Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Democracy in the Church

   Msgr. Lynn's crime starkly points out what happens in a church that is deeply caught up in a spiritually corrupt authority/power system.  The present system is clearly not of God and was explicitly forbidden by Jesus himself.  (Lk. 22:25-27).  It needs to be abandoned.  But, as I posted below in, "Guilty!" church leaders are in denial or trapped in their own structure, and are not disposed to wake up to the truth and change the now criminal system.  

   Clearly, a revolution is necessary.  Not a military one but a spiritual one, a cleansing one, that results in practical actions and real change.  In an important way, the revolution has already started, e.g., with people refusing to give money to the archdiocese, and working to have the statute of limitations extended.  But for the long run, it needs clear and effective knowledge and understanding, and a coherent vision.  Very importantly, the laity need to change their inbred church culture and start working to make the church truly the People of God--all the people.  We all need to accept our equal baptismal dignity and require that our dignity be fully respected and accepted.  

   And church leaders have to change, or be changed.  Ironically, one thing this means is that they need to start following the teachings and laws of the church.  For example, if they had implemented Vatican II, this present calamity may never have happened.  So right now, their system is not only criminal, it is schismatic, i.e., it is operating outside the teachings and laws of the church.  

   In this and future posts, I will outline some of the "ammunition" we can use in the coming battle.  We can start by declaring our equal baptismal dignity and our independence from the monarchical rule that was condemned by Jesus.  Canon 208 says, "Flowing from their rebirth in Christ, there is a genuine equality of dignity and action among all of Christ's faithful.  Because of this equality they all contribute, each according to his or her own condition and office, to the building up of the body of Christ."  No more pray, pay and obey!  We are all equal!

   We must battle to overcome the criminal monarchical rule by making the church more democratic.  Church officials like to say that the church is not a democracy.  The correct  response is, "Neither is it a monarchy."  Jesus appointed the apostles as servant-leaders, not as kings.  We understand that without leaders there is no community, but our leaders must lead as Christ did, and he washed the feet of his apostles.  

  In the church community, there is a lot of room for democracy, if we use the word in its correct context.  In the political context, "Democracy" refers to an institution in which power is given by the people to the leaders.  In this context, the church is not a democracy.  While spiritual power is given to all members of the church by Christ, servant-authority is given to the church leaders by Christ.

   One way that democracy can be correctly established in the church is by fully activating the right of Catholics to participate in the governance of the church.  Canon law provides for the laity's presence at particular councils, diocesan synods, pastoral councils; the exercise of solidum (solidarity) of the pastoral care of the church, collaboration in finance committees, and participation in ecclesiastical tribunals.  (Canon 443 and others).  But their participation has to be respected, and when shown to be right, implemented. 

  "Democracy" also applies to the way the church makes moral decisions.  In any institution the best decisions are well-informed ones reached through the widest possible collaboration.  In the church the best, well-informed moral decisions are those that arise from the gathered up, spiritual discernment of all the members of the church.  Spiritual discernment arises from:
     a. the perennial, living, evolving faith 
     b. present theological investigation into our living, evolving faith
     c. the best and most updated scientific and philosophical understanding of the universe and of our own human nature, e.g., the nature of love and marriage, of social justice in our time, of contemporary ways to discern what is right and true, etc.,           
     d. the everyday experience of the laity who are daily discerning the Spirit according to their own ways of life.   

   All these sources are means of discerning the church's sense of the faith and morals, the sensus fidelium. It is in the church's corporate sense of faith and morals that the Spirit is most clearly and effectively seen and experienced.  (See EXPERIENCING GOD TODAY).

   The job of the church's servant-leaders is to respectfully gather up the church's corporate sense of the faith and morals, organize and clarify it, and then teach it with authority.  The authority of their teaching, therefore, will arise from the fact that the whole church has already discerned and received what is being taught.  

   Again we can use Canon Law.  Canon 212 starts out in the pre-Vatican II, monarchical mindset, and then, almost reluctantly moves into complying with Vatican II's democratizing mindset:
   Par. 1.  Christ's faithful, conscious of their own responsibility, are bound to show Christian obedience to what the sacred pastors, who represent Christ, declare as teachers of the faith and prescribe as rulers of the church.
   Par. 2.  Christ's faithful are at liberty to make known their needs, especially their spiritual needs, and their wishes to the pastors of the church.
   Par. 3.  They have the right, indeed at times the duty, in keeping with their knowledge, competence and position, to manifest to the sacred pastors their views on matters which concern the good of the church.  They have the right to make their views known to others of Christ's faithful, but in doing so they must always respect the integrity of faith and morals, show due reverence to the pastors, and take into account both the common good and the dignity of individuals.

  The way will be hard and long.  The resistance will be strong.  But if church teaching and canon law says that we have equal dignity and democratic rights, it follows logically that church leaders must acknowledge and respect our dignity and rights.  We have much to fight for.   


1 comment:

  1. Bravo! I particularly appreciated your suggestions for making the church more democratic. If the Tea Party was able to assemble so many members in a short period of time and become as powerful as they are today; if Occupy Wall Street could evolve so quickly into an international movement in just a few months, why can’t we, the People of God unite in a common cause to take back the church? Especially since we already have such passionate groups as: The American Catholic Council, Call to Action, Voice of the Faithful, Future Church etc. coalesce and focus on making the church more democratic. You certainly have given the moral, canonical and theological reasons for doing so. Perhaps the time for reform is over. “Comes the revolution!”
    Perhaps we need to redefine obedience. Your assessment of Canon 212 as starting out in the “pre-monarchial mindset” is right on. Falling back on “Christian obedience” is a sham, but even the Par 3. “…in keeping with their knowledge, competence and position, to manifest to their sacred pastors their views…” is demeaning or as we would have said in my old neighborhood, “them is fighting words”. Or to be more politely, they hierarchy needs to start treating the lowerarchy as adults.
    I look forward to your future blogs on this subject.