Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Another Christ or Another Joe?


This was written for an ecumenical magazine for which I am a Contributing Editor. We call our magazine Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity. I use the commonly known Roman Catholic expression "another Christ" for reasons that I am prepared to defend from Scripture, not merely because this was a review of Archbishop Sheen's book.
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“Another Christ or Another Joe?” first appeared in the May, 2005 issue of Touchstone.
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The Priest Is Not His Own by Fulton Sheen
Ignatius Press, 2005 (278 pages; $15.95, paperback. Reprinted)
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reviewed by Robert Hart
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Sometimes the timing of a message is as prophetic as the message itself. Writing about the priesthood in 1963 in a book that will be of value to pastors in every church, Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen wrote: “We become significant to our fellow men not by being a ‘regular guy’, but by being ‘another Christ’. . . . Popularity is not necessarily influence.” Soon after, many clergy sought to be nothing more than a “regular guy,” trying to make church more comfortable and inviting by diminishing the authority and separateness of their role.
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Sheen explains that role by reminding the reader that Christ was both Priest and Victim, and that it is not only in the sacrificial ministry at the altar (in Catholic terms), but also in the personal life of sacrifice, that Christ’s pastors must follow him; not only in preaching the Cross, but also in taking it up every day. In this light, the desire to be a “regular guy” can be seen for what it is: a desire to be popular and safe, to avoid the suffering and death of Christ, to live for oneself instead of living for God and the sinful men who need salvation.
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Sheen calls the priest to live the priesthood of Jesus Christ, and to live it in such a way that people will feel that they have been with “‘another Christ’ and not merely ‘another Joe’.” In his words:
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Unlike anyone else, Our Lord came on earth, not to live, but to die. Death for our redemption was the goal of His sojourn here, the gold that he was seeking. He was, therefore, not primarily a teacher, but a Savior. Was not Christ the Priest a Victim? He never offered anything except Himself. So we have a mutilated concept of our priesthood, if we envisage it apart from making ourselves victims in the prolongation of his Incarnation.
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Sheen makes it clear that priests have a special responsibility to live a holy life in order to serve God truly and to be an example for the laity, not to limit the growth in holiness of the laity, but to increase it. When the people look down on the clergy as being less holy in their manner of life, it is an unhealthy situation for everyone, harming not only the life but also the power of the Church.
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The priest who is, by God’s grace, seeking to live up to the call to holiness (as an example to all Christians) “crushes his ego and its desires, so that in him there are two natures in one person: on the one hand, his human nature; on the other, his ‘participation in the Divine Nature’ through grace and the losing of his human personality in the Person of Christ.”
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Sound Advice
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As idealistic as this may sound, it comes with very practical advice, such as: “How much more our words would burn as we preach . . . if, before preaching, we prayed for five minutes to the Holy Spirit for Pentecostal fire; if we kept the scriptures ever near us, that we might gird ourselves with their truth when mounting the pulpit.”
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The book is uncompromising in its pure and traditional Roman Catholicism, but (speaking as an Anglican) this is one of its strengths. We see in it the kind of clarity so often lacking in the works of the last few decades, even by Catholics for Catholics.
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One can imagine the fictional character played by Ward Bond in John Ford’s The Quiet Man nodding his head in approval. Remember the authority that priest had in the Irish village, walking into a saloon and ordering Victor McLaughlin, “You’ll take the man’s hand, or I’ll read your name in the Mass on Sunday.” Would a character with that much authority ring true in a movie made in the seventies, or the eighties, or now?
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The Priest Is Not His Own should have a useful message to every man who has entered ordained ministry in whatever body. For every pastor has something to gain from being willing to take up his cross, and follow the Lord to Calvary; that something may be the redeemed souls of those who not only have heard his preaching, but have also seen his message in the life he lives.

22 comments:

Brian G. said...

I wish Peter Jensen would take these words to heart. The whole push for "lay presidency" is every bit as heretical as many of TEC's actions, yet the neo-Anglican brigade doesn't say a word about it.

