Lay group reform: Divide power and spiritual direction

Lay movement reform

Pressure is growing for lay movement reform due to the influence some lay communities exert over their members.

Lay movements and communities have given countless Catholics a chance to rediscover and deepen their faith. But a clear separation is needed between the spiritual and mission aspects of the organisations.

In 1998 St. John Paul II recognized the importance of lay movements. He said they were “one of the most significant fruits of that springtime in the church which was foretold by the Second Vatican Council.”

But not all the fruit was good. Several movements and communities have faced Vatican-imposed reforms and even dissolution.

The Catholic Church has a limited number of options for intervening when it comes to lay movements and communities. While a pope can remove cardinals, priests and bishops, laypeople can be punished only by excommunication.

Jesuit Fr. Hans Zollner, is a professor of psychology and president of the Centre for Child Protection at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. He told Catholic News Service Nov. 4 that before deciding to dissolve a movement or community, certain criteria should be met to indicate reform is possible.

A key issue, he said, is a willingness to have a clear separation of “spiritual guidance and external power” when it comes to decision-making.

“A spiritual director should never have the power to direct the movement or a decision for a person,” he said. “There needs to be a separation between who decides the mission aspect [‘forum externum’] and who knows about the spiritual side [‘forum internum’].

This is a very important point which some of those movements and some of those religious congregations have not been taking seriously.”

Another condition, Zollner said, is that there must be a set period of time for lay movement reform. And that a person not affiliated with the movement must determine whether the conditions of the reform have been met.

The movement itself “can’t be the one to testify that they have changed because then you blow your own trumpet and people will question that,” he said, “and rightfully so.”


National Catholic Reporter

Additional reading

News category: World.

Tags: , , ,