Address to the Concerned Catholics of Canberra and Goulburn Part 4: Reclaiming the priesthood of the faithful

15 November 2018
Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv recently met Pope Francis at the ICMC meeting in Rome on 6-8 March 2018. Image: L’Osservatore Romano.


Most Reverend Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFM Conv DD STL, Bishop of Parramatta

Address to the Concerned Catholics of Canberra and Goulburn Forum

11 September 2018



“The Role of the Faithful in a post-Royal Commission Church in Australia”




One of the ways through which we can move the Church forward is to reclaim the baptismal identity and mission of all its members. In other words, it is time to make the Church less the Church of the ordained and more of the Church of the whole body of the baptised.

I visited Mundelein Seminary in Chicago a few months ago and I noticed an interesting feature of the Seminary Chapel. There were seven steps leading to the high altar and on the side of each step was written the respective name of one of the seven Holy Orders. Each step would create an ever growing chasm and a power distance between the candidate and the people. It dawned on me that these vestiges of the Tridentine model of priesthood are powerful symbols of the clerical class. It reflects an ecclesiology that emphasises the ontological change and separation of the ordained from the faithful.

There existed a variety of ministries in the early Church. Yet over the centuries, this richness has been gradually concentrated in the ordained at the expense of the baptised. In effect, the priesthood of the ordained has usurped the rich and varied ministries and the priesthood of the baptised. It is time for us to break open the priesthood and allow the ministries of the baptised to flourish.

The Church will not be fully energised while the faithful are still unable to participate with full citizenship in its life, governance structures and decision making processes.

The difficulty, which we face today, is that we are living in a transition period between a dying model of Church and an emerging model of Church. Much of the clerical structure of our Church reflects the now dying model of Church. Besides the tendency on the part of the hierarchy to revert to the default position, there is also a small but vocal movement which seeks to resist change and to re-establish the old order.

There needs to be a bold and strong leadership to nurture and to enable the emerging model to prevail. There is also a need for committed people who act like critical yeast in critical time.

The Church needs prophetic voices, even voices from the margins and from outside, to keep its leaders honest, transparent and accountable. We cannot afford to let the momentum for cultural and structural change in the Church fizzle out. It is for the sake of a healthier Church that all the baptised participate in its functioning and bring their gifts to bear on its growth.

Part 5 will be published tomorrow.

To read Part 3 of Bishop Vincent’s address, click here.


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