Pontifications

Pontifications


Pope to clergy: “After God, the priest is everything!”

posted by David Gibson

Cure d'Ars.jpgBenedict XVI, in his letter today proclaiming a “Year for Priests,” puts forth Saint Jean-Baptiste-Marie Vianney–the Cure’ d’Ars–as the model, since this year is also the 150th anniversary of the death of that remarkable French pastor.

On the other hand, centering the Year for Priests on Vianney gives the celebration–and the pope’s letter–a decidedly nineteenth-century caste, which may not quite resonate in the twenty-first century. As Benedict writes of the Cure’ d’Ars:

Explaining to his parishioners the importance of the sacraments, he would say:

“Without the Sacrament of Holy Orders, we would not have the Lord. Who put him there in that tabernacle? The priest. Who welcomed your soul at the beginning of your life? The priest. Who feeds your soul and gives it strength for its journey? The priest. Who will prepare it to appear before God, bathing it one last time in the blood of Jesus Christ? The priest, always the priest. And if this soul should happen to die [as a result of sin], who will raise it up, who will restore its calm and peace? Again, the priest… After God, the priest is everything! … Only in heaven will he fully realize what he is”.

Benedict acknowledges that these words “might sound excessive.” And to me they do. But he explains, saying:

“…they reveal the high esteem in which [Vianney] held the sacrament of the priesthood. He seemed overwhelmed by a boundless sense of responsibility: “Were we to fully realize what a priest is on earth, we would die: not of fright, but of love…Without the priest, the passion and death of our Lord would be of no avail. It is the priest who continues the work of redemption on earth…What use would be a house filled with gold, were there no one to open its door? The priest holds the key to the treasures of heaven: it is he who opens the door: he is the steward of the good Lord; the administrator of his goods…Leave a parish for twenty years without a priest, and they will end by worshiping the beasts there…”

So is that an argument for ordaining married men to boost vocations? Probably not. But again, I’m not so sure how this letter will resonate with lay Catholics, or priests. I’m all for a Year for Priests–for supporting them, and encouraging more vocations. Will this help?

On another note, much media attention has focused on Benedict’s welcome recognition of the failures of some priests in scandalous ways:

“…situations which can never be sufficiently deplored where the Church herself suffers as a consequence of infidelity on the part of some of her ministers. Then it is the world which finds grounds for scandal and rejection. What is most helpful to the Church in such cases is not only a frank and complete acknowledgment of the weaknesses of her ministers, but also a joyful and renewed realization of the greatness of God’s gift, embodied in the splendid example of generous pastors, religious afire with love for God and for souls, and insightful, patient spiritual guides.”

What is not made explicit is whether he is including bishops among these priests; most people would read it as just priests, “ministers,” I think. Maybe that’s what he meant. If so, it once again puts all the onus on the “lower” clergy to be saints, it seems.

From CNS’ Vatican buro, Cindy Wooden has coverage here.

 



Advertisement
Comments read comments(15)
post a comment
ed

posted June 18, 2009 at 1:00 pm


We need this year of priest celebration? BXVI’s foot is in his mouth again. Now we hear All the laity and the likes of St Francis, St Therese and St Teresa are all second class.. great message and I bet that he thinks he is a ‘teacher’. I wonder if he gets his leadership lessons from the owner of the Yankees?



report abuse
 

DML

posted June 18, 2009 at 1:51 pm


In a long, drawn out way, I’ll paraphrase what the pope is trying to say… “no matter what we do to your children, you still need us to get into Heaven.”



report abuse
 

Shaun

posted June 18, 2009 at 2:31 pm


Come-on now, read the whole letter, and the Pope’s initial address to the Congregation for the Clergy in March and you’ll see that the main purpose of the Year is, “to encourage priests in this striving for spiritual perfection on which, above all, the effectiveness of their ministry depends” (March 16th Address)



report abuse
 

Jim McCrea

posted June 18, 2009 at 3:15 pm


This is rampant clericalism, impure and simplistic.
Until this false aggrandizement of the priesthood ceases, it will be viewed as an unholy level over the “sheep” of the world, with the required attendance obeisances to “Father Knows Best.”
“The problem of clericalism is composed of several problems. It is the problem of a caste that arrogates to itself undue authority, that makes unwarranted claims to wisdom, even to having a monopoly on understanding the mind of God. The consequence is the great weakening of the Church by denigrating or excluding the many gifts of the Spirit present in the people who are the Church. The problem of clericalism arises when ‘the church’ acts in indifference, or even contempt, toward the people who are the Church.”
Richard J. Neuhaus, June 1989.



