A reader asks

Is there any room, in your view, for lay boards to licitly have more power? Even if a Council of bishops were to take up the question? Or is this a question that the tradition has definitively answered in the negative?

Like I say, “final voice” does not mean “only voice”. I think there can and should be lay involvement in governance. In fact, my parish (Blessed Sacrament in Seattle) has attempted it, using the Dominican model of communal discernment as our own. It had mixed results, largely due to a Lidless Eye faction that took every attempt at parish meetings as an ocassion to threaten and bully and act like thugs. But I think there’s room in the Tradition for it, certainly, as Amy also mentions. In fact, I think it’s quite on the cards that, since cardinals need not be ordained, we will someday see lay cardinals (both male and female) and I would welcome that.

But I’m cautious about doing this sensibly and not seeing a repeat and compounding of the stupid notions that took over the American Church after Vatican II. You know, the confusion between the notion of “the people of God” and “We the People.” Laity can and should be involved in governance, I think. But at the same time, this must be done in accord with the Tradition of Jesus, not the tradition of Jefferson. And the theological illiteracy of so much of the American Church means that a learning curve is goin to have to be dealt with if we don’t want to absolutely guarantee making matters worse. Remember: the bishops did not get us where we are by failing to consult the laity. Laity were consulted. The problem is that the laity were primarily lawyers and psychologists. This brings me back to what I mentioned before: namely that the bishops seem to have a weakness for listening to people who have a fundamental distrust of the Tradition. That too, must change.


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