Back to Theological Thoughts
I should make it clear that I shall not be arguing that the sacramental hierarchy of deacon, priest and bishop is redundant, or that the laity have no need of the ordained priesthood. I shall, however, argue that the relationship between the people of God and their ordained servants requires significant realignment.
The Prophet is a charismatically inspired proponent of God's Word. Obvious ecclesial examples are Stephen Protomartyr, Athanasius of Alexandria, Francis of Assisi, Catherine of Sienna, Philip Neri, Ignatious Loyola and John Henry Newman. A prophet may be a member of the hierarchy or he may not be. He might even be a woman! He or she is typically not a comfortable or easy person for the hierarchy to get on with. They will spend a good deal of their time denouncing complacency and error and implicitly criticizing those in high places. The authority of the prophet is based on his authenticity: the connection that he has with God and his personal commitment to be faithful to the truth that is shown to him. The characteristic temptation of the prophet is to mistake his own subjective prejudices for God's objective vision.
The Teacher is the proponent of reason and understanding within the Church. Obvious examples are Origen and St Thomas Aquinas. Nowadays, he or she is likely to be an academic theologian. Once more, this role is not an easy one for the hierarchy to come to terms with. The temptation of the priest is to coerce: to analyse situations in terms of the exercise of power, though this type of analysis should be foreign to the Christian Community! The Teacher, by contrast, seeks to understand and then to persuade: not to define and forbid. The authority of the teacher is based on his personal expertise. The characteristic temptation of the teacher is to show off his own skill in order to gain the admiration of pupils, at the expense of truth.
Each of these dynamics has its proper place in the life of the Church. The Prophet encourages and denounces; the Teacher explains, criticizes and persuades; the Priest listens and decides.
Amusingly, the Patriarch of Rome, delights in the title "Deacon of the Deacons of God", on the basis that Jesus said that "the Ruler must be the Servant of All". If only the typical occupant of that august see behaved in a manner commensurate with this title!
I believe that (among other things!) the sacrament of Baptism gives formal legitimacy to a person's testimony as a Christian. Because one is baptized, one is a member of the Church and is both entitled and obligated to speak and act on behalf of the Community and on behalf of God. I further believe that the main point of the sacrament of Confirmation (Chrismation) is that it gives a further and specific authority to speak and act on behalf of Christ, together with the graces necessary to do so: "Think not what you will say, because Holy Spirit will give you the words".
Unfortunately, these minor orders have now been abolished, at least in practice. While it is still possible to become an "acolyte" in practice no one is ever made an acolyte except on the way to ordination as presbyter or deacon. The ministry of "lector" has been replaced by that of "catechist": which is arguably the same thing under a different name. The greatest loss is, of course, that of subdeacon. This has impoverished the Liturgy. It has also re-inforced the chasm that divides the laity from the clergy. Before the abolition of the subdiaconate, at every celebration of High Mass, at least one "lay person" (i.e. someone who had not received sacramental ordination) was supposed to play a major formal role in the liturgical action. Moreover, the role of the subdeacon is "to assist the deacon", and as the role of the deacon is essentially to have a hands-on practical (pastoral) involvement with the laity, one can begin to appreciate that many key roles in parish life should really be played by subdeacons. Roles such as "Parish Secretary", "Parish Treasurer" and "Chairman of the Council", "Lay Missioner", "Outreach Secretary" etc. etc. should all be graced by the dignity of the subdiaconate and benefit from the graces that would flow from this sacramental. The practical loss of the ministry of Acolyte is hardly less significant. In theory, all "altar servers" should be acolytes: and their ministry be wider than just "helping Father say Mass".
Of course, the vision implicit in my critique of the abolition of the minor orders is unrealistic. The minor orders long ago fell into desuetude, under the advance of presbyterianism. Moreover, those who were ordained into them were treated as members of the clergy, not the laity, by canon law. My vision here is more for what may have been the case in the distant past and what certainly should be now and in the future: not for what always has been observed.
The major obstacle standing in the way of my vision for the Contemporary Church is that of gender. It is still thought wrong to ordain women to minor orders, even though this would not involve the sacrament. Hence, to make any use of minor orders would be sexist! Men could be made Acolytes, but not women: this would mean that lay women would be prevented from having an equal role with lay men as "Ministers of Communion". Moreover, it is thought that because those in minor orders were treated as clergy, and their commissionings were seen as being permanent: even though there is no notion that the sacramental involved imprinted any "indelible character on the soul", it would be wrong to appoint people to minor orders on a temporary or easily revocable (i.e. without it becoming a matter of "discipline") basis as might be more appropriate in a lay setting.
In my understanding of the matter, whether it is possible or not to ordain a woman as a Bishop, Presbyter or Deacon, it is certainly possible to ordain her a subdeacon! After all, if it is possible for the Church to create and destroy the office, She can certainly make of it whatever She wishes: though for the exercise of this power to be legitimate it must be charitable, equitable and not contradict or be seen to oppose orthodox doctrine.
There is little desire on the part of the laity to take up the roles in the Church that are their proper aspirations: that of implementing the Kingdom of God in their own lives by being friends to all they meet; and spreading the Gospel by their words and example. These are important and demanding roles. They require commitment; spiritual maturity; wisdom; judgement; a firm grounding in theology and general leadership skills. They cannot be fulfilled (as can the role of "Minister of Communion") by acting out a pre-programmed external role. Equally, there is little desire on the part of the laity to accept the responsibilities and authority of the Apostolic Ministry, because they have no idea what this is: the average Catholic priest spending much of his effort on being just like the average lay person!
The only problem with allowing lay people (ideally commissioned/ordained into the minor orders) to take on much of the load of worthwhile but non-priestly work (and to initiate much work that is currently just not done, such as parish visiting; door to door and street corner evangelism; ongoing theological and spiritual formation for other lay people; pastoral support for those in distress, financial or emotional......) is that "they can't be trusted". Of course this is true! Any priest giving me a role in his parish would have to expect fireworks. I would not be likely to just "do what Father wants", in particular I'd be concerned both to uphold orthodox belief and to question conventional practices. Neither would be immediately popular. Of course, Bishops have the same problem with their presbyters: that's why presbyters take an oath to obey their Bishop. It is strange how in secular life this isn't perceived as being a problem. I suppose this is because an employer can fire an unruly, insubordinate or unproductive employee. This option is not really open to a Bishop with a nuisance priest.
Then Pope John XXIII called the Vatican Council and All Hell broke loose. The many secretly modernist theologians abroad in the Church were given a platform to speak from without risking condemnation: they simply fed gullible and naive Bishops things to say! Most Bishops were soon out of their depth. They were not familiar with the niceties of Modernism, because it had been hid from their eyes and ears by decades of suppression. They were accustomed to be administrators, not preachers and defenders of the Gospel. Most were unable to distinguish liberal nonsense from the authentic tradition. All they knew was that they were in the middle of a Great Event and that it was their chance to change the Church forever. In fact it was the chance of the liberal theologians to impose their vision on an unsuspecting and unprepared hierarchy. This because the role of teacher in the Church had been disvalued and persuasion and debate entirely neglected as modes of the Church's life in favour of juridical authoritarianism.
"The modern church is as you describe it: clerical, authoritarian and liberal, with the result that contented Catholics are few and far between. I had dinner at the home of a friend last week. All of us there were .... complaining about the liberalization of the church. To listen to us, one would imagine that liberal Catholics should be very happy with the state of the church. But of course that is not true. Liberals are just as frustrated, but for different reasons. It is astonishing. The successors of the apostles have managed a near miracle: they have alienated virtually everyone, while still patting themselves on the back for reforming and renewing the church. You know, the Catholic church really must be divine in origin. From a human point of view, no institution this incompetent could have survived forIt was the legacy of overweening central control that enabled the modernists who captured most of the Church's bureaucracy in the wake of Pope Paul VIth's pontificate to impose their liturgical will with an iron fist on the whole of the Western Church. If only a gentler spirit had been abroad in the Church, they would not have been able to do this. "Those that take the sword will die by the sword," [Mat 26:52] Our Lord warned us long ago.
two thousand years."
[An email correspondent 19th Feb 2003]
In the end, it wasn't the laity who proved untrustworthy, but the Catholic Episcopate!
