BY Peter Diamond | October 12 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print


More collaboration between priests and laity needed, says papal advisor

There needs to be more collaboration between priests and lay people, an advisor to the Pope told an audience of lay Catholics in Edinburgh last week.

Helen Alvare, an American who was this week appointed to the Dicastery of Laity, Family and Women by Pope Francis, was invited to speak in Scotland by St Andrew’s & Edinburgh Archdiocese on the subject of ‘Empowerment of the Laity in 21st Century.’

The event was held on Saturday October 6 at St Thomas’ Aquin’s Secondary School in Edinburgh, and Archbishop Leo Cushley flew back from the ongoing synod on youth in Rome, to listen and introduce Ms Alvare (above), who is a professor of law at George Mason University.

Asked by the SCO how Scottish dioceses can be more practical in involving the laity, Ms Alvare said: “It’s really a very practical matter, you just need to figure out which expertise women or lay people have and then figure out what are the goals of each diocese.

“It can take shape in many forms whether it is catechism, evangelisation, finance, property or education.

“The question of who has the expertise is paramount. Undoubtedly some of it would be clerical, some of it would be religious and some of it would be lay.

“So you have to do a little affirmative action as we say in the United States in order to find women to their perspective in, after you find out what your goals are.”

Ms Alvare also warned against ‘lay -clericalism,’ which she says, exists when ‘the lay people treat priests and bishops like celebrities instead of being co-members of the Body of Christ.’

The Philadelphian married mother of two also talked about the changes the laity has experienced.

“The call for the laity to be more involved has only really existed since Vatican II and therefore we’ve seen the laity as empowered, not by a clergy but by God,” she said.

“And therefore it’s up to the priest to empower the laity and not to decide what the parish projects are and scope but rather to help the laity understand that everyone has a job and it’s quite urgent.

“When the Church is being shut out by secularism from so many spheres, it’s down to the laity to take the message of Christ into those places if the Church’s voice is being diminished.”

When discussing how to diffuse any tensions which exist between the clergy and the laity over roles within the Church, Ms Alvare cited ‘collaboration’ as the means to an end.

She added: “I like the idea of more time spent with one another.

“I have a dream and I’ve proposed it to someone at the Vatican of having a conference where a bishop and one of the leading women he works with, sit on a panel and talk about their collaboration.”

She added: “I know some fabulous pairings who are doing amazing work in post-abortion counselling clinics and in refugee work and I want that put on display and to encourage other people to do it. This is why I keep saying its affirmative action, because we can’t sit back and hope it happens because its not going to.

“We have to have lay people standing up and saying I want to do things and we have to have clergy inviting and then we have to have a demonstration of what it looks like when its done well so that other people can see.

“We need to show collaboration because that’s where the warmth comes in.”




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