report abuse
 

JAB

posted June 18, 2009 at 4:17 pm


I don’t think the Pope has the vaguest idea how sexist his comments are. To say we wouldn’t have the Lord without the priest to put Him in the tabernacle, and then to say that only men can be priests, is to say that women are inferior. Women can never hold the only powerful role in the church. They can’t be the ones who institute the communion.
Of course, I freely admit, he probably doesn’t care that the comments are sexist either.



report abuse
 

Mere Catholic

posted June 18, 2009 at 6:07 pm


“What is not made explicit is whether he is including bishops among these priests; most people would read it as just priests, “ministers,” I think. Maybe that’s what he meant. If so, it once again puts all the onus on the “lower” clergy to be saints, it seems.”
Pope Benedict XVI- the Bishop of Rome- addressed the letter to his “brother priests”. That is a pretty clear statement to me that as Pope- and Bishop- he identifies first and foremost as a priest and the exhortations within are to all priests, no matter their office.
I am sad, yet not surprised, to some of these cynical comments. I wonder if any have taken the time to read more about Jean-Marie Vianney- the Cure of Ars- whom the Pope liberally quotes and has invoked as Patron for the coming year. He was a French priest during the anti-clerical psychosis in post-revolution France. Persecution was rampant, and clerics and laity were equally ill-informed about their faith. He implored priests to simply recognize the sacred nature of their ministry and conduct themselves accordingly with fidelity to the Gospels. Similarly, he exhorted lay people who had become conditioned in believing the worst revolutionary innuendo about every priest to remember the priest as an agent of the holy Sacraments. In short, the message to priests: be good and the message to laity: affirm and encourage the good in your priests. Something that everyone out to embrace.



report abuse
 

Mere Catholic

posted June 18, 2009 at 6:09 pm


P.S.- please pardon the lack of edits on my prev. post!



report abuse
 

Your Name

posted June 18, 2009 at 7:13 pm


“I don’t think the Pope has the vaguest idea how sexist his comments are. To say we wouldn’t have the Lord without the priest to put Him in the tabernacle, and then to say that only men can be priests, is to say that women are inferior. Women can never hold the only powerful role in the church. They can’t be the ones who institute the communion. Of course, I freely admit, he probably doesn’t care that the comments are sexist either. ” DEAR JAB: I am a young Japanese/American female, 26. And I would like to tell you that mostly noone I know worries about sexist language, or what is sexist etc. Only a bunch of frustrated unhappy people looking for something to gripe about in the workplace, and a bunch of frustrated, unfufilled femminist radical habitless secularist nuns who are enraged that the Pope and the Church didn’t turn into what they wanted it to. And never will. Now they are 73+ and bitter old ladies waiting for their once flourishing Orders with thousands of young nuns (50 years ago), to turn into giant world-wide nursing homes. The Pope’s letter was beautiful. It expresses a pre-Vatican II notion of priesthood which is most important, because having two relatives in their 20′s in the seminary this is their mindset…pre-Vatican II. Definitly not the burnt out 1960′s and 70′s Vatican II mentality. The Pope is speaking to the future priests and young Catholics who love this view of the Church and what it represents, and love this traditionalist Year for Priests . All the tired old radical priests in their late 50′s to their 80′s hate it,but those below 50 love it. To those radical liberals and ecumenists who pick apart the Pope’s letter and find little pieces to gripe about I say “Grow Up” and “Get a Life”. You people wrecked the Church. Now it’s our turn to fix it back.



report abuse
 

Your Name

posted June 18, 2009 at 9:29 pm


When you hack away at what was a beautiful and inspiring letter from the pope, and insufficiently present the content, you get the kind of cynical, uninformed comments as seen above. David, are you in the business of sowing controversy?
Surely a blog entitled “pontifications” can do better than this.



report abuse
 

Ann

posted June 18, 2009 at 9:33 pm


Sorry, the last “your name” post was by Ann



report abuse
 

Luca

posted June 18, 2009 at 10:36 pm


Daniel: there is an important mistake in the translation of the pope’s remarks on sexual abuse. He did NOT say: “What is most helpful to the Church in such cases is not only a frank and complete acknowledgment of the weaknesses of her ministers, but also a joyful and renewed realization etc etc.”
Rather, what he said was: “What is most helpful to the Church in such cases is NOT the meticulous investigation of the weaknesses (sic) of its ministers, but RATHER a joyful and renewed realization etc etc” (from the Italian original: “Ciò che massimamente può giovare in tali casi alla Chiesa non è tanto la puntigliosa rilevazione delle debolezze dei suoi ministri, quanto una rinnovata e lieta coscienza…”)
B16 would not have dared say such things in the US, and in fact his speech were much different when he actually came last year. But as we can see, he quickly switched back to the default defense mechanism in favor of the clericalism and the priestly caste. It’s quite worrying!
Luca



