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The Missing Icon: Masculine Fraternity and the Priesthood

David Pence

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The simple shepherds and sophisticated wisemen who celebrated the birth of Jesus were joined by a twisted tyrant. Herod’s birthday party for the Christ gathered all Jewish males under two and murdered them. His act was a grisly reminder of Pharaoh at the birth of Moses and a prelude to the killers of Kosovo who did not slay the infant boys to prevent a king but emptied villages of teen age males to discourage armies. A ravenous red dragon awaits the birth of the male infant in Revelation. Tyrants and the devil know that male leadership and future male armies are dangerous for the devil and tyrants. They murder in fear of the sacrificial death and courage that might oppose their evil and build a different kind of kingdom. The tyrants know the character of the warrior’s sacrifice which inspires other men to public allegiance in memory of the slain. The resonance of masculinity and sacrificial death for the community sounds a powerful aesthetic argument for the male priesthood. But there is another argument-a sacramental and anthropological one- which is presented here.

The Catholic Church is unabashedly patriarchal (Patros-archos -rule of the Father)-asserting in liturgy and creed that God the Father is almighty. His name should be holy. His day should be sacred and He should rule all the earth as His kingdom. The Church is hierarchical in the original meaning of the word (hieros- archos- rule by the priests/the sacred). The hierarchy is all male. There is only one election and it only happens when the head male dies. The electors are all males who have been chosen by the previous head males. Let’s face it --it’s a self perpetuating male dominated system.

The pope has been challenged by DeVinci Code sleuths who have exposed this structure of patriarchy, fraternity and hierarchy as a ruse for the more sinister reality of sexism. He spoiled the gambit however by refusing to play the tyrant. He did not “ex cathedra” forbid the ordination of women. Rather than issuing a condemnation of female priests, he made a declaration about the nature of the papacy. He said he has no authority to end the male character of the priesthood. He could no more change the masculine character of the priesthood than he could alter the male- female character of marriage. To Christians separated from Rome and wary of papal tyranny, his restraint was an olive branch. An American feminist might not see the reactionary and dictatorial use of the papal office that her “ordination” would imply. But the Pope viewed her request against a wider horizon. He says he is only the pope. The papacy is not a magic show but a limited office in the service of a larger project. He cannot conjure the Eucharist from crackers or the priesthood from women.

True to our age the argument that some sacraments are ontologically tied to gender is contested not only for the priesthood but is denied for marriage as well. The new suspicion of the male-female character of marriage gives a certain reassurance. It is a sure sign of the arrogant overreach of the present day sexual rebels. It reminds us of a deeper truth -the anthropology of accord. It reminds us that how we order our loves is deeply tied to masculinity and femininity. The sacramental bonds of the priesthood and marriage are sacraments of Christian love. Marriage is a sign of the private intimacy of romance and domestic life. The priesthood is the icon of the Twelve led by Peter. Christ ordered his disciples “to love one another as I have loved you”. He said that love would be a defining characteristic by which the world would know they were his disciples. How he loved this band of men is at the core of apostolic succession. Faithfully repeating that love forms the collegiality at the heart of the public Church and her hierarchy. This Eucharistic understanding flows from the teaching of Vatican II that the office of the bishop is inherently relational to the original Twelve, the liturgical priestly action, the present body of bishops and the Petrine office. Ecclesial acts of the local church centered on a bishop and his priests are grounded in the bishop’s communion with these antecedent relationships. The anthropological dimension of “hierarchical communion” is grounded in the natural social tendency of men to form groups by establishing communal roles (status) and accepting the authority of leaders. Most priests have heard the “bridegroom argument” and the “standing in the person of Christ” argument .for a male priesthood. Many Catholics know the anthropology of the male female nature of marriage found in the “theology of the body.” The missing icon though is a “theology of the corporate body” illuminating the male priesthood with an anthropology of masculine fraternity.

Masculine Fraternity and the Scandal

Renewing the evangelistic and Eucharistic nature of the priesthood presents a strategy against the clerical abuse scandal. How religious orders, dioceses and Episcopal synods foster the leadership and fraternal love that will strengthen the doubting Thomas, forgive the errant Peter and expel the traitorous Judas will determine church renewal in the next decades. This radical reform can only come from a masculine holiness marked by the first fruit of male fraternity-courage. The individualistic piety without public courage of many “orthodox” priests cannot renew the ossified and decadent relationships that now characterize the Catholic clergy. New male leaders will consciously call their brothers into a personal and communal relationship which will animate the renewed monastery, local priesthood or national bishop’s conference. The masculine Christian love of a male leader for his men “as I loved you” will inspire the courageous acts of fraternal correction needed to expose the criminal and frankly demonic cliques that have corrupted so much of clerical culture. This evangelical leadership will not only set nets into the deep to preach the gospel but will sharpen the sign of the Eucharist by reconstituting the integrity of the fraternal bond which “offers sacrifice and forgives sins”.(Presbyterorum Ordinis).

