Friday, December 30, 2005

New Year's Message 2006


As the year 2006 steps hesitantly into our life and history, I would like to extend this message of hope.

2005 has been a tumultuous year. Endless inquiries in the senate and in the house of Congress, rallies and political protests in all their eerie forms and grotesque shapes, accusations and counter-accusations, exposition of unheard-of scandals and variegated scams allegedly perpetrated by our top leaders, wiretapping, destabilization talks, revolutions, civil disobedience, what have you, have been the main course for the days, weeks, months of the year 2005. All these did not bother me so much. I know, after all, that “tayo ay mga pinoy”, that is, we can go over it. But when the congressional investigation of the "hello Garci case" started, I shuddered. I said to myself: this is it, this is our end. The investigative process seemed to dramatize that there is nothing wrong in flaunting with the law provided we are wise and crafty. It wrongly projects an image that the law is there to be used as a shield, a safety net for one’s wrong doing; that it is easy to tamper with the law and get away with it by flourishing the magic wand of one’s knowledge of the law, manipulating it to one's selfish advantage, mixing lies and truths together in one single stroke. I tremble, because no society can long stand when its laws that bind members together in a harmonious and dynamic whole are used for selfish motives, with complete disregard for the common good.

But then, something happened. There was a sudden relative silence on the issue in the whole nation and the mass media, the papers, radio and television veered on other interests than political squabbles. The atmosphere of December got clearer and cleaner, the people became more calm, composed, serene. What happened? It was just days before Christmas. People were seen retiring to the silence of their homes and places of prayer. They braved the otherwise dumpy and dark night to attend the Misa de Gallo novena days, as if seeking for the needed respite from the world. I myself went to these nights of novenas, starting from Arteche to San Policarpo, Can-avid, to Giporlos, Salcedo, Guiuan and Borongan. In all of these churches, inspite of the stormy weather and the black outs, people were seen in throng, praying on their knees. There, I concluded: Our nation will survive in spite of the rather hopeless situation. We have citizens who know how to solve their problem: they know well the power of the night and the power of prayer.

We are best touched by night. Perhaps it is because it gives one the sure reenactments of childhood experiences, a time when one sees his early tender years with full clarity and force. It is a time when our estimate of the world is not so confident, when it contains things and events that make us shudder. Sooner or later, the night finds us alone. And man is not prepared to face himself. He is afraid of the dark, he is afraid of himself. This brings us to the story of Adam and Eve, who were ashamed of their own naked bodies after eating the forbidden fruit. When God called them up, they were hiding behind the tree, more afraid to present themselves naked to God. God has to cloth them to keep them calm. I too remember the story of a great existentialist philosopher of our times. The story says that one day he looked at himself in the mirror. He could not recognize himself; he was so disgusted at what he saw that with bare his fist he shattered the large mirror that reflected him.

Yes, it is not easy to face oneself. And yet, it is only in this act of facing and confronting one’s own self that man finds his inner strength, his hidden resources, his power, which man cannot do unless he is covered by the magical canopy of the darkness of the night. The story of the beauty and the beast bears this out articulately. Society saw this prince-turned-into-beast as an ogre to be avoided, a beast to be feared. This man-beast in reaction to the cruel treatment of the people against him came to believe himself as a real beast and so he acted as a beast, terrorized others as beasts should do. He cannot do anything about it. It was his nature to be a beast. Until the beauty enter into the story incarnated in a young village girl, fresh and vivacious, a toast of the young men in that area. But she was not only beautiful; she too was virtuous, a saint. Turn of events found the beauty thrown into the castle of the beast and it was here that the story unfold ed in all its dramatic effect – the beast started to see himself more and more clearly reflected as in a mirror by the presence of the beautiful girl in front of him. He was ugly, a horror, an abomination, even to his own estimations. Yet, with the prodding of the beauty, who saw the real person of the beast, he started seeing something more than his being a beast. He has other resources, virtues, talents. Then something miraculous happened. He discovered that he is capable of loving, he can love. Yes, he discovered that he had a human heart. The night of searching, confronting, accepting his ugliness, getting out of his wrong estimate of himself, ended for him a handsome young man who can love, a man who can die for another.

Or, I am sure you are familiar with the biblical story of Jacob, the son of Isaac. He was a man of reason, of high I.Q. He used these talents to trick his elder brother Esau, depriving him of his rightful inheritance and even of the blessing reserved for the first born child. Because of this, he has to run away from home when their father died. He feared his brother. With the help of his mother, he went to his uncle for refuge. In that far away country he was able to get on to life. Intelligent, he knew how to make business. After twenty years of his stay there, he was able to marry the two daughters of his uncle, got richer at the expense of his uncle who owned the business. The uncle flared up in anger and threw Jacob out. Jacob had to go home, for he had nowhere to go. But to face his brother was unthinkable. He greatly feared his brother. But with a growing family, he had to settle at the place of his birth. Determined, he kept to himself that night. He wanted to plot the best way out, but he was left to face his own deceitful self. The problem after all was not his brother; it was his own manipulative self. He sweated for hours until, according to the Bible, God helped him discover himself, his ugly self, his other resources, his true strength. This process is accounted for in the Bible as an angel wrestling with him the whole night. At the end, he was given a name, a new one, a new beginning because of what he discovered in himself. He was called “Israel”, that is, strong with God. That night experience gave Jacob the strength to face his brother and all the other succeeding events of his life. He was reconciled not only to his brother, but to himself. The night helped him did that.

Yes, the night offers inwardness, it offers aloneness. Freed of vision, we see inside. Primary concerns emerge; much that seemed demanding and important is now seen as a trick played by the light. As one poet said: “Darkness is the black cape of the magician laid gently upon the world, until all that seemed certain vanishes, and we question comprehension itself. We can then search in a new way. .

It is no wonder that God works at night. When he created the sun, the moon and the stars, the birds of the air, the fishes in the sea, the beasts in the field, and finally man, he was actually hovering in the darkness of chaos, of night. When he freed His people from the slavery of Egypt, he was there under cover of the night, fighting alone the enemy of his chosen people. And when the fullness of time came, God came into this world to bring peace to all men of good will, - it was night.

And so, when I saw our people braved the nights of Christmas and shook off with disdain
the heavy rain, the muddy road, and the black outs, then with high hope I said: OUR NATION WILL SURVIVE. IT NURTURES PEOPLE WHO KNOW THE POWER OF THE NIGHT AND THE NEED FOR GOD.