There is no end to what could be written on this topic, but I don't think it worthwhile to add much more in terms of practical details, as I have no expectation that any specific suggestions would be taken up. What is lacking here, as throughout the whole of the Church's life is mutual trust and respect based on charity and a common faith. Catholics no longer have much common ground and are more likely to despise and hate each other than to feel sympathy and comradeship.
If the laity had been better informed and educated, they would never have tolerated the many nonsenses that were imposed upon them in the 1960's and 1970's. At the time, most knew that they didn't like what was happening; but they were accustomed to simply "doing what they were told" on the basis that "Father knows best" and that "the greatest virtue is obedience" and were accustomed to believe that "to question the hierarchy is to be a protestant". They had no formation or expectation that they should play an active part in determining the character of the life of the Church. If they had been given such a vision of their role, history would have been very different. I am equally sure that much of the pattern of Church life in the 1930's would have vanished long before 1960. Change would have been gradual, consensual and organic, in accordance with authentic Tradition. Instead it was rapid, authoritarian, artificial and foreign to the Tradition.
Celibacy has tended to be seen as wider ranging in its scope than a
mere renunciation of marriage and, by implication, all sexual intimacy.
There is a widespread notion that any form of close friendship is ruled
out too, and that the ideal celibate is someone with no family, friends
nor close acquaintance: a hermit living in the midst of society. This is
simply inhumane and cruel. It is not how Jesus lived, nor his Apostles,
nor some hermits! It is contrary to the
I do not see why homosexuals, whether celibate or in a committed relationship,
should be treated in any way different from heterosexuals. It is not entirely
clear to me that marriage, as such, is an option for same gender couples
(though I have argued in favour of this position, elsewhere).
If it is, then it should be required of any non celibate homosexual wishing
to enter the Apostolic Ministry: if it is not, then a solemn partnership
commitment (along the lines envisaged in the Eastern Rites, as unearthed
The only difficulty here is how to encourage and favour celibacy while not discouraging the evolution of a married priesthood. The Eastern Tradition offers one possible model. In the typical Eastern Jurisdiction, it is possible to become a priest (or deacon) if you are married: but only celibate clergy can advance to senior office (i.e. higher than Parish Priest). This does not strike me as satisfactory, as I would like to see the possibility of some Bishops (and the occasional Pope) being married. I think that this would give a roundedness and balance to the perspective of the hierarchy. In an ideal world, some would choose celibacy of their own initiative, because it was the vocation proper to them. Perhaps it would be enough for the Church to steadfastly proclaim the excellence of celibacy, for a suitable balance between a married and unmarried ministry to be attained?
This is less obviously true of gender than the other categories that St Paul lists. After all everyone is either male or female at conception and at birth; this is not a reality imposed upon them by society. The only problem with this assertion is that in fact the opposite is true! If one is going to maintain that it is impossible for a woman to be ordained to the Apostolic Ministry, then one must have a clear notion of what a woman is. The following are possible answers:
Of course, if the "spiritual soul" is engendered, then all other issues are irrelevant. However, it would then be impossible to maintain the discipline of not ordaining women in practice, as one would have no means of determining if a particular person had a male or female "spiritual soul": except by resorting to some cocktail of physiological and psychological attributes! Moreover, I do not personally believe that "spiritual souls" are engendered. Jesus said ".... you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven" [Mat 22:29,30].
Hence it seems to me that no matter how much one might wish to exclude "women" from the Apostolic Ministry, it is simply nonsense to make any attempt to do so. In the past, when it was taken for granted that every person was male or female and the few awkward cases were conveniently ignored; such a policy could be maintained with a veneer of rationality. This is simply no longer possible, given the advance of scientific knowledge. It is fairly clear that the original basis for the exclusion of females from the Apostolic Ministry was that women were imperfectly formed men and to be excluded from priesthood by extension of the principle that: "He whose testicles are crushed or whose male member is cut off shall not enter the assembly" [Deut 23:1].
Now that it is clear that "gender" is not a clear-cut category, any more than is any other personal characteristic (e.g. sexual orientation; handedness; skin colour) the notion that women cannot be ordained is insupportable. Through Isaiah, God proclaims:
"To the eunuchs who keep my sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant .... these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples"In the book of Wisdom it is further written:
"Blessed also is the eunuch whose hands have done no lawless deed .... for special favour will be shown him .... and a place of great delight in the temple of the Lord" [Ws 3:14].Pope John-Paul II can insist as much as he wishes that every Catholic must believe that it is impossible for a woman to enter the Apostolic Ministry: the statement has no objective meaning and therefore simply cannot be given a truth value. My analysis of the official teaching on women's ordination is given as an Appendix. Some further arguments regarding the ordination of women are given elsewhere.
Here are some comments (which I heartily endorse) of a friend of mine, who is a Catholic priest:
"I find the arguments against ordaining women to be weak: they are not my personal arguments, but those proffered by the Teaching Authority of the Church, which perhaps really has no other arguments than: 'it has always been so, and albeit for mysterious reasons unknown to us, it must remain so until God Himself reveals otherwise'.
The biological sex argument is no longer convincing to an ever increasing number of people, just as it is not convincing to me as an argument against same-sex relationships. Perhaps God is now calling women to the priesthood, but the Church is not listening to His voice and thus unable to confirm that call? That is possible. However that may be, it will have to be the Church hierarchy to make that decision, as ordination is an act of the whole Catholic church, and not the act of a single bishop, or of a single sect.
It is true that our Blessed Mother was not ordained to the priesthood. Nevertheless, She conceived and bore God in her womb and brought Him up for thirty years, and is with Him now as Queen of Heaven! She was and is much, much more than an ordained priest, and it would have been redundant to call Her to be also an Apostle and priest. Mary gave us Christ as flesh from her own flesh - and thus made the invisible God visible for us as one of us; the priest gives us Christ in the flesh, too, however not visible as one of us, but in the outward form of the host. So Mary's intercessory role in bringing us Christ is primary and superior to that of the ordained priest, and her not having been ordained is not a good argument against ordaining women now.
Perhaps a future council will be allowed the freedom to discuss this and other issues, such as obligatory celibacy for priests of the Roman rite, birth control and homosexual relationships.
I am convinced of one thing: as long as the present confusion reigns amongst Catholics as to how we should worship and what we must believe, the Church Hierarchy will not dare to make any more changes at all, such as ordaining women, making celibacy optional, and blessing same-sex relationships - as any changes now would worsen an already precarious situation. Now is simply not the right moment. Our basic foundations (the Mass, sacraments and orthodox faith) must first be in proper order again before we can go about making needed changes in canon law, moral theology and pastoral care. After the disaster of Vatican II, any change at all is considered suspicious at best and heretical at worst by the faithful.
A restoration is needed so that we can start all over again from the point at which the Second Vatican Council ended. And this time hopefully we shall get it right, keep the foundations of our faith and worship unchanged, and dare to change what can and must. Then perhaps we shall have women priests celebrating the Traditional Mass and preaching the orthodox catholic faith, alongside married and celibate gay and straight male priests, who will be free to bless same-sex unions as well as heterosexual marriages! I hope and pray that this will happen in my lifetime."
How could it do the latter, you may ask? Easily, I respond. As pointed out by the ARCIC, the Apostolic Succession is not just a matter of the "laying on of hands" (though this is indispensable and of inalienable significance in normal circumstances), but more of the continuance of Sacred Tradition in the life of the Christian Community. In normal circumstances the passing on of the Faith within the social interaction of the People of God and the passing on of the authority to govern the People of God by laying on of hands go together as mutually reinforcing strands of authenticity.
However, according to Ott, "the charismatically gifted 'Prophets' of the Primative Church also celebrated the eucharist. It does not contradict the Tridentine dogma to assume that they possessed the sacerdotal power on the ground of an immediate divine vocation just as the Apostles did." [Ott IV 3.2 III 2] In exceptional circumstances, therefore, I have no doubt that the Church Community has within it a plenitude of authority: by virtue of the indwelling of Holy Spirit, by grace of Baptism and Confirmation. Hence, just as the Apostle Paul gained his commission ".... as to one untimely born .... I am the least of the apostles" [I Cor 15:8,9] direct from Jesus; so the Church, even shorn of its hierarchy could meet in solemn (lay) Oecumenical Council; invoke Holy Spirit and appoint new Bishops to continue the Apostolic Ministry.
