Thursday, March 27, 2014

Supertradmum is right in saying that the Church is not a democracy; but wrong in suggesting that the laity should not fraternally correct or rebuke prelates



Just a few years ago, Pope Benedict XVI insisted that the role of the laity in the Church is essential.  In other words, he reminded us that the laity are not "second-class" citizens within the Church.  See here.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us that: "Since, like all the faithful, lay Christians are entrusted by God with the apostolate by virtue of their Baptism and Confirmation, they have the right and duty, individually or grouped in associations, to work so that the divine message of salvation may be known and accepted by all men throughout the earth. This duty is the more pressing when it is only through them that men can hear the Gospel and know Christ. Their activity in ecclesial communities is so necessary that, for the most part, the apostolate of the pastors cannot be fully effective without it." (CCC , 900).

 In his Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles Laici (The Lay Members of Christ's Faithful People), Pope John Paul II reminded us that, "The voice of the Lord clearly resounds in the depths of each of Christ's followers who, through faith and the sacraments of Christian initiation is made like to Jesus Christ, is incorporated as a living member in the Church and has an active part in her mission of salvation." (No. 3).
Sadly, there are all too many clerics who haven't really embraced this authentic teaching of the Magisterium. For such clerics, the laity are second-class citizens who are tolerated but not really embraced fully as collaborators in the life and mission of the Church. This is most unfortunate. It was Pope Pius XII who said that, "The Faithful, more precisely the lay faithful, find themselves on the front lines of the Church's life; for them the Church is the animating principle for human society. Therefore, they in particular, ought to have an ever-clearer consciousness not only of belonging the Church, but of being the Church, that is to say, the community of the faithful on earth under the leadership of the Pope, the head of all, and of the Bishops in communion with him. These are the Church..." (Pius XII, Discourse to the New Cardinals, February 20, 1946: AAS 38 (1946), 149).

The truth of lay participation in the priesthood of Christ follows logically from the doctrine of the Mystical Body. Everyone who is incorporated into the Mystical Body participates in the dignities, honors, and offices of the Mystical Head (Jesus). "Because Christ is our head," says St. Thomas Aquinas, "that which was conferred upon him, was also in him conferred upon us" (Summa Theologica, III, q. 58, a.4, ad 1). Or, as Pope John Paul II put it: "Referring to the baptized as 'new born babes', the apostle Peter writes: 'Come to him, to that living stone, rejected by men but in God's sight chosen and precious; and like living stones be yourselves built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ ... you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light' (1 Pt 2:4-5, 9).

A new aspect to the grace and dignity coming from Baptism is here introduced: the lay faithful participate, for their part, in the threefold mission of Christ as Priest, Prophet and King. This aspect has never been forgotten in the living tradition of the Church, as exemplified in the explanation which St. Augustine offers for Psalm 26: 'David was anointed king. In those days only a king and a priest were anointed. These two persons prefigured the one and only priest and king who was to come, Christ (the name "Christ" means "anointed"). Not only has our head been anointed but we, his body, have also been anointed ... therefore anointing comes to all Christians, even though in Old Testament times it belonged only to two persons. Clearly we are the Body of Christ because we are all "anointed" and in him are "christs", that is, "anointed ones", as well as Christ himself, "The Anointed One". In a certain way, then, it thus happens that with head and body the whole Christ is formed..'

In the wake of the Second Vatican Council, at the beginning of my pastoral ministry, my aim was to emphasize forcefully the priestly, prophetic and kingly dignity of the entire People of God..." (Christifideles Laici, No. 14).

In his Address to the Bishops of the Episcopal Conferences of the Pacific and of New Zealand on their Ad Limina visit, Pope Benedict XVI reminded the Bishops that, "..the lay faithful’s role in the well-being of the Church is essential since the Lord does not expect pastors 'to undertake by themselves the entire saving mission of the Church' (Lumen Gentium, 30). I understand from your reports that your task of spreading the Gospel often depends on the assistance of lay missionaries and catechists. Continue to ensure that a sound and ongoing formation be afforded them, especially within the context of their associations. In so doing, you will equip them for every good work in the building up of the body of Christ (cf. 2 Tim 3:17; Eph 4:12). Their zeal for the faith under your continued leadership and support will surely bear much fruit in the vineyard of the Lord."  See here.