Thursday, December 29, 2005

Associations of the Laity

ASSOCIATION: Right of the Laity


To pursue goods that are in consonance with the demands of baptism is a native right to each and every faithful in the Church. There are, however, ecclesial goods that cannot be effectively attained if the baptized is left to his own individual self and initiative. For their effectual attainment the associative bond and common endeavor is needed. This aggrupation of the faithful in pursuit of a common purpose is called association.

Technically, it is a stable union of at least three faithful (cf. c. 115, § 2) bound together in order to strive for specific ends conducive to the common good of its members or of other persons. In Church language, association is a group of Christ’s faithful, clerics or laity or clerics and laity together who strive with a common effort to further spiritual purposes in the church. The spiritual aims are: 1) foster a more perfect life, 2) to promote public worship; 3) Christian living; 4) other works of piety or charity; 5) animate the temporal order with the Christian spirit; 6) renewal and appreciation of prayer, liturgical and sacramental life; 7) readiness to participate in the activities and the programmes of the church; 8) Christian witness; 9) creation and awakening of charitable, cultural and spiritual works (c.298).

Within the concept of an association is contained the notion of juridical person. Juridical person is a creation of law for the purpose of distinguishing an association from physical or natural persons who constitute it or administer it or for whose benefit it exists. It is established by the competent Church authority for an apostolic purpose and possesses the capacity of a continuous existence, even when specific members die; acquires rights and obligations under the law and is solely accountable to canon law and to its creator, the Church authority.

There are two kinds of juridical persons: public and private. Public juridical person is created either by the law itself or by a decree issued by the competent authority of the Church. Private juridical person is created by the decree issued by the Church authority which possesses executive power of governance.


A. The Basis and its Nature. To associate is natural for man. It is a fellow-feeling deeply etched in the nature of a human person that drives him to join with other individuals in the pursuit of a good common to them. It is a natural offshoot of his social nature. In fact, it has been an accepted notion from time immemorial, even in the church, that to associate is a natural right, directly derive from man’s fellow-feeling nature. It is a right that is not the result of any human concession or a grant by any positive law. There is an inherent tendency and capacity in man to constitute, manage, and join with other individuals for the pursuit of a good that is not attainable on their own initiative (cf. A. Del Portillo, Faithful and Laity in the Church, Ecclesia Press, Ireland, 1972, p. 64), .

The Church accepts this doctrine and applies it in its teaching and governance. However, it is worth noting that the explicit recognition of the right of the lay to associate is a relatively recent development and its growth has been gradual. In fact it is only during the Second Vatican Council that this kind of recognition was conceded to the lay faithful the right to associate on their own. This Council has played a decisive role on this subject when it acknowledged the right of the laity to found, direct and become members of existing associations, provided the submission due to the ecclesiastical authority is in no way undermined. It stated: “As long as the proper relationship is kept to Church authorities, the laity have the right to found and run such associations and to join those already existing” (Apostolicam Actuositatem 19). This doctrine eventually entered into the provision of the new Code which runs this way: “Christ’s faithful may freely establish and direct associations which serve charitable or pious purposes or which foster the Christian vocation in the world, and they may hold meetings to pursue these purposes by common effort” (c. 215).

Evolution and History of the Recognition

It is interesting to note the slow yet gradual evolution and history of this recognition of the right of the lay to associate. As noted earlier, it is the Church that has for centuries defended the natural rights of each bona-fide citizen to associate in civil society. The Church, however, has reluctance to apply this principle to its own social life. It is because in the ecclesiastical society the reason to associate is not the same. This is due to the conception that the Church had about herself. It viewed itself as a society – a perfect society at that. In this society the organizational set-up is heavily placed on the shoulders of the Hierarchy. The power of jurisdiction, of orders, and of governance rest on the clergy. The other members of the faithful are considered as mere passive subjects. Within this framework, it is understandable that the constituent act of any association is the will of the hierarchy. The agreement of lay individuals to form associations to pursue supernatural goals does not constitute or create an associations. For their legitimate existence in the Church associations must have the stamping act of the ecclesiastical authority either erecting such associations or approving their existence. This mentality also gives way to the notion that the mission of the Church is identified with the mission of the Hierarchy. Active participation of the lay faithful in the activity of the Church would be considered as assistance rendered to the clergy and as an extension of the clergy’s mission (cf. A. Del Portillo, op. cit., p. 65).

The first explicit affirmation made by the Magisterium of the Church regarding the natural right of the faithful to constitute associations for a supernatural purpose is the Resolutio Corrientensis of the Sacred Congregation of the Council which came out on November 13, 1920 (cf. AAS 13 [1921], p. 139). Here the recognition of the natural right of the laity to associate was made. However, it did not reach the level of legislation. It was Vatican II which finally laid down the necessary and suitable ecclesiological premises for the correct understanding of the right of association for the vigent Code to come out with a provision giving it full recognition. It started with the notion of the People of God which as developed in the conciliar documents “imply that the principle of sociability in the Church resides in the union of all the faithful, with a view towards the sole and common purpose of the Church, for which all are responsible, according to the unique mission of each one” (Portillo, Faithful and Laity, op. cit., p. 123). Here, it is clear that the mission of the people of God is not exclusive to the clergy. It is true, the Hierarchy should supervise, encourage and direct all the baptized, but it should not stop the lay faithful from this mission, nor should it make it difficult for them to carry out the mission that belongs to them. And, since the fulfillment of that mission is hardly possible in an exclusively individual way, it can be rightly concluded that the right of association is a true and authentic natural right of each and every faithful, a right that corresponds to their demands. Vatican II, in short, recognized that the laity have the right to establish and to govern associations and to join them provided that due submission to ecclesiastical authority is always observed.

