As long as we are nothing more than a number of practically unrelated individuals, we can't do much. Picture a scattering of bones vs. a skeleton. Hydrogen and oxygen don't slake thirst unless they're formed in right proportion into molecules. It doesn't matter if hundreds of employees all agree separately that their work is unjustly compensated. Until they form a union, they'll have no sway with the management. Management can disregard them or fire them at will. And they can do it sincerely believing that they are acting in the best interests of the company as a whole.
American colonialists couldn't have established themselves as a nation without the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the calling of the Constitutional Convention.
The Solidarity Movement that brought down the Soviet Union, the Civil Rights Movement that defeated Jim Crow, the Indian Independence Movement led by Gandhi that won over the British Empire, and the Suffrage Movement that gave US women the right to vote were all rooted in two sets of basic personalist truths:
1) Individual rights and dignity vis. a vis. the PTB.
2) The indispensability of formal associations for collective action. To live and act as a body, as a community, persons need to be formed into meaningful, recognizable, coherent corporate subjects. We need structure.
Right now the laity of the Church, as such, have no structure. Parishes do, as arms of the Bishop. They are, objectively, clericalist structures.
In Catholic understanding, the priesthood is a communitarian reality. The Bishop is its head.
My basic claim in all these related posts is that John Paul II, in his Magisterial Theology of the Body, has shown us that the laity, too, are meant to be a communitarian reality. We are meant to form a body that the priesthood can relate itself to spousally.
We are not objects or pawns or serfs or subjects* or mere sheep, though we've been living and acting as if we are.
Whether they realize it or not, priests are effectively in the position of Adam before the creation of Eve. They are lonely and unfruitful. To fix that, the laity can and should form ourselves into an embodied communal person that the priest can recognize as a complementary equal: "At last! A helpmate! A companion! Flesh of my flesh and bone of my bone!"
Adam's mission was to be fruitful and fill and cultivate the earth. He needed Eve to do it. Likewise to fulfill Christ's redemptive mission in the world, the priesthood needs a fully-formed, separate and distinct laity.
Right now the situation in our parishes looks pretty bleak. I'm thinking of Ezekiel:
The hand of the Lord was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones.2 He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry.3 He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”
The answer is Yes! As that old slave spiritual puts it in song: "Them bones, them bones gonna walk around."
It's going to be beautiful and amazing.
*the term subject is maddeningly equivocal. Here I mean it in the sense of being under, subordinate to.
P.S. Since I don't usually post more than once in a day, don't miss the one below for more on the same theme.