The Personalist Project

Accessed on June 08, 2023 - 10:13:31

What is a Constitution?

Katie van Schaijik, May 04, 2021

A constitution is the founding document of a formal association. It lays down fundamental principles; it defines "a people who are collectively sovereign." In other words, it forms a corporate subject. It turns a collection of individuals into a deliberate, distinct people.

In late 18th century Poland, for example, a new constitution was drawn up, part of whose aim it was to "elevate the status of the burghers" as over and against the monarchy. Learn all about it in this short video clip that came up in my Gab feed this morning:

What I'm trying to say is this: The laity of the Church need a sort of constitution. And by Church I here mean not the hierarchy centered in Rome but the body of believers, the people of God centered in any given place. We need to embody ourselves as a definite corporate subject that can relate itself to our priests as such. Not adversarially, but spousally—as complementary opposites, ordered toward mission, i.e., new life.

I'll say again what I've said many times before: I'm not talking about abolishing the priesthood or the hierarchy. Nor were the Poles of that trying to get rid of the monarchy. Rather, they were about a re-distribution of social and economic power to better reflect modern "discoveries" surrounding the rights and dignity of the individual.

Similarly, the structural changes I'm calling for are about re-distributing "power" in a way intended to reflect organic theological, philosophical and experiential developments of the modern period, including especially those regarding the dignity of women, the subjectivity of the person, the nature of marriage, and the value and distinctness of the lay vocation. 

(I put quotes around power because the kind I'm talking about is only analogously related to power in the secular sense. "Power" in the Church is deeper and more comprehensive, and it's suffused with divine grace. Call it agency or authority or decision-making or charism. Or help me find a word that comprises all of those things.)