Evaluation of the FABC's Theology of Laity

Resources »Eapr »East Asian Pastoral Review 2010 »Volume 47 2010 Number 3 »Evaluation Of The Fabcs Theology Of Laity

Peter N.V. Hai

A Vietnamese Australian with a doctorate in theology, Peter N. V. HAI received the Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Excellence for his dissertation on the role of lay people drawn from the documents of the FABC.Currently he works as an enterprise architect and a guest lecturer at the Faculty of Theology and Philosophy at the Australian Catholic University.He recently completed a book entitled “Lay People in the Asian Church.” He is also co-editing a major volume on the Church in Vietnam to be published in this Jubilee Year—from November 2009 to November 2010.




As the first Ecumenical Council where ecclesiology was the central theme, Vatican II has changed the Church1 and provided seminal insights into the various aspects of Church life and spirituality. One of its most significant contributions was the development of a new understanding of the vocation and mission of the laity in the Church and in the world. The Council left an important body of texts about the laity (Chapters 2 and 4 of Lumen GentiumApostolicam ActuositatemGaudium et Spes, and Ad Gentes), which became the foundation for the FABC’s reflection on the identity and role of lay people in the Church in Asia.

In 1974, nine years after the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council, at their first plenary meeting that discussed the theme "Evangelization in Modern Day Asia," the Asian bishops declared that more and more lay people "must assume responsibility in the tasks of evangelisation."2 In 2001, at the Second Asian Laity Meeting, they observed that "the world of politics and the workplace are the preeminent places where the laity are called to transform society."3 For them, "Basic Ecclesial Communities/Small Christian Communities offer the laity a way to link faith and life,"4 help them grow in awareness of local situations, and through faith formation "develop a sense of mission and become a moving force to bring about conversation and change in Church and Society."5

Between these two meetings, there was a deepening of FABC’s reflection on the role of lay people in the Church and in the world of Asia. Indeed, since Vatican II, in Asia as well as other parts of the Christian world, the theology of the laity has been brought into prominence. This was due to several factors,including "a more comprehensive understanding of the mystery of the Church; a more positive sense of the secular world and the mission of the Church within it; new cultural and social conditions which significantly raised the educational level of the lay Christian."6 Therefore, the FABC’s theology of the laity, which is more than simply a canonical or administrative instrument, deserves a comprehensive review.

In this paper we will evaluate the FABC’s theology of the laity (1970-2001) by examining its context, contents, structures, and interaction with other post-Vatican II theologies of the laity. Our main argument is that the concept of priesthood of life, common to all Asian Christians, and intimately connected to the notion of "contextualized communion,"7 is central to the identity, vocation, mission, and spirituality of lay people in Asia. We also contend that this theology has a contextual and relational dimension, which is implicit in the concept of priesthood of life. Throughout our critical analysis, we will pay particular attention to the underlying assumptions and implications of this rich and dynamic theology.

Vatican II and the FABC’s Theology of the Laity

Consistent with the contextual orientation of their theology,8 the Asian bishops have endeavored to remain faithful to the Gospel, the tradition, and the universal magisterium, especially the vision of Vatican II, and at the same time, have maintained creativity in adapting these teachings to the concrete realities of Asia. Indeed, many of their statements are based on those of the Second Vatican Council.9 At the Fourth Plenary Assembly they emphasize the need to make lay apostolate world-oriented or Kingdom-oriented because of the Asian situation and the emphasis of Vatican II.10

In other statements on the role of the laity they often use phrases such as "the vision of Vatican II" when they wish to conscientize all the faithful, especially the laity, with respect to their vocation and mission in the Church and in the world,11 or to identify the needs and challenges facing the community to realize "the Vatican II vision of Church."12 They acknowledge the gap between Vatican II’s "vision of the Church as the people of God," and the actual situation in the Church, which is due to the passivity of the laity or an unwillingness on the part of the clergy to share responsibility.13 They encourage the Asian churches to build a co-responsible Church,14 update their vision of the Church, learn new methods and skills to enable them to work together,15 or just highlight efforts made in creating an atmo-sphere conducive to the realization of "the vision of Vatican II."16

Like Vatican II,17 the Asian bishops do not provide a rigid definition of the laity, but a typological description by stressing both the generic element and thedifferentia specifica. For the Asian bishops, the generic element is the baptismal priesthood of life of the laity and their participation in the threefold mission of Christ. The specific element is the secular character of lay people who are Christians in the world of Asia.

Following the Second Vatican Council’s decree on the Apostolate of the Laity, Apostolicam Actuositatem, which states that "the laity, carrying out this mission of the Church, exercise their apostolate…in the world as well as in the Church, in the temporal order as well as in the spiritual,"18 the statements of the Fourth Plenary Assembly focus on both the ad intra and ad extra aspects of the vocation and mission of lay people in the Church and in the world. They also emphasize the common priesthood and the tria munera, or functions, of all Christians—the two overarching frameworks dynamically employed by Lumen Gentium, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church.19

Moreover, like Vatican II, the FABC’s theology of the laity is based on a common matrix which encompasses several tenets such as the common baptismal priesthood of all Christians, their participation in the triple function of Christ, the charisms of lay ministries, and, to a certain extent, the underlying image of the Church as communion.

The indebtedness of the FABC to the teachings of Vatican II is summarized and depicted in Figure 1, which shows the organizing framework of the FABC’s theology of the laity against the background of the Vatican II documents that deal in a substantial way with lay people, in particular Lumen Gentium andApostolicam Actuositatem. The ad extra aspect of Apostolicam Actuositatem can be further expanded by juxtaposing two other conciliar documents, viz., Ad Gentes, the Degree on the Church’s Missionary Activity, which underscores the prophetic ministry of the people of God, and Gaudium et Spes, the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, which highlights their pastoral function.

Contents of the FABC’s Theology of the Laity

This section reviews the contents of the FABC’s theology of the laity by examining the Asian bishops’ view on the identity, vocation, mission, and spirituality of lay people, and concludes with an assessment of its development from 1970 to 2001.

On the Identity of Lay People

In the documents of the FABC, the identity of the laity is based on two characteristics: the common baptismal priesthood of life and the secularity of lay people. First, the common priesthood, or to use the FABC’s preferred term, the priesthood of life, is the basis for the identity, dignity, equality, vocation, mission, and spirituality of all Christians. It belongs to the whole people God and has its origins in Christ himself.20 Christians live this priesthood of life by participating in "all the mysteries of redemption, viz., suffering, death and resurrection."21 This concept implies the interdependency of all vocations in the Church because it is shared by all Christians including the clergy who have the obligation to live this "common priesthood of all before enacting the sacrifice of the Eucharist sacramentally."22 Through baptism and confirmation believers become Christ’s disciples and members of his Church, and are incorporated into Christ and the Eucharist.23 Here, the FABC seems to expand the common basis of the identity of lay people and all Christians on the three sacraments of baptism, confirmation, and the eucharist.