The muting of the masculine character of the priesthood has played no small role in the failure of fidelity and authority that lies at the heart of the priesthood scandal. Several recent books on priestly formation proclaim as received wisdom that "gay“ seminarians are more relaxed and competent in developing intimate relationships with other men. One goes on to argue that the gay male seems to have a special affinity for relating to women also. Well, girlfriend, allow another thought.

A disordered notion of male love corrupted the priestly masculine fraternity and fostered a culture of deceit that allowed unspeakable crimes in the name of the Church. This was tolerated by a neutered managerial clericalism incapable of fatherly authority protecting communion through interrogation, dialogue and discipline. Emasculating the priesthood depersonalizes the priestly communion severing priests from the wider brotherhood of all men and detaching them from the adventurous Gallilean and the courageous fraternity who carried His presence into the Roman world.

Let the Church teach the World

Little wonder the secular culture has lost its own voice of authority in dealing with young males as the American prison population rises to two million. Could both the crisis in the priesthood and the scandal of underclass male imprisonment be related? Could all of this be related to what we have ridiculed –“male bonding”. Maybe male bonding is not a joke. Maybe it is something very profound called apostolic fraternity and civic friendship. Possibly it forms the communal basis of public life in both the Church and the body politic.

For forty years the Church has been tutored in the lessons of the sexual revolution. Now it is our turn. Let the Church teach the world a lesson about a proper ordering of the loves and agreements that sustain community. Let the feminists and their fellow travelers take a seat. Let the “gay” ideology of male intimacy learn from the masculine bond of solidarity. Let unapologetic men teach and live a more profound truth. If the voice does not waver, if the brotherhood reasserts itself, women of good will and intelligence will only ask “what took you guys so long?”

Patriarchy, fraternity, marriage and Mary- the sexual iconography of the Church

The Fatherhood of God is not a psychological construct projected upon God by men. The Fatherhood of God predates the creation of man and all of material creation. Before there was matter there was fatherhood .The Fatherhood of God is rooted in the Trinitarian relationship of the Father to the Son. God the Father expresses the personhood of God, the relational nature of personhood, and the consonance of authority and equality among persons. The revelation of Christ that He is God and that His Father sent Him is our source for knowing about God the Father. Christ told us God is Father. No one could figure that out on his own—not in most fervent prayer nor in deepest contemplation nor through the most profound reasoning. Patriarchy is a lesson of revelation.

The apostolic fraternity of the priesthood was instituted by Christ on the night before he died when he gave the Twelve a remembrance of His Pasch in the Eucharist. He called together the Twelve and left them the liturgical action at the heart of the church. He did not build the church on a family but on a public work of a band of men-on the Twelve. That night those men entered into a new relationship with one another and with Christ. They were ordered into a new relationship forming the densest circle of communion that would be manifested as Christ’s body when He left to be reunited with his Father. The priesthood is a relationship-a transformed group relationship of men with each other under the headship of Christ. That relationship is built on the act of making Christ present in the world. Christ is made personally present in the life of the Church by men who have entered into an apostolic relationship which ordains them to perform a liturgical act that links love, sacrifice and historical memory.

To say the Church is apostolic is to acknowledge this primary relationship at her core. To recognize this relationship is likewise to foresee a new possibility for all men to achieve a brotherhood as adult men. The primary defense of the male priesthood is rooted in its relational character. The male priesthood is a community of persons—like the Trinity, like the church, like marriage and the family, like political communities, like our hope for humanity. The priestly community of persons has a certain character precisely because it is a group of males.

We admit that the priesthood is a social construct. It was constructed by the Son of God, the second member of the Trinity. We begin by assuming He has a pretty good handle on how to effect a permanent and meaningful social construct. When we evaluate the question of women’s ordination we are not asking a question about an individual as a sign. In fact to think about the priest simply as an individual is exactly what communitarian liberals have rightly argued we cannot do in considering the imbedded nature of the person in society. When we discuss the male priesthood we are really asking about a relationship. Is there something about a male group relationship, which would be fundamentally altered by a female member? It is the same question we ask about marriage—does its anthropological and sacramental meaning rest on gender and number. Is marriage irrevocably a male and female couple and is the priesthood irrevocably a male group? In a strange way we can thank the sexual revolutionaries for questioning the heterosexual character of marriage. They point us to the relationship question in the masculine priesthood. (This question was not addressed by either woman who argued for and against the male priesthood in a previous issue of First Things)

Christ left His presence on earth in the ordered relationship of the Twelve. In Catholic sacramental life, the priesthood and the Eucharist cannot be separated. Our argument here in fact is best described as a Eucharistic notion of masculinity rather than an “individual as symbol” argument. It is entirely analogous to the spousal character of the body pointing to the particular communion of persons which is marriage. The Catholic Church has understood these two communities to be sacramentally ordered and lifelong in the character they confer to their members. The fatherhood of God, the masculine nature of the apostolic fraternity and the male female nature of marriage are completed by the feminine face of Mary and the church. These four realities constitute the sexual iconography of the Church.

