Catholic Herald Correspondent
PRACTICAL suggestions for bridging the gulf between priests and laity including ways in which lay people could take over some tasks from the clergy, were discussed in Manchester last weekend.
One hundred and fifteen lay men and women and five
priests attended the meeting
arranged by the Manchester Newman Circle and addressed by Fr. Christopher Delaney,
Fr. Delaney suggested that there were two ways of looking al. the Church: as a pyramid with laity at the hottom and the Pope at the top or in the Pauline sense as the people of God, with the Church as a unity, lie suggested that overemphasis (especially by writers of seminary manuals) of the former theeis had brought about the present gulf in which clergy and laity were often separated.
These two approaches to a theology of the Church had led to two kinds of Catholics: those with a ghetto mentality who think of the Church as an autonomous society in eery field and those with the Pauline approach who will not hesitate to claim certain rights within the C hutch because of their Confirmation and Baptism.
The (etholic aith the Pauline approach will silo, eoesider it perfectly permissible to hold opinions on the Church differing from the rest—opinions referring to the human aspect of the Church.
Fr. Delanes made practical suggestions for bringing about a dialogue. Tle suggested ways in which laymen might take over some tasks from the clergy—such as a layman editing the bishop's pastorals. a lay bishop's secretary and a committee of experts to advise the bishop for priest) in specialist problems. Discussion showed most people in agreement with the speaker although there was some discussion (WET the nature of the Church.
One priest suggested that the Church should be seen as a pyramid. but as an upturned one with the Pope. as Nervris servartim Del at the bottom. Perhaps the most telling point was made by the speaker who said that she had been a Quaker for many years and a Catholic for the last five years. She found in the Church a lack of any koinonia or community within the Church. She felt that she did not belong in the Church. felt no sense of fellowship. had nes er met her parish priest and did not know her fellow Catholics. This emphasised Er, Delaney's point that the Church was not simply an authoritarian. juridical body hut should also be a fellowship of the people of God.
There was criticism of both clergy and laity. Priests who did not visit parishioners were criticised while a priest pointed out the difficulties involved in visiting— especially during television times: he also pointed to the limited time available to priests in the evening.
It was also suggested that the biggest obstacle for a priest was his clerical collar.
Suggestions were made about the opportunities for the laity to help in running the financial side of parish matters, but l)ther speakers felt that the layman's task was to go out into she world.
The problem of apprbaching the parish clergy was raised by one speaker who had tried this unsuccessfully on many occasions.
It appeared that the old concept of the Church as a fortress was opposed to the Pauline concept of the Church as a worshipping community with a sense of human companionship as well. One speaker suggested that a solution might lie in better "education" of both clergy and laity in what the Church consisted of and what their respective roles were, This might eventually bring about a situation in which there would be no gulf between clergy and laity.