One of the good things coming out of the evil that is the current sex abuse crisis in the Church is the call for a closer relationship between the laity and the clergy. The days of placing priests on pedestals passed with the first sex abuses crisis 17 years ago. This is a good thing because it allows us to get to work in cooperating with God’s plan for cleansing and renewing His Bride, the Church. Artificial barriers that have been put in place in the past, especially due clericalism, are breaking down as they must in order for cleansing and renewal to take place.
The priesthood is due our reverence for its sacred role and hierarchical function within the Church. Priests serve as our spiritual fathers who act in persona Christi—in the person of Christ—during the Mass and in the Sacraments. They also serve as alter Christus—another Christ—to us and the world. It is because of this sacred role that they are due our respect and a properly ordered reverence. There is a considerable difference at the level of being between a priest and a member of the laity, but that does not preclude erroneous forms of separation between the two vocations.
While they should be men of considerable holiness, they are Fallen men, and their progress in the spiritual life will vary, just as it does within the laity and in the lives of religious. Most priests are not yet saints and so we must also view them in a more practical and merciful light. They afford us the same mercy and compassion as they shepherd us through our spiritual lives both through the Sacraments and in our daily dealings with one another.
All of us—laity and priests—need to find a more balanced understanding of our connection with one another in the communion we share, especially in this time of great scandal.
The laity has been demanding a greater role in response to the rampant sex abuse coming to light in various parts of the world. This is especially true in the United States. The laity wants more access to the hierarchy in order to bring their talents and gifts into the service of the Church. As long as the intention of the laity is to support and encourage the hierarchical Church, this is a great good, in my opinion. Why not embrace the different gifts that God has bestowed upon the members of the Church in order to purge and renew Holy Mother Church? Issues arise, however, when the laity oversteps its function and seeks power that God has not given to us.
We in the laity must remember that our role will always remain a much needed advisory role. God has given authority to the Pope and the bishops in communion with him. That means our priests who share in Holy Orders with their bishop have the ultimate say in our parishes and the bishop has ultimate say in a diocese. We cannot demand the ability to make decisions that are not ours to make, no matter how great the crisis. We should, however, offer counsel and guidance to our priests as we are able and as the gifts God has given to us allow.
Read the rest at Catholic Exchange.