Archbishop Flynn’s smackdown of lay homilists is getting some little netplay (as opposed to airplay) today. dotCommonweal has a good discussion on their site. The usual apologists appear and do their best (or less than best) to make a case.
Clergy, by virtue of their ordination, not only have the right, but they have some special quality of the Spirit that permits them to preach liturgically. It’s a matter of obedience to the revisionist 2004 Redemptoris Sacramentum, and those who disobeyed before ’04 should’ve known they were heretics, transgressors, or whatever.
Preaching is a spiritual gift given for the benefit of the particular community. If lay people are part of that movement of the Holy Spirit (God again!) who are the hierarchy to frustrate God?
They do train preachers, don’t they? Do seminaries or lay theology schools give out certificates?
Or can anybody blunder into this ministry just by checking the right box on the time/talent survey?
This all makes me think the Church needs to go back to basics on preaching. What is the purpose? How does it get done?
It’s rather curious that Roman Catholics have a system of discernment for preaching (presumably the grace department) entirely independent of considerations such as talent or training. In other words, if we go by the book, the first time a preacher will preach is after he has been discerned, schooled, and ordained. Put another way, once the guy’s a priest or deacon, we’re pretty much stuck with however he’s turned out as a homilist: good, bad, or ugly. But don’t worry, says the institution. It’s God’s will, and plus, the priest will have a hissy if you take his privilege away.
On the talent end of things, one might say that the gift of preaching and its execution would come first. Then a vocation to orders discerned because the person preaches well, or because that gift works in concert with other abilities the Church deems useful for the ordained. The problem here, of course, is that the Roman system is wholly not supportive of such a thing. Not to mention that vocation directors don’t approach lay ecclesial ministers or others of their ilk for seminary candidates.
And then you have the training end of the affair. One dotCommentator wrote, “Is preaching formation always a good thing? I’ve sat through homilies that I thought were articulate, full of illustrations, energetically delivered–that left me completely cold. But the preacher would have done very well in homiletics class.”
Why is it that most Catholic minds ponder training or education, they automatically think classroom? As if the only way to teach is to row the desks and clean those blackboards. This goes back to the other issues and begs the question: How can priests learn to preach if they can’t practice as lay people? How can they practice if lay people can’t preach? This might well be a skill, talent, or ability well suited to apprenticeship, at least in part.
I have to come to the undeniable conclusion woven by the Curia: Preaching is so important that (1) only clergy can do it (2) we’re going to strip away any pretense of ability or training to reinforce it really must come from God … no matter how bad it gets.
Do I have that about right?
By the way, does anybody think it’s opportune to take a look at the 1981 USCCB document, “Fulfilled in Your Hearing (The Homily in the Sunday Assembly)” or should it wait its turn till after other documents?