Here's a lovely quote he gave to the Australian ABC TV network in 1999 (when he was still Principle of Moore Theological College):

PETER JENSEN: "Now if lay people can preach, and they do so very successfully, without taking over the role of the minister, and they haven't, then there's no reason at all why they shouldn't also administer the Lord's Supper. In fact if they preach, then they should administer the Lord's Supper, otherwise it makes the Lord's Supper look as though it's somehow more special." (From here.)

Smargiassius said...

Father Hart:

A very helpful review!

AMDG,
Scott Arbuckle
www.uvcarmel.org

Fr. Robert Hart said...

I am sorry that the Archbishop of Sydney is unaware of the distinction between πρεσβύτερος and προφήτης, that is, between כהןand נביא (priest and prophet).

Canon Tallis said...

I would be much more willing to consider the views reported in Sheen's book is his and the life of Roman priests were not so far from the New Testament ideal. It is one thing to romanticize the Roman Church and its ministers, but the truth for the last thousand years is something else. I wish this were not true for the sake of all who call themselves Christians, but my only present choices are silence which seems the equivalent of lying and a long personal experience which tells me something else too strongly to be denied.

We all know what St Paul taught about the marital status of deacons and bishops and the lack of respect which this portion of the New Testament gets in the Roman Church. Why can we not recognize that the type of holiness which Bishop Sheen writes all but impossible if one follows the teachings of St Paul. But the English Church was marvelously free from the vices of Rome right up until the beginning of the "Back to Baroque" movement in the Church of England. One only has to read the pages of Frederick Anson's books to realize what the embracing of the Roman ideal actually meant.

I would be happier if Father Hart wrote a book of his own on how the ideals of the New Testament deacon, priest and bishop could and should be realized by us all rather than presenting us with one plainly impossible even for the Romans for whom it was written.

Anonymous said...

Thanks to Brian G [I'm joking--to all you literalists] for ruining my day. Archbishop Jensen has written many fine things, but here he has stepped right out of historic Christianity. He is commonly considered an adherent of Reformed theology, but his ecclesiology is as far removed from classical Protestantism as KJS is from Chalcedonian Christology. The notions of "lay presidency" at the Eucharist or for that matter lay preaching were abhorrent to John Calvin and his legimate successors. I never encountered such a thing among Presbyterians. I had to become an Anglican to discover such madness.
And the silence of the Neo-Anglicans? Why they would sooner join a Rosary march for the Unborn!
LKW

Canon Tallis said...

Part of the job of the bishop is to make sure that there are priests to celebrate the Eucharist. And priests are made by ordination and not by four years in a university plus three in seminary. Just how many of the heretics who have attempted to destroy Anglican orthodoxy, even Anglicanism itself are flush with just those qualifications. But do they have the good sense to believe Holy Scripture and attempt to live it fully through the grace of God so freely given to all who believe and ask.

I once had the privilege of studying with a very brilliant man who pointed out that absolutely anything could be taught in six weeks or less, even brain surgery. He pointed out the number of very complicated operations conducted in submarines during World War II by medics taking instructions from a physician over the radio. The ability to follow the rubrics and celebrate properly the Lord's Supper is not confined to those so educated. If it were, the Christian faith would never have made it out of Jerusalem much less have toppled the Roman empire. Indeed the overwhelming majority of ordinary parish priests who maintained Catholic faith and practise in Britain and the rest of the Christian world over the past two thousand years had much less education than that.

I rejoice for every brilliant and learned man who takes up the burden and joy of being a priest, but there are not enough of them to put one in every parish in the Christian world. But there are now and always will be enough good Christian men capable of being ordained to the diaconate and then to the priesthood who can do what the Scripture demands. You only have to look to exactly what St Paul demands rather than what the world would have it be. We can see about us the ruins of the Church made by following man's rules and not God's.

Sandra McColl said...

