It is often said in the context of the clerical abuse crisis that the laity must act, or be given responsibility. It is natural enough, in reaction to a problem arising with one part of the Church, to hope for salvation from another, and there are some wonderful historical examples of lay action to deal with clerical failures.
My personal favorite is the action of the laity between 1268 and 1271, during the time of the longest conclave (Papal election) in the Church’s history, which took place in the town of Viterbo. Becoming impatient with the Cardinals’ inability to agree on a new Pope, the town authorities locked them into their meeting room, and proceeded to remove the roof and restrict their diet to bread and water. Something similar had already happened in the conclave of 1241.
Such rough handling of Princes of the Church must be seen in the context of the cheerful physicality of the Middle Ages, but the general principle is simply that the laity have, if they stop to think about it, all kinds of ways of making their needs and desires forcefully known to their pastors.
There have been various actions by the American laity in recent months to protest against past crimes and present foot-dragging, but vigorous action by the laity is impeded by a number of factors.