The 1917 Code and the Lay Association

To contextual everything that has been said so far, it is good to veer a little from the topic and to relish the memory of the world that we were then familiar with, the Catholic environment which looked after our birth to Christian life, and nourished our growth in the faith and tradition, and introduced us to the noble work in the apostolate. That was the world that was by and large shaped by the doctrine and the legislation of the 1917 Code of Canon Law. It was at that time that associations of the faithful were classified into the following category: Third orders, confraternities, and pious unions. These associations are classified according to the purpose or end for which they were established. The first kind of association, that is, the Third orders, was established for piety or spirituality among the members; the second, that is, Confraternities, was founded for public worship, for piety and other charitable ends. The third one, that is, pious union, was established to exercise some works of piety or charity. Later on, mandated organizations came into existence and flourished in the Church in the Philippines. Knights of Columbus, CWL, Sodality of Our Lady, Holy Name Society, Legion of Mary, and others mushroomed in the different parishes all over the country. Catholic Action of the Philippines came into being and strived to coordinate the various works of the apostolate. As can be observed, all these associations are closely associated with the Hierarchy. In fact, Canon 686 § 1 of the 1917 Code states: “Nulla in Ecclesia recognoscitur association quae a legitima auctoritate ecclesiastica erecta vel saltem approbata non fuerit.” The reason for all these is the prevailing concept of the time which states that the Church’s mission was identical with the mission of the Hierarchy, and so whenever the lay faithful intervened actively in the life of the Church it was understood that they did so simply to help the Hierarchy, particularly, the clergy in the parish (Portillo, op. cit., p. 65). And since, the principle of association was based on the Hierarchy-faithful relationship, every association in the Church is regarded as a particular hierarchical organization within that relationship. Ultimately, this practice was based on the concept prevalent at the time that the Church is a society that is heavily dependent on the Hierarchy because it has the power of jurisdiction and government in relation to the faithful.

The People of God Concept.

The Second Vatican Council changed that heavy hierarchical concept of the Church. It introduced, as stated above, the concept of the Church as People of God. Here, the principle of association is placed on the inherent right of the Christian faithful. This right of association has as its foundation the baptismal vocation. Baptism confers the dignity and liberty of the sons of God, incorporating man into the People of God. It creates bonds among the faithful and it gives them the rights and duties that allow them to fulfill the demands of the baptismal vocation or the divine will of God for the Church. In other words, if God wills the Church to be a People and a Body, this means that through baptism each individual faithful is united to God and to the other faithful, and that in the Church nobody is an isolated being. Everybody participates in the fundamental goods and aims, everybody is jointly responsible for the end of the Church and all members are united among them. It is therefore proper to the nature of the Church that there would be bonds of union and solidarity among her faithful (cf. Navarro, Luis, Right of Association in the Church, Philippine Canonical Forum, vol. VI, January-December, 2004, pp. 163-166).

Of course, the first offshoot of baptism is the communion of the faithful. But this communion leaves room for freedom and autonomy to the lay faithful in their Christian life. It is in this area that the lay, because of his baptism, has the true right of association in the Church. Here the faithful can propose ends, modalities of action, and can unite themselves with other faithful for common purposes (cf. Portillo, op.cit., p. 70).

B. Elements of the Right of Association. What then is the content of the right of association? What are the elements that are included in the right of the lay faithful to associate? The Council specified three elements, namely, 1. establishment of association; 2) government of the association; 3) enrollment to the association. Canon 215 specified only two elements, that is, the establishment and the management. The third element is dropped, not because it is not an essential part of the generic content of right of association. However, its exercise is limited to the right of a given association to deny a candidate in accordance to the statutory norm of said association. To avoid the tension that may occur between the two rights, the said Canon did not mention the third element (cf. Navarro, The Right of Association in the Church: Its Sense and Limits, Philippine Canonical Forum, Vol. VI, January-December 2004, pp. 171-174). This element is however picked up in succeeding canons when they provide for the proper exercise of the right of association.

To establish associations. The right to establish association means the power of the faithful to form a stable union among themselves for the pursuit of some common purposes. The exercise of this power implies the free agreement of wills of the individual faithful to constitute an associative bond in order to achieve some ecclesiastical ends. The existence or life of an association therefore flows from the act of the founding members. To state therefore that the faithful has the right to establish association means that it can do it on their own capacity; it does not need the acts of the ecclesiastical authority to give juridical birth to an association.
To govern and direct associations. If the faithful has the right to give birth to an association, it also has the right to direct and manage it. Needless to say, any association for it to operate effectively requires an authority which directs and properly coordinate the activities of the members. This power of government flows directly from the will of the faithful who form the association, set up its organizational system and decide on the how the internal power and activities flow. It is to be noted that in the establishment of the form of government in a given association the members themselves give up some of their autonomy and voluntarily submit not only to its rules and statutes, but to the governing body. The right to govern the members is an authentic right of the association of the faithful.
To enroll. To join an existing association is another manifestation of the exercise of the right of association. Usually this is done by the act of enrolling wherein the faithful submits his name to the desired association and expresses his willingness to be a member (cf. c. 298, § 2; also cf. Navarro, op. cit., pp. 171-174).

C. Limitations. The right of association though recognized by the Law as a native right of each and every faithful in the Church, its area of competence is limited by two determining factors, namely, 1) ends of the association; 2) the due relation to the ecclesiastical authority.

1. The ends of the association. Canon 215 while it recognized the right of association of the faithful, defines its limitations by specifying the goals that they should pursue. It states: “Christ’s faithful may freely establish and direct associations which serve charitable or pious purposes or which foster the Christian vocation in the world, and they may hold meetings to pursue these purposes by common effort” (c. 215). As an entity in the Church, the right of association has to be limited to aims that are in consonance with the nature of the Church. To pursue worldly or temporal purposes is therefore excluded from that right. On the other hand, not all ecclesial ends can be the object of this right, for there are some that are by their very nature reserved to the ecclesiastical authority (cf. c. 301, § 1). In other words, the faithful has the right of association to pursue ecclesial ends that are within the area of their autonomy.

2. The due relation with ecclesiastical authority. The right of association is not an absolute right. Like the right of the individual faithful the right of association is to be regulated by the ecclesiastical authority. This order is called “due relation” and consists in the dependence of the associations as well as of each faithful individually considered on the functions of vigilance and supervision of the hierarchy. This is expressed in Canon 223, §2: “Ecclesiastical authority is entitled to regulate, in view of the common good, the exercise of rights which are proper to Christ’s faithful.” This is an echo of what was defined by the Counciliar document “Apostolicam Actuositatem”: “The Hierarchy’s duty is to favor the lay apostolate, furnish it with principles and spiritual assistance, direct the exercise of the apostolate to the common good of the Church, and see to it that doctrine and order are safeguarded”(Chapter V, n. 24; also, Navarro, The Right of Association in the Church, op. cit., p. 175-177).

