Pius Youn

Date of Award


Document Type



Santa Clara : Santa Clara University, 2018.

Degree Name

Licentiate in Sacred Theology (STL)


Anh Q. Tran, S.J.


In the public sphere of contemporary Western society, its post-Enlightenment culture is secular at large. Encouraged by the principle of equality upon which the United States of America was founded, the current culture promotes a subjective and individual mindset, which demands that everyone, regardless of gender, race, or class, possess equal representation in all fields of duty. Against this individualistic egalitarianism, the Church can seem to lag behind the times because she operates from a different model than that of modern society. While most societies in the West espouse a democratic culture and representative participation at every level of governance, the Church seems to continue the hierarchical model of the past in its operation. Yet, is it true to state that the Church is “hierarchical?” If so, what does that entail? With an ongoing tension between the Church and secularity, a genuine discussion is necessary to mend the challenges and misunderstandings.

While the secular society, at times, promotes ideologies that contradict church teachings, there also is a secular dimension to the Church. In this sense, church and society are not against each another; rather, she is found within society carrying out her tasks in the temporal order. As such, the lay people who share in the priestly, prophetic, and kingly offices by the virtue of their baptism have a particular vocation to evangelize secularity. More precisely, they are secular and they encounter secularity in their daily life. With the authority that they hold in the Church, they bring Christ to those who they encounter daily. The Church, in this light, is within the culture at large.

The secular dimension of the Church can flourish if the authorities within the Church work in a collegial manner. In other words, the lay people must have a genuine dialogue with the magisterium and theologians so that the truths of the faith will influence secularity. Collegiality, however, should not be mistaken for democracy. While it is understandable that Americans, who are used to democratic structures, may push for more participation by disregarding her teachings, the nature of the Church is more complex than a mere political system. This thesis acknowledges the proper authority which is given to each group within the Church, both in the sacraments and in jurisdiction.

The ongoing conversation in the thesis treats the nature, leadership, and authority of the Church that is scriptural and traditional. The ideas contained in the works of Yves Congar will ultimately help in resolving the challenges that the Church face today. By speaking about his perception of authority that is given to every individual in the Church, this thesis clarifies for the readers the proper function of priests, bishops, and laity, functions which, in the past, have been overly confused and even abused. As a result, the resolution of current challenges will encourage the entire People of God to live out pastorally the sacramental and juridical functions that they hold.

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