If I am right about this extreme possibility, then in other emergency situations of lesser gravity; similar actions might be justified. The principle of "Economy" or "the Church supplies the jurisdiction" might apply. Hence, it is possible that some separated Christian Communities (even those which at some point purposefully repudiated the Apostolic Ministry) might in objective fact have valid orders. Of course, this would only become clear (subjectively) once an Oecumenical Council declared that they did have, after due investigation of the case. The basis on which such a judgement could be founded would be that the schism and repudiation was fundamentally a mistake and misunderstanding rather than a wilful apostasy: that those who followed the schism were certainly not at fault, and in as far as they willed "to do what the Church does", then God would honour that intent. Of course, the contrary arguments that:
"Back in November 1995, the issue of whether Catholic women may be ordained into the priesthood rocketed from an interesting theological and practical issue to an issue which has the potential of shaking the foundations of the Roman Catholic Church. On October 31st, 1995 a letter was promulgated by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith which attempted to elevate the whole issue of Women's Ordination from one of policy and theological speculation to a matter of definition of Dogma and obedience. This attempt, by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger to define new dogma was met with theological objection and ultimately did not succeed. Its effect however went far beyond the question of ordaining women to the Catholic priesthood and the ripples generated by the Cardinal's attempt still may be felt within our Church today.Ratzinger also wrote an explanatory letter:
At the time that Ordinatio Sacerdotalis was first issued, there was theological speculation by theologians that the Holy Father's ban was in the form of an infallible statement. The consensus of most theologians and indeed the official Vatican newspaper was that the ban itself was not promulgated by the Pope as an infallible statement but rather as a most serious but ordinary magisterial document."
[San Francisco Bay Chronicle]
"The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a statement accompanying its Responsum ad Dubium which explicitly denied that the pope had been exercising his infallible extraordinary magisterium in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis (28/10/95). It described Ordinatio Sacerdotalis as a teaching act of the pope that was 'not itself infallible', and this position was reiterated in the official Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano (19/11/95)."And here is the relevant extract:
[San Francisco Bay Chronicle]
"In response to this precise act of the Magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, explicitly addressed to the entire Catholic Church, all members of the faithful are required to give their assent to the teaching stated therein. To this end, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, with the approval of the Holy Father, has given an official Reply on the nature of this assent; it is a matter of full definitive assent, that is to say, irrevocable, to a doctrine taught infallibly by the Church. In fact, as the Reply explains, the definitive nature of this assent derives from the truth of the doctrine itself, since, founded on the written Word of God, and constantly held and applied in the Tradition of the Church, it has been set forth infallibly by the ordinary universal Magisterium (cf. Lumen Gentium, 25). Thus, the Reply specifies that this doctrine belongs to the deposit of the faith of the Church."Ratzinger is (incoherently) arguing, in accordance with the position that he later filled out when the motoproprio "
"It should be emphasized that the definitive and infallible nature of this teaching of the Church did not arise with the publication of the Letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis. In the Letter, as the Reply of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith also explains, the Roman Pontiff, having taken account of present circumstances, has confirmed the same teaching by a formal declaration, giving expression once again to quod semper, quod ubique et quod ab omnibus tenendum est, utpote ad fidei depositum pertinens."
"In this case, an act of the ordinary Papal Magisterium, in itself not infallible, witnesses to the infallibility of the teaching of a doctrine already possessed by the Church." [Cardinal Ratzinger: October 28, 1995]
This is entirely contrary to Tradition, and I will have no part in it. If the Pope wishes to define something as dogma, then he has a perfectly plain path to follow. If he doesn't follow that path - for whatever reason - then he won't achieve the goal that he hhas set his sights on. Simply saying that he has achieved this goal when he hasn't doesn't change objective reality.
I acknowledge that other traditionalists would view the matter differently.
They have to explain how they deal with other doctrines that have been
"defined" to a similar degree of credibility and subsequently been changed.
Personally, I have no wish to engage in such double think. Dealing with
the infallible definition of "Unum
Sanctum" is difficult enough for me!
This article was brought to my attention by a priest friend. My comments are insinuated within the text in purple. My friend's reactions are gathered together at the end in green.
Cardinal Ratzinger recently caused a stir among Catholics by questioning the legitimacy of the wholesale restructuring of the Roman Rite following the Second Vatican Council. A return salvo was not long in coming. Archbishop Rembert Weakland, in a cover story that appeared in the prestigious Jesuit journal America, attacked the whole idea of the indult traditional Mass that is growing steadily throughout the Church. Despite the request of the Holy Father to the bishops of the world to be "generous" in their implementation of the Latin Mass indult, there is massive resistance in the overwhelming majority of the episcopal conferences throughout the world. Catholics who view tradition as their rightful heritage are often mystified as to the reason for such opposition to the ancient Mass.
The most vociferous enemies of traditional Mass, however, have never been reticent about stating the reasons for their reaction. They have made it clear that what is at stake is the liturgical and ecclesiastical revolution of the post-Vatican II era. The late Cardinal Giovanni Benelli said it best. When asked if the traditional Mass would ever return (this was long before the indult was granted by Pope John Paul II), he answered negatively in rather emphatic tones. The reason: the traditional Mass represented an ecclesiology at variance with the one articulated at Vatican II. That is the heart of the matter. A steadily increasing number of Catholics have arrived at the conclusion that the Church is in the midst of a crisis that will only worsen unless Rome is willing to examine the possibility that for the past thirty years there has been a consistent violation of the norm which governs Catholic tradition: authentic reform must be grounded in organic development. On a wide range of issues, there are growing questions as to whether or not this ecclesiological fundamental has been respected (Cardinal Ratzinger's recent observations about the new Mass causing "extremely serious damage" are an example). If a rite of fifteen hundred years had to be scrapped to accommodate a Vatican II ecclesiology, sufficient prima facie evidence exists to question whether or not authentic development occurred.
[I agree emphatically with all the above.]
One aspect of the current crisis has escaped scrutiny: the present status
of the celibate priesthood following the expansive
absorption of many sacred functions by the laity that were formerly reserved to the ordained. Endangering priestly celibacy because it is inherently hostile to a healthy masculinity, this structural revolution evokes an image of a square peg being pounded into a round hole. [I take it that the author's meaning is that the "structural revolution is hostile to a healthy masculinity". I think this is misguided, and we will see where this error leads] The post-Conciliar Church is of a different shape from that which housed the traditional theology of the priesthood, and a mandatory celibate priesthood simply doesn't fit. Sadly, all the pieces are in place for the introduction of "optional celibacy" into the Western Rite. [Something that, in principle, I would welcome.]
The preparation for optional celibacy began with the introduction of the permanent diaconate following the Second Vatican Council. The Church was informed by Pope Paul VI that this was nothing more than the restoration of a classic practice. He remained silent, however, about the fact that there had never been a Holy "Order" [why the quotes?] that was non-celibate since the mandating of celibacy in the Western Church.  [Except, of course, throughout the entire Eastern Church!]
The creation of this married rung [The notion that the diaconate is any kind of a rung of some ladder that is to be climbed is seriously malformed.] of Holy Order, followed by many Protestant minister converts being admitted to the priesthood,  has broken down resistance to mandatory celibacy. The drift towards optional celibacy was not limited to incremental developments like the diaconate and the ordination of married Protestant converts. They are simply the more obvious. The catalyst that oriented the Latin Church towards the married priesthood was the introduction of the concept of "collaborative lay ministry." This began with the elimination of "minor orders" by Pope Paul, and the tearing away of the substitutions, the "ministries" of lector and acolyte, from an exclusive orientation towards the ordained priesthood. [Which was, in itself quite correct. The minor orders were originally not oriented "towards the ordained priesthood" The author shows himself to be woefully misinformed.] Originally, the legislation limited these ministries to lay men [for no good reason]. The bishops of the United States, with Rome's approval, quickly demonstrated their second thoughts about that limitation by allowing lay women to perform these functions. They simply declared that, while only lay men could be admitted to these ministries,  women could and would be called upon for the special liturgical services of Reader and Extraordinary Minister of tile Eucharist. Once that hurdle was cleared, it was only a relatively small step to the erection of full-time lay "pastoral administrators" that currently "lead" anywhere between 10 to 15 percent of the priestless parishes in the United States. [This is a serious abuse.]
