Wednesday, March 25, 2015

No two Points on a Line

The first two articles (here) and (here), by Elliot Bougis, in a series entitled "The Modern Crisis of Authority and the Abiding Prowess of the Papacy", from the blog OnePeterFive, are worth a recommendation on my part. Take them as the author presents them and not as I am about to hijack them for my own selfish ends.

Elliot talks about the ongoing (already for some time and deepening) crisis of authority in the Church as being a result of cultivating charisma-based leadership at the expense of genuine authority. His principal worry, of course, is the Papacy. The articles have personally given me another handle for dealing with or countering a common criticism of today's priests and seminarians. Bougis also offers me points for dealing with the age old question of what good are ecclesiastical penalties without real teeth (it's the canonist in me!).

Permit me a word or two about the issue of those called to the office of priest. At regular intervals in newspapers, usually in those awful Saturday paper religion columns, you encounter articles bemoaning the fact that today's young men don't have what it takes to be the charming and capable priest managers the job description (?) requires and/or that the great men of the past (?) would seem to deserve for their successors: a preacher, liturgist, community organizer, guru, and on and on, all in a charming and preferably good-looking or at least athletic bundle. As the Saturday paper rant goes, sadly, seminaries today are filled with conservative young men, who are no fun, because they can't bring themselves to unbutton that collar and go with the flow, or some variation on that theme.

Rather than take on this fantasy description of what it takes to be a priest, many well-meaning people find themselves longing for the days, somewhere but obviously before my time, when a class of humble men existed termed sacerdos simplex or maybe "Mass priest", because all they could do was say the old Mass, not preach, not hear confessions, just or most importantly offer the Holy Sacrifice. Until now I have been taking on the newspapers, in conversations with friends, by classing their demands as unreasonable. You can't write a job description with the bar that high if you want the Church to live on. Besides, a healthy young man in his twenties ought to show a bit of conviction and come off on the inflexible side. If he's loosy-goosy he's a liability for all he touches, not just for the priesthood.

Well, thanks to Bougis, I guess I have an argument beyond that of developmental psychology, which would already wish our seminaries full of straight-laced types. No woman in her right mind would want a free-wheeling type for a husband and the father of her children. Why for heaven's sake should the Church take on these guys? Not my savoir-faire but my submission to God's Law, not my charisma but my humble conformity to the Tradition, not my willfulness but my obedience to Christ and to His Church, position me best for exercising the three-fold ministry of Priest, Prophet and King. It is indeed the message of the Cross: total outpouring unto fullness. Power is strength but not necessarily a category of virtue; authority is something different and it is born from on high, drawing its strength from above. Read Bougis!

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