Consequently, the minimum “due relation” which every association should have with the duly constituted authority consists in being subordinate to the vigilance and governance in the above indicated areas. This is not arbitrary limitation of rights. Rather, it is an expression of a link wherein the rights of the faithful are regulated by the functions due to the hierarchy in the Church.

At this point however, it has to be noted that “due relation” is not the same as “higher direction”. “Higher Direction” refers to the power which the authority has over the associations it has erected. “Due Relation” refers to the power of the authority over the freely created associations of the faithful with regards to vigilance of the faith, morals, and ecclesiastical discipline; it also refers to the dependence of these associations to the governance and supervision of the areas mentioned.


With the official recognition by the Church’s Magisterium of the right of the laity to establish, govern and become members of associations there followed the profound modification of the legislation regarding associations. One of those affected deeply is the types and models of associative forms. The law has to give more space to this right of association so as not to kill the initiative generated by it and the diversity of associative forms that it opened. It is for this reason that the new Code did not explicitly mention the models of association based on the kinds of purposes they have to pursue – they are closed types. Rather, it opted to take on those types of association which are more open to differing modalities and possibilities, yet limited by their level of relationship with the Church authority. Hence, the general classification of associations into two main groups, namely, private and public associations.

This distinction is a new creation of the Church. This came about due to the legal recognition and Church’s official proclamation of natural right of the lay faithful to the mission and apostolate in the Church. This right lays down the foundation of the lay faithful’s right to establish, to direct and to join with other faithful in a stable manner to fulfill their obligation as baptized persons to build up the body of Christ. This empowered them to undertake the apostolate and form associations in their own initiative. Hence, the apostolate of the laity, distinct from the mission of the hierarchy, was born. Yet, since both apostolates pursue a common purpose, that is, the building up of the body of Christ, there came up the need to establish a mutual relationship between them. This relationship was conceived to be based on the degree of collaboration with the ecclesiastical hierarchy. Thus was born the notion of the public and private juridical personality modifying a given association of the faithful. Proper collaboration of the laity with the hierarchy in the apostolate was established (cf. Luis Navarro, Typical Forms of the Association of the Faithful, Philippine Canonical Forum, January-December 2003, p. 102-103).


In general, private associations are bodies constituted by the faithful through a private agreement among them to pursue through joint venture an end that is ecclesial in nature (cf. cann. 298, 299, § 1). Each of them possesses autonomy of government manifested in the following acts: drafts its own statutes, nominates a moderator, chooses a spiritual guide, and administers its own goods (cf. cann. 321, 323, 324, 325). All private associations have the duty to submit to duly constituted ecclesiastical authority for approval or at least for review. Some will receive the praise, others the recommendation and the proper endorsement of the authority, and others the title of “catholic” (cf. cann. 299, § 2 & § 3, 300). And still others may be granted the private juridical personality. All these associations have to respect the due relation to the hierarchy, submitting themselves to the supervision and governance of the competent ecclesiastical authority.

As can be observed, the right of association of the faithful is given the proper area for its full exercise in private associations. Among others, the basic right to organize, to direct, and to become members of an existing body, are contained in these associations. The principle of freedom that underlies the right of the faithful to associate is also present in these entities, for here are exercised the autonomy of the faithful to create a body in the Church through the act of their own will and to determine by and for themselves the purpose, the means and the activities to be undertaken.

Private Association. It may be observed that the Church legislation introduced into the concept of association two elements that are necessary for its proper stability. These elements are a) the statutes and its consequent recognition and b) conferment of the private juridical personality. A) Statutes and Recognition. In fact, Canon 299, § 3 demands that no private association is recognized unless its statutes have been reviewed by the ecclesiastical authority. “The recognition of an association constitutes a declaration of the ecclesiastical authority stating that the association is really in the Church, that everything in it is in agreement with the nature of the Church” (Navarro, Commentary on can. 299, in Commentario exegetico al Codigo de Derecho canonico, Pamplona, 1996, vol. II, p. 428-432). The recognition of the statutes, therefore, is a solid support to the stability of the association. The statutes guarantee the identity of the association in such a manner that members may change, the associative bonds among them and the whole organizational structure may be overhauled through the years, but the basic elements of the association will remain basically immutable as they are well enshrined in the statutes. The act of approval by the founders attribute to the association its separate existence from the members of the same association. To amend the statutes, for instance, cannot be done by any of the members. It can only be done if it follows the specific provision of the statutes. B) The private juridical personality. The granting to an association the private juridical personality is a means introduced by legislation for the association to earn its identity as perpetual. To have a juridical personality is not an arbitrary demand of law. The subject of law, holder of rights and duties, as an association, must needs have a personality. Canon 120 provides that when the association becomes a private juridical person it enjoys the perpetual nature of any juridical person. It will not be affected by the changes of the members and other personal substratum. It transcends the lives and works of physical persons associated with it, and continues in existence until terminated in one or the another ways hinted at in canon law.

De Facto Associations. These are associations that are not officially recognized by the Church authority and does not have the private juridical personality. They are definitely not subject of rights and obligations, but the Code considers them as voluntary groupings, associative bodies that have been granted some rights. It has the right to choose a name, and to have its own statutes (cf. can. 304). It can and must have a statutes (cf. c. 304); it can be the subject of privileges and graces (cf. c.306); it can create some specific internal norms, it can hold assemblies, designate moderators, officials and other ministers (cf. can. 309); it can secure recognition or praise from an ecclesiastical authority (cf. c. 298, § 2); the members have some rights vis-à-vis the association, such as the right to intervene in the decision making, the right not to be dismissed unjustly, and all the rights spelled out in the statutes. Besides, the association is subject to the supervision and governance of the ecclesiastical authority (cf. c. 305). With all these concessions granted by law, associations de facto are to be considered as subject of law. Te lack of juridical personality does not imply the non-existence of the subject of rights. After all these associations are stable unions of persons with a precise ecclesiastical end to achieve(cf. Navarro, Typical Forms of the Association of the Faithful, op. cit., p.106-107).


Public associations in the Church are known by these characteristics: 1) they are erected by an official decree of a competent ecclesiastical authority; 2) they are governed by the statutes that are approved by the authority; 3) they possess public juridical personality; 4) they are open to the incorporation of the members; 5) they are created for the pursuit of an ecclesiastical end which may or may not be reserved to the hierarchy. Public associations therefore are stable unions of the faithful established and given a mission by the competent Church authority who approved their statutes. They possess that public juridical personality.