This description is linked to the concept of laos: the lay person is one who is a member of the laos, the people of God, in point of fact one who has been baptized and exercises the priesthood of life which belongs to all Christians.24 For the FABC, "the ministerial priesthood has meaning and fullness only in relation to the common priesthood."25 Expressed in philosophical terms, one can argue that the priesthood of life is the end and the ministerial priesthood is the means.26 Further, unlike Lumen Gentium, which seems to favor a theology of the laity that seeks to contrast the identity of the lay people with that of the clergy, the concept of priesthood of life has enabled the FABC to adopt a positive vision of the laity, aiming to explore the common matrix for all Christians including the laity and the clergy.27

This concept of priesthood of life has three possible theological characteristics. First, it encompasses the incarnational aspect of life realities and the redemptive dimension of life witness.28 Second, it links the sacramental, ad intra participation of lay people in the Church with their daily, ad extra engagement in the world. Third, to a certain extent, it encompasses and harmonizes the two schemata of the triple office and the common priesthood of the faithful adopted by Lumen Gentium, because, according to the FABC, the royal function, understood as the participation of the laity in the building up of the kingdom of God, is linked to the priesthood of life,29 and connected with the prophetic function,30 which "must be a witness and a service of the whole community to the saving truth of Christ and his Church. This sensus fidelium, or faith instinct, of the whole people of God is a gift of the Spirit to all as a body."31

Secularity is the second characteristic of the identity of lay people, who are called to live their Christian discipleship and share in Christ’s mission according to their lay state in the Church.32 Their duty is to infuse Gospel values into the various dimensions of their life—familial, social, professional, and political.33 The statements of the Fourth Plenary Assembly emphasize this secularity and identify the ministries that must be undertaken by lay people to meet the challenges of Asia such as politics, the youth, Asian women, the family, education, mass media, the world of work, social responsibilities in business, and health services. For the Asian bishops, the primary sphere of service for lay people is the world.34 As Asian Christians their ministry is to live out their double heritage of faith and country as individuals and as a community.35

Sometimes the FABC emphasizes the cultural identity of lay people before their religious allegiance by referring to them as "Asian citizens and Christians."36This picture of the laity, whose identity is rooted in their dynamic relationship with the Church and the societies of Asia, has influenced much of the FABC’s thought on lay people’s vocation, mission, and ministries. It shows that for the FABC, the dual calling of faith and citizenship is at the heart of what it means to be a lay Catholic in Asia.

In sum, the FABC’s understanding of the secular character of the Asian laity is theological, ecclesial, and sociological. First, from the theological perspective, the FABC uses the secularity of lay people as a locus theologicus, a necessary element, to describe the identity of the Asian laity and their vocation, mission,and ministries. In this sense, the relationship of Asian Christians to the world gives their vocation its uniqueness. Secularity is what qualifies their life and mission in the Church and in the world. Secondly, in an ecclesial sense, the entire Asian church, not just the laity, is in the world, and has a secular mission with the laity having a particular secularity and mission within this ecclesial secularity. Thirdly, from the sociological or phenomenological point of view, the world is the place where lay people live out their vocation and priesthood of life by participating in secular affairs in the various dimensions of their life.

On the Vocation and Mission of Lay People

In the FABC documents, the interrelated concepts of vocation and mission of lay people have a double dimension: contextual and relational. First, vocation and mission are understood as contextualized communion and contextualized mission, which express both the contextual and communitarian nature of their calling and activity. Lay people and the entire Christian community are called to a communion with Jesus the Liberator, a communion of committed disciples working for the liberation of Asia, which is rooted in the realities of Asia and in solidarity with the peoples of Asia. They are called to live the Christian priesthood of life, a life committed to Jesus, in the dynamism of communion with the whole people of God, and in a living dialogue and solidarity with the world, especially the poor. It is precisely when they are engaged in temporal affairs that they are engaging in the mission of the Church. For the FABC, their priesthood of life mandates a dialogue of life.

Secondly, for the FABC, underlying the articulation of the vocation and mission of lay people is their relationship with Christ and their role vis-à-vis the Church, the clergy, and the world.37 The goal and orientation of lay ministries is to transform the world and build up of the kingdom of God in the footsteps of Christ. In the FABC’s documents there is a recurrent usage of the terms kingdom of God, "transformation," "transforming," or their cognates.38 Mission is the purpose of ministries,39 and evangelization is the highest priority of mission.40 Therefore, lay people must assume responsibility for the tasks of evangelization.41 While the evangelizing mission encompasses many aspects such as witnessing to Christ and the values of the kingdom, cooperating with people who strive for justice and peace, inculturation, dialogue, and sharing with other Christians and non-Christians,42 it is essentially the proclamation of Christ by words, works, and especially life.43 Indeed, proclamation is the center and primary element of evangelization,44 and the ultimate goal of evangelization is to build up the kingdom of God by a triple dialogue with the religions, the cultures, and the poor of Asia.45

The FABC often uses the terms mission and apostolate interchangeably,46 especially in relation to the triple mission of Christ.47 But, unlike the terms evangelization and mission, which have detailed entries in the indexes of the official collection of the FABC documents, the word apostolate appears as an entry only in the index of the first volume. When they do mention the term lay apostolate, the Asian bishops tend to stress its ad mundum dimension, the active mission of the Church in the world, or to emphasize the imperative of triple dialogue, sometimes in conjunction with the term ministries.48 They also broaden the meaning of ecclesial ministry to include "a pluriformity of ministries" for both the ordained and lay people, a concept which is more biblical and need-oriented.49 For them, all ministries are modeled on the mission of Jesus the Liberator and based on charisms, but only charisms and services that meet the specific needs of the community will mature into lay ministries, which are recognized and performed with "stability, continuity and responsibility."50 This charismatic view also underlines the contextual and relational character of the FABC’s theology of lay people by stressing that charism is an integral dimension of every ministry, and ministry serves the community.

Hence, lay ministries are essential to the Church, and grounded in the joint missions of Christ and the Holy Spirit. Figure 2 provides a summary and explanation of the terms associated with the FABC’s understanding of the concept of mission in a schematic form. It highlights that, in the contextual theology of the FABC, diakonia (services and ministries), koinonia (communion with Jesus and communion of liberation), and kerygma (proclamation) are constitutive of the vocation and mission of lay people, which is in the service of the kingdom of God.

Figure 2: Taxonomy of the FABC Mission-related Concepts

Kingdom of God

As goal of evangelization


As the highest priority of mission


As purpose of ministries

As ad intra and ad extra ministries

As living the priesthood of life

As triple ministry: priestly, prophetic, pastoral

As triple dialogue with the cultures, the religions, and the poor of Asia


As stable, broad-based, recognized, and authenticated services


As spontaneous and occasional ways of sharing in the Church’s ministry


On Lay Spirituality

In the FABC’s theology of the laity, lay spirituality is also contextual and relational. First, it is "a spirituality of discipleship"51 and "a spirituality of daily life,"52common to all Christians and based on the priesthood of life, because Christian disciples exercise the priestly function in their everyday life.53 It is decisively informed by a positive, contextualized engagement by lay people with the world for the purpose of building up the kingdom of God in the existential situation of family life, work, and civic responsibilities. For the Asian bishops, a deep spirituality and prayer-life will have an evangelizing and witnessing value. In Asia, they observe, Christians do not impress followers of other religions as people of prayer or contemplative communities.54 They further note that Asian religions emphasize a deeper awareness of God and self in recollection, silence, and prayer, flowering in openness to others, and in compassion, non-violence, and generosity.55 Therefore, through a sustained and reflective dialogue with believers of other religions, Christians may also hear the voice of the Holy Spirit, expressed in a marvelous variety of ways.56

Secondly, the FABC’s theology of lay spirituality points to a new way of being Church, giving priority to being over doing, describing more what the Church and lay people are than what they do. It is trinitarian, sacramental, and prayerful with the eucharist as its font and summit. Most importantly, it links faith and life, ministry and spirituality,57 stressing that salvation is worked out in and through relationships at home, at work, and in the marketplace.58 As such, it is also a spirituality of harmony, a spirituality that emphasizes "simplicity, humble presence and service."59

On the Development of the FABC’s Theology of the Laity

While a careful survey of the FABC’s theology of the laity from 1970 to 2001 would point out some themes that continue and some notable developments, it is still possible to see in the FABC’s thought a coherent and consistent pattern. There is no radical departure in their theological and pastoral journey, but from 1986 the Asian bishops have further developed and clarified their understanding of the role of the laity in response to the challenges of Asian societies. In general, the role of lay people has been more contextualized and differentiated based on the specific needs of different regions of Asia. Their statements show a deeper concern to create of lay people, especially women, youth and children, an active force that would be empowered to work for the kingdom of God in the Church and in the world of Asia. For this task, lay people will need to be educated and trained.

