Tuesday, March 15, 2016


Some with an ideological agenda believe that Vatican II changed the doctrine of the nature of the
 Church and used new language to describe the Church unheard of prior to Vatican II. FALSE!

While I prefer the Church to be described as the "Mystical Body of Christ" one could have used prior to Vatican II the description of the Church as the "People of God" or the "Pilgrim Church" traversing time and space for her true home, heaven.  Did Vatican II indicate who those are who are NOT the People of God? Has the Church never used the term pilgrimage as a sign of traveling, walking, making pilgrimages to shrines, holy doors, lands, as ultimately one's pilgrimage to heaven?

Now, in the pastoral theology of the Council, the ecclesiology of the Church as a hierarchical institution that is comprised of Bishops, Priests, Deacons, Religious and laity, gave voice to concretely enlist the aid of the laity in the life of the Church.

But here is the rub, so many with an ideology of a somehow changed doctrine or new dogma (and of course Vatican II declared no new doctrines let alone dogmas, believe that specifically speaking of the role of the laity in the Church was somehow revolutionary. Perhaps from a pastoral point of view, yes, but certainly there is no new dogma or doctrine in a shift of pastoral sensitivities to describe how the laity is an integral part of the Church.

First and foremost the role of the laity is not described by Vatican II as churchy stuff, although this isn't excluded of course. First and foremost the laity's role is at home as they form the "domestic Church" and in the home father act in the person of Christ to pastor his wife and children. Husbands and wives have a co-equal responsibility to make the home a place of faith, worship, catechesis and service, in other words, faith and good works put into practice.

The laity have a role in the public square to represent the institutional Church and her teachings as a priest or religious might do and with the same authority when they actually represent the Church and her teachings and pastoral priorities. I would say that it is here that so many public Catholics in politics have failed. But also there is a failure on the parochial level when rank and file Catholic laity do not defend the Catholic Faith and her institutions, but rather denigrate, carp and otherwise undermine Holy Mother Church.

On the institutional level, be it the parish and its institutions, the diocese and its institutions or Rome and its institutions, the laity have a role. What would a modern Catholic parish do without the laity today?

In my parish laity have authority in their given paid roles although I set the agenda with them and supervise their work. Thus most parishes have lay men or women as principals, teachers, catechists, DRE's Music Directors, pastoral assistants, youth directors and on and on. And most parishes have women in these roles. Men are a minority. On the administrative level there are administrative assistants, secretaries, bookkeepers, and a whole host of other paid supports, most women.

In the liturgy prior to Vatican II the laity, men and women served in choirs and as cantors. They were ushers and commentators. They were altar boys and adult servers.

Today there is only a minor change to what Pre-Vatican II allowed. Men and women, boys and girls can serve the altar as servers, readers and adults a extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion but only when there is a legitimate need, not contrived uses for these.

The problem with post Vatican II liturgical participation in the institutional way is that it creates an elite clericalized group of laity whose roles as readers, cantors, choir members and EMHCs is seen as more important than what the majority of the laity do at their pews. To make things worse, the move of choirs and cantors to the sanctuary or in a visible position elevates these laity over those in the regular pews, a new form of authentic clericalism.

Yes, Vatican II's documents describe the role or the laity in a powerful way, first for what their role is in the world outside the churchiness of the parish facilities and secondly  where their expertise can be used on instituional level. Liturgically the laity are called to a more informed participation in the liturgies of the Church based upon actual participation of mind and heart, body and soul. 

But is this a new ecclesiology? No and anyone who tells you that it is, is simply bloviating.

Issues of centralization and decentralization have always been a tension in the Church. The pastoral position of subsidiarity is a good thing that what can be accomplished on a lower level should be but always in union with one's bishop and the Bishop of Rome. Canon Law assists in this.

Subsidiarity based upon doing one's own thing independent of the bishop or the Bishop of Rome is called schism. It is never a good thing.