Of course, they still have certain degree of autonomy in the exercise of their right. But, their nature is such that they are placed under the “higher direction” of the ecclesiastical authority and not just governed by the due relation. This direction is composed of the following elements: 1) ecclesiastical authority intervenes in the nomination and removal of the moderator (chairman) (cf. c. 317, § 1 and c. 318 § 2); 2) the ecclesiastical authority directly nominates the chaplain (cf. c. 317, § 2); 3) the administration of the temporal goods is subject to the norms anent the ecclesiastical goods in Book V of the Code; 4) in some cases the authority can appoint a commissioner to govern the association on behalf of the ecclesiastical authority (cf. c. 318 § 1); 5) and lastly it can dispose the suppression of the association (cf. c. 320).

With this succinct description of public associations we can logically deduce that these associations have a closer bond with the hierarchy than the private associates. Fr. Navarro, an authority on lay associations, described the difference between the two with these words: “If in an association there is not such a presence of the authority in its birth, life and even in its extinction, it can be concluded that it is not a public association. It is in this broad and wide-ranging intervention of the authority that constitutes the difference in juridical regime between public and private associations.

Public associations are understood more clearly by the function they carry out in the Church. This function, which generally is to serve the mission and end of the Church, assumes some specific characteristics when it is undertaken by the two types of public associations.

Public associations of Canon 301 § 1. It states: “ These are associations that pursue ends reserved by its very nature to the ecclesiastical authority and therefore beyond the ambit of the lay faithful. Here, the exclusive function of the hierarchy is to be shared with the faithful. And this is made possible by the establishment of an association that allows the lay faithful to collaborate closely in the achievement of these ends which properly belong to the hierarchy. For this to happen, the Church authority entrust this end to the association by a concrete act called “mission”. These associations then perform the particular function of service in the task of the hierarchy. Their consent to fulfill this particular task makes these associations true instruments of the hierarchy in the performance of a specific function. Hence, the close collaboration between the hierarchy and the lay faithful in this type of public association.

Public associations of Canon 301 § 2. The associations foreseen in this Canon, that is, those that intend to achieve end not reserved to the hierarchy, have a different function. They are established by the hierarchy to make up for the lack of private initiative. The Code states: “…In the act of creation, the hierarchy does not put at the disposition of the faithful end that is reserved to the hierarchy. Actually the ends proposed are private by nature and therefore within the ambit of the lay faithful. But, due to the insufficiency of private initiative, the Church authority is prompted to establish association that would supplement this lack. This happens for instance when for whatever reason there is the faithful are not able to work sufficiently within the sphere of their competence (e.g., the secular nature of the apostolate) or are remiss in their performance proper to their mission, the ecclesiastical authority, considering the Christian community that is deprived of these basic services, has to exhort, promote, foster, give directives, so that the faithful could fulfill the mission due to the People of God. In addition to these acts that are proper to him as Church authority, he can opt for the erection of public associations that could meet the ecclesial demands of the Christian community. They become instruments of the hierarchy for the pursuit of ends that are within the ambit of the faithful. Hence, there close collaboration with the hierarchy..

Schematic Presentation and Comparison

1. Schema of the Associations of the Christian Faithful In Canon Law:


i. with commendation or praise
ii. with juridical personality
iii. with “catholic” title

Associations of Christian Faithful

de facto associations – without commendation/praise

2. Public

i. modeled according to Canon 301 § 1 – goals exclusive to Hierarchy;
ii. modeled according to Canon 301, § 2 – goals within the ambit of lay faithful

Comparative Presentation of Public and Private Associations of the Faithful:

Meantime, we can sum up into five points the Church’s attempt to legislate and codify the ramifications of the Council’s teaching on the different levels of relationship between the laity and the hierarchy, to wit:

“Public associations of the Christian faithful are always established by the competent Church authority. By this very fact, it is a public association of Christian faithful.

Private associations of the Christian faithful are established by the faithful themselves.

“Public associations of the Christian faithful have their own statutes approved by the competent Church authority.

Private associations of the Christian faithful have their statutes reviewed by the competent Church authority.

“Public associations of the Christian faithful are closely governed by Church authority.

Private associations of the Christian faithful are governed primarily by their statutes and less governed by Church authority.

“Public associations of the Christian faithful receive a mission to act in the name of the Church.

Private associations of the Christian faithful can receive a mission, though it is not necessary for them to do so.

“Public associations of the Christian faithful are always public juridical persons, that is the very establishment of the association makes them so. Hence, all of their goods are ecclesiastical goods and are governed by the norms of Book V of the Code.

On the other hand, the private associations of the Christian faithful can always be erected into private juridical person, though they need not be so. Furthermore, their goods and possessions are not considered ecclesiastical goods and their management is governed by their own statutes” (Laurence J. Spiteri, JCL, The Code in the Hands of the Laity, New York, 2005, pp. 12-13).


From the foregoing I would venture to make some conclusions that may be of pastoral use to the Christian faithful in general and to the laity in particular.

1. The Church in her 1983 legislation did not in anyway write off the associations that existed before that date. That means the Third Orders, the Confraternities, Pious Unions, sodalities, and the mandated organizations, such as Knights of Columbus, Catholic Women’s League, Legion of Mary, remain in existence as moral or juridical entities. The reason is that the People of God concept of Vatican II is expansive in its implications, not limiting; it is open, not close. It awakens in the faithful the consciousness that with the inherent right that they have acquired from baptism they could come out with a thousand and one possibilities in the area of associative bond, like presenting innovative modes of actions, creating new models of bonding together, discovering various ways and means of attaining a common goal, experimenting on internal government and interrelationships within the existing associations.

