The following is something my husband wrote in response to another blog's posting about the inaction following Vatican II (i.e. inaction that led to the extreme abuses we see today) being largely the part of the faithful, because they didn't stand up and object to what was going on. You can get the rest of the gist of the post from what's written below--the original post can't be accessed to link to or I'd have done that.
Laying any blame on the laity for a supposed inaction is dangerous.
We are sheep, and if you've ever seen a sheep, sheep are lost without a shepherd. It is not the sheep's fault it wanders off, it is a failure in vigilance on the part of the shepherd.
Look to the military, and strict code of responsbility contained therein. There is a rigor in applying responsibility for failure because our work involves killing, and being killed. I don’t know who said it, but a good quote to thrust home my point: "Let no man's ghost say, ‘if only I had been trained.’" If a Marine or soldier dies because he was not properly prepared by those he was entrusted to for training and education in his craft, then it is those trainers, and educators, those Officers and senior enlisted who bear the responsibility for their death.
The same goes for you as a priest, and every priest. While parents have a weighty responsibility in the education of their children, the liturgy is the primary tool of catechesis. Education in the faith starts and ends in the liturgical life of the Church, the veil as you refer to it in your post. Whether the Ordinary or the Extra-ordinary form of the Mass, it is meant as both a nourishment to the soul, and a lesson to the mind. If a student has a bad teacher, if a Marine or a soldier have bad officers or poor Sergeants, is it their responsibility to go outside the structure given to them to ensure their proper education to ensure what they are getting is right?
You quote Canon Law, which says: ““According to the knowledge, competence, and prestige which [the Christian Faithful] possess, they have the right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful, without prejudice to the integrity of faith and morals, with reverence toward their pastors, and attentive to common advantage and the dignity of persons.”
What the word “according” seems to mean here is “commensurate.” It is a high ideal to believe the majority of the Church had the knowledge and competence sufficient to even think of raising their voice. In fact, the word competence is key, I think, because it indicates a need for a certain maturity in the faith and awareness before you speak out, again which few possessed and few possess.
How many had an awareness that something was amiss, but did not have the theological or philosophical education (knowledge), or spiritual maturity (competence), or commonly respected personage (prestige) to say anything? How many did? Some, like Evelyn Waugh, and those that Henry Edwards mentions “Some of us, indeed, many of us, did not sit idly by. We did everything we could, to protest the profanation of faith and liturgy that we knew was taking place, in every way we knew that was loyal to Church and Faith and seemed to have any chance of success. We tried a variety of means of both private and public argument and persuasion.”
You say: “Whatever happened to the sensus fidei fidelium acting as a historical counter-balance to the sinfulness and ignorance of the clergy? It was gone.” I say, it was never there in the broad sweeping geist-like manner that you suggest had existed. In particular places at particular times, when the faithful had been led well by their shepherds, yes. But not in a broad-stroke across the Church.
Also, in your blog post, you criticize blind and unthinking obedience, even to false teaching. You say the “The sheep were ordered to become privates on parade, answering responses with the loud voice needed for a “sir, yes sir” and laying aside all traces of a “homey” faith.”
This example is problematic. The only time an ‘aye, sir’ is wrong is when a ‘sheep’ follows his ‘shepherd’ into a danger that the sheep recognizes as such. When the sheep doesn’t know, because he wasn’t properly taught, then the issue is the shepherd, and only the shepherd. In fact, if the Shepherd was mistaught by his shepherd, by the fact that he has taken on a flock, there exists an inherent responsibility for him to ensure he is doing the right thing. The responsibility for the shepherds job still does not rest with the flock. The responsibility of the officer or sergeant does not rest with the private.
As a priest you are not the Centurion who says to his servant “go” and the servant goes insofar as the servant is the laity, and the command has to do with something outside the realm of faith and morals. You are the Centurion when it comes to faith and morals, and the laity are those servants.
Just like a Centurion, you and every other priest often (though not always) have more to lose than the servant, but your calling is to be a servant to those servants. So like the Centurion, you sacrifice the comfort and life that your maturity and potential might have brought you, you sacrifice these things for the trenches. It seems like a paradox, being the servant of servants, it isn’t. You and the laity, all serve God, but you have an authority that allows you to serve the laity for their sake, and for their fulfilling their mission, attaining God. This is just like an Officer who serves the men serving their country. Officers are given authority not to lord it over their men, but to serve their men as their men pursue the goal.