Therefore, the Church has a definite obligation to support the formation of lay people and this education must be suited to the lay life as such. Indeed, the Asian bishops’ concern for the formation of the laity and the cooperation between all members of the community to face the changing context of Asia has been one of the most recurrent themes in the FABC documents. Lay people are called to become committed disciples of Christ, to learn the social doctrines of the Church, and to dialogue with peoples of different cultures and religions, and especially the poor. Despite the changes in the articulation of the role of lay people, in response to the changing Asian context, the FABC’s theology of the laity has remained contextualized and relational, firmly anchored in the teachings of Vatican II and flexibly attuned to the realities of Asia. Its structures will be examined in the following section.

Structures of the FABC’s Theology of the Laity

Under the rubric of structures we will review the organizing framework of the final statement of the Fourth Plenary Assembly of the Asian bishops, the epistemological perspective, and the hermeneutical approach of their theology of lay people.

The Statement of the Fourth Plenary Assembly of the FABC

The Fourth Plenary Assembly was convened after the FABC had discussed the theme of evangelization in the world of Asia (FABC I, 1974), the importance of prayer and interiority in the context of Asian realities (FABC II, 1978), and the imperative of responding to the call of Jesus together as a community of faith (FABC III, 1982). Building on the groundwork laid by these three plenary assemblies, the participants of the Fourth Plenary Assembly reflected on the theme of vocation and mission of the laity in the Church and the world of Asia. Consistent with their contextual "see-judge-act" approach, the Asian bishops’ treatment of this subject proceeds from an analysis of the signs of the times, through a collective discernment of the will of God, and finally, to a discussion of practical concerns.

After reviewing the challenges facing the Church in Asia, and discussing the theological issues of communion, collegiality, and co-responsibility, the Asian bishops examine the pastoral issues such as lay apostolate, clergy-laity relationship, formation of and for the laity, and lay spirituality. The organizing structure of the Fourth Plenary Assembly statement shows that the FABC’s theology of the laity is markedly contextual and relational. It uses the Asian context as theological resources, explores the theological meaning of communion, mission, and ecclesial structure, and finally, addresses pastoral concerns relating to clergy-laity relationship, formation, and spirituality. This theology is influenced by the Asian bishops’ epistemological and hermeneutical views on the identity and role of the laity.

Epistemological Perspective

Unlike much of Western theology, which favors a dichotomy between the thinking subject and the object that needs to be analyzed and dominated, the Asian bishops have adopted a different epistemology which approaches the reality in its entirety, and in an organic, non-dualistic way, focusing on the interrelationship of the parts to the whole.60 For them, Asian religious cultures have a holistic view of reality, seeing human beings, society, and the whole universe as intimately related and interdependent.61 Adopting this Weltanschauung, the FABC stresses the contextualized communion of the entire people of God, and considers both lay people and the clergy as a constitutive part of the whole body of Christ. Unlike Lumen Gentium, which makes an ontological distinction between the common priesthood of the faithful and the ministerial priesthood,62 the statements of the Fourth Plenary Assembly merely hint at the difference between laity and clergy by referring to the sacramental faculty of the clergy to celebrate the eucharist, the source and summit of Christian life.63

This worldview also underlies much of the Asian bishops’ theology of the laity, which seeks to highlight the common matrix of all Christians, laity, religious, and clergy rather than following a contrasting approach.64 This common matrix is expressed in several main features of their theology. First, it retrieves the pneumatological meaning of charisms as the basis for all Christian services, ministries, and offices. In their view, all Christians are charismatic by vocation and through the sacrament of baptism.65 Secondly, it uses the model of the Church as a community of faith to emphasize the communitarian vocation of all Christians, not just clergy and religious. Thirdly, it stresses that all Asian Christians are called to be a communion of disciples working for the liberation of Asia, and all share in the common priesthood of life which originates from Christ, though only the clergy can enact the sacrament of the eucharist.

The two interrelated concepts of priesthood of life and contextualized communion are foundational to their view on the identity and role of the laity. This view is encompassed by their overall vision of a new way of being Church which was articulated at the Third and the Fifth Plenary Assemblies.66 For the Asian bishops, the Church in Asia will have to be a communion of communities, a participatory Church, a communion of small Christian communities where lay people, religious, and clergy accept one another as brothers and sisters, and a community that witnesses to Jesus Christ in a dialogue of life, and serves as a leaven of transformation and a prophetic sign to the eschatological kingdom of God.67 Mission, for the FABC, is more than deeds, and it involves the very being of the Church as a contextualized community of faith in Asia.68

Hermeneutical Approach

The FABC’s theology of the laity also espouses a hermeneutical approach that seeks to read the "signs of the times" by using simultaneously Vatican II teachings as sources and Asian realities as resources. Applying the "see-judge-act" methodology, it describes the laity as Asian Christians and articulates their role as agents of the dialogue of life with the religions, the cultures, and the poor of Asia. In addition to the emphasis on the prophetic-critical dimension to theology and the liberation of the poor and the oppressed, favored by Latin American theologians, and in line with the orientation of African theologies which underline "the inculturation of Christian faith in villages of Africa,"69 the FABC is cognizant of the existence of a variety of cultures and religions in Asia, and hence, advocates the need for inculturation and interreligious dialogue in addition to the preferential, but not exclusive, option for the poor.

Like Lumen Gentium, which discusses the question of the laity from both the ontological and functional points of view,70 the FABC’s treatment of the role of lay people also proceeds from these perspectives, with a more pronounced emphasis on the functional dimension. This functional bias has two advantages. First, it enables them to focus more on the mission and ministries of lay people than to concentrate on the thorny issue of defining the ontological identity of the laity, a subject considered difficult by Yves Congar,71 and to place more emphasis on the imperative of communion, co-responsibility, and collaboration of all Asian Christians in giving their faith-response to the massive challenges facing the churches in Asia. An ontological view of the subject would tend to focus more on the distinction and difference between the ordained and the non-ordained to safeguard the ontological character of ordination, and hence could be seen as perpetuating the laity and clergy divide, and potentially alienating lay people.72

The functional emphasis also allows the FABC to concentrate on the realities of Asia, and articulate a specific role of the laity that is more suitable in the AsianSitz-im-Leben. This approach is consistent with the contextual orientation of the theology of the bishops of Asia, who did not set out to develop a systematic theology, but have reflected on the lay experience in the Asian milieu, and thus issued pastoral statements to guide Asian Catholics in their Christian life and evangelizing journey. The interaction between this pastoral and missionary theology and other postconciliar theological interpretations on the issue of the laity will be discussed in the next section.

The FABC’s Theology of the Laity and Other Postconciliar Theologies of the Laity

There are striking parallels between the FABC’s themes and other postconciliar interpretations of lay experience, in particular those of Yves Congar and Latin American liberation theologies. This section briefly discusses the notable points of convergence between these theologies, and situates the FABC’s theology of the laity within the framework of Leonard Doohan’s theological approaches.

