There is great rejoicing in heaven today, or at least in that little corner where Yves Congar is still toiling away. No other twentieth-century Catholic theologian was so insistent on the close connection between baptism and mission. Now that Pope Francis has made clear in his motu proprio, Praedicate evangelium, that because “the Pope, bishops and other ordained ministers are not the only evangelizers in the church,” and “any member of the faithful can preside over a dicastery,” Congar’s great work, Lay People in the Church, comes to full fruition. Jesuit Fr. Gianfranco Ghirlando made this striking change even clearer at a March 21 press conference, saying that “the power of governance in the Church does not come from orders, but from one’s mission.” Governance becomes linked to canonical mission, which one is eligible for through baptism—not from the power of orders, as John Paul II had said in the previous curial reform. Now, in principle, all levels of Church governance are open to any Catholic, male or female. But there are two questions to be asked about the implications of the change for the role of ordained ministry. First, what is left for ordained ministry if governance is removed from the job description? And second, how, if at all, can we reconnect ministry and governance for the good of the Church?
Pope Francis has long wanted the ordained to give more attention to pastoral concerns and spend less time managing a complex institution like a parish or diocese. Given the growing shortage of ordained ministers, this surely makes good sense—except, of course, that just as the pope has now made clear that there is no essential connection between ordination and governance, so it is also evident that there is no essential connection between ordination and pastoral activities. Lay ecclesial ministers in the Church have been doing tasks of both governance and pastoral care quite successfully for several decades. It might indeed be a better Church if all the ordained spent their time on preaching and teaching, on exercising pastoral care and presiding at the Eucharist, while the managerial and governance functions are attended to by suitably qualified laypersons. This is evidently not what the pope wants for two reasons: first, if he did, he would have required Vatican dicasteries to be run by lay professionals and would have disqualified the ordained; and second, he would have expanded his new understanding of the relationship between governance and baptism to the realm of parishes and dioceses. In reforming the Vatican he is disconnecting the power of orders from bureaucracy, which is only common sense. But in the parish or diocesan context, governance remains closely tied to the power of orders and is unlikely to be changed in a fashion parallel to that envisaged for the Curia.