Curiously, in 1995 the Vatican declared that no lay person who administered a priestless parish could have the word "pastoral" attached to his title.  The next crucial stride towards optional celibacy was the introduction of "the priestless Communion service," which was initiated, one would guess, to provide a degree of liturgical solemnity for those lay persons charged with the pastoral care of priestless parishes. [This is a serious abuse.] It always amazed me that Catholics who have been in the pews for fifty years label this liturgical hybrid with such local characterizations as "Sister Ruth's Mass." This would seem to indicate that, to many Catholics in the pew, the Novus Ordo Mass is visually not all that different in essentials from the priestless Communion service. (If that is the case, one might say that the Novus Ordo itself prepared vast numbers of Catholics for the lay-presider Communion rite.) [I regret to say that I am sure that this is an accurate judgement]
Thus far, what I have attempted to describe is the elimination of the
relationship between function and ontology. Those ordained to the priesthood
have not lost their traditional "roles." The issue is, rather, that the
non-ordained have assumed many of the functions that have been reserved
to the priesthood since the Church emerged from the catacombs (and probably
Sacramental doctrine explicitly reserves to priests only the offering of the Eucharistic Sacrifice and the absolution of sin. However, to state that this defines all that is unique about their ordination mandate is to sponsor a doctrinal minimalism in regard to the sacramental priesthood that parallels what is being done to the Sacrament of the Eucharist. [I strongly concur. The core of the presbyterial ministry is leadership and authority: to act in Persona Christi, as an Icon of Christ. It is from this sacramental core reality that the presbyterate's sacramental functions as Eucharistic President and Juridical Reconciliator arise.] The promoters of a Eucharistic minimalism have been largely successful in their endeavour to confine the Eucharist to the act of consumption at Holy Communion. Any expansion of Eucharistic devotion such as Benediction, the reservation of the Blessed Sacrament within the sanctuary or Corpus Christi processions has been thwarted in large parts of the Western Church. The consequent loss of devotion to the Eucharist and a creeping heterodoxy among the faithful concerning Eucharistic doctrine have been well documented. [I strongly concur]
In a parallel manner (and given the innate relationship between Eucharist and priesthood, not surprisingly) the Vatican and the bishops are undermining the priestly identity, primarily by altering his unique relationship with the Eucharist through the introduction of Communion in the hand, lay ministers of the Eucharist, and lay presiders of Communion services. [I strongly concur] Lay pastoral administrators and lay pastoral associates [The rights and wrongs of this must depend crucially on the roles undertaken by people with these titles!], as well as the lay administration of sacramentals (i.e., prayer and liturgical action at the blessing of throats and distribution of ashes), and lay presiding at funeral and wedding liturgies are examples of the further usurpation of tasks from within the sacred environment that was, until thirty years ago, the distinctive domain of ordained celibate priests in the Latin Rite. [These are serious abuses.]
The Second Vatican Council repeated the doctrine that the ministerial priesthood differs in essence and not merely in degree from the priesthood of the faithful. [I strongly concur, but would add that the latter is he context of the former and the reason for its existence.] The reality of that doctrine had always been made incarnate through the unique sacramental and pastoral role of the priest. But it was never enough simply to proclaim this doctrine. The priest as alter Christus was made perceptible (to himself as well as to others) through a visible role that expressed a clear and unambiguous ecclesial "division of labour," which was essential to the personal appropriation of his supernatural identity. [I strongly concur, but would qualify this by saying that in the recent past - at least - the division of labour has beeen hugely lop-sided.]
I will argue that the assumption of sacred functions by the laity, reserved
to the ordained for at least fifteen hundred years, is
poisoning the priesthood. [I strongly concur.] The contention proceeds from a simple premise: if the priesthood is reserved to men, as has been taught by the Church, [this is a premise that I have great difficulty with and so must part company with the author here, which is a shame because I agree with his conclusions and think that they are readily established on less contentious grounds] then what does harm to the masculine nature of the ordained weakens the priesthood itself.
Frank Sheed, the great apologist of the Catholic Evidence Guild, was always scornful of an entity he referred to as the "man-eating Thomist." He was referring to those philosophers supposedly devoted to St. Thomas Aquinas who narrowly focused on his insights into the Divine but who were seldom intrigued by the formidable psychological acumen of the Angelic Doctor. Saint Thomas' eloquence in regard to human emotions is extraordinary. He indicates that the emotions are often the first to know, in a non-conceptual form, that which is right and true. While St. Thomas warns that the intellect must always confirm the intuitive insights of the emotions, he is equally concerned about the consequences of ignoring the input of the emotions. [I strongly concur.]
Catholics resisting the post-Conciliar revolution found their emotions
screaming at every new break with tradition. They were
reflexively obedient, however, to the decisions of Holy Mother Church. Yet for millions of Catholics, the pain has compounded;
the emotions have not ceased to groan. While they have been told by those in authority that their pain is contrived, the conflict between their intellect and emotions is approaching critical mass. Not a few Catholics have begun to re-examine the raw data provided by their emotions through the filter of an intellectual reappraisal of the past thirty years of Church history.
Likewise, many priests with whom I've conversed have expressed an innate sense that something is wrong with the Vatican sponsored Usurpation of their shepherding roles by the laity. Whenever attempts are made to articulate reasons for the discomfort, the conversation is arrested when someone inevitably drifts into the mantra, "Well, we're talking about discipline here; there is nothing in Church doctrine that would disallow this." So, the silent conclusion was equally certain: there must be something wrong with the priest's unease with the developing "collaborative" structure. "I must be too conservative," "I must be too rigid," "I must be too selfish in not wanting to share my pastoral role," were often the unspoken feelings and yet the negative visceral emotions remained and often intensified. [I think there is validity mixed with invalidity in this evidence.]
The mistake was the failure to take into account the obvious possibility that the unique sacramental/pastoral role of the priest is not a mere time bound whim of the Church, but is intrinsic to the nature of the priesthood, particularly a celibate one. From the time that priestly celibacy came to be understood [this should be "imposed"] as the norm [in the Western Church only], the unique administration of the sacred and, in particular, the priest as sole steward of the Eucharist [what has happened to the deacon here?], were supernatural responsibilities that grounded the celibate's commitment.  The man who has sacrificed wife and family is discovering that the structure that guarded his self-identity as a spiritual spouse and father is in the process of being dismantled. The effects are simultaneously subtle and pronounced.
A constitutive part of masculinity [but not femininity?] is the desire for unique intimacy [This is otherwise known as the deadly sin of jealousy]. Much has been written in the past three decades about appropriate intimacy for the priest. Most of the literature focuses upon the nature of the human relationships that dot the landscape of a priest's life. In the 1970s a best seller among priests and religious was a work entitled, The Sexual Celibate. It suffered from a variety of weaknesses, but it articulated a reality worth repeating: namely, the distinction between the sexual and the sensually sexual within each human person. The forfeiture of the sensually sexual does not mutate the human being into an asexual creature. The need for a unique physical intimacy [it is truly sad that it is presumed that all physical intimacy is sexual in character: what about the hug of close friends or the intimacy of parent and child?] with another is constitutive of permanent monogamous relationships ordained by the Creator, yet it is precisely that type of intimacy with another human being that the celibate sacrifices. The celibate priest, however, was offered through his office an incomparable and unparalleled intimacy: he alone could touch God. [This is a silly analogy. While I am enthusiastic about the idea that only those in Apostolic Orders should manipulate the Blessed Sacrament and (routinely?) touch Eucharistic vessels, I have no difficulty with the ancient practice of the laity reverently receiving communion in their hands. The fact that the Blessed Sacrament is eaten is indefinitely more intimate than any amount of manipulation!]
The liturgical legislation of the post-Conciliar era has eliminated
the Eucharistic exclusivity that marked the office of the priest.
The celibate priest no longer possesses the unique corporeal relationship with God. He is not denied the relationship, but others have access to it. Consider a parallel situation: i.e., within the Sacrament of Matrimony. The possession of an exclusive bodily prerogative with one's spouse is primary; in fact there exists no greater convergence between the Divine Law and the instincts of even fallen human nature than on this point. Violate this pact, and one risks murderous rage. [This is a terrible indictment of the author's mentality! Monogamy on this basis is little more than a pandering to the deadly sin of jealousy!]
