Common Calling: The Laity and Governance of the Catholic Church

Common Calling: The Laity and Governance of the Catholic Church

Common Calling: The Laity and Governance of the Catholic Church

Common Calling: The Laity and Governance of the Catholic Church

Synopsis

The sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church has been exacerbated in the minds of many by the dismal response of church leadership. Uncovered along with the abuse of power were decisions that were not only made in secrecy, but which also magnified the powerlessness of the people of the church to have any say in its governance. Accordingly, many have left the church, many have withheld funding--others have vowed to work for change, as witnessed by the phenomenal growth of Voice of the Faithful. Common Calling is indeed a call--for change, for inclusion, and a place at the table for the laity when it comes to the governance of the church.

By first providing compelling historical precedents of the roles and status of the laity as it functioned during the first millennium, Common Calling compares and contrasts those to the place of the laity today. It is this crossroad--between the past and the possible future of the Catholic Church--where the distinguished contributors to this volume gather in the hope and expectation of change. They examine the distinction between laity and clergy in regard to the power of church governance, and explore the theological interpretation of clergy-laity relations and governance in the teachings of the Second Vatican Council. They look at how church officials interpret the role of the laity today and address the weaknesses in that model. Finally, they speak clearly in outlining the ways governance may be improved, and how--by emphasizing dialogue, participation, gender equality, and loyalty--the role of the laity can be enhanced.

Speaking as active believers and academic specialists, all of the contributors assert that the church must evolve in the 21st century. They represent a variety of disciplines, including systematic theology, sacramental theology, canon law, political science, moral theology, pastoral theology, and management. The book also includes an essay by James Post, cofounder of the Catholic lay movement Voice of the Faithful, the organization that was in part responsible for the resignation of Boston's Cardinal Bernard Law. Common Calling looks to a future of transparency in the Catholic Church that, with an invested laity, will help to prevent any further abuse--especially the abuse of power.

Excerpt

The recent sexual abuse crisis has led many Catholics to ask how the current system of ecclesial governance within the Catholic Church might be improved and made more responsive to the needs of believers. This chapter examines reasons for expanding the role of the laity within the governance of the church and provides a general context for the other chapters in this book. The first section of this chapter sets the issue of governance in the context of the recent crisis of sexual abuse in the church. Since this crisis was largely the result of a failure of governance, the response of the church to it naturally has to include an examination of how to improve governance. The second section of the chapter examines ambiguities in the laity-clergy distinction, particularly with regard to the power of governance in the church as it exists today. The third section explores the theological interpretation of clergy-laity relations and governance in the teachings, and especially the ecclesiology, of the Second Vatican Council. The fourth section examines the dominant paradigm used today by church authorities for interpreting the role of the laity in the governance of the church. It gives special attention to some of the weaknesses of this paradigm. The fifth section proposes that the church can improve governance generally and enhance the role of the laity in it by promoting three goods: dialogue, participation, and authority. The final section offers a brief indication of how the components of this book take up some of the key themes pertaining to our topic. This book will play a helpful role if it contributes some insights of value for the ongoing conversation within the Christian community about this important issue.

Crisis in the Church

The immediate context for this book is presented by the crisis of sexual abuse in the United States. As of fall 2003, at least 325 of the 46,000 . . .

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