Catholic Press Association awards first place in theology to book on laity by Fairfield University professor

Image: Paul LakelandDr. Paul F. Lakeland, chair of the religious studies department at Fairfield University, was awarded the first place 2004 Catholic Press Award in the category of theology, for his ground-breaking book, "The Liberation of the Laity: In Search of an Accountable Church." The book examines the idea of the laity throughout church history, looks at recent efforts to give them a more prominent place in church life, and suggests ways that a more empowered laity could strengthen the church in its current crisis.

The award was presented by the Catholic Press Association of the United States and Canada on May 28 a their annual convention, held in Washington, D.C.

Dr. Lakeland's book, published by Continuum International, New York, NY, describes a church where, for the first two centuries, all members were considered as one priestly people. In later centuries, changes in the church led to a separation between the clergy and a passive and powerless laity. Clericalism and lack of accountability flourished, a situation that has led, Dr. Lakeland suggests, to the current crisis in the American Catholic Church.

He points out that the number of lay people involved in church ministries has grown enormously over the last 30 years, but there has been little theological reflection on the genuine role of the laity, something that is necessary to achieve structural reform.

Recently released in paperback, "The Liberation of the Laity" has attracted favorable reviews from around the country, including the National Catholic Reporter, which called the book "clearly the work of one who deeply respects the theological wisdom of the past, but is courageous enough to exercise religious imagination. Together these qualities offer a rich resource for all who care about the current state of the church." The Dallas Morning News called the book "Timely, provocative and well-researched," while The Tablet described it as "Robust theological thinking." America called it "A most important book ... it could become a landmark."

Dr. Lakeland's other books include Postmodernity: Christian Identity in a Fragmented Age (1997); Theology and Critical Theory: The Discourse of the Church (1990); Free in Christ: The Challenge of Political Theology (1984); The Politics of Salvation: The Hegelian Idea of the State (1984); and Can Women Be Priests? (1975). He is now at work on a new book, "Being Adult, Being Catholic: The Lay Vocation in Today's Church."

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Media Contact: Nancy Habetz, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647,

Posted on June 21, 2004

Vol. 36, No. 303

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