report abuse
 

Leight

posted June 19, 2009 at 12:23 am


…Jesus is the only priest a beliver needs, indeed, each believer is called to be a priest himself/herself… there are Pastors ect… but it is their task to raise the beliver to do the work of the ministry… I am so glad I met Jesus… the Church has much in it that has no foundation in scripture… it sounds nice and so forth,,, but is it scriptural?…the worship of angels and saints…no… in Revelation a Angel tells the Apostle John to not worship him, as he is a fellow worker too… everything in Christianity points toward Christ… not to any earth man, or even through any earth man…. any person at any time can go straight to God…through Jesus…. anything else, is not Bible, and so forth…. this investment of Priests with powers that he was never meant to have, stupifies the church….ex cathedra, messed up the church…



report abuse
 

ann

posted June 19, 2009 at 9:03 am


To clarify, a different Ann than me…mine mysteriously was gone.
In regards to the article, I think what bothers me is that when have we not honored Priests who have lived a truly Priestly life? Where is the humility in the service? Most of the Priest that I know would be a little embarrased by this since no parish is run by the Priest. Most fully appreciate the talents and service of the laity.
Leight said it well so there is no need to repeat, but I would add that Vatican II only “ruined” the church in as much as it called people to take responsibility for thier own faith and the people being trained otherwise found that difficult. Where we were pre-Vatican II was not where the Gospel told us to be. I think the people who have such a hard time with that may want to examine why. Why is it so hard to see that Jesus challenges us to be a better people? I think many only think they need to dip thier toe in the waters of thier baptismal call. That was the way of pre vatican II. What we are called to do is to change our hearts. Christ clearly sates where two or more are gathered in his name, there he will be…I don’t recall the requirement of a resume.



report abuse
 

ann

posted June 19, 2009 at 9:08 am


…and when I say “no parish is run by the Priest”, I mean that the laity are responsible for most of the inner-workings, ministries and administrative responsibilities.



report abuse
 

A

posted June 19, 2009 at 11:38 am


Ann
Incidently, Benedict in addition to quoting Vianney also generously quote’s John XXIII and the documents of Vatican II in his letter. In another passage he writes:
“There are sectors of cooperation which need to be opened ever more fully to the lay faithful. Priests and laity together make up the one priestly people and in virtue of their ministry priests live in the midst of the lay faithful …“to be sincere in their appreciation and promotion of the dignity of the laity and of the special role they have to play in the Church’s mission. … They should be willing to listen to lay people, give brotherly consideration to their wishes, and acknowledge their experience and competence in the different fields of human activity. In this way they will be able together with them to discern the signs of the times.
I think that David’s characterization of the letter is skewed to a particular point of view and unfortunately doesn’t do the missive justice.
Luca
I think your translation is suspect.



report abuse
 

Post a Comment

By submitting these comments, I agree to the beliefnet.com terms of service, rules of conduct and privacy policy (the "agreements"). I understand and agree that any content I post is licensed to beliefnet.com and may be used by beliefnet.com in accordance with the agreements.



Previous Posts

More blogs to enjoy!!!
Thank you for visiting Pontifications. This blog is no longer being updated. Please enjoy the archives. Here are some other blogs you may also enjoy: Faith, Media and Culture Prayer, Plain and Simple Happy Blogging!!!  

posted 2:38:01pm Aug. 27, 2012 | read full post »

Moving on, and many, many thanks...
So...my recent vacation and related absences also coincided with an offer from PoliticsDaily.com to cover religion for them, as editor Melinda Henneberger announces here in her roundup on the site's very successful first 100 days. That means, in short, that I'll have to sign off from blogging h

posted 8:29:24pm Aug. 02, 2009 | read full post »

Calvin at 500, Calvinism 2.0
If you thought you knew John Calvin--who turned 500 last week--you probably don't know enough. For example, that he was French, born Jean Cauvin. And if he was in fact scandalized by dancing, he was also a lot more complex than that. I explored the new look Calvin in an essay at PoliticsDaily, "Patr

posted 11:53:35am Jul. 16, 2009 | read full post »

Apologia pro vita sua...Kinda
 In my defense, I've had computer outages and family reunions and a few days of single-parenthood, which is always a bracing reminder of what many parents go through all the time. And this weekend it's off for a week's vacation. Anyway, hence the long absence. Apologies to those who have chec

posted 10:51:36am Jul. 16, 2009 | read full post »

When Benny met Barry: "I'll pray for you!"
The first word via Vatican Radio and first image (that I saw) via Rocco: Speaking to Vatican Radio, Press Office Director Fr. Federico Lombardi said "moral values in international politics, immigration and the Catholic Church's contribution in developing countries" were key topics of discussio

posted 12:54:28pm Jul. 10, 2009 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.