The Personalist Project

Accessed on September 25, 2023 - 12:29:05

Who is competent?

Katie van Schaijik, Nov 04, 2020

Last weekend I visited a friend in another city. At Sunday mass—very unusually in my experience—the priest preached about Catholic Social Teaching. Even more unusually, he highlighted the principle of subsidiarity, explaining correctly that, according to it, decisions affecting persons should be made by the "smallest competent authority," i.e., the authority closest to the individual. The further decision-making gets from the individual, the less efficient, more impersonal and more oppressive it becomes.

"So, for example," he said, "decisions affecting the parish should as much as possible be made by the pastor, because he's the one closest to the people." 

Like the pastor in our summer diocese, this solidly orthodox, well-educated and well-intentioned priest simply overlooked the laity. It's as if the idea that we, too, have competence in the self-determination of the life of the parish never entered his head. 

We do, though. According to the doctrines and documents of our Faith, not to mention our nature as free and responsible subjects, every baptized person shares in the roles of "priest, prophet and king." Every confirmed Catholic is co-responsible for the life and mission of the Church.

And the laity have specific competences that the clergy lack. We have complementary charisms without which the priestly vocation cannot be fulfilled. At present, they're stuck under a thick bushel basket of clericalism. Let's let them out.