Footnote 55 of Mulieris Dignitatem (8/15/88): The point being the “substantial priority” of the lay faithful [the Marian dimension] over the ministerial priest [the Petrine dimension], and the “functional priority” of the ministerial priest over the lay faithful.
This Marian profile is also—even perhaps more so—fundamental and characteristic for the Church as is the apostolic and Petrine profile to which it is profoundly united…. The Marian dimension of the Church is antecedent to that of the Petrine, without being in any way divided from it or being less complementary. Mary Immaculate precedes all others, including obviously Peter himself and the Apostles. This is so, not only because Peter and the Apostles, being born of the human race under the burden of sin, form part of the Church which is ‘holy from out of sinners,’ but also because their triple function has no other purpose except to form the Church in line with the ideal of sanctity already programmed and prefigured in Mary”[i] (italics mine).
The Greatest Enemy of the Church: Clericalism (Pope Francis)
How do you see the laity in Argentina?
As I have said before, there is a problem: the temptation to clericalism. We priests tend to clericalize the laity. We do not realize it, but it is as if we infect them with our own thing. And the laity – not all but many – ask us on their knees to clericalize them, because it is more comfortable to be an altar boy than the protagonist of a lay path. We must not enter into that trap, it is a sinful complicity. Neither clericalize nor ask to be clericalized. The layman is a layman and has to live as a layman with the strength of his baptism, which enables him to be a leaven of the love of God in society itself, to create and sow hope, to proclaim the faith, not from a pulpit but from his everyday life. And by carrying his daily cross as all of us do. And this is the cross of the layman, not that of the priest. Let the priest carry the cross of the priest, since God gave him a broad enough shoulder for this.”
Sunday, June 25, 1944: “was a day of great rejoicing. The three young men said good-bye to the founder at Diego de Leon and went by car to the bishop’s residence, where they were to be ordained in his chapel. The crowd was larger than the chapel could hold and spilled over into adjoining rooms. At ten o’clock, Bishop Leopoldo entered and began the ceremony. After Mass, as the new priests were still removing their vestments, people pressed forward to kiss their newly consecrated hands. Among those present were people from the nunciature and from the bishop’s staff, priests from Madrid and surrounding areas, relatives and friends and acquaintances of the new priests, members of the Work, and a large number of representatives of religious orders and congregations. Hieronymites, Dominicans, Piarists, Augustinians, Marianists, Vincentians…. In the meantime, while the ceremony was taking place, the founder was celebrating Mass in the oratory of the Diego de Leon center, assisted by José Maria Albareda.”
The bishop dined with the new priests and a few invited guests. Later that afternoon, Father Josemaria introduced him to the members of the Work who had come from other cities for the ordination. Soon the ground-floor living room was full of young people. The family gathering lasted for quite a while as Father Josemaria laughingly described the merits of each of the new priests. The bishop, too, was in very good humor, although it had been a long day for him…
“He ended with affectionate words and gave them his blessing. But before getting into his car to leave, he asked to have a photo taken of him embracing Father Josemaria.
“A little later everyone went to the oratory and Father Josemaria gave a meditation. Commenting on some phrases from Saint Paul that he had jotted down ten years earlier, he insisted on prayer and sacrifice, as the foundation for all interior life, and on humility, both individual and collective. ‘When the youngest of you who are here,’ he said, ‘are doing gray – or sporting splendid bald spots, like some that you see – and I, by the law of nature, have long since departed, others are doing to ask you: ‘So what did the Father say on the day of the ordination of the first three?’ And you will answer them: ‘He said that you are to be men of prayer, men of prayer, and men of prayer
“What I Would Have Said At The Consistory” (Interview: 30 Days)
This is valid also for lay people…
BERGOGLIO: Their clericalization is a problem. The priests clericalize the laity and the laity beg us to be clericalized… It really is sinful abetment. And to think that baptism alone could suffice. I’m thinking of those Christian communities in Japan that remained without priests for more than two hundred years. When the missionaries returned they found them all baptized, all validly married for the Church and all their dead had had a Catholic funeral. The faith had remained intact through the gifts of grace that had gladdened the life of a laity who had received only baptism and had also lived their apostolic mission in virtue of baptism alone. One must not be afraid of depending only on His tenderness… Do you know the biblical episode of the prophet Jonah?
I don’t remember it. Tell us.
