This semester I am blessed to be teaching a course on the Council to a group of upperclassmen. We are focusing on the major documents of the Council. One of the classic bits of history concerning the Council concerns the re-crafting of the foundational document The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen gentium). It went through several drafts, with the world's bishops rejecting the first draft as completely inadequate to the task. Many bishops spoke against the first draft, and still more submitted written objections to it.
While there is much to consider in Bishop De Smedt's intervention (speech), I was struck once again by his comments on clericalism, and thought I would post a brief quotation here so that it might serve as a point of reflection by all who are, by definition, part of the hierarchy. Officially, the "hierarchy" of the Catholic Church includes all of the three orders of ordained ministry: bishops, deacons and presbyters. So the following quote applies to all of them:
In the first chapters of the Draft the traditional picture of the Church predominates. You know the pyramid: the pope, the bishops, the priests, who preside and, when they receive the powers, who teach, sanctify, and govern; then, at the bottom, the Christian people who instead receive and somehow seem to occupy second place in the Church.
We should note that hierarchical power is only something transitory. It belongs to our status on the way. In the next life, in the final state, it will no longer have a purpose, because the elect will have reached perfection, perfect unity in Christ. What remains is the People of God; what passes is the ministry of the hierarchy.
In the People of God we are all joined to others and have the same basic rights and duties. We all share in the royal priesthood of the People of God. The pope is one of the faithful; bishops, priests, lay people, religious: we are all the faithful. We go to the same sacraments; we all need the forgiveness of sins, the eucharistic bread, and the Word of God; we are all heading towards the same homeland, by God's mercy and by the power of the Holy Spirit.
But as long as the People of God is on the way, Christ brings it to perfection by means of the sacred ministry of the hierarchy. All power in the Church is for ministering, for serving: a ministry of the Word, a ministry of grace, a ministry of governance. We did not come to be served but to serve.
We must be careful lest in speaking about the Church we fall into a kind of hierarchism, clericalism, episcopolatry, or papolatry. What is most important is the People of God; to this People of God, to this Bride of the Word, to this living
of the Holy Spirit, the hierarchy must supply its humble services so that it may grow and reach perfect manhood, the fullness of Christ. Of this growing life the hierarchical Church is the good mother: Temple . Mother Church
A great reminder to all of us yet today!