Terms such as "empowering the laity" or taking away power from the ordained is not what Vatican II taught about ecclesiology. The laity are advisors to the hierarchy and to parish priests. They assist but they don't control. But the greatest tension in the Church has been centered on the laity wanting to be clericalized for clerical power, thus the push for women to be ordained, and the laity to run parishes and a new trusteeism that sees the laity trying to control the institutions of the Church rather than the clergy.

We had this perverted understanding of ecclesiology develop in two small parish in south Georgia and it got so bad that the bishop had to closed the parishes until those who were creating the problems understood just where the power and authority rests in the Catholic Church.


Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Coming from someone who "bloviates" with alacrity, though ungrammatically, I take your use of the term as reasonably high praise!

I have never claimed the lexicon of Vatican 2 represented anything "unheard of prior to Vatican II". In fact, when I have spoken of this topic, I have noted clearly that the Father's of the Council employed language that was used extensively by the Church Fathers.

You really ought to try reading what people post on your blog.

TJM said...

Fr. Kavanaugh, ad hominem in the morning is beneath a priest.

Scalia's Gjost said...

TJM - You're staying WAY ahead in the contest!

George said...

The principle of subsidiarity does not apply to hierarchical structure in the Catholic Church in the same way and to the same way and extent it would apply to the realms of management systems and to the administrators and representatives of democratic political subdivisions. A bishop is bound by Canon law and Church teaching to obey the Pope as would a subject to a king. The episcopal structure of the Church is monarchical. The bishops do teach govern and sanctify in the jurisdiction of the diocese they administer; but it is under the direction and authority of the Holy Father in his God-ordained role. The bishops, when fulfilling their role in accordance with Canon law, with Magisterial teaching, and with due respect to Papal authority, act as an extension of the Holy Father and one's attitude toward them should be from that perspective. Not only bishops, but priests as well, should be given respect and deference by the laity. Obedience and order constitute the foundation of a proper functioning ecclesiastical structure. The laity serve to support the Church, in prayer and sacrifice, in active ministries and financially. All Church members comprise the "Body of Christ", but each of the members should be aware of the functions and boundaries of each of the other members of the Body and that there is both a temporal and a supernatural aspect to how we serve and relate to others in our God-ordained roles.

Gene said...

Well, I came back to see what is going on. The same thing is going on: the Church is going to ruin, Kavanaugh is still apostate, and Fr. is still desperately trying to white wash the Pope. Lordy, Lordy

TJM said...

What's a Scalia Gjost? Antonin Scalia would probably punch your lights out for appropriating his good name for left-wing loon causes.

Catholic Mission said...

Vatican Council II can be interpreted with the old ecclesiology and the strict interpretation of extra ecclesiam nulla salus

Rood Screen said...


Father Kavanaugh thinks this blog is a medium for private conversations. He finds it baffling when the rest of us read the comments he posts here to Father McDonald.

TJM said...

Dialogue, I think you're on to something. We should pray for his conversion to Catholicism from Vatican IIism.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

TJM - Not at all. Fr. McDonald argues that this blog is like a friendly, living room chat. I am entirely aware that it is public, and I post nothing here that I would not be willing to see on the front page of the NYTimes tomorrow.

John Nolan said...

To be fair to Fr Kavanaugh, forums like this one are indeed about conversations, and disagreements can be aired without (one hopes) too much acrimony. I don't always see eye to eye with him, but that also goes for other commentators and indeed the blog author himself.

Gob is a troll and an exponent of what the Duke of Edinburgh once called dentopedology - the art of opening one's mouth and putting one's foot in it. But even he provides comic relief, albeit unwittingly.

TJM said...

Fr. Kavanaugh, ah the Times aka Hell's Bible. I figured that anti-Catholic rag would be near and dear to your heart!

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

TJM - No paper is "near and dear" to my heart. My comment has nothing to do with any paper being near and dear to my heart.

I was simply pointing out that you are mistaken about how I see the function of this blog.