The FABC and Yves Congar’s Theology of the Laity

While Yves Congar’s theological corpus encompasses three broad categories, namely, ecumenism, questions of fundamental theology, and ecclesiology,73four points of convergence between his theology of the laity and the teachings of the FABC are notable. First, like Congar, the FABC provides a definition of ministry based on three characteristics: essentiality, stability, and formal recognition in the context of charisms and services.74 Secondly, following Congar who employs the triplex munus schema to examine the role of lay people, the Asian bishops affirm that "lay people with special charisms to exercise ministries" are called to "exercise in a public manner some aspects of the Christian’s function of priest, prophet and pastor."75 They also use the tria munera framework to explain in detail the priestly, prophetic, and royal functions of lay people.76

Another point of convergence between Congar and the FABC is their emphasis on the common priesthood of the faithful as the background and starting point for their theology of laity. However, whereas Congar employs the term "spiritual priesthood" and considers it to be the background of his theology of lay people, the FABC prefers to call it "priesthood of life" stressing that "the priestly function belongs to the whole people of God."77

Finally, as with Congar, the Asian bishops utilize the concepts of communion, collegiality, and co-responsibility as the basis for their explication of the mission of lay people. In their view, the renewal of inner ecclesial structures "consists in creating the right atmosphere of communion, collegiality and co-responsibility for an active and fuller lay initiation, participation and action."78 As a pastoral movement, Latin American liberation theologies have also called for a greater participation and involvement by the entire people of God. Their influence on the FABC’s theology of the laity will be briefly discussed in the next section.

The FABC and Latin American Liberation Theologies

Besides the theology of Yves Congar, the FABC’s theology of the laity has drawn on the main insights of Latin American liberation theologies. In its official documents, the FABC has often evoked three distinctive principles of Latin American liberation theologies, namely, an emphasis on historical liberation and human development, a preferential but not exclusive option for the poor, and a bottom-up ecclesiology privileging the experience of basic ecclesial communities and the process of conscientization.79 First, the FABC emphasizes the call for Asian Christians "to become a Church deeply committed to Jesus the Liberator," because "such a commitment by all Christians will make the Church a communion of committed disciples―be they clergy or laity―working for the liberation of Asia."80 Secondly, the FABC highlights the preferential, but not exclusive, option for the poor,81 and encourages Catholic schools to "reflect the Church’s preferential option for the poor."82 Thirdly, the FABC promotes basic Christian communities, considering them as "the most fundamental ecclesial realities" which embody "the mystery of the Church in their own right."83

The Asian bishops also feel that conscientization is "particularly important today in educating all to justice, especially the young."84 For them, conscientization means "to become aware of social conditions surrounding us by reflection and analysis to concrete action,"85 a process that seeks "the change and transformation of unjust social structures."86 This commitment to bring about social justice and to transform the world has been identified by Leonard Doohan as one of the main theological approaches to lay experience. It is therefore instructive to provide a brief excursus into the extent to which the FABC’s theology of laity fits into Doohan’s taxonomy of theological interpretations of the laity question.

The FABC and Leonard Doohan’s Theology of the Laity

Of the five theological interpretations of the laity question identified by Doohan,87 the third approach, the theology of world transformation, and elements of the fourth approach, the theology of the laity and ecclesial restructuring, are most readily discernible in the FABC’s theology of the laity.

First, like the theology of world transformation, the Asian bishops emphasize the duty of all Christians to transform the world, declaring that "through work of every kind we are participating in God’s own ongoing process of recreating and transforming our world."88 In a categorical statement they declare that "to shut oneself totally away from the demands of the political transformation of Asia is, surely, in a sense, a denial of Christian identity."89 Secondly, like the variegated features identified in Doohan’s fourth theological approach, the bishops recognize the need for ecclesial restructuring based on the "principles of communion, co-responsibility and collegiality,"90 emphasize the common mission of all Christians,91 base their theology of the laity on an emphasis on the common priesthood of life,92 propose a model of the Church as a community of faith,93 and promote the development of basic Christian communities.94

These theological features together with the focus, context, and intended audience of the FABC’s theology of the laity have to be taken into account in order to achieve a balanced assessment of its strengths and areas that may require further amplification and improvement.

Strengths and Limitations of the FABC’s Theology of the Laity

The context, contents, and structures of the FABC’s theology of the laity, together with its interaction with other postconciliar interpretations of the laity, discussed in the previous sections show that it is contextual and relational in its approach and orientation. It also reveals that the Asian bishops are not interested in developing a systematic theology of the laity as their theology has always been attuned to the pastoral and missionary questions of the day. It is a contextualized, pastoral theology par excellence, seeking to apply the teachings of the Second Vatican Council to the context of Asia, and marrying theological reflection and social analysis. Its goal is to empower lay people to reclaim their right as full and equal members of the Church, and to be co-responsible with the clergy for the evangelizing mission in the world of Asia.

It advocates a common matrix, which is based on a contextualized identity of lay people flowing from a baptismal, common priesthood of life. It includes a call to a contextualized communion, a contextualized mission whose mode is dialogue, a contextualized renewal of ecclesial structure which is adaptable to the Asian realities on the basis of communion, collegiality, and co-responsibility, and a contextualized spirituality of discipleship and harmony which manifests itself in a spirituality of triple dialogue.

This common matrix is supported by a contextualized formation of and for the laity, aiming to help them to assume the task of building up the kingdom of God by engaging in the dialogue of life with the cultures, the religions, and the poor of Asia. Their identity and role is ultimately defined by their triple relationship with Christ, the Asian Church, and the Asian realities.

Indeed, the greatest strength of the FABC’s theology of the laity is that it is contextual and relational. It seeks to adapt the "constants" of the gospel, tradition, and Vatican II to the "context" of cultures and social changes in the Church and in the world of Asia.95 It draws on lay people’s existential relationship with Christ, the Church, and the world as theological resources. It is Christocentric and ad mundum, stressing lay people’s participation in the very mission of Christ and his Church, and decidedly orientated to the world. The Asian bishops consider the vocation of lay people as a communion with Jesus, and link it with a communion of liberation. They show that the laity’s vocation is directly connected, not only to Jesus Christ the Liberator, but also to the concrete realities of the world of Asia. Their theology of the laity focuses on exploring the common matrix of Christian vocation, which is based on the sacraments of Christian initiation, expressed primarily by the concept of baptismal, common priesthood of life, a matrix that has a permanent value, and from which different Christian vocations are born, rather than insisting on nailing down those elements that distinguish ordained ministries from lay ministries. For them, lay people are Asian Christians pure and simple.96

However, the FABC’s theology of the laity has certain limitations. The first is that the individual dimension of holiness is somewhat understated. While the Asian bishops were no doubt aware of the universal call of Christians to holiness, a theme that holds a prominent place in Lumen Gentium,97 it did not rate a mention in the statements of the Fourth Plenary Assembly, their magna charta for the laity, or in the indexes of the three-volume collection of the official documents of the FABC. Only rarely did the Asian bishops refer explicitly to the universal call of Christians to holiness, and when they did, they discussed it in relation to the clergy and religious.98 They probably decided that given the audience they were addressing, the most appropriate point of departure for their theology of the laity was the communal response to the challenges of Asia in light of Vatican II’s vision. This approach means that the essential connection of mission with the call for holiness has received less emphasis than it could in another approach to the subject. The bishops also did not discuss explicitly the doxological character of ministry and spirituality, a theological feature that emphasizes that the purpose of our daily life and service must be to glorify and to worship the Triune God.

