Lay people are not `associate members'
"Catholic Herald" Reporter
IN a sermon at Westminster Cathedral on Sunday evening. -aFr. Gordon Albion attacked the false view of the Church as a " clerical closed shop" in which the laity are allowed to participate as " associate members."
He recalled that the Holy Father recently told laymen that they are not only members of the Church, they are the Church.
Fr. Albion was preaching on " Harmony and Co-operation Between Members of the Mystical Body of Christ," the last in a series of four sermons on the general theme: " Vocation and I.ife."
Ther,,, have been periods of history when the clergy behaved as though the Church was " a benevolent dictatorship from the pulpit," he told the congregation. But in fairness to the clergy, it must he said that this was usually the fault of the laity. He referred especially to the interference by secular princes in matters of Church government in the Middle Ages.
" There is no distinction as to what constitutes membership of the Mystical Body." said Fr. Albion. " We are all called to equal membership."
Hence, it is quite wrong to speak of the layman, simply because he has not been called to serve God in the special way of the priesthood or the religious life, as " having no vocation." Everyone has a vocation.
"The difference is not one of vocation, but of function in fulfiling that vocation," he continued. Under the authority of the Bishops —the successors of the Apostles and apart from the specific functions of the priesthood. lies the whole field of the lay apostolate. In missionary count' ies lay catechists teach the Faith; in England C.E.G. speakers, licenced by the Bishop, proclaim it from the public platform. In exceptional circumstances, laymen are permitted to distribute Holy Communion.
FR. ALBION ADDED THAT HE COULD SEE NO REASON WHY THIS PRIVILEGE, IN ENGLAND AS WELL AS IN MISSIONARY LANDS,
SHOULD NOT BE ACCORDED MUCH MORE FREQUENTLY TO THE LAITY.
Although many Chinese Catholics are today deprived of their Bishops and priests, the Church in China continues and even increases: layfolk baptise their own children, marry validly and receive converts.
We have made the terms " ecclesiastic " and " lay " too narrow, said Fr. Albion. The Greek word ekklesia means " assembly of the people." Therefore the layman, too, is an ecclesiastic, and the priest—since he is one of the people (laos)—is an ordained layman.
Abbot Reetz of Seckau Abbey, Austria, has been elected Archabbot of the 1,200-year-old Beuron Abbey, Germany. He succeeds Archabbot Baur, who retired recently.