Perhaps if Dr Jensen had lived in Melbourne he would have discovered the distinction he has missed. Most of Australia's Greeks have the good sense to live there and not Sydney.

Sandra McColl said...

On a more serious note, I remember that, after the passage of the vote to 'ordain' women at the Melbourne Synod in the early 90s, the liberal 'catholics' were sounding off in fear of lay presidency, which was being strongly mooted in Sydney at the time, and I offended one of them by suggesting the obvious--that it was the same thing by another route.

Diane said...

Canon Tallis:
Why do you take issue with celibate priests? Or highly educated ones? Do you think that we would have more in the CC if we didn't require either of our Latin-rite priests??

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Do you think that we would have more in the CC if we didn't require either of our Latin-rite priests??

Despite the proaganda to the contrary, my RC priest brother often hears from men who would follow a vocation if only married men could do so in their RC Church. The figures, therefore, so confidently laid out about why required celibacy is not causing a clergy shortage in the RCC are all bogus. Not only would the RCC have more priests if this stupid, anti-Scriptural, man-made requirement were dropped (if not Devil-made); they would also be able to remove the lousy ones, and would not have felt pressured to cover up the crimes of sexual predators.

This is what happens when people think they are smarter than God who inspired the scriptures. It is time for the RCC to admit the experiment has failed miserably (almost since it started 800 years ago), and return to the true Catholic Tradition of married priests.

poetreader said...

And also, Diane, please note this:

NO ONE has taken issue here with celibate or highly educated priests, not Canon Tallis, and not any of the four of us hosts. In fact much has been said on this blog that is highkly favorable to the presence of both among us.

Your statement would seem to show that you read us only to find things to disagree with. I hope I'm wrong, but you certainly give that appearance.

What we have questioned is the imposition of rigid requirememts not imposed by Our Lord or by the Holy Catholic church, East or West, in the first several centuries of its existence.

We value our celibate priests, but refuse to ban those Our Lord has called simply because they have entered a married state which He himself blesses. They too are valuable. Even Rome seems to think they sometimes might be, in that married clergy are accepted and even encouraged in the Eastern rites and are accepted into the Roman rite itself by the Pastoral provision.

We value our priest-scholars, but insistence on the same high level of education for every priest is a very recent innovation, and is still not 100% enforced in your church, any more than it is in ours. Would you ban St. John Vianney, the Cure d'Ars, and patron saint of parish priests, from ordination because of his admitted intellectual weakness? That weakness did not prevent him from being one of the truly great pastors of all time.

You may disagree with us, friend. Open discussion is what we're here for, but please do not attack us for things we did not say. It doesn't bring us any closer to your position, but, in fact, makes you look a little silly.

ed

Canon Tallis said...

I would like to thank Father Hart and Ed for making the answers which I also would have done if the two of you had not beaten me to it. In fact, in terms of the acceptance of the less than absolutely brilliant, the Cure d'Ars is precisely the example of which I was thinking.

I have been fortunate enough to have spent my life around some very brilliant intellectuals of whom some were priests and I appreciate their learning as anyone ought. But there are many places in our world where such men are not going to cloister themselves unless they have a very special call indeed. Yet those places also need priests and deacons so that the faith once delivered to the saints may be preached and the sacraments reverently celebrated. That means that bishops have to find the appropriate persons to do so. They are probably already in the congregation since that is where they were normally found in the first five centuries of the Church. There was a wonderful book written about the Greek Orthodox Church in the middle of the last century. I think the title was "The Waters of Marah." It described how the local parish would pick one of its own to be ordained and then in a time when the communist insurgents were killing priests constantly. These men saw to it that the faith was maintained in the villages otherwise unable to attract or pay a Western style priest.

Pharmacotherapy said...

Dear Ed,

If Canon Tallis wasn't taking issue with Bishop Sheen's celibacy ("NO ONE has taken issue here with celibate...priests"), of what was he speaking when he wrote,

"I would be much more willing to consider the views reported in Sheen's book if his and the life of Roman priests were not so far from the New Testament ideal."