Another limitation of the FABC’s theology of the laity is that its emphasis on the common matrix and the autonomy of lay people could blur the clergy-lay distinction, especially with regard to their respective roles in the world.99 Even though the FABC clearly thinks that laity and clergy have a different role in society, the impression left by this approach can be just the opposite. Once again, this has to do with the starting point. The FABC chooses to proceed with a common matrix to show that sacramental initiation is the basis for the vocation and mission of all Asian Christians, and their mission in the world is synonymous with the mission of the whole Church. Lay people might come to a new appreciation of the empowerment and autonomy in their ministry in the world, but that could lead them to suppose that the clergy have little more to offer. Therefore, the FABC’s theology of the laity could be strengthened by an investigation into "an ordering of the baptismal priesthood of all the faithful,"100 expressed by an ordering of the ministries, both lay and ordained, in the service of the mission of Christ.101

In this framework of ordered ministries, which is already implicit in the FABC’s theology of lay people, all Christians share a common baptismal identity and a common mission before they are further specified by their state in life and their particular ministry.102 Entrance into ministries or orders then constitutes a new ecclesial relationship.103 A deeper reflection on the theme of ordered ministries and the concept of communion as "rightly ordered relationships"104 with Christ, the Church, and others, would better articulate the FABC’s theology of the laity and its emphasis on the vocation of lay people as a communion with Jesus and a communion of liberation, and their priestly, prophetic, and royal mission.105 It would also reflect more closely the nature of the Church as both communion and mission, and preserve the unity of mission in a diversity of ministries that are grounded in a baptismal, hence trinitarian, communion. In the Church of Jesus the Liberator, all Christians, lay and ordained, are baptized for and into communion and mission.


This paper has evaluated the context, contents, and structures of the FABC’s theology of the laity. It also examines the interaction between this theology and other postconciliar theologies of the laity, and provides an assessment of its strengths and limitations. It argues that this theology is eminently contextual and relational, displaying the twin characteristics of fidelity and creativity, adhering to the traditions and teachings of Vatican II, and adapting to the Asian context within the overall vision of a triple dialogue with the religions, the cultures, and the poor of Asia. It is a contextual theology par excellence, reforming rather than revolutionary, using the conciliar teachings and the challenges of Asia as theological sources and resources, and aiming to awaken the Asian laity and challenge them to take up their specific mission and ministries in the Church and in the world.106 It stresses the unity of faith and life, links mission and spirituality, and emphasizes the importance of both being and doing. It calls for a contextualized identity of lay people as Asian Christians, a contextualized communion, a contextualized mission, a contextualized renewal of structures, and a contextualized spirituality, supported by a contextualized program of formation of and for the laity. In this theology, the ministries of lay people are grounded in the inseparable missions of Christ and the Holy Spirit, and their identity and role are ultimately based on their triple relationship with Jesus, the Church, and the world of Asia.

While it has some minor limitations such as an underemphasis on the universal call for individual holiness, an inadequate treatment of the doxological dimension of lay ministry and spirituality, and a potential blurring of lay-cleric distinction in their respective role in the world, the FABC’s theology of the laity offers a view that is well attuned to the Asian context. Its contextual and relational character is summed up by the concept of priesthood of life, a rich matrix that encompasses the ontological aspect of lay people’s incorporation into Christ, and the functional dimension of everyday life service and ministry based on the charisms of the Holy Spirit. In this theology of the laity, priesthood of life leads to a triple dialogue of life, a theological motif that is also evident in the FABC’s theology of the Church, understood as both communion and mission.




1. For the discussions on this topic see the series of 11 articles of The Tablet (October-December 2002); see also Vatican II: An Interfaith Appraisal, ed. John H. Miller (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame, 1966); The Ecclesiology of Vatican II, ed. Bonaventure Kloppenburg (Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press, 1974); Vatican II Assessment and Perspectives: Twenty-Five Years After (1962-1987), 2 vols, ed. René Latourelle (New York: Paulist Press, 1988); Modern Catholicism: Vatican II and After, ed. Adrian Hastings (London: SPCK, 1991); Dennis M. Doyle, The Church Emerging from Vatican II: A Popular Approach to Contemporary Catholicism (Mystic, CT: Twenty-Third Publications, 1992).

2. Gaudencio B. Rosales and Catalino G. Arevalo, ed., For All the Peoples of Asia: Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences, Documents from 1970 to 1991 (hereafter, FAPA), art. 36, Vol. 1, 17.

3. Second Asian Laity Meeting, art. 3.4, FAPA, Vol. 3, 115.

4. Ibid., art. 3.1, 115. By promoting basic ecclesial communities/small Christian communities as a way to deal with the dichotomy between faith and daily life, the FABC is no doubt concerned with a problem characterized by Gaudium et Spes (no. 43) as "one of the gravest errors of our time."

5. Ibid.

6. Frederick J. Parella, "The Laity in the Church," Proceedings of the Catholic Theological Society of America 35 (1980): 269.

7. We coined the term "contextualized communion" to highlight and condense the FABC’s thought on the vocation of lay people.

8. For a detailed treatment of the FABC’s theological methodologies, see Peter N. V. Hai, "Fides Quaerens Dialogum: Theological Method-ologies of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences," Austra-lian E-Journal of Theology 8 (2006), at http://dlibrary. acu.edu.au/ research/theology/ejournal/aejt_8/hai.htm (accessed 1 November 2006).

9. Office of Ecumenical and InterreligiousAffairs (OEIA) and Office of Evangelization (OE), "Consultation on Christian Presence among Muslims in Asia," art. 12, FAPA,Vol. 1, 171.

10. Art. 4.6.2, FAPA,Vol. 1, 193-4.

11. Art., FAPA, Vol. 1, 194.

12. Bishops’ Institute for the Lay Apostolate (BILA) V, FAPA,Vol. 279.

13. BILA I, arts. 2-3, FAPA,Vol. 1, 235.

14. BILA II, art. 14, FAPA,Vol. 1, 242.

15. BILA I, arts. 2-4, FAPA,Vol. 1, 235-6.

16. BILA II, art. 2, FAPA,Vol. 1, 239.

17. Richard Gaillardetz notes that Vatican II "was hardly offering an ontological definition of the laity but merely a typological one, that is, a practical definition that captures the ‘typical’ situation of the vast majority of the laity." See "The Theology Underlying Lay Ecclesial Ministry," Origins 36, no. 9 (20 July 2006): 140. See also Bonaventure Kloppenburg, The Ecclesiology of Vatican II (Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press, 1974), 312-5; Ferdinand Klostermann, "The Laity," in Commentary on the Documents of Vatican II, vol. 1, ed. Herbert Vorgrimler (New York: Burns & Oates, 1968), 237.

18. Apostolicam Actuositatem, no. 5.

19. Thomas R. Potvin contends that Vatican II uses the theologoumenon of tria munera to explain the functions of Christ, of Christians, of the ordained, and of the Church, i.e., in Christology, anthropological theology, theology of ordained ministry, and ecclesiology. See "Le baptême comme enracinement dans la participation à la triple fonction du Christ," in Le laïcat: Les limites d’un système. Actes du Congrès Canadien de Théologie(Montréal: Fides, 1986), 146-7. For Herwi Rikhof, when the doctrine of Christ’s threefold functions was used to explicate the term ministry in ecclesiology, the tria munera model "ousted the traditional division of the functions of the Church into two parts, the power of jurisdiction and the power of order." See "The Ecclesiologies of Lumen Gentium, the Lex Ecclesiae Fundamentalis and the Draft Code," Concilium 4 (1995): 61.

20. Art. 4.4.2, FAPA,Vol. 1, 192.

21. Art. 4.4.2, FAPA,Vol. 1, 192. Here the FABC seems to draw on Yves Congar’s thought on the relation between priesthood and sacrifice. For Congar, who rejects "the popular notion of sacrifice as ‘that which costs’," sacrifice is "that which comes from the whole of what we are and have, and totality of our being, our activity and what we possess…. What a Christian does as a Christian is an act of Christ…. For every one of us … there is an essentially sacrificial life…. It is in this sacrificial sense that the laity partake of Christ’s priesthood, by offering the whole of their lives, as Christ offered his." See A. N. Williams, "Congar’s Theology of the Laity," in Yves Congar: Theologian of the Church, ed. Gabriel Flynn (Louvain: Peeters Press, 2005/Grand Rapids: W. B. Eerdmans, 2006), 150-1.

22. Art. 4.4.2, FAPA,Vol. 1, 192. This statement reveals an important strain in the FABC’s theology of the laity, which espouses a more nuanced view of the traditionally sharp distinction between the ordained and the laity.

