In one of the first speeches on the De Ecclesia schema, Bishop Emile-Joseph De Smedt hit out at what he characterised as the dangers of “hierarchism, clericalism, episcopolatry and papolatry.”
In the first chapters of the Draft the traditional picture of the Church predominates. You know the pyramid: the pope, the bishops, the priests, who preside and, when they receive the powers, who teach, sanctify, and govern; then, at the bottom, the Christian people who instead receive and somehow seem to occupy second place in the Church.
We should note that hierarchical power is only something transitory. It belongs to our status on the way. In the next life, in the final state, it will no longer have a purpose, because the elect will have reached perfection, perfect unity in Christ. What remains is the People of God; what passes is the ministry of the hierarchy.
In the People of God we are all joined to others and have the same basic rights and duties. We all share in the royal priesthood of the People of God. The pope is one of the faithful; bishops, priests, lay people, religious: we are all the faithful. We go to the same sacraments; we all need the forgiveness of sins, the eucharistic bread, and the Word of God; we are all heading towards the same homeland, by God’s mercy and by the power of the Holy Spirit.
But as long as the People of God is on the way, Christ brings it to perfection by means of the sacred ministry of the hierarchy. All power in the Church is for ministering, for serving: a ministry of the Word, a ministry of grace, a ministry of governance. We did not come to be served but to serve.
We must be careful lest in speaking about the Church we fall into a kind of hierarchism, clericalism, episcopolatry, or papolatry. What is most important is the People of God; to this People of God, to this Bride of the Word, to this living Temple of the Holy Spirit, the hierarchy must supply its humble services so that it may grow and reach perfect manhood, the fullness of Christ. Of this growing life the hierarchical Church is the good mother: Mother Church.
Stefan Gigacz, The Leaven in the Council, Chapter 7, The Council opens without Cardijn (Australian Cardijn Institute)
A Tidbit from Vatican II: Reflecting on the “Hierarchy” (Deacons Today: Musings on Diakonia and Diaconate)