If a celibate priest, however, reacts with even the slightest resentment
towards the loss of what was his corporeal exclusivity
within his Sacrament of Holy Orders, he is considered a candidate for psychological evaluation.  The fact is that many priests [and lay folk too!] do have an instinctive reaction against the presence of the non-consecrated hand touching the Body of God. A non-consecrated hand in the tabernacle, or reaching for the Sacrament at the reception of Holy Communion, violates an intimacy that was, before the engineering of liturgical "roles," exclusively the priest's.  [But it wasn't! On this basis the laity should be denied holy communion except - perhaps - in exceptional circumstances: Oh! gulp!! That used to be the case not so long ago! Perhaps we should revert to that abusive practice!] A dynamic equivalent to what would fuel the emotions of a husband who realizes another has shared the exclusive intimacy with the one to whom he has permanently committed himself, is present within priests.  The sense of alienation is more intense for the traditional celibate priest because he is aware that his spouse, the Church [This is a confused argument. First the priest's spouse is Christ, now it is the Church!], has arranged and promoted the nonexclusivity. [This is terrible! Jesus is utterly wanton and promiscuous. He aspires to be intimate at the level of the "union of souls" with everyone that is ever to be born. Each lover of Christ has to come to terns with the fact that His love is not at all exclusive, but totally inclusive. Our Lord is the true Pontifex Maximus: the builder of bridges among all folk of goodwill!]
The change in Church practice that was the gateway to all of the above was Communion in the hand. Paul VI, in the very document that permitted the radical departure from tradition [Or overdue return to tradition, depending on one's point of view!], appealed to the faithful to keep the original practice [which was certainly not the original practice!] of receiving the Eucharist on the tongue. His entreaty revolved around one main point: that it was an ancient and venerable practice; it was tradition. [This is simply true. It may well be that the later practice is better, but "communion in the hand" is the ancient and original Apostolic practice, in the West at least.] Whenever tradition, however, is made to be the major defence of any ecclesial practice, it becomes incumbent upon legitimate authority to articulate the reason for the tradition. Without such an effort, the rationale is reduced to a strategy which embraces a nominalist framework. [This may or may not be true. Some proposition may be consonant with the Deposit of Faith, and yet the Magisterium not yet be able to articulate clearly how and why this is so. Similarly, some practice may in fact be valuable in communicating or supporting some aspect of Orthodoxy and yet the Church find it difficult to say exactly how or why. We do not presently have all the answers, but see through a glass dimly!] A practice is of tradition because it may well be the best (and perhaps even the only) vehicle for conveying an aspect or aspects of the Faith in ways that may not be readily apparent. [Exactly so!]
From the liturgical revolution to the deliberate role revision among
priests and laity that was essential to its success, we have
operated on a daily basis within a Church that has forgotten that tradition is tradition for a reason. [I strongly concur.] The suggestion is being raised [I presume the author means by himself, here in this article] that within the priest there exists a sublime alignment of the supernatural masculine [What in God's good earth might this be?] and the natural masculine which protects and articulates [articulates?] his gender integrity [What in God's good earth might this be?]. Tradition safeguards [how?] these divine and human spheres. This concept never had to be analysed because the traditions which shielded the priesthood from plagues of spiritual neurosis had never been subjected to tampering. [This comment is fine. As I have previously said: Some proposition may be consonant with the Deposit of Faith, and yet the Magisterium not yet be able to articulate clearly how and why this is so. Similarly, some practice may in fact be valuable in communicating or supporting some aspect of Orthodoxy and yet the Church find it difficult to say exactly how or why.] Nor had there been a need to reflect upon those visible components required to integrate the supernatural vocation of celibacy with the masculine role. [It must be held closely in attention that celibacy is in no way constitutive of priesthood, and that a vocation to one does not necessity involve a vocation to the other. This simple and indisputable fact is being lost sight of here.]
Let us look at a specific development that intrinsically violates the
cohesiveness of the masculine within the celibate priest.
A "presider" at a priestless Communion service sits in the priest's chair, proclaims the Gospel, preaches a homily (supposedly
composed by a priest or deacon ["preaching" a homily written by someone else is a recipe for disaster!], though seldom is this the case), goes to the tabernacle, prays at the altar of sacrifice and distributes the Eucharist. This non-sacerdotal anomaly talks like a priest, acts like a priest, appropriates the sanctuary which for at least a millennium and a half had been the sacred domain of the priest [and deacon and subdeacon and lay servers] and clothes him or herself in priestly vesture.  All of this is incompatible with the celibate [Why is this word introduced here? It is irrelevant to the argument.] priest's identification with fatherhood (in his case, a spiritual one). It represents a radical departure from century upon century of Church history and experience, [This is an understatement. It represents a travesty of Catholic Worship and verges on the blasphemous!] and offers liturgical approbation to the concept of a "Fatherless" parish society.
I use the phrase "Fatherless" society deliberately because of the direct
parallels within the present secular order. The fatherless family is a
late twentieth-century invention, as is the Fatherless parish. [We
should bear in mind that Our Blessed Lord specifically enjoined his followers
to call no-one "father"!] There have always been parishes that have
had to go weeks suffering the absence of a priest as he makes his appointed
circuit among his far-flung flock. Yet the idea that someone could replace
him in almost all of his pastoral tasks has no pedigree. [I
strongly concur.] Social scientific data do not deny that in the
secular sphere other adult substitutes can do what a father does, but there
are increasing questions as to whether they should. The analysis points
to adverse effects upon both father and family. Anthropological research
suggests that the key to responsible fatherhood lies in a condition known
as "the desire for paternal certainty."  In the secular culture, this
means that a key motivation for the male to accept the responsibilities
of fatherhood is the sure knowledge that the child is his own. 
[Obviously, from the "selfish gene" point of view. Once more, this is very sad as it is inimical to the idea of adoption or fostering of non-genetic children or a positive attitude towards step-children. As a "gay Catholic platonist teacher" I am more interested in children of my mind and of my soul than children of my loins!] Similarly, what will animate the celibate male to accept and embrace his commitment to be a spiritual father is the sure knowledge that there are no rivals to his spiritual paternity. [This is an appalling view of Catholic ministry. St Paul tells of his contentment that others reap where he first sowed. Such a lack of concern for ownership or particular spiritual parenthood is characteristic of Gospel values, for all parenthood - certainly spiritual parenthood - is God''s and we can only participate in it to very limited extent. Certainly, wholesome parenting is all about letting go! Incidentally, the total lack of scriptural reference in this article should give grave cause for concern and this should be compounded by the similar lack of patristic reference!]
Manufacturing positions that substitute for his pastoral care contradicts the very notion of paternal certainty. The protection of priestly identity through a structure which visibly reinforces key components of his masculine nature is a necessity, not an option. [This presumes that priests have to be male!] That means, besides respecting his unique "sacred space" within the sanctuary, there must be the reservation of all sacramental and liturgical functions (Eucharistic stewardship in particular) to his hands and his hands alone. [This explicitly denies the deacon any liturgical role!] These external functions provide and manifest the constant and conscious self-reference point of the priest as alter Christus and spiritual father. These external responsibilities, reserved singularly to the priest, interiorly assist his masculine nature to integrate the purpose of his celibate commitment and motivate him to acquire the single heartedness that is the priest's only path to holiness. [I fail to see how any of this is connected to masculinity, any more than gold brocade chasubles covered in pretty floral patterns, and embroidered lace cottas!]
The post-Conciliar priest of the contemporary Church (continuing a trend that began long before Vatican II in the United States) has become a resident CEO and CFO of a parish plant. He oversees countless committees that add layers of bureaucracy and which - paradoxically - place a barrier between the priest and his people. [This is a serious abuse.] Enjoying the perquisites of the CEO that have nothing to do with his spiritual identity, he begins to delegate the more burdensome and distasteful pastoral duties in hospitals, nursing homes and the houses of shut-ins; he avoids being available for the distribution of Holy Communion outside of his own Masses; baptisms and weddings are merrily passed off to deacons, as well as marriage preparations; convert instruction is transferred to the RCIA committee [These are, generally speaking, serious abuses.] He'll appropriate the vocabulary of those who hold legitimate authority in the Church: "This is collaborative ministry!" No, it is not. This is masculine pathology, the abdication of fatherhood. [Actually, it is sheer laziness!] At the same time, this behaviour is understandable within the context of the role reversal paradigm that infects all of Western culture.
