Given the current grave situation of the Catholic Church, we as the Catholic laity must take it upon ourselves to enact change in our Church if Rome will not.
In recent months, the Church has faced an onslaught of accusations that charge members of the Catholic clergy with sexual abuse. Although action has been taken, most of the public believes that greater strides should be taken to reassure them that this doesn’t happen again.
Since Rome halted the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) from voting on measures to address the crisis, the promise of any movement on the issue seems to be fleeting.
American Catholics are then forced to ask, “What can we do next?”
This is a unique time for the Church and Catholic lay people. In these troubled times, ideas amounting to a kind of reformation within the Church are being presented.
Dr. Daniel Burns, an associate professor here at the University of Dallas, wrote an article published in The Washington Post that urges the Catholic laity to step up and make the changes in the Church that the governing forces in Rome are failing to make.
Burns expanded on this, saying that the change has to come from the lay Catholics.
“Our Bishops are afraid to irritate Rome. … [Rome] hires and fires [bishops] with no transparency or possibility of appeal,” Burns wrote in the article.
Burns states that the hierarchy of the Catholic Church consists of a centralized power in Rome that dictates the bishop appointment process.
Interestingly enough, Burns mentions that it wasn’t until recently that Rome was granted this power. In fact, throughout most of Catholic history, the selection of bishops was done more locally.
Burns’ main argument is that the Catholic laity in the U.S. needs to take action. As is the case with many secular, political reforms, change has only occurred when citizens take action instead of the persons in power.
This crisis will only begin to be resolved when those who are affected by the decisions that have been made choose to respond.
After Burns published his article, another UD affiliate responded to the call to arms.
Bishop Robert Coerver, an alumnus of UD who served as the director of spiritual formation at Holy Trinity Seminary and taught classes on campus, penned the rebuttal to Burns.
Coerver, now bishop of Lubbock, answered Burns:
“Catholics must work with, not against, the Church as it deals with the abuse crisis,” Coerver wrote in a Dallas Morning News article.
The argument presented by Coerver encourages Catholics to put their faith in both the pope and in the Church itself. He explains the obstacles that the pope must face and offers a solution.
“Lasting reform of the Church will come from fidelity to Gospel values, not from coalition politics calling for disrespect and aggression,” Coerver added.
While it is important for Catholics to put their faith in the Church and in the pope, with the rise of more sexual abuse accusations and the failure of the Church to take any definitive action on the issue, the responsibility for change falls to the laity.
It is disappointing to hear that Coerver, as someone with such a strong connection to our school, urges us to take the lackadaisical approach to the situation. Unlike Burns, who encourages the Catholic laity in America to enact change within the Church, Coerver advises a more passive approach, advocating that those directly affected by the issue put their faith in a governing system which has obvious flaws.
Lay people should be able to be more involved in the selection of our bishops and those who lead our dioceses.
If all the members of the Church are able to have a say in the appointment and removal of Church officials, our faith that we preach with such great pride will hopefully become less vulnerable to situations such as the one we are now in.