We Catholics are really good at criticizing bishops: they don’t enough; they are too soft; he didn’t speak out about this; he said too much about that, etc, etc.
Well, here is the truth: we are the lay faithful, and it is our job to consecrate the world to Christ. Do we have a problem with Obamacare? We can act. Is there a problem with Roe v. Wade? We can act. Is there more we can do for women facing unplanned pregnancies and for men and women living in poverty? We can act.
The Bishops offer spiritual guidance and trusted teaching authority so that we get the Faith right in belief, so that we can receive the sacraments and so that we are unified.
But it’s not their job to run around fixing all the problems in the secular realm. In fact, working in the secular realm and bringing the Faith there is the express role of the laity.
Here’s what the Catechism has to say about the laity
[The laity refers to] all the faithful except those in Holy Orders and those who belong to a religious state approved by the Church. That is, the faithful, who by Baptism are incorporated into Christ and integrated into the People of God, are made sharers in their particular way in the priestly, prophetic, and kingly office of Christ, and have their own part to play in the mission of the whole Christian people in the Church and in the World.”430
The vocation of lay people
898 “By reason of their special vocation it belongs to the laity to seek the kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and directing them according to God’s will. . . . It pertains to them in a special way so to illuminate and order all temporal things with which they are closely associated that these may always be effected and grow according to Christ and maybe to the glory of the Creator and Redeemer.”431
899 The initiative of lay Christians is necessary especially when the matter involves discovering or inventing the means for permeating social, political, and economic realities with the demands of Christian doctrine and life. This initiative is a normal element of the life of the Church:
Lay believers are in the front line of Church life; for them the Church is the animating principle of human society. Therefore, they in particular ought to have an ever-clearer consciousness not only of belonging to the Church, but of being the Church, that is to say, the community of the faithful on earth under the leadership of the Pope, the common Head, and of the bishops in communion with him. They are the Church. (897-899)
Hear that? We, the lay faithful, are also included in Christ’s threefold office of priest, prophet and king, though in a different way than that of the ordained priests. And we are especially called to bring the Gospel into the economic, political and social realm, which is precisely what we are always complaining about anyway.
As for the priestly office: ordained priests can perform the sacraments-they change bread and wine into the Body & Blood of Christ for us, the lay faithful, to consecrate us as the Church, to make us holy. The laity, on the other hand, consecrate the secular world: we, as the “front line” of the Church, bring the Gospel to the rest of the world, to places that need to hear the good news of Christ, everywhere: our homes, our work places, our communities, our governments, our economic policies and even our foreign policies. Wherever is closest to us, whichever things we are “closely associated” with, here we bring the Gospel.
So we can stop blaming the bishops for not doing our job. We need to do our job ourselves, respecting the guidance of the episcopate and embracing the active role demanded of us in worldly affairs.
Thoughts: Do you think lay Catholics do a good job of speaking on behalf of the Church in the secular world? I’m gonna wager that the answer leans toward the negative, though their are certain a few faithful and thoughtful voices. So what can we do better? For one thing, it will require that as Catholics, we put ourselves and our reputations on the line for the Faith; it will demand that to our friends, family members, colleagues and peers, we say: “Yes, I believe the teachings of the Church and I think they are worth following!”
It will also require that we know the Faith so that we can engage the world without losing our identity, so that we can answer questions about the Faith in a reasoned and balanced way neither staring at our toes in embarrassment nor burying difficulties in triumphalism.