The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench


A crippling disease in the Church

posted by jmcgee

Mark Shea puts his finger on it right here. It’s clericalism.  And you see it rear its ugly head in some of the most divisive issues afflicting the Church, beginning with women’s ordination:

What drives the push for women’s ordination is the thoroughly clericalist notion that the only real Catholic is an ordained Catholic. Since women cannot be ordained, it therefore follows (in the mind of the clericalist) that women can never be fully a part of the life of the Church. Coupled with that is the clericalist confusion of the priestly office with the Throne of Power. Again and again, the rhetoric of women’s ordination gives away the game when advocates say, “Men have the power in the Church and women deserve to have power too.” In other words, it’s all about Power. The whole thing is cast in civil rights narrative which makes clear that ordination is thought to confer a superior dignity upon the priest than is available to the layperson.

But the real picture is as Augustine put it centuries ago: “I am a Christian with you. I am a priest for you.” The office of the priest does not indicate superior dignity or superior sanctity. Nor does the lay office deprive one of anything, because the priesthood (and, indeed, the lay office) are both gifts given by God and undeserved by us.

The way to healing the crippling disease of clericalism is to recover the Church’s understanding of our dignity as fully Catholic laypeople. This means not only understanding the ordained office and what it does and does not confer, but also understanding our dignity as baptized laypeople and our own absolutely vital place in the Church and, most especially, in the world. At the altar, the priest rightly presides. His proper sphere is the sanctuary and the rightly ordered worship of the Church. But in the world (that is, the 99.99999% of human life that happens outside the sanctuary), we laypeople preside. It is time we stopped fighting over the tiny amount of real estate that is not given to us by God and focused our energies on our monumental task of bringing the gospel to people no priest, bishop or Pope will ever meet–the people we see every day.

Check out more at the link.



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Klaire

posted July 14, 2010 at 9:42 am


Amen!



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IC

posted July 14, 2010 at 10:51 am


Preach it, brother!
I promise you, if American Catholics understood the fullness of vocation (to priesthood, or religious life, or motherhood/fatherhood, or any number of things) , we’d reflect the fullness of God’s goodness so much more.



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Gerard Nadal

posted July 14, 2010 at 10:57 am


Deacon Greg,
I sincerely hope that you will spend the next several weeks unpacking this post. I see several related articles arising from the tightly compacted layers in Shea’s observation.
“But in the world (that is, the 99.99999% of human life that happens outside the sanctuary), we laypeople preside. It is time we stopped fighting over the tiny amount of real estate that is not given to us by God and focused our energies on our monumental task of bringing the gospel to people no priest, bishop or Pope will ever meet–the people we see every day.”
Shea gets it right in this paragraph, but fails to make some critical connections and distinctions. We laity do not preside in determining the moral norms by which we live our lives. Those have been given to us in the deposit of Divine Revelation, and are faithfully handed on by the Bishops and their ordained Deacons and Priests. As such, the clergy are not vested so much with power as they are with authority.
It’s worth noting that Jesus spoke of the Father as having power, and Himself as having authority-being submissive to the will of the Father. The clergy are charged with faithfully transmitting the scriptures and the teachings of the Apostles. This is by definition, authority. The anti-clericalism of the radicals is caught up in the laity’s rebellion against the moral norms; especially abortion, homosexuality, contraception, cohabitation. Women’s ordination is seen primarily through the lens of a secular feminism that seeks an inside track at changing those moral norms.
So Shea may be a little misleading in his assertion that we laity “preside” over the 99.999% of life outside of the sanctuary. It is certainly true that we carry on the daily life of the Church in our families and in our jobs, imbuing them and elevating them (or not) with the moral norms of the Church.
Also, perhaps the best response to the drumbeat on women’s ordination is to match it with John Paul’s stating unequivocally that priestly ordination is reserved to men alone and that this is the infallible teaching of the Ordinary Magisterium and declared by John Paul II in the Extraordinary Magisterium to be regarded as definitive teaching. To knowingly insist otherwise now moves one beyond error and ignorance into heresy.



