Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein of Indianapolis, the chairman of an ad hoc committee examining the possibility of a plenary council, said his committee has polled bishops about what they would want to discuss at such a council. In a report to the bishops conference yesterday morning, he said the bishops' top priorities for consideration, in order, are ''the identity and spiritual life of priests and bishops,'' ''the need for catechesis of the faith,'' ''the role of the laity,'' and ''concern for the decline of participation in the sacramental life of the church.''
Today, behind closed doors, the bishops plan to hear presentations on those subjects, then offer their thoughts, as they prepare to decide whether to propose the plenary council. Convening such a gathering would require approval from the Vatican. Participation is restricted by canon law, and would include priests and lay people in a limited, nonvoting role.
Okay, but how about this. How about that a plenary council take as a major topic the major failure of the post-Vatican II era: that the mandate of the Council for the laity to live out their faith more vividly and powerfully in the world has been totally ignored in the United States, in favor of making laity feel that the crux of lay life is to get to stand in the sanctuary next to Father. Cool. The price? A laity - particularly laity in positions of power in the secular world - that is only nominally Catholic. A laity that follows the moral precepts of 21st century America in lockstep. A laity that is just as consumerist and materialist as their pleasantly agnostic neighbors, that aborts and contracepts at the same rates as their Unitarian friends, that has no interest - and I mean no interest in bringing the Gospel into the workplace or into the general public life.