Archbishop Sheen was widely recognized as a good priest, bishop and Christian. His writings continue to inspire people many years after his death.

I realize that the interpretation of most on this board is that the Scriptural admonishment of a bishop or deacon having only "one wife" is that a bishop or deacon must be married, but that is far from a universal understanding in Christian history. It is, I believe, a minority view. That being celibate (Canon Tallis apparently considers it impossible that Bishop Sheen or any Roman priests might indeed be called to celibacy, a state in life commended by Christ) renders a minister's life "so far from the New Testament ideal" strikes me as a judgment that is using a very attenuated canon of virtues that should be part of the life of a Christian minister.

As for your contention, Fr. Hart, that

"The figures, therefore, so confidently laid out about why required celibacy is not causing a clergy shortage in the RCC are all bogus. Not only would the RCC have more priests if this stupid, anti-Scriptural, man-made requirement were dropped (if not Devil-made); they would also be able to remove the lousy ones, and would not have felt pressured to cover up the crimes of sexual predators..."

is too simplistic by half. Celibacy was a requirement for Latin Church clergy fifty years ago, but there was no shortage of vocations in the U.S. then. What has changed since then is the size of families because of contraception. With fewer sons, many Catholic families are unwilling to have them enter the priesthood. I think this an important part of the explanation of the problem of the clergy shortage. This is also not a Roman Catholic-only problem: most of the liturgical denominations in the U.S. also have a clergy shortage. The problem has more to do, I think, with something you identified in your review: the desire to be accepted according to the world's standards. Such acceptance is given more to those who strive after the things of this world, which is why so many parents prefer their sons to go into law, medicine or business rather than ministry.

I have no doubt that there are married men who would enter the ministry in the RCC if it were permitted. I'm not so sure that they would all be of the caliber you recommend in your review, although some would undoubtedly be good priests. (And of course, there are many thousands of RC deacons now, most of whom are married.)

Diane said...

ed: In my post, I asked questions and you call it an 'attack'. You call me 'friend' and then add the putdown of calling me 'silly'. You have tried to play high and mighty with me before with other putdowns....just stop trying to cover up your true nature with the 'friend' stuff. Bottom line, you've got a Catholic listening in on a blog that does not appeal to a huge number of people...you should do your best not to run me off.
I agree with other parts of what you say about the married priesthood....I think the CC has what Scripture shows, both types of men: some called 'to be eunuchs for the greater glory of God' and those that are not called to live the celibate life who want to serve the Lord.

St. Paul extols the virtues of celibacy!! You must know that it is not forced on anyone...it is a choice to be a priest in our Latin rite, which has it's requirements.
I do know that many protestant denominations are finding themselves short of ministers so I don't know that allowing married priests would be the solution for our priest shortage or is the reason for it. I really believe what JP2 said, "we don't have a vocations crisis, we have a faith crisis". We live in a post-Christian and materialstic world. It is a lack of solid, practicing Catholic families raising up godly boys who want to serve the Lord with total abandon. He also said that the celibate priesthood should be maintained because it is "profoundly connected with a man's configurations to Christ as the good shepherd and spouse of the Church". I agree!
Personally, I appreciate all Catholic priests, married or not, but I do have a special admiration for those who are celibate...they are different from me and are living in a way that shows a higher level of conviction...there is just something about someone who forgoes pleasures of the flesh...the struggle of it, the self-denial of it...I think it's awesome. In the end, it (as well as other mortifications, etc) makes you stronger and better able to resist sin. I want my priest to be holier, stronger than me...not someone like me with the same family struggles, etc.

About the education part...I agree that it is a departure, but so what? That does not invalidate the CC's model for the priesthood. I love St. Joseph of Cupertino, who was not educated but very simple, loving and holy....I would rather have 10 of him versus 10 worldy priests with doctorates. I don't know that I would support a less rigorous academic training, though....I don't think it is an impediment or a reason why we have a shortage of priests.

poetreader said...

