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Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Priests - cultic figures or servants

Two orientations emerged from the speeches: the first tended to see priests primarily as cultic figures .... The other orientation saw priests in a more active role in society at large ... - What Happened at Vatican II

I finally bought What Happened at Vatican II by Joun O'Malley SJ. I'd previously posted some of what it had on contraception when I earlier checked it out of the library.

Today, though, when I saw a post at Whosoever Desires - Onto-Servants - on the two basic ways of seeing the priesthood (cultic or servant based), I thought I'd post a little of what O'Malley has in his book about the priesthood (there's some interesting stuff also about celibacy and Maximos IV Saigh but I'll post about that another day).

But first here's a bit from the Whosoever Desires post to set this up (it goes on to quote the pope on the character of the priesthood) ....

Within the post-conciliar maelstrom of theological debate concerning the Catholic priesthood, two general positions eventually crystallized. The first is a social-functional view which understands priesthood primarily as a service performed for the community through carrying out a function of the Church in its social dimension. The second is a sacramental-ontological view that emphasizes priesthood as rooted in the ordained man’s being which is determined though the gift of a sacrament bestowed by Christ through the Church.

A 2006 study by Dean R. Hoge entitled “Experiences of Priests Ordained Five to Nine Years” uses a similar division of the “servant-leader” and “cultic” models of the priesthood. It notes a shift in those recently ordained toward a favoring of the cultic model. For example, whereas 63% of the diocesan priests studied in a similar 1990 study agreed somewhat or strongly that ordination gives a priest a “new status . . . essentially different from the laity” by 2005, 89% of recently ordained priests agreed with that statement ...


And here's something from O'Malley's book ....

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That same day the council then moved to the schema On the Life and Ministry of Priests .... The document dealt with priests' call to holiness and tried to provide the motivation and means to help them better answer it. In focusing on holiness the declaration reinforced it as an emerging theme of Vatican II. It presented an ideal of the priest as following Christ in a path of poverty, chastity, and obedience, that sounded similar to the vows that members of religious orders pronounced .... Even more indicative of the orientation of Vatican II and of the shift of sensibilities it promoted was Marty's [Archbishop Francois Marty of Rheims] description of the way priests should bear themselves in relationship to the layity, "not only as pastors and teachers but also as brothers dealing with brothers." (pp. 23-232)

Two orientations emerged from the speeches: the first tended to see priests primarily as cultic figures who were empowered to consecrate the eucharistic body of Christ and to forgive sins in God's name, who exercised an almost exclusively top-down authority, and who were under bishops who exercised the same authority in their regard. Priests directed their ministry to the faithful. The other orientation saw priests in a more active role in society at large, saw them as having a collegial relationship with their bishops and as fostering a similar relationship with those unto whom they ministered ......

Three aspects of Presbyterorum Ordinis are particularly noteworthy. First, the framework for the document's treatment of its subject is ministry -- the presbyterate (or priesthood) is about ministry. Ministry, as the word itself denotes, is a form of service that is manifold: the service to Catholics in preaching, administering the sacraments, and leading the community, but also in stretching out a helpful hand to others to work together for the common good ....

The second aspect was the equal emphasis that the ministry of the Word of God received along with administration of the sacraments and the celebration of Mass .... What was new here was the theoretical importance with which the text endowed preaching, the intimate relationship it drew between Word and sacrament, and the presumption running through it that preaching henceforth would for the most part be based more directly on the Bible.

The third aspect was the pervasive insistence on holiness .... The desired manifestations of holiness that the text singles out are not, for instance, austerity and mortification, though these are certainly not excluded, but "those virtues that are regularly held in high esteem in human relations," such as sincerity, courtesy, and concern for justice .... (pp. 272-274)

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I'm kind of confused about all this, about the difference between those in the priesthood and the rest of us, and about the difference between the ideal and the actual in the priesthood.


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