ACI ‘Lumen Gentium 37’ Campaign

Promising in 1964 church structures through which lay people could communicate their pastoral needs – and if necessary their conscientious criticism – to their pastors, Article 37 of Vatican II’s Lumen Gentium (see farthest below) was never implemented in Ireland. The disastrous scandals the Irish church has suffered since 1994 were therefore a result of organisational inertia since 1964 as well as the cover up of clerical sexual abuse – and this problem lies at the root of the Irish church’s current deep crisis of priestly manpower also.

ACI is therefore committed to the full honouring of Lumen Gentium 37, and began a campaign in that cause in October 2019. We have been assured that the documents we submitted to the Irish Bishops Conference then are to be included in the deliberations in preparation for Ireland’s Synodal Pathway process, beginning in 2021.

ACI Submission to Irish Bishops’ Conference 1st Oct, 2019

The Synthesis Report of the October 2023 session of the Universal Synod on Synodality gives promise of changes to canon law that would advance the cause of Lumen Gentium 37.  Article 18 h of that report reads:

“Based on the understanding of the People of God as the active subject of the mission of evangelisation, we suggest legislating for the obligatory nature of Pastoral Councils in Christian communities and local churches. It would also be desirable to strengthen the bodies of participation, with a proper presence of the laity, recognising the role they can play in discerning decisions by virtue of their baptism.”

Fr Gerry O’Hanlon SJ comments on that on the ACP site: “It would mean in effect that parish priests, for example, can no longer plead the discretionary nature of parish councils to avoid engaging with parishioners.

Better late than never?

Below, with latest news at the top, and earliest steps at the base, is a dated list of steps taken so far in this campaign.

With the Covid 19 pandemic still accentuating a church crisis that was already ominous before it began, ACI’s approach to the Irish Bishops’ Conference in October 2019 has been proven prophetic and timely.  Facing the additional danger of a viral pandemic, we reminded the conference of our submissions in 2019 – and awaited a response.

When two bishops responded kindly in late October we took time to be sure that we could publish their letters without giving offence, and then did so on December 4th 2020. Our considered view of the prospects for a reversal of decline and for significant renewal were published at the same time.



Could your small church be closed, with no prior opportunity for you to speak?

Lumen Gentium Article 37 (1964)

Like all Christians, the laity have the right to receive in abundance the help of the spiritual goods of the Church, especially that of the word of God and the sacraments from the pastors.

To the latter the laity should disclose their needs and desires with that liberty and confidence which befits children of God and brothers of Christ.

By reason of the knowledge, competence or pre‑eminence which they have the laity are empowered ‑ indeed sometimes obliged ‑ to manifest their opinion on those things which pertain to the good of the Church.

…through the institutions established by the Church for that purpose …

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