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Klaire

posted July 14, 2010 at 11:27 am


Excellent points Gerald, albeit I suspect Mark Shea would also agree with you (more of a semantic issue).
Speaking of Mark Shea and the laity, IMO, he’s an example of “As good as it gets”, one brilliant mind, a true love for Jesus/Church Teachings, and with much to teach.
Just recently I was looking for a “perfect” article to help one of my Protestant friends understand Marian Devotion. Sure enough, the one I was led to was none other than Marks, one of the best articles on Mary I’ve ever read.
Here’s the link for anyone having a ‘Mary” problem or knows someone who does. After all, if these “women wanta be priestess” really understood Mary; “enough said.” The thought of “women priests” would be simply abhoring.
Here’s the link to the article:
The Mother of the Son: The Case for Marian Devotion
http://insidecatholic.com/Joomla/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=5917&Itemid=48



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TomKumar

posted July 14, 2010 at 12:19 pm


The most powerful, influential, inspirational Catholics in my life, time and time again, have been women! (I am a man) Women who were not ordained, simple women who loved the Lord deeply, and by their powerful example, made so many young people like myself, desire to have what they had: a wonderful relationship with Christ! They didn’t hold an important Church office, position, they had no “official authority”— yet—- they preached the Gospel! Ordination and office are no magic pill to share Christ. Clericalism is not the problem— the problem is people who have an unreal view of ordination– who think clerics “have it all!” They don’t! (don’t get me wrong— we certainly DO NEED ordained priests! BUT—we don’t ALL have to be priests— in order to share Christ.)
If you have a relationship with Christ— you’ve got all you need. Share it!



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John C. Wilson

posted July 14, 2010 at 1:40 pm


This is a good article to read as it attempts to bring the origins of this issue to light. I cannot fully support the idea that the issue lays solely in the term “clericalism”. I am a Christian but definitely not a Catholic. I would place part of the blame on the Catholic Church itself. This is because there is too much separation between the dedicated church staff (Clergy, Nuns, etc.) and the congregation. This type of separation is not defined or instructed in the scriptures. What is defined is the qualifications for a bishop, deacons, elders, evangelists, and pastors etc. It is pretty clear that some positions like deacons and evangelists and maybe even elders wouldn’t be church staff at all. Rather they would be normal congregation members, living normal lives but still serving the church. In fact, normal everyday older women are charged with the responsibility to mentor younger women on how to be Godly wives and mothers. This responsibility isn’t given to any other official church staff member. A major push to allow women into the priesthood does in fact coincide with The Woman’s Rights and Feminist’s movements. These are secular in nature and have no bearing in church affairs. From a biblical perspective, men and women are assigned roles on Earth. Our Salvation and relationship with Jesus is a personal and individual responsibility. We are equal heirs of the Kingdom and equal within the Kingdom but not equal on Earth. We are, however, complementary to each other on Earth. This is necessary because we must learn to depend on each other and be both accountable and responsible to each other. God has placed the restriction on women being in church leadership because of two things. The first is their order of Creation – First Adam, then Eve. The other is the woman’s care giving and trusting heart. This is a weakness when it comes to holding fast to and teaching the doctrine of Christ. These characteristics as first seen in Eve when she was deceived in the garden. Along with that is mans flawed characteristic to be lazy and follow a woman’s lead even though he knows it’s wrong. We must practice our discipleship in the roles we have been assign and stop trying to change our roles.



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Conservative

posted July 14, 2010 at 2:13 pm


This last post is a joke,right?



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John C. Wilson

posted July 14, 2010 at 2:40 pm


Not at all. If you feel there is something wrong with what I posted, please show me (in the scriptures) where my comments are wrong. Be specific and not general. I am always open to correction as long as I am wrong :)



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Klaire

posted July 14, 2010 at 5:50 pm


John, are you aware that the Scriptures came FROM the Catholic Church? The Catholic Chuch predated the Scriptures(Bible) by almost 400 years. Consequently, that pretty much shoots a big hole in your argument, since it was none other than the Catholic Church that gave the world the Bible.
You make an excellent case against “Sola Scriptura”, but I am glad to see that you at least agree with the dangerous feminine secularism and are open for discussion.