Dear Pharma...,

I do agree that Canon Tallis overstated his case, but I am certain that his case is not an insistence that all clergy MUST be married. That is most certainly not the opinion of the majority on this blog, and would be a bizarre interpretation of Scripture inasmuch as the very one who wrote "a bishop shall be the husband of one wife" was himself not married, and himself testified to the high value of a celibate life. Were I to make a similar statement (though I would express it differently, I would be speaking of the rather weird culture that I see as arising, not from the existence of celibate clergy, but from the requirement that they all be celibate, whether they have had that specific calling or not. I do indeed see that requirement as the source of a great deal of mischief. As to any allegations that Bishop Sheen was not himself a good priest, I too was appalled. Even my strongly anticatholic grandfather saw Christ in him, and watched his broadcasts faithfully. But even he, within the strangely warped culture where there were no married clergy, ended up missing a certain dimension of the priestly ministry.

Dear Diane,

I do mean it when I call you 'friend' - I would like that to be so. I'm sorry if my words could be taken to mean what I do not intend. You are not silly. What I said was that you were (quite unfortunately) making yourself look as though you were,
and that is a pity. In this comment you've demonstrated the kind of thinking that I know is in you, and I thank you for that. Yes, you are a (Roman) Catholic listening in on an Anglican blog, and you are welcome not only to listen, but to speak. We most certainly will disagree on a number of things, and those disagreements certainly can be discussed in a rational manner, and, when this is done, we will all profit. All I'm asking is that you please try to understand just what we are actually saying before you challenge us. Our disagreement on these two issues is not so profound as you were implying. We tend to believe that the married state ought to be the more normal state for a priest, and you are believing that the celibate state is better. We both have high respect for priests, whether married or celibate, and in that we agree. We both value education as a normal part of priestly formation, but we both admire priests whose education is less than the norm.

I guess the difference between us on both issues is that I tend to regard guidelines as guidelines, rather than as rigid requirements, and seek that the Holy Spirit lead our bishops into the most fitting decisions in His sight.

Diane, I do speak sharply sometimes, and tend to be a little curmudgeonly, but it is largely because I expect friends to rise to the top of their capabilities, and not to be content with a mere surface understanding or expression of their own positions or those of others. I believe there is more in you than you've been showing, and I see it in this latest comment.

ed

Steve Cavanaugh said...

Dear Ed,

sorry for the "Pharmacotherapy" moniker on my post earlier today. My true name should show up...that other was leftover from a work post, and I thought I had logged in properly. Every now and then Blogger throws me a curve.

I shouldn't have written "most on this board"; but I believe I have seen that opinion expressed here in the past. I realize that that opinion, based on words of St. Paul, is a bit out there...given the sources' own celibacy.

I thought earlier how some of these discussions end up being contests. Sometimes posts here are defensive, even when no attack has occurred (as in this case). It's like advertising; Pepsi needs to say how it's better than Coke; Burger King how it's better than McDonalds. (Which analogies brought to mind a banner hung from one of the dorms when Pope John Paul II visited Catholic University in 1979--when I was a frehsman--that read "Have a Pope and a smile", based on the then current Coke ad...but I digress and possibly, but hopefully not, annoy ;)

While it's important to correct misconceptions and misrepresentations, it is probably not necessary to defend the brand of Anglicanism showcased here every time something positive about Roman Catholicism is mentioned.

Steve Cavanaugh said...

Ed wrote this at the end of his reply to me:
"But even he [Archbishop Sheen], within the strangely warped culture where there were no married clergy, ended up missing a certain dimension of the priestly ministry."

I would agree that there was a warped clerical culture in the American RC priesthood, over the past century, especially. But that may not be due so much to celibacy as to the unique circumstances of the Irish character of the hierarchy and the presbyterate in the U.S. Because of the supression of Roman Catholicism in Ireland under the British, the relationship of priest to people became unbalanced, and that became the norm here as well.