23. Art. 4.8.6, FAPA,Vol. 1, 196; BILA III, art. 6, FAPA,Vol. 1, 244.

24. In this passage, the FABC seems to take heed of Yves Congar’s advice that "today it is the case, rather, that the clergy need to be defined in relation to the laity, who are quite simply members of the people of God animated by the Spirit…. The laity are primarily the baptized. Christians—clergy and lay—are a people of those who have been baptized." See Fifty Years of Catholic Theology: Conversations with Yves Congar, ed. Bernard Lauret (Philadelphia, PA: Fort-ress Press, 1988), 65-6.

25. Art. 4.4.2, FAPA,Vol. 1, 192. David Coffey suggests a new term, "the priesthood of the Church," to indicate a category that consists in the integration of the ordained and the common priesthood, both of which have a Christological reference and an ecclesiological nature. For Coffey, "only this insight enables one to reach a clear understanding of the mutual relationship." See "The Common and the Ordained Priesthood," Theological Studies 58 (1997): 225.

26. We owe this observation to Peter C. Phan who wrote that "in philosophical terms, the baptismal priesthood is the end, and the ministerial priesthood is the means. The latter is an instrument to serve the former". See "The Laity in the Early Church: Building Blocks for a Theology of the Laity," Triết Ðạo: Journal of Vietnamese Philosophy and Religion 4, no. 2 (2002): 51. See also no. 1547 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church(Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1994), which states that "the ministerial priesthood is at the service of the common priesthood. It is directed at the unfolding of the baptismal grace of all Christians. The ministerial priesthood is the means by which Christ unceasingly builds up and leads his Church" (italics in the original). In a similar vein, D. Le Tourneau states that "le service du ministère sacerdotal est un service de quelque chose, donc de quelque chose de préexistant: la conditio fidelis. Nous pouvons dire alors que le sacerdoce commun est conceptuellement antérieur au sacerdoce ministériel, en prenant bien garde à ne pas parler de priorité chronologique, ce qui n’aurait pas de sens". See "Le sacerdoce commun et son incidence sur les obligations et les droits des fidèles en général et des laïcs en particulier," Revue de droit canonique 39 (1989): 159.

27. For an excellent treatment of a similar theme, see the section entitled "A Positive Vision, Not One of Contrast, to Define the Laity," in Giovanni Magnani, "Does the So-called Theology of the Laity Possess a Theological Status?" in Vatican II: Assessment and Perspectives, Vol. 1, ed. René Latourelle (New York: Paulist Press, 1988), 597-601, 621, and 624.

28. It is of note that Yves Congar already speaks about the "priesthood of parents," and Donald J. Goergen remarks that "partnering and parenting are a dimension of the priesthood of the laity." See respectively, Lay People in the Church, revised edition with additions by the author (London: Geoffrey Chapman, 1965), 192-3; "Priest, Prophet, King: The Ministry of Jesus Christ," in The Theology of Priesthood, ed. Donald J. Goergen and Ann Garrido (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 2000), 203.


29. Art. 4.4.4, FAPA,Vol. 1, 193. Ormond Rush contends that "contemporary ecclesiology needs to address the unresolved tension that remains withinLumen Gentium between the rubric of the common priesthood as primary and the threefold munus as the overarching framework." See "The Offices of Christ, Lumen Gentium and the People’s Sense of the Faith," Pacifica 16, no. 2 (2003): 138-9.

30. Art. 4.4.3, FAPA,Vol. 1, 193.

31. Art. 4.4.3, FAPA,Vol. 1, 193. Michael J. Himes notes that for John Henry Newman, "one could think about the sense of the faithful in five ways: as a testimony to the fact of apostolic dogma; as a sort of instinct of phronema, a Greek term which might best translate as ‘fundamental intentionality,’ deep in the life of the Church; as an action of the Holy Spirit; as an answer to the Church’s constant prayer; and as a ‘jealousy of error,’ by which he meant a sensitivity to whether something fits or clashes with the lived experience of the community." See "What Can We Learn from Vatican II?" in The Catholic Church in the Twenty-First Century: Finding Hope for its Future in the Wisdom of Its Past, ed. Michael J. Himes (Liguori, MS: Liguori, 2004), 72. According to Avery Dulles, Newman "adduced five cases in which the sense of the faithful had played a significant role in the preservation or development of Catholic doctrine" such as "the confession of Mary as Mother of God (theotokos) in the fifth century; … the definition of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin in the 19th century." See "Sensus Fidelium," America (1 November 1986): 241.

32. Art. 4.8.8, FAPA,Vol. 1, 197.

33. Ibid., art. 4.8.8, FAPA,Vol. 1, 197.

34. Ibid., art. 4.4.2, FAPA,Vol. 1, 192.

35. OEIA and OE, "Consultation on Christian Presence among Muslims in Asia," art. 31, FAPA,Vol. 1, 170.


36. Office of Laity (OL), "The Commitment of the Laity in the Church’s Mission with Special Reference to Implementing the Social Teachings: Final Report on the First Asian Laity Meeting," FAPA,Vol. 2, ed. Franz-Josef Eilers (Quezon City, Phil.: Claretian Publicatons, 1997), 119, 125; FABC, "Final Statement of the First Asian Laity Meeting," in The First Asian Laity Meeting: 4-9 September 1994, Korea, ed. Pontifical Council for the Laity, FABC-OL, Catholic Lay Apostolate Council of Korea, 255, 253.

37. BILA III, arts. 1-2, 6-7, 13.4, FAPA,Vol. 1, 243-5; arts. 4.7.1, 4.3.1, 4.4.4, FAPA,Vol. 1, 194, 192-3.

38. Arts. 3.0.2-3.9.3, FAPA,Vol. 1, 179-190.

39. Asian Colloquium on Ministries in the Church (ACMC), art. 25, FAPA,Vol. 1, 72.

40. Ibid., arts. 16-8, 25, FAPA,Vol. 1, 70-2.

41. Arts. 25, 36, FAPA,Vol. 1, 16, 7.

42. Bishops’ Institute for Missionary Apostolate (BIMA) IV, art. 5, FAPA,Vol. 1, 292; BILA III, art. 7, FAPA,Vol. 1, 244.

43. Art. 25, FAPA,Vol. 1, 16; International Congress for Mission, "Workshop I: Towards a Theology of Mission for Asia Today," FAPA,Vol. 1, 135.

44. BIMA III, art. 6, FAPA,Vol. 1, 104; BIMA IV, art. 6, FAPA,Vol. 1, 292.

45. BIMA IV, art. 5, FAPA, Vol. 1, 292.

46. Wilhelm Zauner notes that after Vatican II, the substance of the terms "apostolate," "mission," and "sending" has changed: there is little discourse on "apostolate" as a theological idea, and the concept of "mission" has been expanded so much that all countries are now considered to be mission lands, and as a result, the urgency and tension of the latter term is weakened. See "Laien und Priester – eine Kirche," Theologische Praktische Quartalschrift 135, no. 3 (1987): 209-10.

47. Arts. 4.3.1, 4.4.4, FAPA, Vol. 1, 192-3; BILA III, arts. 1-2, 6-7, 13.4, FAPA, Vol. 1, 243-5. It is of note that for Lucien Legrand, the biblical word that corresponds to the term "mission" is the Greek word "‘apostolê,’ tâche ou fonction apostolique," and it is used only four times in the New Testament (Acts 1:25, Rom 1:5, 1 Cor 9:2, and Gal 2:8). See "Vocation à la mission dans le nouveau testament," Spiritus 113 (1988): 340.

