The historic pattern

One of the periodic patterns of the Church is that decapitation tends to bring out lay gifts. In the early Church, decapitation tended to be furnished by the pagan authorities, who knew perfectly well that the Faith is inherently hierarchical and so tended to go after bishops and priests. Then, lay people had to muddle through and use the gifts they had. Early Christians, being sensible, did not view this as a good thing or as “liberating”. They viewed it as a form of martyrdom. Just as a blind man’s other senses may become more keen to compensate for the loss, so the hobbled Body of Christ did what it could with what it had till the ordained office was restored and life could get back to sacramental normality. At other times, the Church has been decapitated by corruption (it was, for instance, a bishop who put St. Joan of Arc to death) and again, reform has sometimes come from non-ordained people (like St. Catherine of Siena). But again, the sensible Catholic saw this, not as a chance to grab power and remake the Church in his own image, but as a cross to bear till the Church was healed.

This is one of the reasons Voice of the Faithful strikes me as, well, extremely ill-informed. They primarily conceive of the Church in just the way their betrayers do: as a nexus of power to be scrabbled over and fought for in order to achieve domination. They do not conceive of the pastoral office as one of service but of domination. So the goal of course is to seize it, the better to dominate the Church in the service of their particular agenda.

I can certainly understand the anger at priests who have failed to grasp that their office is about sacrificial self-donation. What I can’t grasp is laypeople, betrayed by such priests, concluding from their betrayal that what we need is for laity to be just as a Darwinian in their approach to life as our worst priests have been. Real reform movements have to learn from the early Church and see that the goal is sacrificial self-donation (and use of all gifts toward that end) and not yet another warmed-over Marxist class warfare dialectic.