2. The recognition of the autonomy of the faithful, of their equal dignity as members of the Church, and of their inherent right of association, does not mean that they are free to do what they can in ecclesiastical matters without any link whatsoever with the Hierarchy. The People of God concept does not do away with the reality and the truth that the Church is and always will be a hierarchical Church. Christ constituted it so. It is His will that the power of the keys – the magisteriuum and governance - is entrusted to the Hierarchy, that is, the Pope, bishops, priests, deacons. The power of the Hierarchy does not originate from the people; it directly comes from Christ. The Church therefore is not a democratic institution; it is a Hierarchical entity. Hence, the debita relatio – the due respect – is required not only from the individual faithful, but also from the associations that they have established.
3. The introduction of the concepts of juridical persons – public and private – to the establishment of associations does not entail the level of holiness or sanctity of a given association. The public juridical person is not holier than a private one; a private juridical person is not holier than de facto association. They simply declare the level or degree of the associations’ “collaboration” with the Hierarchy. The closer the collaboration with the Church’s authority, the higher is the direction; the farther the collaboration, the more remote is the direction. Hence, the public juridical associations, having a closer collaboration with the Hierarchy, are dependent to it along the area of administration and government; private juridical associations, having a more remote relation with the Hierarchy, are dependent to it along the area of supervision; de facto associations, having a very remote relation with the Hierarchy, are dependent to it along the area of vigilance, guidance and general governance in matters of faith, morals, and Church discipline.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

The Laity: Obligations and Rights

Empowering the Laity Towards Social Transformation


+Leonardo Y. Medroso, JCD, DD
Bishop of Borongan/Chair of ECCL

In strict legal language the title of the topic for this study is inaccurate and therefore misleading. It subtly suggests that the lay faithful are at the moment impotent to undertake the call to social transformation; that they do not have the necessary power to institute reforms for justice and harmonious living to reign in the ecclesial community; that they are incapable of articulating the vision, goals and objectives of lay associations, of setting up programs, systems and structures that would impact Christian values on society and on the world; or, incompetent to carry out the mission to “permeate and perfect the temporal order of things with the spirit of the Gospel” (cf. Canon 225. § 2).

The contrary, however, is true. Powers for social transformation have long been set up not only by the Second Vatican Council’s introduction of the dynamic concept of the People of God in the reality of the Church and of the specific place of the lay faithful in its life and mission, but most especially by subsequent decrees and legislations, eventually made official and definitive by the promulgation of the Code of Canon Law in 1983. Here, the legal status of the lay faithful is declared, his rights and duties defined and recognized. The dignity and mission of the lay has been firmly established, setting them equal with the clergy and the religious men and women. In the eyes of the 1983 Code of Canon Law the lay faithful are not second-rate citizens.

Consequently, the lay have been duly empowered, given the official and authoritative stamp as constituent members of the Church. They are Christian faithful as much as the clerics and the religious men and women are. As baptized, they are authentic subjects of laws, enjoying common and specific rights and obligations. As such they are definitively constituted as bona-fide members of the Church.

Besides, attempts have not been wanting to empower the lay faithful, but, sad to say, they have been undertaken in areas that are not properly their own. As it is, they have been empowered to venture on activities in the Church that are not based on their specific rights as laymen in the Church. To empower them towards a life-style and apostolic activities that are properly and uniquely theirs have not been given rightful emphasis. To empower something means to understand thoroughly the nature of the thing, its personality, its distinctive trait, its uniqueness. To do otherwise is quite not right or improper. To train a Doberman pinscher dog to dance may be good but improper. Doberman dogs are supposed to guard, not to entertain; to protect the master with their fierceness, not to dance with grace. I am afraid that this is what is happening to our laymen and women. They participate actively and zealously in the liturgical and pastoral activities of the Church; others seem to be happy when they look like religious with the way they are dressed and the way they exercise their spirituality. They may be good for the Church, but they sorely miss the life-style and apostolic activities that are their proper signatures as envisioned by the Code of Canon Law.

To empower the laity, therefore, means to know their real status, the expected life-style, and the proper role as lay men in the life of the Church; to accept their uniqueness, their distinctive features; and thereby to form them accordingly. It is only then that our lay men and women could stand up with dignity and pride apart from, yet side-by-side with, the religious; apart from, yet side-by-side with, the clergy. They will be on their own area of responsibility, lay men and lay women in the Church.

The problem then is how to discover and effectively lay claim to this identity of theirs, how for them to demand as rightfully their own the secular status and dignity with the accompanying rights and obligations, so that they can faithfully carry out the mission entrusted to them.

It is then not presumptuous to say that this study is a step towards the right direction. Canon Law is the place where the Christian faithful acquires the definitive, normative and authoritative knowledge of the laity. To the fear that laws might suppress the spirit of freedom, initiative, creativity and resourcefulness of the children of God, suffice to quote the words of John Paul II uttered when he officially promulgated the 1983 Code of Canon Law: “…it is sufficiently clear that the purpose of the Code is not in any way to replace faith, grace, charisms and above all charity in the life of the Church or of Christ’s faithful. On the contrary, the Code rather looks towards the achievement of order in the ecclesial society, such that while attributing a primacy to love, grace and the charisms, it facilitates at the same time an orderly development in the life both of the ecclesial society and of the individual persons who belong to it” (Sacrae disciplinae leges, AAS).

Our study on the empowerment of the laity then revolves around these salient topics:

I. Declaration of the Laity’s Status and Dignity
II. Rights and Obligations of the Laity

The first topic will delve into the dignity and essential status of the lay faithful as constituent members of the Church. The second will go through the canonical list of the rights and obligations of the lay faithful that articulate their juridical status.

I. Declaration of the Constitutional Status and Dignity of the Laity

Canon 204, § 1, makes this constitutional declaration: “The Christ’s faithful are those who, since they are incorporated into Christ through baptism, are constituted the People of God. For this reason, they participate in their own way in the priestly, prophetic and kingly Office of Christ. They are called, each according to his or her particular condition, to exercise the mission which Christ entrusted to the Church to fulfill in the world.”

All those baptized constitute the Christian faithful. They are the constituent members of the Church, the new people of God. Those are fully incorporated into the Church who “possessing the Spirit of Christ, accept all the means of salvation given to the Church together with her entire organization, and who – by the bonds constituted by the profession of faith, the sacraments, ecclesiastical government and communion – are joined in the visible structure of the Church of Christ, who rules her through the Supreme Pontiff and the bishops” (LG, 14). The state of this people is that of the dignity and freedom of the children of God. Their fundamental calling is to the fullness of sanctity (cf. LG 39) and to the apostolate ( LG9). Its law is the new commandment to love as Christ loved us. Its destiny is the kingdom of God (cf. LG).

