To the editor:
According to Fathers Cozzens and McBrien the “uneven field” which hampers dialogue in the Church is its hierarchical structure (see Catholic Courier, December 2004: “The need for dialogue in the Catholic Church”). They cast the Pope as the controlling king and the poor, oppressed, laity as the lowly serfs.
The reality is that the Pope is the “servant of the servants” of the Lord. He, along with the Bishops and priests, has chosen servitude — to God and us, the laity — as his work in life, the work requested of him by God when Jesus asked Peter to “Feed My lambs; feed My sheep.” This servitude in no way diminishes his authority which again is God-given, “To you do I give the keys to the kingdom.” It ironically strengthens it.
The laity are a “priestly people” and are only made serf-like when the Pope, the bishops and the priests do not do their servant-like duties of teaching, leading and preparing the laity in the Truth of the Faith. That lowers us to the servitude of ignorance of the spirit, a servitude that has an eternal ramification — bondage both here and for eternity versus the true freedom of the saved.
So the hierarchy in the Church is a blessing, if the hierarchy behaves like it ought. They are NOT “kings” in a feudal system demanding tribute; they are rather like Christ the King, suffering, giving servants. Therefore, the laity being so served by the hierarchy is not like a serf in the feudal system, but is as a brother and a sister of the Lord, a kingly people.
It is with these understandings of the hierarchy that dialogue will indeed go forth with both respect and order. Name calling and faulty analogies just won’t do it!
Barbara A. Fredericks