The nature of leadership, authority, governance, and responsibility in the Catholic Church has been debated since the Apostles began sending out delegates and anointing presbyters and deacons to help serve the growing Christian community. The Church has historically relied on clergy and religious to further its mission, as well as dedicated laypeople; however, with the emergence of “Nones“ (religiously unaffiliated young people) and the decline (and challenges) in religious vocations, a gap has developed between the expectations of the faithful and the ability of the Church to fill many of its non-ordained leadership roles.
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If you are like me, the news of Jean Vanier’s abuse and manipulation of six women receiving spiritual direction was a gut-wrenching combination of disappointment, disillusionment, and disgust.
In the face of seemingly endless iterations of scandal in the Church, there was at least Jean Vanier. He was one of the beacons of hope and renewal and reform, a layman who had succeeded in creating, in L’Arche, a new form of communion and evangelization. A real lay leader in the Church. Someone whom we thought of as a harbinger of the ideals of “co-responsibility for the being and acting of the Church,” to use Pope Benedict’s words.
Here was hope for a new vision of leadership in the Church. But even this hope was dashed. Back to the drawing board. Find another beacon of hope and harbinger of renewal. But we’re running out! I thought. Where do we go from here?