As Catholics throughout the world expectantly await the opening of the Second Vatican Council, it has already become apparent that the preparation for the Council has, in itself, been a source of hope and vitality for the Church. For the layman, these preparations have been of special significance: they have been the source of considerable soul-searching on the part of laity and clergy alike concerning the role of the laity in the Church. Moreover, in many nations and in numerous dioceses, the laity have been invited to make known to the hierarchy their hopes, criticisms and aspirations.
The most specific call to the laity was, perhaps, that of Francis Cardinal Koenig of Vienna, a member of the Central Preparatory Commission for the Council. Speaking at a meeting of Austrian Catholic newsmen, Cardinal Koenig said: “Do not wait for the Bishop or for a report from Rome, if you have something to say about the Council. Sound a warning whenever you feel that you ought to. Urge, when you feel urging is necessary… Report everything that the people and the Catholics expect concerning the Council.”
With the coming Council in mind, The Commonweal begins in this issue a special series devoted to the layman’s hopes and desires in the contemporary Church. To begin the series, however, we have asked Father Robert Hovda of the Department of Religion at the Catholic University of America to comment, from the viewpoint of a theologian, on the theological problem of the layman’s role in the Church. In the weeks to come, a number of laymen will, in turn, address themselves to the question of the laity. It is our hope that their frank and open discussion will, in some measure, be a contribution to the work of those Bishops and theologians who will participate in the coming Ecumenical Council.
—The Editors Continue reading