Thursday, April 09, 2009

A priesthood returning to its roots?

By David Gibson
Beliefnet Blog

Today is Holy Thursday, or Maundy Thursday, as it is popularly know, though that descriptor seems as odd as "Good Friday." Maundy actually comes from the Latin word mandatum, which refers to Jesus' words to the Apostles as he washes their feet: "Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos" ("A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you") John 13:34.

That is a commandment we'd all do well (bloggers especially, I think) to remember. There is much else to commemorate this day as well: The institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper, and by extension the institution of the sacramental priesthood (as well as the betryal by Judas in the garden.)

The day thus reinforces the inherent connection between the Mass and the priesthood, but of course there are far fewer priests these days, and so less access to the Eucharist, not to mention pastoral care. Priests and lay people lose out.

Optional celibacy continues to be a promising option without official approval--yet. But as Cardinal Egan noted recently, it's a matter of church law that can be discussed and changed, not dogma. And besides, most of those fellows at the Last Supper--and beyond--had spouses.

Things will change, I suspect. Interesting is this item from the latest edition of The Tablet of London:

New bishop calls for married priests

A priest who is in favour of ordaining married men and increasing the decision-making powers of women and bishops' conferences has been appointed a bishop to the bilingual diocese of Bozen-Brixen (Bolzano-Bressanone) on the Austrian/Italian border, writes Christa Pongratz-Lippitt.

Bishop Karl Golser told the weekly church paper of the Innsbruck Diocese, Tiroler Sonntag: "In future we will have a pastoral structure which is no longer as clerical and as concentrated on priests as it used to be. The question of ordaining proven married men - whose marriages have proved stable - and who are respected in their communities will therefore come up more and more often."

The bishop pointed out that the Eastern Churches in full communion with Rome ordain married men, but added that it was a question of consensus and regional bishops' conferences should be given more decisionmaking powers because the attitude to ordaining proven married men varied from continent to continent.

Bishop Golser said he also thought that women should be more involved in decision-making in the Church. "The Church will grow wherever women are given more such decision-making powers," he said.

Good for him for saying what most bishops only whisper. This isn't a matter of banishing or devaluing priestly celibacy. On the contrary. Rather, it is about elevating the Eucharist to its central place.

No comments: