Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Priests, Laity, and the "Expectation Gap"

Steve's question about the priest as an icon of Christ reminded me of an article in the current Commonweal titled "Mind the Gap: The Return of the Lay-Clerical Divide."  Based on a new book titled American Catholics Today, the article is only available online to subscribers, but here's an excerpt:

Laypeople are increasingly committed to an active role in the church while more and more of their priests prefer a limited role for them, coupled with a more cultic model of priesthood.  These important cultural differences are the product of generational changes among both the laity and the clergy.  Whereas the two groups seemed to converge in the 1960s and '70s, they have diverged since the '80s.  As a result, there are sharp differences between young adult laypeople who expect the clergy to welcome their participation, and young priests who believe the responsibility for parish decisions is theirs.

Laypeople in the post-Vatican II and millennial generations are going in one direction while "John Paul II" priests are going in another.  The full effect of this division is not yet felt or discernible, but that will change in coming years.  In a decade or two, today's older generation of priests and laypeople will be gone, leaving all the decisions to today's younger priests and laity, precisely where the expectation gap is widest.


Vischer, Rob | Permalink

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