BERGOGLIO: Jonah had everything clear. He had clear ideas about God, very clear ideas about good and evil. On what God does and on what He wants, on who was faithful to the Covenant and who instead was outside the Covenant. He had the recipe for being a good prophet. God broke into his life like a torrent. He sent him to Nineveh. Nineveh was the symbol of all the separated, the lost, of all the peripheries of humanity. Of all those who are outside, forlorn. Jonah saw that the task set on him was only to tell all those people that the arms of God were still open, that the patience of God was there and waiting, to heal them with His forgiveness and nourish them with His tenderness. Only for that had God sent him. He sent him to Nineveh, but he instead ran off in the opposite direction, toward Tarsis.
Running away from a difficult mission…
BERGOGLIO: No. What he was fleeing was not so much Nineveh as
the boundless love of God for those people. It was that that didn’t come into
his plans. God had come once… “and I’ll see to the rest”: that’s what Jonah told himself. He wanted to do things his way, he wanted to steer it all. His stubbornness shut him in his own structures of evaluation, in his preordained methods, in his righteous opinions. He had fenced his soul off with the barbed wire of those certainties that instead of giving freedom with God and opening horizons of greater service to others had finished by deafening his heart. How the isolated conscience hardens the heart! Jonah no longer knew that God leads His people with the heart of a Father.
A great many of us can identify with Jonah.
BERGOGLIO: Our certainties can become a wall, a jail that imprisons
the Holy Spirit. Those who isolate their conscience from the path of the
people of God don’t know the joy of the Holy Spirit that sustains hope. That
is the risk run by the isolated conscience. Of those who from the closed
world of their Tarsis complain about everything or, feeling their identity
threatened, launch themselves into battles only in the end to be still more
self-concerned and self-referential.
What should one do?
BERGOGLIO: Look at our people not for what it should be but for
what it is and see what is necessary. Without preconceptions and recipes but
with generous openness. For the wounds and the frailty God spoke. Allowing
the Lord to speak… In a world that we can’t manage to interest with the
words we say, only His presence that loves us, saves us, can be of interest.
The apostolic fervor renews itself in order to testify to Him who has loved us
from the beginning.
For you, then, what is the worst thing that can happen in the
BERGOGLIO: It is what De Lubac calls “spiritual worldliness”. It is the
greatest danger for the Church, for us, who are in the Church. “It is worse”,
says De Lubac, “more disastrous than the infamous leprosy that disfigured
the dearly beloved Bride at the time of the libertine popes”. Spiritual
worldliness is putting oneself at the center. It is what Jesus saw going on
among the Pharisees: “… You who glorify yourselves. Who give glory to
yourselves, the ones to the others”.
Opus Dei spiritually and institutionally destroys clericalism by ordaining ministerial priests in the service of the laity understanding both to be radically equal as “other Christs.”
“Graphically, the founder told the Work’s priests that their task is to be a ‘carpet’ for others. He wrote: ‘In Opus Dei we’re all equal. There’s only a practical difference: priests are more bound to place their hearts on the floor like a carpet, so that their brothers and sisters may tread softly.”
The real ontological structure of the Church—its true hierarchical structure—is not a clericalized pyramid of power[ii] in which “advancement” means “raising the laity ‘upwards’ into the structural level of the hierarchy, promoting them into the ranks or at least into the function of the clergy.”[iii] “The ‘ontology’ of Church structure indicates the substantial priority of the ‘Christian condition’ (the common priesthood). ‘With you I am a Christian; for you I am the bishop,’ said Augustine of Hippo. With respect to the common priesthood, the ‘priestly ministry’ element has a relative character, theologically subordinate: ‘Christ instituted the hierarchical priesthood for the benefit of the common priesthood.”[iv]
The common priesthood belongs to every member of the Church as such. It is a specific existential participation in the priesthood of Jesus Christ. Its pattern is Mary. The crucial point is that this is the basic condition of all christifideles—from the Pope down—and is in a sense the love of the Church. Consequently, “layman” no longer means merely one who is not an ordained priest. Rather it means, positively, one who embodies the reality of the Church in a specific sharing in Christ’s priesthood. This takes away nothing of the fact that the ordained priesthood is an office, requiring a distinct ontological configuration, representing Christ vis-à-vis his Bridegroom.