Vatican II, in its Decree on the Mission Activity of the Church (Ad Gentes), has this to say: "The Church has not been really founded and is not yet fully alive, nor is it a perfect sign of Christ among men, unless there is a laity worthy of the name working along with the hierarchy. For the Gospel cannot be deeply grounded in the abilities, life and work of any people without the active presence of laymen. Therefore, even at the very founding of a chrch, great attention is to be paid to establishing a mature, Christian laity. For the lay faithful fully belong at one and the same time both to the People of God and to civil society...They also belong to Christ, because they were regenerated in the Church by faith and by Baptism, so that they are Christ's in newness of life and work (cf. 1 Cor 15: 23), in order that in Christ, all things may be made subject to God, and finally God will be all in all (cf. 1 Cor 15: 28)." (Ad Gentes, No. 21).

One of the reasons for the rapid decay which is corroding the Catholic spirit in the United States and elsewhere is the spread of a so-called liberalism (neo-modernism) which fosters a secularist attitude in Christians, one that creates an animus against the Faith and works against evangelization.  The lay faithful who remain committed to the Church's teaching and who take seriously their vocation to convert those outside the Church are most often not encouraged.  Often they are discouraged (in the name of an unhealthy pluralism) from engaging in evangelization.

Pope Paul VI, in an allocution given on July 2nd, 1975, warned against this attitude: "In practice many peoplewho call themselves Christians think so [that the field of faith can be separated from that of activity], believing that the adherence to religion does not involve other duties than some specific observances, such as Sunday Mass and the fulfilling of the paschal precept.  We must note, in fact, a certain allergy on the part of modern Christians to action qualified by their own religious sentiments, owing to a misrepresentation of so-called pluralism, as if every doctrinal opinion were admissible, and therefore it was not worthwhile to propose as necessary one's own faith to others; or because of an exclusive authority attributed to subjective conscience, to the detriment of the objective principle that must inform conscience itself."
Can the laity correct or rebuke a Bishop?  Yes.  Even if this woman believes otherwise.

 In the Summa Theologica, Question 33, Article 4, of the Second Part of Part II, St. Thomas has this heading: "Whether a Man Is Bound to Correct His Prelate?" His reply to that question runs as follows: "I answer that: A subject is not competent to administer to his prelate the correction which is an act of justice through the coercive nature of punishment; but the fraternal correction which is an act of charity is within the competency of everyone in respect of any person towards whom he is bound by charity, provided there be something in that person which requires correction." St. Thomas reinforces this teaching by a statement from St. Augustine: "Augustine says in his Rule: 'Show mercy not only to yourselves, but also to him who, being in the higher position among you, is therefore in the greater danger'." To this Aquinas adds: "But fraternal correction is a work of mercy. Therefore even prelates ought to be corrected." As to the manner of this correction, St. Thomas says: "Since, however, a virtuous act needs to be moderated by due circumstances, it follows that when a subject corrects his prelate, he ought to do it in a becoming manner, not with imprudence and harshness, but with gentleness and respect." Then, discussing the issue of St. Paul's reproof of St. Peter at Antioch, as mentioned in Paul's Letter to the Galatians 2:11, a rebuke that took place in public, St. Thomas states: "It must be observed, however, that if the faith were endangered, a subject ought to rebuke his prelate even publicly. Hence Paul, who was Peter's subject, rebuked him in public, on account of the imminent danger of scandal concerning faith, and, as the gloss of Augustine says on Gal. 2:11: 'Peter gave an example to superiors, that if at any time they should happen to stray from the straight path, they should not disdain to be reproved by their subjects'."

4 comments:

PETER S said...

Link to the post where this person commented? We need a context.

Lynda said...

Unfortunately, if other bishops or priests do not speak out against grave scandal, the laity has no option but to do so, in order to prevent innocent souls being corrupted. Not to do so would be a sin, in particular with respect to those souls for whom we have responsibility.

Paul Anthony Melanson said...

Peter, I have fixed the links. Not sure what happened. Thanks!

Martina Katholik said...

"The lay faithful who remain committed to the Church's teaching and who take seriously their vocation to convert those outside the Church are most often not encouraged. Often they are discouraged (in the name of an unhealthy pluralism) from engaging in evangelization."

They are even discouraged by the current Pope who said the following months ago:

Pope Francis said, "Do you need to convince the other to become Catholic? No, no, no! Go out and meet him, he is your brother. This is enough. Go out and help him and Jesus will do the rest."
http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/1303392.htm

Video here (scroll down the post):
http://whispersintheloggia.blogspot.de/2013/08/when-you-meet-needy-your-heart-grows.html

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