There is no reason that Anglicans would have concerned themselves with the sociology of the Roman Catholic Church in the U.S. But many of the problems in contemporary church life can be attributed to issues other than doctrinal emphases, or, at least, as contributing causes. Thomas Day's Why Catholics Can't Sing looks at some of this.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Pharmacotherapy wrote:

This is also not a Roman Catholic-only problem: most of the liturgical denominations in the U.S. also have a clergy shortage.

No one has anything like the problem of the RCC with regard to how much the clergy is outnumbered. That is a statistical fact, and so the percentage of clergy to laity is relevant. Rome stops most of the best men before they can get started. I say best, because St. Paul saw how a man ruled his own house to be the major test.

Smargiassius said...

Father Hart:

The RCC has a shortage of priests due to its own choice. Those who want to pursue a late vocation are being turned away.

AMDG,
Scott Arbuckle
www.uvcarmel.org

Fr. Robert Hart said...

The RCC has a shortage of priests due to its own choice. Those who want to pursue a late vocation are being turned away.

The statistics on how many men have never bothered to "apply" simply do not exist. The RCC does not know what it has been missing, and who it has actually turned away simply by the imposition of a bad rule (not to mention a failed experiment).

St. Paul's celibacy raises two questions. Knowing ancient Jewish culture, and Jewish religious teaching, it is very likely that he had been the husband of one wife, and then a widower (which actually is a better fit with I Cor. 7:8). Also, he never embraced the life of celibacy as a discipline, but as a gift (χάρισμα), which indicates that it is in the same category as speaking in tongues, working miracles or prophesying.

My criticism is this: Requiring celibacy for all men who are members of the Latin Rite and want to explore a vocation, treats something that is essentially charismatic as a human discipline.

In this light, I want to address what Diane wrote:

I want my priest to be holier, stronger than me...not someone like me with the same family struggles, etc.

I see two problems with this reasoning. 1) Many RC priests are not celibates at all, but simply unmarried. Many are addicted to alcohol or pornography, and many are homosexuals who either give in, or who expected the vocation to create a cure, and were disappointed. And, some have been serial child abusers. (I am not imagining these problems, but rather I know for a fact, and the numbers are staggering.)

Of these some are men who chose to hide among members of a celibate vocation; but some are men who made a choice that ought never to have been imposed on them, tried to embrace the discipline, and were overwhelmed because they relied on the flesh. That choice was between two sacraments, ordination or matrimony. But, this choice was never imposed on any apostle by the Lord Jesus Christ, and so the Church has no more authority to impose celibacy on the clergy than it does to "ordain" women.

2) The Church is stronger when the priest does have the same family problems to overcome and day to day challenges, not weaker. It is almost necessary for most men who have pastoral ministry that they can identify with most people.

Along these lines I have the chutzpa to put forth my own marriage (of 24 years) as an example to people. I can do what the celibate priest cannot do. I can teach on marriage and family life with authority, not coming across as a mere theorist.

Steve Cavanaugh said...

Fr. Hart,

with all respect, your marriage furnishes you with anecdotes not authority in your teaching. I am married, we have had three children whom I've tried hard to bring up in the faith, and were I given the task of teaching others in this field, I do not think I'd be able to do so with any authority. The best I could say is, "This has worked so far..." or "This didn't work..." Such might prove a good example to others, but my experience would not confer on me any real authority. (The very idea that experience conveys authority sounds strangely like the feminist rhetoric that accompanies the push for ordination of women.) Better to rest your authority on the faith handed down to us.

I am far from condemning a married prebyterate; but what you are saying pretty much does condemn not only the celibate prebyterate of the Latin Church but also the celibate episcopate of the Orthodox, Latin & Eastern Catholic Churches.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Required celibacy is something I do object to, including imposing it on the episcopate. If you think authority is the wrong word try credibility.