What is at stake here, then, are not functions of power in an objectified structure, but an “organic convergence”[v] of service performed by subjects oriented in distinct ways toward the common mission of evangelization. The Note rejects the notion that priests and laypeople fall under a sort of general rubric called “ministry,” differing only in their function. Rather, “layman” and “minister” are irreducible ontological configurations of the human person as Christifidelis. Consequently, laity and ordained priests simultaneously share a common experience of the one priesthood of Christ, even as this common experience is intrinsically differentiated in terms of the irreducibly distinct dimensions of the self-gift that this one priesthood implies.
“Ontological Configuration” of Laymen and Priests
The positivism that has us all enthralled deflates ontology to function and inflates “ministry” to a “mission” that reduces the Church to a clericalized structure apart from the world. The mission that is the proprium[vi]of the laity then becomes “ministry,” while the world is emptied of the presence of Christ. The Church becomes clericalized, while the world becomes “secularized” in the pejorative sense. By calling us to transcend the “level of our categories,”[vii] the Note encourages us to cease replacing the layman’s experience of being within the horizon of the existential priesthood with an abstract and objectivized category of “ministry” as a functional performance. The Note touches the epistemological root of the problem when it says, “our modern frame of mind leads us to understand far more easily the concept of function and far less easily to understand what is meant by ontological configuration.”[viii]
If you want more of this, go to my blog for “Why Laity Are Not Ministers: A Metaphysical Probe” ( Communio 29 [Summer 2002] 258-286.
 Pedro Rogriguez, “The Place of Opus Dei in the Church,” Opus Dei in the Church Scepter (1994) 38.
 Of 1997 accompanying the 1997 “Instruction on Certain Questions Regarding the Collaboration of the Non-Ordained Faithful in the Sacred Ministry of Priests.”
[i] “Address to the Cardinal and Prelates of the Roman Curia” (December 22, 1987) in L’Osservatore Romano, December 23, 1987.
[ii] “‘Authority means power.’ In the Church too this concept of authority has been and still is widespread. If we start from the principle that all authority comes from God (cf. Rom 13:1; Jn 19:11), it is easy to form a mental picture of how authority and power descend from God through the different ranks of the hierarchy and finally reach the people. This could be depicted graphically in the form of a ‘structure-pyramid’ or a ‘power-pyramid:’ God is at the top of the pyramid. Under him, we are presented with the visible authorities (the ‘power-structure’) of the Church: the hierarchy, the clergy; and under them—in the lowest place, as the ultimate subjects— the Christian laity…. For those who conceive the Church in terms of the pyramid just drawn, advancement of the laity can appear as a straightforward matter, a goal whose pursuit takes an obvious direction. It simply means raising the laity ‘upwards’ into the structural level of the hierarchy, promoting them into the ranks or at least into the functions of the clergy” (Cormac Burke, Authority and Freedom in the Church [Scepter, 1988], 109-110).
[v] “The organic convergence of priests and laity is one of the privileged areas which will give life and pastoral solidity to that ‘new energy’ whereby we all feel invigorated after the Great Jubilee” (Address during an audience for participants at a seminar on Novo millennio ineunte” March 17, 2001).
[vi] It is important to grasp that the most profound meaning of evangelization is not only imparting concepts, but also sharing and helping share in the experience of the Person of Jesus Christ, and thus fostering knowledge of him by that experience. Of course, to know him, is already to possess eternal life (cf. Jn 17:3): “To evangelize means to reveal this path—to teach the art of complete living. At the beginning of his public life Jesus says: ‘I have come to evangelize the poor’ (Lk 4:18). This means, ‘ I have come to respond to the fundamental question of your existence. I am here to show you the path of life, the path to happiness, I am, in fact, that path” (Joseph Ratzinger, “The Way to True Happiness,” Inside the Vatican [August-September 2000]: 20).
[vi] “Similarly, by not making a clear distinction, including in pastoral practice, between the baptismal and hierarchical priesthood, one also runs the risk of underrating the theological proprium of the laity and of forgetting the specific ontological bond which unites the priesthood to Christ the High Priest and Good Shepherd” (Pastores dabo vobis 11).
[vii] “It is also a feature of our culture to have the honesty, the frankness, the ability to tell things as they are and in this case to say that truth demands that we admit that we are here confronted by a revealed mystery that is not on the same level as our categories and that the way we use reason must preserve its nature as mystery, and not replace it with our church structures” Note. 5.
[viii] Ibid., 5.