48. Art. 4.6.2, FAPA, Vol. 1, 194; BILA II, art. 9, FAPA, Vol. 1, 241; BILA III, arts. 10-1, FAPA, Vol. 1, 244.

49. BILA II, art. 11, FAPA, Vol. 1, 241; ACMC, art. 53, FAPA, Vol. 1, 78.

50. ACMC, arts. 32, 55, FAPA Vol. 1, 74, 78; BILA II, art. 12, FAPA Vol.1, 241.

51. Art. 4.8.7, FAPA, Vol. 1, 196-7. Peter C. Phan provides a helpful remark that "Christian spirituality, whatever its form or orientation, is in essence a following (sequela) or imitation (imitatio) or discipleship of Jesus". See "Christian Social Spirituality: A Global Perspective," in Catholic Social Justice: Theological and Practical Explorations, ed. Philomena Cullen, Bernard House, and Gerard Mannion (London: T&T Clark, 2007), 25. Phan’s view echoes what Yves Congar wrote earlier: "Cette vie de service est voulue par le christianisme dans lequel la qualité de disciple et celle de serviteur coïncident: car le disciple n’écoute pas seulement son maitre, il l’imite et partage sa vie." See "Laïc et Laïcat," in Dictionnaire de Spiritualité, vol. 9 (Paris: Beauchesne, 1976), col. 105.

52. BILA II, art. 6, FAPA, Vol. 1, 240.

53. Art. 4.4.2, FAPA, Vol. 1, 192.

54. Art. 28, FAPA, Vol. 1, 34.

55. Art. 35, FAPA, Vol. 1, 35.

56. Ibid.

57. For Keith J. Egan "ministry and spirituality are not two distinct areas of the Christian life. One depends on and affects the other. Spirituality shapes ministry and ministry shapes spirituality." See "The Call of the Laity to a Spirituality of Discipleship," The Jurist 47 (1987): 83.

58. Without explicitly mentioning the term, the FABC seems to locate the holiness of lay people in their insertion in the world, a point that Peter C. Phan articulated in an article published a quarter of century ago: "Any authentic lay spirituality must reckon with the principle that holiness for the lay person must be achieved in and through the world and its values, not in the flight of them." See "Possibility of a Lay Spirituality: A Re-examination of Some Theological Presuppositions," Communio 10, no. 4 (1983): 383.

59. Art. 9.5, FAPA, Vol. 1, 289.

60. Office of Theological Concerns (OTC), "Methodology: Asian Christian Theology," art. 5.1.4, FAPA, Vol. 3, ed. Franz-Josef Eilers (Quezon City, Phil.: Claretian Publications, 2002), 408; Theological Advisory Commission (TAC), "Asian Christian Perspectives on Harmony," art. 3.4, FAPA, Vol. 3, 276-7.

61. Art. 3.1.10, FAPA, Vol. 1, 181; TAC, "Asian Christian Perspectives on Harmony," art. 4.3, FAPA, Vol. 3, 278-9. Michael Amaladoss notes that while "Euro-American cultures have a dualistic view of reality," "the Indian advaita (non-duality) and the Chinese tao (one) deny such a dichotomy. Reality is inter-dependent. It is inter-being. There is a fundamental unity in reality. Being is holistic, not dichotomous." See "Contextual Theology and Integration," East Asian Pastoral Review 40, no. 3 (2003): 270.

62. Lumen Gentium, 10 teaches that the common priesthood of the faithful and the ministerial or hierarchical priesthood "differ essentially and not only in degree." Peter C. Phan reminds us that "the difference in ‘essence’ and in ‘degree’ does not imply that the ministerial priesthood is superior to the common priesthood". See "The Laity in the Early Church: Building Blocks for a Theology of the Laity," Triết Ðạo: Journal of Vietnamese Philosophy and Religion 4, no. 2 (2002): 51.

63. Art. 4.4.2, FAPA, Vol. 1, 192.

64. The FABC’s theology of the laity also seems to move beyond the neat distinctions highlighted by Edward Hahnenberg who observes that "for almost 40 years" theological writing on the topics of ordained and lay ministry "could almost be divided into two separate conversations. One conversation revolves around the theology of priesthood. It is heavily Christological and ontological, emphasizing the priest’s ability through ordination to act ‘in the person of Christ’ and represent Christ to the community…. Another conversation revolves around the theology of lay ministry. It is heavily pneumatological and functional, emphasizing the charisms of the Spirit flowing out of baptism and toward an individual’s ministry." See "Ordained and Lay Ministry: Restarting the Conversation," Origins 35, no. 6 (23 June 2005): 94.

65. ACMC, arts. 31-37; FAPA, Vol. 1, 74-5.

66. Art. 8.0, FAPA, Vol. 1, 287; FABC III, FAPA, Vol. 1, 49-65.

67. Art. 8.0, FAPA, Vol. 1, 287-8.

68. Art. 6.1, FAPA, Vol. 1, 283.

69. Peter Schineller, "Inculturation as the Pilgrimage to Catholicity," Concilium 204 (August 1989): 98.

70. Yves Congar observes that "in the dogmatic Constitution on the Church the Council avoided treating laymen [sic] only from the viewpoint of their apostolate. It fully satisfied the general desire of having a broad exposition of the ontology and dignity of the Christian existence." See "The Laity," inVatican II: An Interfaith Appraisal, ed. John H. Miller (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1966), 243.

71. According to Yves Congar "it is very difficult to define the laity positively, perhaps even impossible," and "the Council did not wish to commit itself to a definition of the layman [sic]." See ibid., 241. In an article first published in 1948, Congar understands the "faithful" as "those who live normal lives in our own time and culture, and not just people living in a fixed, closed agricultural economy as did our ancestors at the time that our liturgical forms were being created." See "‘Real’ Liturgy, ‘Real’ Preaching," Worship 82, no. 4 (July 2008): 315. For Peter Neuner, the question of "what is a lay person?" has no correct answer because the question itself is wrong, and he goes on to assert that if we have a correct theology of the people of God we do not need a separate theology of the laity ("Wenn wir eine rechte Theologie des Volkes Gottes haben, so also die These, brauchen wir keine eigene Theologie des Laien"). See "Aspekte einer Theologie des Laien," Una Sancta 43 (1988): 322-3. Adopting a different perspective, Susan K. Wood observes that "with the appropriation and exercise of a variety of ministries formerly associated with ordination by the non-ordained, it is becoming increasingly clear that ordained ministry needs to be defined in terms of identity rather than function." See "Priestly Identity: Sacrament of the Ecclesial Community," Worship 69, no. 2 (March 1995): 111.


72. It is instructive to recall a quotation that Peter Neuner took from P. M. Zulehner’s Das Gottesgerücht (Düsseldorf, 1987, p. 74): "Aus der ‘Ordination’ der einen darf nicht eine ‘Subordination’ der anderen werden." See Neuner, "Was ist ein Laie?" Stimmen der Zeit 210 (1992): 518; see also "Aspekte einer Theologie des Laien," Una Sancta 43 (1988): 324.

73. Christopher O’Donnell, "Ecclesia:" A Theological Encyclopedia of the Church (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1996), 102.

