The Roman Catholic Priesthood
The true meaning of priesthood in the Roman Catholic Church.
I was brought up and nurtured by this priesthood – indeed my father’s brother was a Roman Catholic Priest for 17 years to 1964 and was made a Monsignor by reward probably by Roncalli – John XXII (1959-62). I went to a Catholic Prep School and before I started there in 1962 I had been inculcated into the Catholic faith by a Jesuit priest Father Paine in 1960 when I was 8 years old.
My secondary school was Downside, a Roman Catholic Monastic Benedictine establishment, with the monks occupying all the important posts (1966 – 69). The Priesthood really mattered to me in my school years and throughout my single adult life and into my married status which continues.
2. The Meaning of the Priesthood
It must be clearly understood we are not all priests. The priesthood is clearly defined and limited to those validly ordained by command of the Bishops and Pope. The priesthood is in effect a cadre or officer class charged with the administration of the sacraments and governance of the Catholic Church. The power comes from Jesus Himself down – the Petrine Line of Rome itself. The priesthood may not be diluted – it will always retain its power, purity, consistency and taste. Salt does not lose its taste as Christ said of his apostles. Priests carry out God’s orders as they are Clerks in Holy Orders and they have received the Sacrament of Holy Orders. This is the essence of their priestliness to obey orders from Heaven itself. The Jesuitical priests are called God’s Storm Troopers or shock troops – they took their orders from no one but God Himself and still do. That is why they were so distrusted as they made no secret of their direct line to obey God. They were the Society of Jesus formed expressly by St Ignatius of Loyola (the Spanish Priest) to lead the Counter Reformation charge in the 16th and 17th Centuries. They did not fail to take their objectives despite the cost in lives. They never compromise or show any weakness. That is their hallmark.
3. How can the Priestly life go astray?
Because like it or not priests are human – we need to be reminded of that. They are certainly not divine – some are better than others as with all of us. There are good Rabbi’s and poor ones – the same goes for Anglian priests and Clergymen. We should not be surprised. Just because you have been ordained does not make you like the best priests in demeanour, conduct and manner. You bring you own characteristics to your priestliness and thank God for that and your individuality or priests would be cloned and caricatures – a terrible prospect. The vital component of being a priest is their closeness to God himself which makes them stand apart from the laity and the wide world. The administration of the seven sacraments flows from this direct access and proximity to God. Many would argue we all have a direct line to God and I would not dissent. Yet I urge you to think again – if you have had the privilege to know priests well in your life as I have then you will have felt the warmth of God’s affection through those priests – they channel Christ’s grace to us. He is the High Priest of our Church. They are his acolytes. Thus they are the umbilical cord as it were or the lifeline. Without priests there would be no Church and we would all starve in desolation. Christ will not renege on his promise, there will always be priests to feed his flock. Because the priest is so near to God he will come under attack from those who will wish to overturn Christ’s plan. The Priest is exposed to criticism therefore. The lack of openness in the Catholic hierarchy has hindered the resolution of priestly fallibility. With “glasnost” matters become more clear and therefore the just solution for the priest and our Church is found and accepted by all. Do not be afraid God is at your side in Christ himself. The Catholic Church is the spearhead division of Christianity there can be no doubt. That is why it receives this bombardment and enfilading fire from those in our midst in secular western society who vociferously oppose the values and thinking of Christ and his Church as represented by his priests and bishops. The Anglican Church will support and back up Roman Catholicism I am sure in her offensive.
4. The Role of the Catholic Priests in the Roman Catholic Church
This role should be to stand up for :-
- The primacy of conscience and freedom of thought and action within matrimony.
- Liberty in a particular person’s mind and heart and his or her decisions.
- Upholding the quiet practice and attendance at Mass and the reception of all the sacraments.
- The deep and enduring prayers of each priest for the faithful in particular and the whole world.
Slowly but surely men and women the world over will be won for Christianity and come under the influence of that religion through the example of these Roman Catholic and Anglican priests. That is why our Roman Catholic and Anglican clergy have been ordained to convert those who do not believe into the fold of the faithful.
5. Anglican Orders
I do not go with Pope Leo’s encyclical condemning Anglican orders issued in the late 19th Century. It was not a teaching encyclical as it concerned matters appertaining to non-Catholics not Catholics themselves. Paul VI issued Humanae Vitae in his universal pastoral role (Contraception) as he was entitled to. Leo was trespassing on Anglican soil unlike Paul VI who was appealing to the world on a matter not appertaining to any church’s regulation but all persons worldwide. The Pope should not meddle in the Anglican Church and its priesthood. That is the message to Leo. The Anglican Church has its own Bishops, Clergy and Laity (Synod) and the Anglican communion worldwide to decide these matters.
They did not ask for Leo’s help. Although Pio Nono pronounced the Immaculate Conception dogma in 1864 and Papal Infallibility in 1870-71 he was within his rights as he was expecting Catholics alone to believe these dogmas. He was not interfering with the affairs of Anglicanism only the Anglican Church may disband its officers and accept new commanders. I am afraid Leo’s encyclical was embarrassing and foolish. You cannot downgrade another Church’s priests – a gratuitous act of contempt I would say and remarkably unchristian for a modern Pope. Leo should have kept his thoughts to himself as they used to tell us. He achieved nothing but distortion of the truth.
I have known the Anglican priesthood and been greatly impressed by their holiness, their perception and their adherence to the sacraments. I have also had intense interaction with certain Catholic Priests which has been of great value to me in my younger years and latterly. I have always aspired to live like a priest if not go the full distance to ordination in the Roman Catholic Church. This is the crux to emulate Jesus Himself – the top man – the Governor. I am certain Jesus face in a pleasant or pained expression is within every truly ordained priest Anglican or Catholic in their voice, life and actions. The priesthood is the elite – the crème de la crème and they have to attain the highest standards and values. I argue you should punish a priest where that is due. However you cannot break the bond of communication between him and God however hard you try even if you prevent him exercising his priestly functions. He will always be in Holy Orders by virtue of that Sacrament of Ordination. The seal may not be erased. I say “in ordinem Melchizedek”. Let us respect all priests righteous or fallen into disgrace or bring calamity upon ourselves. “In nomine patris et filio et spiritu sanctu”.