The hierarchy and the bourbon laity

Max Lindenman has this on the hierarchy and the laity. It strikes me as vital that we hew to a balanced view of holy orders and ecclesiology, steering between the imagined monster of clericalism (truly terrible it would be if it existed) and the very real and corrosive cloud of what we could call “laicism,” a phenomenon ably represented in Lindenman’s article by Paul Lakeland’s proposal. I say “imagined” because I see little evidence that the attitude described as clericalism by laicists has existed in decades; if it exists today, it exists solely as a straw monster to be poked at and to frighten us into accepting the prescriptions of radicals like Lakeland.

And if the laicists’ mode of argument is disingenuous, the content and object of those arguments are all the more so. Even if the Holy Father was incorrect in saying that “[n]o one can claim to speak ‘officially’ in the name of the entire lay faithful, or of all Catholics, in matters freely open to discussion,” no one should think for even a moment that proposals for involving “the laity” in Church governance are motivated by any desire for lay involvement in Church governance. They aren’t. The objection is not to ecclesiastical authority per se but to the failure of current officeholders to subscribe to various modernist heresies and liberal preferences in liturgy. See SF: America magazine’s duplicitous editorial (Feb. 13, 2011). When the National Catholic Fishwrap, for example, calls for laymen to be given more say, they don’t mean people like Michael Voris (a point to which Lindenman alludes); far from it. They have a substantive agenda and wish to empower whomever will get the job done, ordained or not. The rest is smoke.

Have there been bad bishops? You bet. But so long as their number doesn’t rise above one in twelve, I’d say we’re ahead of the game. For what it’s worth, I tore into the clericalism fearmongering here.