Clergy-Laity Inclusive Leadership (Church Restoration Series X) By Fr. Anand Muttungal


Vatican Council defines Church as “the people of God”. It is the biggest leap towards lay empowerment in the history of the Catholic Church. It introduced the practical concept of parish council and pastoral council. The idea behind it is to make the laity integral part of the administration of the Church. If this idea is implemented, the Catholic Church will have been the most vibrant organization in the world. It would have also reduced the gap between the laity and the clergy. Going through the church teachings in total, it makes clear that ‘in fulfilling the mission of the Church, the laity exercise their apostolate both in the Church and in the world, in both the spiritual and the temporal orders’. The Church documents provide a very clear theological and ideological clarity for an inclusive leadership. The saddest part is that the Indian Church over the years has not made any plan to implement it.
While discussing on inclusive leadership, it is utmost important to understand that the Christian concept of priesthood is different from all other. It is not just sacramental oriented but joined by spiritual and social dimensions. It will not be justified if one thinks that the priest should concentrate only on administration of sacraments and preaching of the Word because Christ made clear that the preaching is incomplete without concrete work. So the clergy will have to have a socio-spiritual leadership. It will be correct to say that the clergy have been doing it perfectly well in many places. It is here that we need a new leadership model to be developed where the laity has a social face along with the clergy, an inclusive leadership. The clergy will have to take the role of a big shady tree on which creepers grow high and give beautiful flowers. The passers by do not pay attention to the tree but to the flowering plant and the flowers. It is the fruit of the support extended by each other.
The leadership concept promoted by the Catholic Church is inclusive leadership of the laity and the clergy. As it happens always, the ideological clarity given by the Council and the post councillor documents remains on the pages of the un-red books in the libraries of the training institutes. We lack time bound concrete implementation plan. It is a sad thing for every one who looks for a concrete plan of action, the most publicised meetings of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India as usual discussed at length on the theme “The Role of the Church for a Better India” ended up with a couple of vague statements issued to the media. After reading those statements one might be tempted to think that these meetings are long days of feasting of the Church heads with lakhs of people’s money. All these meetings hardly have place for the voice of the laity for whom the Church claims to be working.
The Catholic Church will have to have a definite plan to promote the laity in the local, state and national levels. It has to be a concrete programme where the laity is given a lead role in organizing programmes in our institutions, invited as gusts along with other dignitaries, they are made part of the Governing body of the institutions that we are running and above all they are to be inducted into all the affairs of the Church and institutions run by the dioceses and religious congregations as well. Often church heads say that laity needs to be given training for this but I think that it is the clergy class and the nuns who need training to implement the concept of inclusive leadership. We must not forget that whatever activities that clergy and nuns are undertaking in any mission are done in the name of the Catholic Church where nearly hundred percentages are laity.
We need to understand that the voices of protests against Church heads from different parts of the country are aspirations of the people who are longing to have a leadership face. The Church leadership always suppress them with a remark that it is nothing but the voices of disgruntled elements. How long the Church will be able to sideline and brand them rebels? The Jewish High Priests did the same with Lord Jesus but the common people realized the truth. If the Church does not consciously develop an inclusive leadership, it will adversely affect the witnessing value that the Church heads are called to give. Lord Jesus showed this model, when He thought that his disciples are able, He sent them two-by-two to proclaim the good news to people. It is the right time to correct the belief that the priests and nuns are called to lead the community but they are called to animate the community. Probably it might be a good simile to say that the new role to be assumed is that of a tourist guide that helps tourists to understand the untold stories in the background of the present.

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