Magazine article Commonweal

By Way of Introduction

Magazine article Commonweal

By Way of Introduction

Article excerpt

In December 1977, a group of lay people, clergy, and religious issued A Chicago Declaration of Christian Concern. The fifteenth anniversary of this "gracious but uncompromising polemic" against "the steady depreciation [since Vatican H] of the ordinary social roles through which the laity serve and act upon the world" provides the occasion for Commonweal's special issue on the laity.

Back in 1977, the Chicago Declaration in its protest against the clericalization of the laity cited these examples: the growing involvement of lay people in church ministry; the growth of the permanent diaconate; the clericalization and radicalization of social justice efforts, that is, the tendency of priests and women religious to set the agenda for the laity's social justice activities and to define those activities as lying outside the ordinary life of lay men and women as parents, citizens, and workers.

The Declaration lamented the decline of organizations and groups that, before Vatican II, had been effective supports for the laity in their work in the world and decried the "loss of a generation of lay leaders."

The Declaration concluded by saying: "We are deeply concerned that so little energy is devoted to encouraging and arousing lay responsibility for the world. The church must be constantly reformed, but we fear that the almost obsessive preoccupation with the church's structures and processes has diverted attention from the essential question: reform for what purpose? It would be one of the great ironies of history if the era of Vatican II which opened the windows of the church to the world were to close with a church turned in upon itself."

Several of the Declaration' s signers joined in the establishment of the National Center for the Laity, which has continued working to keep attention focused on lay responsibility for the world, for politics, for the economy, for neighborhoods, for families, for the workplace. …

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