From this preamble we can draw two important principles, namely, the principle of equality and principle of distinction.
Principle of equality. Those who are baptized are called without distinction to the fullness of sanctity, which is the same for all. Likewise they are called to the common apostolate. In this level there is no distinction between the laity, the clergy and the religious. All of them are baptized, called to sanctity and apostolate, and therefore equal in dignity and mission. Fr. Alvaro del Portillo waxed eloquent when he described this fundamental basis of equality among the baptized. He said: “All persons who belong to the Church have a common fundamental legal status, because they all share one and the same basic theological condition and belong to the same primary common category. All the faithful, from the Pope to the child who has just been baptized, share one and the same vocation, the same faith, the same Spirit, the same grace.” (Faithful and Laity in the Church, Ecclesia Press, 1972, p. 19). Here, the priesthood of Christ is equally shared by all. Hence, the term common priesthood. Canon 208 describes this reality in these words: “Flowing from their rebirth in Christ, there is a genuine equality of dignity and action among all of Christ’s faithful. Because of this equality they all contribute, each according to his or her own condition and office, to the building up of the Body of Christ.”
Principle of Functional, yet, Essential, diversity and distinction. Within the fundamental equality among the members of the Church, there are nevertheless functional distinctions, differences of ministry or office. All the faithful do not perform the same functions in the Church. It is because of this that the 1983 Code of Canon Law in dealing with legal status of the members of the Church established first the juridical status common to all the Christ’s faithful and then, the juridical status specific to the different classes of the faithful, namely, to laity and to the clergy, vis-à-vis their state and function within the Church. The clerical state is characterized by a number of duties imposed by his ordination to serve the people of God in persona Christi capitis, that is, to teach doctrine, maintain the deposit of faith, govern the life of the Church, administer the sacraments (cf. SC 10). For this function to be translated into the external life of the Church, the clerics must have different rights and obligations that constitute his juridical status. Along the same vein, the laity must also have a character that is proper to them. This will take the form of the ministry that is peculiar to them within the Church, that is, to imbue the temporal order and earthly realities with the Gospel values. Hence, Canon 203, § 1 adds to its declaration these words: “They are called, each according to his or her particular condition, to exercise the mission which God entrusted to the Church to fulfill in the world.”

In sum, we put forward the following propositions regarding the different functions of the members according to their state and condition of life: 1. the priests serve the People of God by attending to the teaching of the faith (and morals), the administration of the sacraments, and the government of the ecclesial community; 2. the lay faithful serve the People of God by sanctifying the temporal order, imbuing it with the spirit of the Gospel values; 3. the religious men and women serve the People of God by giving life testimony to the after life exercised through the vows of chastity, obedience and poverty.


II. Rights and obligations of the Lay Faithful

Preliminary Notes.

Rights. A right is a faculty to demand, a power to require something. This faculty is lodged deep in the human person. A person is one who is free and therefore an individual who is a master of his own acts. This mastery implies existence of autonomy and responsibility. An autonomous person means that he can regulate his conduct according to his own conscience which dictates to him the maxim: do good, avoid evil. Here, the person is not subject to anyone, he is a master. This autonomy gives the person that right to demand that he be respected, that he be properly acknowledged, and that in all cases he be given what is his due.

In the Church, obligations and rights are correlative and inseparable. Rights give rise to obligation; obligations give rise to rights. Both are based on the person who is free and autonomous.

In the Church rights and obligations arise from baptism. By baptism the person is incorporated as member of the Church and is endowed by divine law with fundamental rights and obligations which, needless to say, constitute his juridical status.

Participation. Canon 204, § 1 calls Christ’s faithful “to participate in their own way in the priestly, prophetic and kingly Office of Christ.” To participate means to take part; to be actively involved in an activity. Participation in the Church life and activity means to be actively engaged in the decision making and the plan drafting, in the taking part in the implementation of a program and other agenda of actions. The lay faithful, being part of the People of God, are required to participate in Christ’s prophetic, priestly and kingly functions “each according to his or her own particular condition”. This provision of the Canon refers to the distinction and variety of functions of the members of the Church. As observed earlier, the Christian faithful is composed of the laity, the religious men and women, and the clergy. The distinction of their vocations and calling naturally condition the way they follow Christ as Priest, Prophet, and King.
The list of rights and obligations of the faithful has the force of law. It contains the fundamental rights that are directly derived from baptism. The structure is similar to the declaration of human rights promulgated by the United Nation, or to the Bill of Rights found in secular constitutions. The Code came up with three clusters of rights, namely: one, containing the rights and obligations of all Christ’s faithful (ca. 208-223); another,, those specifically pertaining to the lay faithful (224-231); a third which contains those of the clergy (273-289). We will not discuss the last group for obvious reason.