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Gerard Nadal

posted July 14, 2010 at 8:40 pm


John:
“Our Salvation and relationship with Jesus is a personal and individual responsibility.”
Actually John, your stated position is not at all scriptural. Jesus gave the power to loose and bind sins to His Apostles. He gave Peter the authority to loose and bind “Whatever (he) declares” with that loosing and binding being honored in Heaven. One of those was the transmission of Apostolic Authority, as we see detailed in Paul’s letters to Timothy.
Paul also admonishes us to revere the bishops with the greatest love because of their office. Paul speaks of how the various communities (Churches) are to conduct themselves as communities.
This is a far cry from the radical autonomy behind the Protestant overemphasis on the personal relationship and the diminishment of the communal responsibility and requirement of obedience to Apostolic Authority. Sola Scriptura can not stand up to a thorough argument based on Sola Scriptura. It’s self-defeating. The scriptures, when read in a contextual hermeneutic and integrated analysis across the entire New Testament simply refute the entire Protestant position.
As for this statement:
“The first is their order of Creation – First Adam, then Eve. The other is the woman’s care giving and trusting heart. This is a weakness when it comes to holding fast to and teaching the doctrine of Christ.”
As a faithful and thoroughly biblically literate Catholic Christian, I must say that you are way off base here in why God does not call women to the ordained Priesthood. Actually, it was the women around Jesus who had more guts and more fidelity than the Apostles, who were all men.
The woman at the well, a social leper, ran to the townsmen to announce Jesus by telling them, “Come and see the man who told me everything that I have done”.
Jesus honored His mother’s request at Cana, even though He believed His time had not yet come for revealing Himself through signs and wonders.
It was the women who accompanied Him on the way of the cross, Veronica wiping his face.
It was Mary (with only John from the men) at the foot of the cross.
Jesus permitted Mary (Martha’s sister) to sit at His feet and be taught over her sister’s objections to this hitherto male-only privilege. He even went so far as to tell Martha that Mary had chosen the better portion.
It was Mary Magdalene who showed up in the cemetery on Easter morning, braving what she knew would be Roman Guards, and it was to her, a woman, that Jesus first revealed His resurrection.
Mary, the Mother of Jesus was placed by Him in the company of the Apostles and was with them to receive the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
Your analysis is way off base and does not agree with the scriptural record. You were close when you spoke of different, yet complementary roles. Pope John Paul II took this a step further and taught that we have equal dignity in the midst of our different yet complementary roles. It isn’t for any defect on the part of women that Jesus chose only men. That is officially Catholic teaching, and it would be tragic if our Protestant brothers felt anything less about their women.



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Civitas Occiduus

posted July 14, 2010 at 10:12 pm


I concur with everything Gerard said to refute John, but I’m surprised no one else has yet pointed John to Genesis and gotten “specific” with him as he asked.
John, no doubt you are aware that in Genesis there are two creation stories. In the first, man and woman are created simultaneously; there is no order. In the second creation story, Eve is created from Adam’s rib, but even that was indicative of the essential equality of men and women for some medieval scholars. I believe it was Peter Lombard (and I know he was not alone in this teaching) that posited the fascinating question, “Why did God create Eve from Adam’s rib and not his foot bone or his skull?”
The absolutely beautiful answer using dialectic? “God did not intend for man to stand over woman and so did not use the foot; God did not intend for woman to rule over man and so did not use the skull. Clearly, God intended for man and woman to stand together, side-by-side, flesh-from-flesh, and equal before God, and so he used the rib from man’s side.” (I paraphrased the Latin translation)
The point of recounting this story is to show that God does not make random choices, but rather has intentions when He acts. The Bishops have laid out the theological rationale for why women cannot be priests, but I think one of the best premises put forth is that Jesus is a man. God the Son took on flesh and became man. Priests must act “in persona Christi” and a woman cannot act “in persona” for a man anymore than I (a man) could give birth “in persona” for my wife.
It has nothing to do with priests “having power” and wanting to keep women down. It has nothing to do with some fabricated nonsense about men being superior to women (because they are not). It has to do with a choice made by God — a mystery, ultimately — and a desire, a duty, by His Church to uphold this choice.



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Mark P. Shea

posted July 14, 2010 at 10:57 pm


Gawrsh! I blush.
And I do concur with Gerard, by the way. I did not intend at all to suggest that we laypeople can just make stuff up or “preside” in the sense of acting as self-appointed bishops outside the sanctuary. We are bound by the Tradition. My point was simply that there’s no excuse for us laypeople to feel ourselves somehow hampered in our ability to carry out the Church’s mission merely because we are not ordained. There’s a world to save and we are wasting time demanding the office of the priest instead of cooperating with those men who have been called to that office.



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Gerard Nadal

posted July 14, 2010 at 11:10 pm


Amen Mark!!!



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judi

posted July 15, 2010 at 8:10 am


Hooray!!! Someone finally spoke the absolute and pure truth…Amen!



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cathyf

posted July 15, 2010 at 11:01 am


I think what’s really important to emphasize, and often gets lost, is that the notion of one person acting for another not crossing gender boundaries is a specific rather than a general principal. When Christ died on the cross, he took upon himself the sins of all men and women and redeemed all men and women. When a woman gives birth to a child, she — in miniature — acts like Christ, who gave birth to all creation. We are all of us baptized Christians — men, women, single, married, adults, children — called to be Christ’s hands and feet doing His work in the world.
The point about clericalism is that it is fundamentally a denial that these are close questions. Some of this is intellectual laziness — for example if women are not redeemed then you don’t have to come up with any arguments for not allowing them to be ordained! Some is over-enthusiasm rooted in emotional stake in the outcome — if an argument is worth doing, then it’s worth over-doing, right? So suddenly an argument about women not being ordained or deacons not administering Last Rites turns in to lay people not being allowed to have an opinion on parish finances and catechists having no role in curriculum development. All those medieval abbesses who voted for bishops are looking down at such arguments with a certain exasperation, I imagine.
Traditionally, Catholics have had the confidence to make a close call and then defend it vigorously. We’re the people who run pro-life offices and hospices, after all. The interesting times we live in now are that, while ordination of women to the priesthood is not open to discussion, ordination to the deaconate and to the minor orders is under quite active debate. One of the most interesting issues that doesn’t seem to be on anyone’s radar is that the Synod on the Word recommended that the minor order of lector be revived, and that the lay catechists who preside over Liturgies of the Word in places where priests are not available would be ordained as lectors with the specific vocation of presiding over those services.
So will that increase or decrease the opportunities for clericalism? I suspect the answer is “yes”…



