lay person, that's wrong. But if I talk down to you because I am an academic and you are a member of the hoi polloi - that is quite acceptable.

The reason for this post is in response to a piece by Father Richard McBrien in the Tidings.

An excellent presentation of the many faults with this piece can be found on Amy Welborn's blog.

But what is especially eye catching is this section of his piece:

What has changed on the ecclesiastical and political fronts over the past decade is the broad accessibility of the Internet. With it has come a new capacity of individuals, who could never be published by reputable newspapers and magazines, to gain an audience via personal blogs and to attract the attention even of the mainstream media, which are always interested in controversy, especially of the man-bites-dog variety.

The rhetoric of these self-styled defenders of orthodoxy is so recklessly hot that it automatically gets attention. This is the new reality.

If the good Father wants to see "recklessly hot rhetoric" he should look at some of this column. But it is clear that when we hear calls for increased lay participation than what is mean is only increase participation of the laity who agree with the person making the call. In Fr. McBrien's case - Voice of the Faithful represents good laity who need to be heard. Faithful Voice represent bad laity who must be silenced. Those laity who support Fr. McBrien's views are open minded laity encouraging much needed reforms. Those laity who oppose Fr. McBrien's views are "ultra conservatives" seeking to push the Church back into the dark ages.

Indeed, it is easy to demand the Bishops listen to the laity but the laity are not some homogenous entity and they never have been. Each person has a different set of opinions and a different set of views and its a whole lot more complicated. This is why the real understanding of the sensum fideli is never represented in a movement called "We Are Church" or "Voice of the Faithful" or "Faithful Voice" because none of these groups can claim to represent the Church to any significant degree. The Church is composed of all Catholics living and dead and yet to come because the Church is Christ.

And as for Fr. McBrien's clericalism wrapped in the fog of intellectualism, it was wrong for the "Father knows best" attitude in the past and it continues to be wrong today. These blogs and podcasts and videocasts are giving the laity a new found voice to be able to speak their faith to the world and some may not like what they hear but, guess what, that's the complicated voice of the Church today and attempting to slander those you disagree with or put them on some sort of new Index won't stop those voices from being heard.

To paraphrase David Bowie -

And these bloggers that you spit on
As they try to change their worlds
Are immune to your consultations
They’re quite aware of what they’re going through

Fr. Seraphim Beshoner, TOR, PhD


Blogger Papa Buck said...

The author of this article offers no support for his position and does nothing more than say; These extremists are ignorant and in the minority. We are in the majority and are smart, compassionate and all around wonderful people. To bad these ignorant extremists have the internet to publish their views. It was nice when only the opinions of smart, compassionate, wonderful people could be published. To put it in the crass language of internet forums "Your stupid, I’m smart, so shut up."

One of the legacies of the lay movement since the 60s is the questioning of authority. Unfortunately the proponents of that message didn’t realize that this sword cuts both ways. Who is Father Richard McBrien, and of what are value are his titles? Sorry Fr. McBrien, big words and titles don’t mean nothing these days. Say something truly intelligent then some of the unwashed masses may listen to you.

10:33 AM  

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