Social science analysis indicates that the propensity described in the above paragraph is typical of men. Psychological and social patterns confirm that the role of "nurturer" often is not a comfortable fit for the male. Anthropological evidence indicates that fatherhood is very much a learned experience. In her work Male and Female: The Study of the Sexes in a Changing World, Margaret Mead writes (all emphases are mine), "the human family depends upon social inventions that will make each generation of males want to nurture women and children" (206). Indeed, "every known human society rests firmly on the learned nurturing behaviour of men" (195). Mead observes that in every known society, each new generation of young males learn the appropriate nurturing behaviour and superimpose upon their biologically given maleness this learned parental role" (198). In other words, the male [father] must learn fatherhood and that learning must be buttressed by distinct proprietary functions protected throughout the social fabric.
Given this information, it is not surprising that the man ordained to
the priesthood, finding that the traditional pastoral tasks of
spiritual fatherhood are being diverted to others for a variety of ideological and so-called "practical" reasons, begins to
substitute the nurturing role of a spiritual father with one more conducive to the boardroom atmosphere of a company officer, permitting more secular competitive and aggressive instincts to emerge.  In fact, he will search for excuses to promote this exchange of roles, especially when Church authority is encouraging him to do it. Again, to understand fully this pathology one needs to review developments that are taking place within the secular culture. [This all sounds like an argument for an exclusively female - or possibly gay - priesthood!]
There is an increasing amount of information suggesting that men are being marginalized by the emerging social structure in contemporary Western society.  Women, due to their physical ability to bear children and the concomitant endowment and desire to nurture them, have a significant and irreplaceable role through the design of nature. Men, on the other hand, are not as comfortable with themselves. Unlike women, who possess a clarity of role due to their inherent maternal qualities, men do not have a "built in" social niche that is effected through biology. [This is an appalling argument! I for one have no need of a social niche that is effected through biology! I am a human being, created in God's image. I am a friend and neighbour to others that I meet. I am a physicist, intrigued by the wonders of God's natural creation. I am a philosopher, in love with truth and beauty in all its forms. I am many things and have many roles to play. I have no need to be a biological father. I find that it is easy to play a nurturing role in my occupation as a teacher/lecturer - but perhaps that is because I am gay and so more empathic than most more properly masculine heterosexual males, please excuse the cynicism here, but this fellow is making me angry!]
The man possesses a subtle, intuitive sense that once a child has been conceived his presence is not strictly required [Only if he sees his fulfilment in heterogender marriage and the purpose of marriage as the procreation of children: Oh dear, this is the conventional Conservative Catholic take on these issues too!]. Modern society encourages this thinking and rewards it. The abandonment of the family by thousands of fathers has, in fact, provided verification that women, when forced by circumstances, can do it all [Except for -at present - conceiving the child. As can fathers. Exxcept for - at present - bearing the child!]. The psychological and emotional [but most especially, the financial] cost is, of course, enormous upon both mother and child. Yet, mothers and children in countless cases are surviving, even if not thriving, [and some thriving] without benefit of the masculine presence [or money].
Therefore, the man's instinct concerning the strict necessity of his role is not incorrect [Rubbish! The role of the male in society, if the male requires a gender specific role, is clear]. From primitive history men have had to appropriate a role that parallels the indispensability of women: that of provider and protector [Quite. The typical female is disinclined towards some worthwhile activities e.g. physics (though I have never understood why and have known some notable exceptions) whereas the typical male finds these particularly interesting, and vice versa. Only if the family and procreation are taken to be the central and constitutive realities of society do the conclusions of this author follow. In any case, why should a person take their gender as so definitive of their self identity?] With the increasing economic independence of women, the necessity of this role is being challenged and men are generally responding in two ways: they either (1) promote the diminution of their necessity because it allows them to engage in the selfish side of their masculinity (all play and no work in regard to relationships with women) [Plato teaches in "The Laws" that the ideal life of virtue and justice entirely consists of play, because this pleases (the) God(s)] and/or (2) experience a distinct diminution of self-confidence that manifests itself in behaviour that further alienates: promiscuity, impotence, homosexuality [Oh dear, here we have it!] or other sexual aberrations, the abandonment of children, etc. [The idea that it is a lack of self-confidence that has made me (or anyone else, such as Alexander the Great) gay is laughable!] As pastoral and sacramental care are increasingly becoming independent of the priest, this secular pathology is finding all too familiar parallels among Catholic priests.
The post-Conciliar ecclesial structure has fostered priestly dysfunction, resulting in a destructive pattern of behaviour that is becoming too evident.  The loss of the priest's unique intimacy with the sacred has subtly, but mightily, contributed to this development. While insisting that nothing has essentially been changed for the priest because he is still the one who consecrates, the liturgical engineers have made his presence optional at the most intimate moment of holy communion between the flock under his care and Our Lord. The majority of Catholics receive the Eucharist from the hands of a lay person. [This is a grave abuse.] The act of shared intimacy that is at the heart of shepherding ("Feed my lambs, feed my sheep") is absent. The Church, echoing an increasingly feminized society, is telling priests: "Once you have consecrated, you are no long needed." The act of the priest "feeding" the faithful with the Bread of Life incarnates his role as Its sole provider [once again the role of the deacon is discounted by the author] and, far more than the eye can see, forms his and his people's perception of his spiritual fatherhood. The priest's role was never confined to the sanctuary, but what made him unique to his people was his unique relationship to the Eucharist which he brought forth from within the sanctuary. [The very fact that the diaconate is continually marginalized by this argument should make it abundantly clear that it is heretical at core.]
The commitment to celibacy in the Latin Rite was the tangible sign of the Eucharistic "Christ-man." [How?] The entire panoply described above is far more damaging to the celibate priest than it is to the married priest. Unlike the married priest, he does not have the benefit of the entire natural side of the psycho-sexual dynamic enjoyed by a husband and father of children. The traditional role of the celibate priest as the sole administrator of the sacred [once more the diaconate is dismissed!] assisted him in sublimating his natural desire for exclusivity with another in marriage, [How?] and preserved his orientation toward his spiritual espousal to the Church and his spiritual fatherhood. [But not, it is now emerging, in sublimating his desire for altar boys!] In the present situation, celibacy for many priests has begun to feel like something that one puts on like a costume. It's not needed for the role in the play; it just lends a bit of colour to the set. Interestingly, in the Eastern Church, where there has been a tradition of a married priesthood, there is no toleration of any transference of the spiritual tasks of the priest to the laity. [Which further undermines the author's argument!]
It would seem that matrimonial espousal and fatherhood enhance the understanding
of the requirements needed to maintain the
relationship between authentic maleness and spiritual fatherhood.  This may not be as odd as it first sounds. [On the other hand it may be just as odd as it sounds; and it sure sounds odd to me!] After Vatican II, the revolution was not led by those priests who were actually exercising the tasks of spiritual fatherhood on the parish level (in fact, many initially resisted it). The priests whose natural habitat is the world of academia, who have indicated a propensity to value their professorships at least as highly as their priesthood, have been the agents promoting the dismantling of the traditional structures that had protected the celibate priesthood. Weak bishops unwilling to contradict their entrenched bureaucracies have hidden behind these "experts." These periti have wielded unusual power through their ability to influence and even direct the bishops who exercise the heady authority of the apostles themselves.
Careerism and ambition rooted in pride have often served (always to
the detriment of spiritual vitality) as the "acceptable"
substitutions for sex for those called to celibacy and vows of chastity. One must worry that those priests and bishops who have
promoted role revision, although they possess the office of spiritual fatherhood, are without a natural disposition for it. The desire for power and status in the form of careerism may easily eclipse the intensity of male concupiscence. Never having identified primarily with the role of spiritual fatherhood, role revision caused them no sense of loss. This mind-set has filtered down, and the icon of priest [The priest is an icon of Christ not of "spiritual father"!] as spiritual father degenerates into the image of the "professional man," and celibates for the kingdom are reduced to mere bachelors. The priest is increasingly perceived as an ecclesiastical technician, and often lives down to that role.
Some will think it odd that little in the way of theological reasoning [Indeed I do, and not just odd.] has been offered in this discussion of the most sacred of subjects. As I have attempted to suggest, however, the present situation is a historical novelty. Not only that, but in all candour I must confess that I do not believe that arguing from historical precedent by itself will cause many to pause today. [The implication that "theological reasoning" is equivalent to "historical precedent" indicates a remarkable poverty of thought.] So much of what has occurred in the past thirty years has been contrary to organic development that there is no reason to be confident that such arguments in themselves will produce any reflection.
