Vatican ll: the end of hierarchology

The failure of major dioceses to honour the Jubilee of the Second Vatican Council is shocking beyond belief, given that the Council has universally been acknowledged as the most important Catholic event since the Reformation.

So why the silence? Why the failure to celebrate the highest teaching a Church can proclaim, that of an ecumenical Council?

Well, for starters it was the end of “hierarchology” as Council giant the ecclesiologist Yves Congar called the predominant orientation of the laity at the time.This was a period of abasement, of radically playing second or third fiddle in a huge church, the world’s largest. Few people studied theology. It was the preserve of the Catholic clergy who basically brokered God to the lay people.There was little confidence among the vast majority of Catholics pre Vatican ll.

When one looks back on that period—it is amazing the prestige that the ordinary priest had in those years. Many of course were true servants, pastoral in their orientation. As well many   turned out to be inadequate coasting on the unearned respect of their cohorts.The priestly caste had power—free meals, no parking tickets, the power of life and death over parishioners. Ask women of that period about  the hard liners they met in the confessional.

It all turned at the Council. Suddenly the Church’ s self-definition was “the people of God”. There now was a universal call to holiness—not just for priests.

Lumen Gentium’s words rang out:

The followers of Christ called by God not in virtue of their works but by the design of grace, but by the design of grace, and justified in in the Lord jesus, have been made sons(sic) of God in the baptism of faith and partakers-of the divine nature and so are truly sanctified…It is there fore quite clear that all Christians in any state or walk of life are called to the fullness of Christian life…therefore all tare invited and obliged to holiness and the perfection of their own state of life…

Baptism not Holy Orders now became the central sacrament of Catholicism. Talk of empowerment!

The next 50 years saw the laity “pick up their pallets and walk” to quote a Jesus story. Lay people began to radically outnumber clergy in theologates and institutes; nuns flew by priests, women began outnumbering men in the academic world. People awoke and became engaged particularly after the episcopal coverups  of sex abuse.

The times were a changin…and many clerics including the curia could not adjust. And here we are today, an almost totally lay church stalemated by clericalism.

In many ways it’s pure physics—action/reaction…and the reactionaries have just about run out of steam. principled resistance  to the Council’s betrayal is gathering steam.


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