What is asked of the laity is nut that they should become a kind of halfcaste clergy, a collection of chtnehwalkers and sacristans. They are the plague of the Church as, so often, they poison the atmosphere with their efforts to stand between the celebrant and the people.
No, their role is to remember their dignity and powers given to them at baptism and brought to perfection in confirmation. What we need, in ruder to follow up the papal directives, is not an " emancipation " of thc laity, but nevertheless an adult and mature laity. There is no " emancipation " in any section of the Mystical Body. Nor can the laity ever dispense with the guidance and the sacramental ministry of the clergy.
But if they arc going to be an adult, a mature laity it is vital that they should be recognised as such, encouraged as such and supported as such. One does not feed adults on milk and biscuits, but there arc not many places where the laity is given sound theological formation, is encouraged to form their own judgment to read the Bible and the basic sources that form the adult Christian mind. It must be admitted regretfully that even in some places the laity is treated. even from the pulpit, with a disdain. a rudeness and a lack of respect that would alienate any but the good, forgiving and human Catholic layman and laywoman. Such behaviour smells more of priestcraft than of priesthood.
There is, especially in this country, still far' too much tear and prejudice where the laity is concerned. Once
more, it is up to bishops and priests to guide. But there is a difference between guiding the layfolk's activity and absorbing it so entirely that it becomes
a clerical activity in disguise. This paralyses all lay activity and the results, as we have seen in the Sword of the Spirit and the Education struggle, is disastrous.
There are fields of action where the layman has more opportunity and is better equipped than the clergy. They mix more and better. They have far greater experience of worldly affairs. they can stand up more easily and can talk as man-to-man.
In this field the laity should he trusted ; they should not be reduced to schoolboys and mere sources of financial income. It is a pity that there is already a tendency to bring the whole C.P.E.A. with finances and all within the immediate scope of the curia. There is no reason for mistrust. First of all, there arc hardly any or no facts which would justify this mistrust, and secondly, a layman who gives of his precious leisure and resources to a Catholic movement is not likely to become disloyal—unless he is trampled upon or discouraged. The layman, too. has his gifts of the Holy Ghost and his special vocation.
Unless we do recognise the place and the dignity of the laity, we shall have to pay for our shortsightedness. Many a priest has already found out that the absorption of lay activity in the episcopal curia and its over-anxious centralisation is a drawback for himself as well as for the fruitfulness of lay action.
Adult Laity—the Mainstay But there is a far more powerful in centive to encourage the laity. We live in a world which is progressively secularist. It does not deny the Lay People Want to be