Priests As Front Men

In a discussion on obedience, two things struck me.

Unsurprisingly the new Missal was not a success as church and seminaries emptied.

(A)ll of these bishops banning THE rite that nourished and produced Saints for centuries… sure seems like a condemnation and a turning of the back on everything that came before.

Many years ago, I attended a convocation in which a newly installed bishop described his number one priority as the ordained priesthood.

Whether or not the Vatican II bishops had a clear intention, my reading of the conciliar documents was that the Church needed more than a rejuvenated clergy. Clergy are recruited or discerned or plucked from baptized lay people. If lay people aren’t cultured in the faith, or if only a small percentage of them are formed by official “efforts,” it would seem the effort to fill seminaries or keep them stuffed was going to fail. In other words, there’s not a magic line from birth to laying-on-of-hands. Given so many spiritual rags-to-riches stories we hear and celebrate in priests and saints, there’s a good likelihood the “missing” vocations are really out there.

Perhaps “THE” rite nourished saints. But the last time I checked, most of the saints of the 16th through 20th centuries were clergy and religious founders. The institution nourishes its own, I would guess.

I think the object of Christianity, at least in terms of what we hear in the Gospels and New Testament is that all believers are called to a distinctive and committed level of discipleship, holiness, and sainthood.

Many observers have commented that the ordinary situation before Vatican II was that the Church formed and hired a professional class of people to be disciples, evangelists, and saints for the world. Lay people were the support mechanism for it all.

Has it worked? Hardly. People have been abandoning Catholicism since before Vatican I. Other people have been chased away. Others have been repulsed at flaws–real, injurious, or imagined. I think a recovery of Ad Gentes, the grossly overlooked conciliar work, and its descendant documents, especially Evangelii Nuntiandi, give us more hope. Or would give more hope.

Chasing after old fashioned things because they kept the bright face on the institution doesn’t really help the mission of the Gospel. Certainly not these days when it’s all encased in sullen disobedience in the name of orthodoxy.


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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