74. The Asian bishops distinguish between charisma, services, and ministries as follows: "Charisms are enduring gifts given to Church members to be put to use in services and ministries. Endowed with them, different members render different services, thereby contri-buting, each in his or her own manner, to the Christian mission. All Christians are charismatic by vocation and in virtue of their bap-tismal consecration; but not all are engaged in the ministry of the Church in the same manner and with the same intensity. We term services those ways of sharing in the Church’s ministeriality which are undertaken spontaneously and on occasions. These are already in their own manner an expression of the Church’s service (dia-konia) and indeed indispensable for the Christian presence in the world. Ministries apply more properly to those services which Church members undertake with a certain stability and exercise on a sufficiently broad basis, thus sharing formally in the Church’s responsibility to signify the presence to men of Christ’s saving action. All such ministries must be recognized by the community and authenticated by it in the person of its leader. Thus, every service and ministry of the Church supposes a charism but not every charism blossoms into a ministry." See "Asian Colloquium on Ministries in the Church," art. 32, FAPA, Vol. 1, 74. They further clarify that "not every charism or service needs to be recognized as ministry but only those which the life and growth of the community require to be exercised with stability, continuity and responsibility." Ibid., 78. The US Bishops’ National Advisory Council quoted approvingly this comprehensive and interesting definition con-sidering it "useful for the Catholic Church in the United States to employ the distinctions made by the FABC between charisms, ministry and service." U.S. Bishops’ National Advisory Council, "The Trust of Lay Ministry,"Origins 9, no. 39 (13 March 1980): 624.

75. "Asian Colloquium on Ministries in the Church," art. 54, FAPA, Vol. 1, 78.

76. Art. 4.4.2-4, FAPA, Vol. 1, 192-3.

77. Art. 4.2.2, FAPA, Vol. 1, 192. For the Asian bishops, the common priesthood of the faithful "is the real priesthood of life" having its origins in Christ himself," and "the clergy have the obligation to live the common priesthood of all before enacting the sacrifice of the Eucharist sacramentally." Ibid.

78. Art. 4.5.1-2, FAPA, Vol. 1, 193; see also 49-65.

79. Second General Conference of Latin American Bishops: "The Church in the Present-Day Transformation of Latin America in the Light of the Council" (Medellín, Colombia, August 26-September 6, 1968), in Liberation Theology: A Documentary History, edited with introductions, commentary and translations by Alfred T. Hennelly (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1990), 89-119; Third General Conference of the Latin American Bishops: "Evangelization in Latin America’s Present and Future" (Puebla de los Angeles, Mexico, January 27-February 13, 1979), ibid., 225-58.

80. Art. 4.1.3, FAPA, Vol. 1, 191.

81. BILA III, art. 11, FAPA, Vol. 1, 244.

82. Art. 3.5.3, FAPA, Vol. 1, 185.

83. "Asian Colloquium on Ministries in the Church," art. 40, FAPA, Vol. 1, 76.

84. Bishops’ Institute for Social Apostolate (BISA) II, art. 7, FAPA, Vol. 1, 204.


85. BISA II, art. 7, note 1, FAPA, Vol. 1, 205; see also BISA III, art. 8, FAPA, Vol. 1, 208. Paulo Freire defines conscientization—con-scientização in Portuguese—as a "probing of the ambience, of reality," or a "commitment in time" because it goes deeper than the French expression prise de conscience and "implies a historical commitment." See his 1970 paper "Conscientizing as a Way of Liberating," in Liberation Theology: A Documentary History, 6-7.

86. Art. 21, FAPA, Vol. 1, 15.

87. Leonard Doohan, "Theology of the Laity," in The New Dictionary of Sacramental Worship, ed. Peter E. Fink (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press), 639-40; idem, Laity’s Mission in the Local Church: Setting a New Direction (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1986), 4-5; idem, The Lay-Centered Church: Theology and Spirituality (Minneapolis, MN: Winston Press, 1984), 4-23; idem, "Contemporary Theologies of the Laity: An Overview since Vatican II," Communio 7 (1980): 228-41.

88. Art. 3.7.1, FAPA, Vol. 1, 187, and 188-9.

89. Art. 3.1.3, FAPA, Vol. 1, 180.

90. Art. 4.5.2, FAPA, Vol. 1, 193.

91. Art. 4.1.3, FAPA, Vol. 1, 191.

92. Art. 4.4.2, FAPA, Vol. 1, 192.

93. FAPA, Vol. 1, 49-65.

94. "Asian Colloquium on Ministries in the Church," art. 46, FAPA, Vol. 1, 77.

95. For an expanded discussion of these motifs in relation to Christian mission, see Stephen B. Bevans and Roger P. Schroeder, Constants in Context: A Theology of Mission for Today, American Society of Missionary Series, no. 30 (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2004).

96. Pascal Thomas also emphasizes the common identity of all Christians by choosing an eye-catching title for his book on the laity: Ces chrétiens que l’on appelle laïcs (Paris: Les Éditions Ouvrières, 1988). It is likely that this title is based on Lumen Gentium, 30, the Latin version of which reads: "Sancta Synodus, muneribus Hierarchiae declaratis, libenter animum advertit statui illorum christifidelium qui laici nuncupantur." See Sacrosanctum Oecumenicum Concilium Vaticanum II, Constitutiones, Decreta, Declarationes, cura et studio Secretariae Generalis Concilii Oecumenicii Vaticani II (Roma: Typis Polyglottis Vaticanis, 1966), 135.

97. Lumen Gentium, 39-42.

98. BILA II, art. 6, FAPA, Vol. 1, 240; BILA III, art. 6, FAPA, Vol. 1, 244.

99. It is worth noting Kenan B. Osborne’s remark that, after Vatican II, "the church is primarily the earthly communio sanctorum, an undivided people of God, an undivided community of christifideles, a casteless priesthood of all believers. At this fundamental level, terms such as lay and cleric have absolutely no meaning." See Ministry: Lay Ministry in the Roman Catholic Church: Its History and Theology (New York: Paulist Press, 1993), 598. For Osborne, in the third millennium, "the very term sacerdotium will be replaced by the term ecclesia, ‘people of God,’ and the very term regnum will be replaced by the term ‘a pluralistic world.’ It is no longer a question of sacerdotium standing over and against a regnum, but rather a community called church within a larger community called a pluralistic world." See "A Profile of the Baptized Catholic Christian at the Beginning of the Third Millennium," The Catholic World (January-February 1996), 38. Brian Staudt contends that, unlike Osborne, who sees "the authentic revelation of God in Scripture alone and development beyond Scripture as outside God’s plan," J.-M. R. Tillard’s "examination of the patristic sources and his presupposition that the Holy Spirit played a guiding role in the early church’s process of becoming the church that Christ founded leads him to conclude that a division of ministries is necessary and appropriate even within the communion of believers co-equal in dignity." See "The Lay-Cleric Distinction: Tragedy or Comedy?" Church 12, no. 3 (Fall 1996): 47; see also J.-M. R. Tillard, Church of Churches: The Ecclesiology of Communion(Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1992).

100. Susan K. Wood, "Introduction: The Collegeville Ministry Seminar," in Ordering the Baptismal Priesthood: Theologies of Lay and Ordained Ministry, ed. Susan K. Wood (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2003), x.

101. The move from the narrow categories of laity and clergy to a broader concept of "ordered ministries" was one of the main conclusions reached by ten noted theologians who gathered at a research seminar in 2002. See Ordering the Baptismal Priesthood.

102. Edward P. Hahnenberg, Ministries: A Relational Approach (New York: Herder & Herder, 2003), 122-50; Susan K. Wood, "Conclusion: Convergence Points toward a Theology of Ordered Ministries," in Ordering the Baptismal Priesthood, 260.

103. Richard R. Gaillardetz, "The Ecclesiological Foundations of Ministry within an Ordered Communion," in Ordering the Baptismal Priesthood,48.

104. Cardinal Roger Mahony, "Church of the Eucharist, a Communion for Mission," Origins 33, no. 42 (1 April 2004): 726.

105. Arts. 4.1-4.3, FAPA, Vol. 1, 191-2.

106. In The Christian Commitment, Karl Rahner states that "‘everything depends on the layperson’s understanding that he is, as an individual, irreplaceable, with a specifically Christian and moral task to be performed within groups not directly subject to the church’s official control, a task of which he will have to give an account before the judgment seat of God.’" Quoted by William O’Malley, "The Church of the Faithful," America (19 June 1993): 7.