BY A STAFF REPORTER
APLEA for the reform of Canon Law and the setting up of a national pastoral council, thereby giving the laity greater weight in the Church in the light of their common responsibility for its mission, has been made to the Bishops of England and Wales.
This appeal comes from the National Council of the Newman Association, the body which seeks to advance the intellectual apostolate among Catholics in all walks of life. It has sent a memorandum of evidence to the Bishops' review committee on the church commissions. These commissions were set up provisionally to further the work of the Vatican Council.
The Newman views are set out in the February issue of the Newman Bulletin in four sections. They comprise: (I) A statement of the objects of the review of commissions as understood by the Newman Association.
(2) A description of the Association's links with the Laity Commission through the umbrella organisaeion the National Council for the Lay Apostolate and its knowledge of the work of other commissions.
(3) The main views of the Newman Association.
(4) The future of the commissions.
RESPONSIBILITY The memorandum begins by asserting that the mission of the Church requires that all should be involved and should have a genuine share in the exercise of the responsibility within the Church.
"National arrangements," it says, "will lack credibility, unless the diocesan, deanery and parish councils incorporate the same principles.
"Canon Law needs to be reformed to allow lay people to have juridical responsibility within the Church. At the same time the procedures for the redress of grievance, require resolution."
New structures, it urges, should he provisional and allow for review in the light of experience. There should be provision within the Church for reaching sound decisions on the basis of systematic information. Wise stewardship
of the Church's resources was a task requiring a serious collaborative effort of all Church members.
Sincere and concerned Catholics should be encouraged to express their views on matters of concern to them, since free expression of honest opinion could only be to the long-term good of the Church.
"The Newman Association," says the memorandum, "is grateful to the Bishops for a second opportunity in the course of a year to give evidence to them on matters of importance to the Church, and assures them of its wish to collaborate with them in every way."
In Section Three, where the main views of the Association are set out, co-responsibility is stressed. "This is not based on any theory of 'democracy,' nor merely to ensure that decisions when announced will receive a willing assent, but has a deeper theological content: the sharing of all members of the Church in the exercise of responsibility is a necessary consequence of Baptism. . . .
"It would be meaningless for the Bishops to set up national machinery for consultation and action, and for lay people to he associated as of right with it, if at diocesan level there should be frequent examples of nonobservance of the norms established, and of the decisions reached nationally."
In the light of pastoral and
sociological developments taking place in the country. the memorandum says:
"We therefore see the need for the Church to establish, as of the highest priority, research facilities which might involve the foundation of one or more Research Institutes of academic standing and merit, to provide the facts on which decisions must be based."
NATIONAL COUNCIL The Newman Association suggests that "there should be
some regular assessment of the work of the Church by a body which in itself contains all the elements that go to compose the Church." This would imply the creation of some sort of national pastoral council.
The memorandum concludes by remarking on the distress caused by changes in the wake of the second Vatican Council and partly attributes this to "the fact that many sincere Catholics have had to live their religious lives with little or no guidance on why the changes were taking place.
UNDERSTANDING "It is clear to us that the first work of the Church must be to encourage adults to acquire an adult understanding. This is why the work of formation of the mature Christian seems to us of paramount importance at the present time, and this work must be done at local level."
It asks that new structures take explicit account of the other Christian churches in this country, so that Catholics may collaborate successfully with them in areas of common concern.