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John C. Wilson

posted July 15, 2010 at 1:21 pm


Thank you all for your comments and references. I will not attempt to challenge the different fundamental differences in beliefs between Catholics and Protestants as this isn’t the proper place for that. I will, defend myself and my position related to my other assertions in my comment above.
———————
“…but not equal on Earth.” – Let me clarify. Not being equal on Earth only refers to Authority and Responsibility.
We do not share equal Authority (Gen 3:16) and we do not share equal Responsibilities (Men work the fields and women bear the children, etc.)
“…The first is their order of Creation – First Adam, then Eve.” 1st Tim 2:13 backs up this claim.
“…The other is the woman’s care giving and trusting heart.”
The reasoning I used in my outline of why women get deceived more than men is purely my speculation and personal observation.
The same goes for why men shouldn’t follow the spiritual lead of a woman.
The book of Genesis does not lay out two separate accounts of Creation. If you look closely, you will see that Genesis has a certain “Back and Forth” rhythm to it.
What some may consider to be the First account of Human Creation, Gen 1:26-27, is actually a narrative or summary of the events.
Gen 2:2 clearly states that his Creation Work was finished. No additional Creation occurred after the 6th day. Starting in Gen 2:4, we see a more detailed explanation of the work done in Gen 1:1-31.
Gen 2:7-23 recounts, in more detail, the creation of man (and woman) on the “6th day of Creation”; Gen 1:24-31.
Adam, standing with Eve, followed her lead: “…She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.” Gen 3:6.
Adam’s response to God is typical of a guilty conscious: “…The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.” Gen 3:12
Eve’s response to God clearly states that she was the only one deceived: “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” Gen 3:13
Eve’s curse: “…Your desire shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you.” Gen 3:16
Finally, we see that Adam, not being deceived, blatantly disobeys God and accepts Eve’s invitation to eat the forbidden fruit himself: “…Because you have heeded the voice of your wife,
and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’: “Cursed is the ground for your sake; In toil you shall eat of it All the days of your life.” Gen 3:17
1st Tim 2:12 And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence.
1st Tim 2:13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve.
1st Tim 2:14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.
“…Our Salvation and relationship with Jesus is a personal and individual responsibility”
John 3:16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
There is no indication here that states any other human (Cleric or otherwise) also needs to be involved. Just Me and Jesus.
John 3:17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
Not “…the World through the Clerics through Him…”
John 3:18 “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
“…because he has not believed…” Individual responsibility to believe.
John 3:21 But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.”
“…he who does the truth comes to the light…” Again, an individual responsibility to Act. No mention of others being involved.
Acts 4:12 Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
No one can act in the place of Jesus for our salvation.
I can go on and on here but I won’t. Bottom line is, when the day of Judgment comes, we as individuals will stand before God and give an account.
Our only defense is Jesus Christ. Not the Catholic church or its Clergy as they will be co-defendants in Judgment.



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John C. Wilson

posted July 15, 2010 at 5:47 pm


To Mark P. Shea:
Your comment: “We are bound by the Tradition.”
Are you referring to the Tradition of the Word of God as recorded in scriptures or other Traditions that do not originate from scripture?
Matt. 15:2 “Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.”
Matt. 15:3 “He answered and said to them, “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition?”"
Matt. 15:9 “And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” – This is at the root of Protestant rejection of some of the beliefs held in Catholicism.
Col. 2:8 “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. ”
The preceding scriptures are pretty clear in that if it’s not written the scriptures (canonized bible), then it’s not valid.



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Conservative

posted July 15, 2010 at 6:02 pm


“The preceding scriptures are pretty clear in that if it’s not written the scriptures (canonized bible), then it’s not valid.”
Scripture also says that not everything Jesus said or did is recorded. There would not be enough books in the world.
Don’t you think that anything was passed on by oral tradition? Don’t you have traditions in your family that have been passed down throught the generations?
This “Sola Scriptura” thing is getting old. Did you ever read the Fathers of the Church?



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R Plavo

posted July 15, 2010 at 10:12 pm


Mr Wilson: God is all about forming a people to call His own….



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