Every baptised person carries authority as priest, prophet and queen/king with Christ and takes part in Christ's universal mission. See note 1 below. Therefore each member of the People of God shares responsibility for the good of the whole community of faith. See note 2 below. Church leaders have to find efficient contemporary structures through which that responsibility can be exercised. See note 3 below.
Pastoral Councils on parish, diocesan and diocesan levels should work with priests and bishops in the performance of their common tasks. The members of pastoral councils should be elected and/or selected to include as wide as possible a span of the skills and competencies found among God's People. See note 4 below.
Bishops should also establish priests' senates in their dioceses. These senates represent the body of priests and share in the management of the diocese. See note 5 below.
In many financial, administrative and spiritual areas the members of pastoral councils and priests' senate should have a deliberative vote. In other words: pastoral councils and priests' senates should exercise their co-responsibility by being involved in the decision making process of the local Church. See note 6 below.
Co-responsibility requires a change of mentality, particularly regarding the role in the church of the laity, who should not be considered 'collaborators' of the clergy, but people who truly are co-responsible for the being and action of the church.
[Letter to Catholic Action International Forum, 23 August 2012]
Pope Benedict XVI
The authority enjoyed by the pope and the bishops does not operate in a vacuum. It needs to respect the cultural values of our time: openness, media scrutiny, participation of an informed membership in issues facing the Church, public opinion. Though the authority does not derive from the members but from God - and is not democratic in that sense - , it needs to be collegial, credible and accountable in the way it is exercised. After all, its authority is a public service, justified only when exercised for the good of the body of Christ. From being a power-conscious top-down, paternalistic practice, pastoral authority will need to become a people-focussed, caring and empowering service.
John Wijngaards -- read the full text here
NOTE 1. “The faithful who, by baptism are incorporated into Christ, are placed in the people of God, and in their own way share the priestly, prophetic and kingly office of Christ, and to the best of their ability carry on the mission of the whole Christian people in the Church and in the world.” Vatican Council II, Lumen Gentium § 31.
NOTE 2. "In Christ and in the Church there is no inequality arising from race or nationality, social stutus or sex, for "there is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free person, neither male nor female.. For you are all one in Christ Jesus (Gala 3,28; cf. Col 3,11) . . .
Although by Christ's will some are established as teachers, dispensers of the mysteries and pastors for the others, there remains, nevertheless, a true equality between all with regard to the dignity common to all the faithful and to the activity in the building up of the Body of Christ." Vatican Council II, Lumen Gentium § 32.
NOTE 3. “Bishops should preserve for their faithful the share proper to them in Church affairs. They should recognise the duty and right of the faithful to collaborate actively in the building up of the Mystical Body of Christ.” Vatican Council II, Christus Dominus § 16.
NOTE 4. "It is highly desirable that in every diocese a special pastoral council be established presided over by the bishop himself, in which clergy, religious and lay people specially chosen for the purpose will participate. It will be the function of this council to investigate and consider matters relating to pastoral activity and to formulate practical conclusions concerning them." Vatican Council II, Christus Dominus § 27.
NOTE 5. "Bishops should be glad to listen to their priests' views and even consult them and hold conferences with them about matters that concern the needs of pastoral work and the good of the diocese. But for this to be implemented in practice, a group or senate of priests should be set up in a way suited to present-day needs, and in a form and with rules to be determined by law. This group would effectively represent the body of priests and help the bishop in the management of the diocese. " Vatican Council II, Presbyterorum Ordinis § 7.
LAY PEOPLE ARE ADULTS
Catholics in most countries of the world are now well-educated and capable of understanding complex issues. Church leaders make a grave mistake when they treat the people entrusted to them as mindless sheep.
FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION?
Vatican II laid down: “All the faithful, both clerical and lay, should be accorded a lawful freedom of inquiry, freedom of thought and freedom of expression, tempered by humility and courage, in whatever branch of studies they have specialised.” [Gaudium et Spes, § 62] At present such a freedom of expression does, in fact, hardly exist in Church circles.