However, a theological response that will be argued against the premise
of this article, especially the plea for the reservation
of Eucharistic stewardship to the priest alone, is that, due to the shortage of priests, lay ministers and permanent deacons are
necessary: "After all, the Eucharist is meant for people; their ability to receive the sacrament, especially in mission lands and
in places experiencing severe priest shortages, far outweighs any possible detrimental effect upon the celibate priesthood." My
initial response is that permanent deacons since the Council have not been widely used in mission lands precisely because of the confusion that the disconnect between Holy Orders and celibacy frequently engenders. [This is a final and absolutely explicit rejection of the traditional liturgical role of the deacon. It is clearly heterodox in character.]
Second, any practice that does harm to the natural connective tissue that makes visible and apparent the unique bond between the Eucharist and priesthood (expressed by the term, ordinary minister) , [and the deacon is certainly an ordinary minister of Holy Communion!] will not leave undiminished the supernatural effects of the sacrament. Grace builds on nature and transforms it. However, if there exists an ecclesial structure that disrupts the equilibrium between the natural and supernatural, grace may lie fallow until that rupture is repaired. The reception of the Eucharist, after all, is meant to benefit the entire Church, not just the communicant. Therefore, if a part of the Church (the priesthood) is damaged by the structural disorder encompassing the administration and reception of the Sacrament, then the entire Church is weakened. [I concur.]
Many aspects of the Church's visible life cannot be changed without
assaulting the human element's participation in the sacred. One branch
of the Manichean heresy thought so little of the material world that it
believed it mattered not at all what kind of sins
were committed with the body as long as there remained a spiritual orientation towards Christ. We risk institutional Manicheism if we continue to act as if we can do whatever we like with the visible life of the Mystical Body without fear of spiritual consequences. [I concur.]
I have argued that because grace builds on nature, if there is instituted
a wholesale ecclesial role revision without regard to the question of nature,
the grace necessary to integrate maleness, celibacy and office may well
lie dormant. There will simply be a disconnect among the emotions, intellect
and will. Those who disagree with what has been argued thus far will frequently
counter that the present discussion has been about mere "accidentals," unimportant in comparison to all the other problems in the Church. [That would be a silly argument.] Our Lord, however, began the Church with the priesthood and the Eucharist. If what has been done in the past thirty years is harmful to either, we are perilously close to the foundations of the Church herself. The notion that the Church can offer the work of the priest to others without doing harm to both his masculinity and his personality is a gross presumption. It will affect the way he views his life and commitment, as well as his beliefs and prayer.
One more observation about so-called "accidentals." The greatest mystery
in the world, the Eucharist, must be communicated
through "accidents." These accidents must be specific material substances that unambiguously signify the Sacrament. What have
heretofore been considered "accidents" (mere discipline in the parlance of the legalists among us) in regard to the functions
that form and integrate priestly identity, may well be as intrinsic to the communication of the reality of the priesthood - to the priest himself as well as to the faithful - as is the appearance of bread and wine to the Eucharist. [But in fact they are not. It is known that a married priesthood and communion in the hand and the ministry of the deacon are all authentic manifestations of Apostolic Tradition].
The role revision of priest and laity has led to declining numbers of vocations, despite the embarrassing efforts to "sell" the priesthood through various Madison Avenue marketing techniques. [I concur.] Even when there is a temporary spike in seminary registration following a papal visit, there is no evidence that this initial fervour persists. It is amazing to observe the contortions required by the public relations departments of various episcopal conferences assuring us that all is well with the local church, and at the same time gravely issuing study papers concerning the projected shortage of priests and the inevitable remedy of preparing the faithful for lay administered priestless parishes. The bishops of England (mimicking similar rumblings among members of the American episcopate) are asking the Pope to reinstate into full pastoral status men who have left the active priesthood in order to marry . The vocations crisis, created by the anti-masculine policies of the ecclesiological revolution, is now blamed by the bishops on celibacy. Celibacy is a problem, but only because the present structural environment of the Church has removed those elements which traditionally have supported its compatibility with a healthy masculine nature. [So this author asserts.]
Of course, it is possible that post-Conciliar Church authority, by institutionalizing
the role revision of priests and laity, has
signalled its preference for and agreement with the social engineering that has revolutionized so much of Western culture and society. Or perhaps what has occurred has been a thoughtless and unreflective drift. Either way, Church authority will discover that, regardless of the traditional language that masks the altered structure, the scriptural admonition against pouring old wine into new wineskins will burst the self-deception. [I concur.]
Either traditional mandatory celibacy for priests or the present structure
that ignores its natural underpinnings: these are the
mutually exclusive options facing the Church. There is no middle way. [Except, of course, for the middle way currently in operation within the Eastern Church.]
1. The Vatican signalled early on its growing indifference towards celibacy within Holy Orders by permitting widowed permanent deacons to remarry. This contradicted an ancient practice that even the Eastern Church, which permits a married clergy, does not allow.
2. John M. Haas, a convert and former member of the Episcopal clergy, in a pamphlet entitled Marriage and the Priesthood (New Rochelle, NY: Scepter Press, 1987), voiced caution in regard to what had become an institutionalized policy by the Vatican's "Pastoral Provision" of 1982: "I knew full well that there were occasions when the Holy See permitted the ordination of married men to the priesthood. It was allowed ... out of pastoral considerations for Protestant clergymen who later came to the Faith. But through my reflections I came to see why this was historically the exception rather than the norm."
3. During the late 1980s, the Holy See requested the Commission on the Authentic Interpretation of the Code of Canon Law to review the possibility of formally admitting women to these ministries. At one point, some months after their deliberations began, I asked a member of the Commission about the pending decision. He replied that the Commission's response had been on the desk of the Secretary of State for some time. Though unable to reveal the decision of the Commission, he seemed to indicate his own position (and possibly that of others in the group) when, after my pressing him for an opinion on the matter, he replied that women could not be admitted ministries because they were preparatory steps toward the priesthood. I expressed my surprise and asked about Ministeria Quaedam (Pope Paul's 1972 decree that separated the ministries from their intrinsic
connection to the priesthood and opened them up to laymen). He gave no reply. The implication was that there were some in Rome who considered that decree very problematical. The outcome has followed a well-worn Vatican path of recent times. The findings were shrouded in silence, the same treatment rendered to the decision of a Vatican commission that had determined the traditional Mass had never been abrogated. Present speculation has it that the Vatican plans to admit
women to these ministries. What seems more likely (and calamitous) is that Rome will create a non-sacramental but formal order of Deaconess that would incorporate the roles of pastoral administrator and assistant, lector and acolyte.
4. This is not an unimportant development, though it drew little notice. It is difficult to understand why the Vatican would see a
problem with terminology without seeing the more important one of concept. This has been a pattern, however, that has governed post-Conciliar Vatican policy: endorse a substantial change in traditional practice, but avoid the use of any term that would indicate a deviation from traditional language.
5. Deacons in the Latin Rite who distributed the Eucharist prior to the decree, Ministeria Quaedam, were always celibate [Except for the first few hundred years of the Church's history.] and in a transition period awaiting priestly ordination. [This is simply untrue. St Francis of Assisi remained a deacon until his death. In as far as it was true, it was an abuse. The diaconate is an order in its own right and is not a transition state prior to presbyterial ordination. This is in no way to call into question the venerable and sensible normative practice of insisting that anyone who is to be ordained a priest should first serve a term as deacon.]
6. Interestingly, the question of why priests are not displaying greater discontent over the assumption of their duties has been
raised by a layman. See Joseph H. Foegen, "Questions for Pastors," Homiletic and Pastoral Review (November 1995).
7. Even during those periods in the history of the Church which witnessed an active diaconal office, the deacon was celibate [This is simply not true. The deacon was no more required to be celibate than was the pope, bishop or presbyter.] and was utilized mainly as a direct assistant to the bishop. He was not an ordinary minister of the Eucharist. [This is a lie.] The creation of the married permanent diaconate eliminated the entwined and inseparable relationship among priesthood, celibacy and exclusive Eucharistic stewardship that had been [more accurately: become] the norm [for good or ill] in the Western Church.