1. Canon 224 defines the extent of the rights and obligations of the lay faithful. It includes not only the rights and duties enumerated in the canons under the title of “obligations and rights of the lay faithful” which we are going to discuss immediately, but also those that are commonly shared by all the Christ’s faithful and those stated in other canons. The common rights and obligations include the following: communion in the Church, personal sanctification, Christian education, apostolate, relations with pastors-lay faithful, association, good name and privacy, vindication and defense of rights. The following are the obligations and rights that specifically belong to the lay faithful.
2. Proclamation of Salvation Message. Deputed to the apostolate by baptism and confirmation, lay people, like all Christian faithful, have the right “to strive so that the divine message of salvation maybe known and accepted by all people throughout the world” (Canon 225, § 1). This provision of the Code formalizes the subjective rights of the lay to undertake on their own initiative the apostolate and to pursue it by constituting associations on their own right. . From this legal declaration follows the doctrine that the lay cannot anymore be considered as a passive member in the Church. As a faithful he is called to perform a primary role in the spread of the Gospel; that to him are due the rights and duties to which the faithful are entitled. It is true that the clerics and the lay are different types of faithful. This difference is based on divine law. But it is also true that they are equal at the root. Hence, between the clerics and the lay, there exists a radical equality, though a functional, yet essential, diversity. It is only at this point when this principle is clarified and well established that the harmonious working together between the hierarchy and laity, or between laity and laity, either individually or in association, is guaranteed. Based on this expressed principle, the hierarchy could better appreciate and respect the subjective rights of the lay, their autonomy, their freedom. The lay on the other hand could well observe the debita relatio – that is the dependence of the lay to the functions of supervision and governance of the hierarchy(cf. C. 223, § 2). It is here that the hierarchy’s obligation to support the lay comes into place, supplying them with guiding principles, directing the development of the apostolate towards the common good of the Church, seeing to it that the doctrine and order are observed (cf. AA 24).
3. Sanctification of the Temporal Order. The sanctification of the temporal order is the specific mission of the lay faithful and the one which is most characteristic of them. “By reason of their special vocation it belongs to the laity to seek the kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and directing them according to God’s will. (cf. Canon 225, § 2). This is their peculiar way to give witness to Christ. As it is, the lay’s situation is described in relation to the secular world. It is in the world that they are called to perform their role. This is their competence in the mission of the Church (cf. Portillo, Alvaro del, Faithful and Laity in the Church, translated from Spanish by Leo Hickey, Ecclesia Press, 1972, pp. 100-106). In sum, the lay is a subject with a secular character. The implications this doctrine bears in the life of the whole church are innovations that should be exploited and given much emphasis. One of the implications will be the establishment of serious formation of the lay in their secularity. As we have seminaries for the proper formation of the clerics in their life as ordained; formation houses and novitiate for the proper formation of the religious in their life in accord with the beatitudes; so the lay should have an institution that should properly form them in their secularity. The Church has been using the lay for the apostolate; so far, sad to say, it has not properly been giving them formation in their secularity. After all this too is their right as implied in Canon 213: “Christ’s faithful have the right to be assisted by their Pastors from the spiritual riches of the Church, especially by the word of God and the sacraments.” Christifidelis Laici” is more explicit on this need for formation of the lay. It says: “ In this dialogue between God who offers His gifts and the persons who is called to exercise responsibility there comes the possibility, indeed the necessity, of a total and ongoing formation of the lay faithful.” After having described Christian formation as ”a continual process in the individual of maturation in faith and a likening to Christ, according to the will of the Father, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit,” the synodal Fathers have clearly affirmed that the formation of the lay faithful must be placed among the priorities of a diocese. It ought to be so placed within the plan of pastoral action that the efforts of the whole community (clergy, lay faithful and religious) converge on the goal” (57).
4. Freedom in Secular Affairs. The lay members of Christ’s faithful are entitled to “that freedom in secular affairs which is common to all citizens” (Canon 227). In using this freedom they are also to safeguard the freedom of others; hence, in questions of opinion, they are not to propose their own view as the teaching of the Church.
5. Personal Formation. “Lay people have the duty and the right to acquire the knowledge of Christian teaching which is appropriate to each one’s capacity and condition, so that they may be able to live according to this teaching, to proclaim it and if necessary defend it, and may be capable of playing their part in the exercise of the apostolate” (Canon 229, § 1). This canon endows on the lay faithful the right to receive doctrinal instruction.
6. Higher Studies. “[Lay people] have the right to acquire that fuller knowledge of the sacred sciences which is taught in ecclesiastical universities or faculties or in institutes of religious sciences, attending lectures there and acquiring academic degrees” (Canon 229, § 2). Here the right of the lay faithful to receive doctrinal instruction is extended to the highest level.
7. Teaching the Sacred Sciences. Likewise, assuming the requisite suitability, “they are capable of receiving from the lawful ecclesiastical authority a mandate to teach the sacred sciences” (Canon 229, § 3). This too is the right of the lay to teach the sacred sciences when they are found suitable to do so.
8. Matrimonial Vocation and Children Education. “Those who are married are bound . . . to strive for the building up of the people of God through their marriage and family” (Canon 226, § 1). “Parents have the most serious obligation and the right to educate their children . . . in accordance with the teaching of the Church” (Canon 226, § 2). Here, the Christian spouses are duty bound to contribute to the building up of the people of God.
9. Experts or Advisor in councils. “Lay people who are found to be suitable are capable of being admitted by the sacred Pastors to those ecclesiastical offices and functions which, in accordance with the provisions of law, they can discharge” (Canon 228, § 1). Furthermore, “those who are outstanding in the requisite knowledge, prudence and integrity, are capable of being experts or advisors, even in councils in accordance with the law, in order to provide assistance to the Pastors of the Church” (Canon 228, § 2). This canon uses the word “suitable” (habiles) to point out that it does not deal with a right per se, but with capabilities.
10. Stable Ministry of Lector and Acolyte. “Lay men whose age and talents meet the requirements prescribed by the decree of the Bishops’ Conference, can be given the stable ministry of lector and acolyte, through the prescribed liturgical rite” (Canon 230). An important sentence, however, is added to the quoted canon, to wit: “ This canon, which uses the term “ministry” referred to the laity, contains also a distinction between laymen and laywomen, for these two stable ministries are given exclusively to lay men. An important phrase, however, is immediately added to the cited canon, to wit: “This conferral of ministry does not, however, give them a right to sustenance or remuneration from the Church” (ibid).
11. Temporal Assignments in Liturgical Actions. “Lay people can receive a temporary assignment to the role of lector in liturgical actions. Likewise, all lay people can exercise the roles of commentator, cantor or other such, in accordance with the law” (Canon 230, § 2).
12. Supplying certain Ministerial Functions. “Where the needs of the Church require and ministers are not available, lay people, even though they are not lectors or acolytes, can supply certain of their functions, that is, exercise the ministry of the word, preside over liturgical prayers, confer baptism and distribute Holy Communion, in accordance with the provisions of the law” (Canon 230, § 3).
13. Service of the Church not Strictly Ministerial. “Lay people are pledge to the special service of the Church, whether permanently or for a time, have a duty to acquire the appropriate formation which their role demands. . .” “They have the right to a worthy remuneration. . . Likewise, they have the right to have their insurance, social security and medical benefits duly safeguarded” (Canon 231, § 2). This canon refers to the laypeople who dedicate themselves exclusively to Church service or apostolic works, either permanently or for a fixed period of time.


From the foregoing, it becomes obvious that the Church wants to empower the lay faithful by helping them recognize the dignity of their status as Christ’s faithful. By doing so they can take pride of the fact that they are on the same level with the priests and the religious men and women, all called to the fullness of sanctity and to the building up of the Church. Second, it empowers them by helping them to readily accept their specific mission to be the leaven in the world, ordering the temporal affairs in accordance to the Gospel values. To build up Christian families, to engage in politics to influence it with Christian principles and values, to enter into the arena of mass media and communication bringing into it their Christian moral formation and well-formed conscience, these are the areas proper to the lay faithful.

Given the adequate doctrinal and spiritual formation and guidance, supported with the intense sacramental life, and granted the autonomy and right independence to responsibly pursue their role in the world, the lay faithful will be effectively empowered.

Then, they will not be contented to act as just mere lay ministers in the Church, or as mere cooperator in the governance of the ecclesial community, or as secularized versions of the religious men and women.

Empowered Christian lay men and women are to be seen as they really are, that is, Christ in the middle of the world.