Yesterday I reported that the new bishop of Rocheshter has eliminated lay preaching in his diocese which had become common there since the 1970's. This caused me to reflect on things that I have tried to suppress from the 1970's when I was in the seminary.
Don't get me wrong. I actually loved the 1970's and the seminary that I attended which was St. Mary's in Baltimore. As a 22 year old, I thought the academics there had an inside track on what would be the Church of the future. I thought they actually were clairvoyant and that was exciting for this clairvoyant.
They taught us that they were clairvoyant indirectly of course. They knew better than the bishops of the Church and the Magisterium (sounds like the ultr-conservatives today, doesn't it?) In fact the academic theologians of the 1970's thought and taught that they were a part of the Magisterium and that their loyal opposition to the bishops was the plan of God. Some would call their loyal opposition dissent, heterodoxy and heresy, but let's not split hairs.
But the lay preachers in Rocheshter, implemented in the inglorious 1970's reminds me of the direction that these aging hippies hoped the Church would take, but failed to realize that their road was but a detour that most Catholics left after Pope Saint John Paul II was elected to the papacy in 1978.
Those of us stuck in the 1970's promoted an ideology that was all part of what is called the clericalization of the laity and thw laizing of the clergy that was in full swing in the 1970's. This is how this ideology developed with an overall plan to replace the ordained priesthood with a corps of laity that would be chosen to celebrate Mass and the other sacraments without the need for ordination.
It started with lay lectors. At first this was a benign decision to allow laity to enter the sanctuary and perform a litugical function of those preparing for the clerical state. This seem logical as boys who are laity would function as "lay" acolytes, altar boys.
Then to facilitate a speedier distribution of Holy Communion (but the real motive, to truly clericalize the laity) extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion came about). But along the way to EMHC's there was the experimentation with the laity simply helping themselves to Holy Communion, both the paten and chalice on the altar without any minister the point being if priests self-communicated why not the laity, but this was short lived and the EMHC's won out in the end.
Then by the mid 1970's when I was in the seminary, the phenomenon of lay preachers was reaching its zenith. Our rector even invited laity from outside the seminary to preach at Mass. They weren't half bad and I liked the novelty at the time and wondered how it would work in the Diocese of Savannah when I would implement it after I was ordained.
Then of course gender neutral language was implemented paving the way for female ordination and same sex marriage and of course the Church as mother or bride was not allowed to be used as a methaphor as it was sexist.
But ultimately the Dutch (and to this day too, like the lay preachers in Rochester) were paving the way to a lay priesthood which would celebrate Mass and the other sacraments. All that was needed is the ability to preside well and be a good president of the assembly. They would simply be chosen ad hoc, prepared like we prepare lectors, altar servers and EMHC's and then scheduled to celebrate this or that Mass.
To pave the way for this, priests would only enter the sanctuary to do their functioin and then sit with the laity in the congregation at other times.
That's the way we hoped we would be and some my age and older still think it can be that way. Time will tell, but I don't think so.