8. Even though there are many priests, the usage of the phrase, "exclusive intimacy," for that which existed between the priest and the Eucharist is appropriate [How so? Apparently we have an unexclusive exclusivity]. Each priest was aware that every brother priest received the commission to be the guardian of the Presence of Him Whose priesthood they all shared. It was precisely this unique relationship with the Eucharist that was a key link in the bond among priests [So priests formed a kind of harem, it would seem!]. The acquisition of this privilege by lay ministers has seriously contributed to the decline in priestly camaraderie. [But might have helped priests to develop better relationships with lay folk!]
9. This liturgical mutation was captured vividly in a video cassette, Leading the Community in Prayer: The Art Presiding for Deacons and Lay Persons produced by Liturgical Press in 1989. It displayed on the jacket a picture of a woman "presiding" at a Communion service, dressed in an alb, with a male server holding the book, as she extends her hands in prayer.
10. Bronislaw Malinowski, Sex, Culture, and Myth (New York:Harcourt, Brace & World, 1962).
11. It is not being suggested that literal biological fatherhood is a prerequisite for "paternal certainty." [But this is exactly the anthropological point. Unfortunately, it is my experience in talking with fathers that they typically feel a need to know that their children are genetically their offspring.] What is being conveyed is that for a man to assume the role of a father, there must be no question that, in all things [note all things] other than genetics, the one with whom he enters into a paternal relationship is unambiguously "his" child. [And what exactly does this mean? As soon as the child goes to school, he or she also becomes the pupil of various teachers and may feel that any number of them have a fatherhood role in his/her life. Similarly the natural father's fatherhood is compromised as soon as the child comes into contact with a priest who exercises spiritual fatherhood.] This would have application to the spiritual fatherhood of the priest who is "Father" in the order of grace rather than nature.
12. This phenomenon is not confined to the managerial model. Often, other secular identifications are adopted, i.e., "priest-
therapist," "priest-educator," etc. These new roles may explain why priests are encouraging women to appropriate roles heretofore reserved to their office. Women, being nurturers by nature, are more than willing to cooperage. The result for the heterosexual celibate, however, is the exchange of his sense of spiritual fatherhood for that of a "professional bachelor."
13. David Blankenthorn, Fatherless America (New York: Harper Collins, 1995).
14. This is hardly to suggest that every case of aberrant sexual behaviour is caused by the present ecclesial environment. The
ecclesial structure, for a variety of reasons that would require an entirely separate discussion, is also attracting the walking
15. It does not follow that a married priesthood, in se, protects the sacred prerogatives of a priest more effectively than a celibate one. When celibacy and bachelorhood become ecclesial synonyms, however, there is a corresponding occlusion of paternal sensibilities that would have developed and matured had the mutation not occurred. Grace builds on nature (thus it can preserve the authentic masculine and paternal sensibilities of the married priest through the natural environment of family life), but it also transforms nature, and preserves the masculine and paternal in the priest who properly orders celibacy towards the Kingdom (as opposed to allowing it to degenerate into nothing more than the single "alternative lifestyle").
16. It should be noted that the Council of Trent posits that, "It has always been the custom in the Church of God that lay persons receive Communion from priests." Council of Trent, sess. XIII. cap. VIII, De usu admirabilis hujus sacramenti. "Semper in ecclesia Dei mos fuit, or laici a sacerdotibus communionem acciperent."
17. Catholic World Report Vol. 7 (October 1997).
However the author does make several points which
are nearly impossible not to agree with, and I as a priest can confirm
truth of these assertions: Celibacy was much easier to bear, and made much more sense, until thirty or so years ago, when the priest had an undisputed and exclusive relationship with the Altar, when only he could open the tabernacle, expose the blessed Sacrament, distribute Holy Communion, bring Him to the sick and dying; when the priest was truly a spiritual nurturer, a pastor of souls, rather than a professional man who happens to be a bachelor. People complain often that they find the new style priests, who dress, talk and act like hurried businessmen, to be cold, uncaring and unpriestly.
With Vatican permission, laymen have intruded into the task proper to the ordained priest: that of feeding the faithful with the fruit of the Mass. Thereby Communion has been divorced from the Sacrifice. This divorce of Offer from the Altar has led to a diseased situation. Here in Holland, laymen and laywomen regularly play at priest by presiding at ''Communion services'', even forbidding ordained priests to celebrate Mass in the churches where they preside. The Bishops do nothing to stop the abuse. Some lay ''pastoral workers'' or ''pastores'' as they call themselves, even distribute unconsecrated hosts, saying that nobody can see the difference anyway. Often, the faithful take an extra Host with them to bring to hospital or to private homes, as the priest is no longer expected to visit the ill and dying. Some deacons and lay people even perform an invalid anointing of the sick! Many priests keep themselves busy with all kinds of meetings and ecumenical activities, whilst powerful lay persons have taken over most sacred functions.
In the church where I celebrate Mass on Tuesdays,
I am not allowed to say Mass on any other weekday because on other days
there are lay-led "Word and Communion services." The lay ''pastoral workers''
involved refuse to allow their services to be substituted by a Mass (and
this is a widespread phenomenon). So on the other weekdays I celebrate
Mass at home, which is all very frustrating, and makes enforced celibacy
feel even more unnecessary and painfully senseless than it otherwise would
be. On Sundays, thank God, I travel to other cities to celebrate the Mass
for groups of traditional Catholics, who truly long for the
Mass, and who appreciate the priest who brings it to them.
This one thing - the post-conciliar permission
for lay people to violate the Sacrament (by receiving it on their hand)
Altar (by being allowed to play priest at ''Communion services'') - like a vicious circle, has so contributed to a loss of identity and purpose amongst priests, and to a subsequent loss of vocations, that the lay extraordinary ministers have made themselves an almost indispensable substitution for the ordained priests who are dying out. The abuses are now becoming the rule. Rightly the author says that celibacy in this new context makes no sense at all.
The author curiously admits that where there is also a married priesthood (the eastern rites), there has been no loss of sacredness, no divorce between Altar of Sacrifice and Holy Table of Communion. Thus, obligatory celibacy is not necessary to the sacredness of the Eucharist and the whole sacramental order, but obligatory celibacy can only exist when that sacredness is maintained. Stronger still, the priesthood itself, even a married Catholic priesthood, can only exist where that sacredness is guaranteed and fostered by the Hierarchy. Another acute observation of the author is that it was not the parish priests who orchestrated the post-conciliar changes to the Mass, Sacraments and Priesthood, but the academic regular clergy (Dominicans, Jesuits and other such) who had much less contact with the faithful, and whose spiritual fatherhood was more theoretical than practical.
I often ask myself, why so much emphasis on celibacy, as if that were the main - or worse yet, the only criterion for evaluating a candidate to the priesthood? Is one ordained to the priesthood, or to the celibate state?
The secular priest is not a sort of monk who happens not to live in a monastery. The priesthood does not exist for the personal sanctification of the priest - anyone can readily obtain all the graces they need as a lay(wo)man. If one is seeking a stricter way of life, a narrower path to sanctification - the that is what the monastic, religious or consecrated life is for. The priesthood is a function within the Church and for the Church. For the building up of the Church, and not for the personal benefit of the ordinand.
The Church has two main goals - the Glorification of God through the offering of the Sacrifice of the Mass, and the sanctification or deification of souls through the administration of the sacraments. The ordained priesthood is needed in order to carry out these two goals. We all need to stop confusing priesthood with consecrated state of life - whether private or communal. In the easttern rites of the Catholic Church married men are also ordained to the priesthood. That was once also the practice in the Latin Church, and might well be so once again. In that perspective the question of whether a gay man be as faithful to celibacy as a straight man can no longer be posed. Most men it seems to me - both gay or straight - find the unmarried state eventually unsatisfying, and a sexless life - unbearable. But if enough incentive is there - then a small number of both gay and straight men can remain unmarried, and even without sex.
I think that the incentive within the catholic
priesthood to want to be celibate is simply no longer present, due mainly
policies of the Hierarchy themselves in the past thirty five years. The whole question of no longer ordaining gay men to the priesthood is really a non-question, a camouflage for much graver but unspeakable questions, which if left unspoken, will fester until they tear the Church apart from within. Alas.
PS. There are also many gay priests in those churches
where celibacy is not the rule - orthodox, anglican, old-catholic. Can
it not be that God prefers gay men as priests, that gay men posses qualities
which render them more suitable to carrying out the
priestly functions? Are we gay men the born-eunuchs which our Lord spoke of?