Becoming men before becoming Priests

American men come into the seminary from an inverted culture at once desexualized and sex-saturated. Often good young men come into the priesthood with a most devout faith but an immature masculine character. Grace builds on nature and there can be no integral priesthood without integral men. As Phillip Rief in The Triumph of the Therapeutic (1963!) says, “The Christian model of man dominant for 1500 years has given way to the psychological man. The soul which is ordered by external reality has been replaced by the self. The Christian character is organized around faith and ordered to the truth of salvation. The psychological man revolves around self and the adjustment of self to reality.” “A dominant culture” says Rief, “shapes types of personalities that carry the culture to the world”. The “Catholic moment”, “the Church as culture” needs a personality to carry its truth. The communal and masculine personality of the priest will become the “bearer of the culture.” That was the plan of Christ and the genius of Benedict. Both the founding of the Christian city and its renewal were events institutionalized by ordered masculine fraternities.

Rief’s sociological insight mirrors the religious admonition to contemplate the face of Christ, die to self, and become the Body of Christ in the modern world. A renewed priesthood can only emerge from a renewed masculinity in the broader Catholic culture. Fifty years ago American movies displayed such character types. Orphan boys were shaped into fighting moral men of character in Boystown. Workers and priests collaborated in civic and workplace duties in On the Waterfront. Soldiers shaped by Catholic piety defended their country and the freedom of other peoples in “The Fighting O’Sullivans”(check movie name).

Our present inverted culture has produced a very different hero. The sexual revolution honored the career feminist liberated from maternal duty by abortion. She was flanked by the “gay” Episcopalian bishop explaining the arcane theology of his special love with his new male partner. Soldiers, policemen, fathers and mothers—all the adult protectors had a tough half-century during the great inversion.

The reemergence of a protective male public depends on the honoring of an old type. It will entail a dramatic change in the status of whom we honor and what we shun. The personality that will right the inversion ritual can only appear with the return of Christian masculinity in both the priesthood and the laity. The Million Man March and Promise Keepers were forerunners of this return. In every culture there is a public identity that shapes the public life of the group. It is true in religious culture, in civic life and tribal communities. It is universally some definition of masculinity that shapes public cultures. There is really no female equivalent to the charge-“Be a man”. Being a man is imputing to an individual man the aspirations of the whole culture. A vulgar culture creates vulgar men driven by appetite. A decadent culture produces weak men who eventually are replaced by male types who still know how to fight. This happens to neighborhoods as well as civilizations. It can also happen in seminaries.

The young males who are to stand in the place of Christ as priests must first understand themselves as men. The maturation of men is a process of separation from the world of mother and family to enter a public realm of risk, danger and challenge. When Mary found Jesus teaching in the temple, he explained the anthropological truth-“I must be about my Father’s business.” It is in this environment of struggle that the man tests his own mettle, cultivates the virtues and forges the masculine friendships that will mark his entry into the adult world of men. The ancient myths of manhood and heroes still hold true. The warrior must leave his beautiful wife to defend his city or depart from the caves of erotic nymphs to reenter the world of battle. A boy has no obligation to battle. He is still a protected class. He is protected by women. But a man enters adulthood by paying back his ancestors. He must take his place in whatever battle or work needs his arms, skill and wit. The warrior is phototropic-he seeks the engagement of public life and external reality. It is no coincidence that so many of the sexual dissidents in the church also reject the sacrificial atonement of Christ as a vulgar social construct of a primitive people unenlightened by their androgynous and more docile middle class god. The more we understand manhood, the more we will understand Christ. The more we understand Christ, the more we will understand manhood. Laymen can best hurry the priestly reform by renewing masculine fraternity and courage. Within that bracing accord, new priests will arise and old ones will be renewed.

Social Capital and Masculinity

One of the telltale signs of a dying ideology is a spokesman trapped by the inadequacy of a paradigm points out those inconsistencies and is suddenly considered a complex thinker. That is basically how “feminist with a nuance” Ellen Goodman came to be a national columnist. Another such complex thinker is Robert Putnam who writes about social capital in his book Bowling Alone. Social capital “refers to connections among individuals-social networks and the norms of reciprocity and trustworthiness that arise from them.” Mr. Putnam is all the rage with various newsrooms and campuses but he is incapable of addressing the nature of the social capital problem because it is rooted in the breakdown of authoritative religion, masculine group identity and lifelong marriage. As a secularist and soft feminist he cannot see that his own ideology has created the problem which he describes. Francis Fukuyama (whose father was a sociologist of religion) describes the problem with considerable more acuity. He says the breakdown of social capital is not a lack of associations but a miniaturization of associational depth and breadth. His brilliant book on the social foundations of free market economy (Trust) explained the importance of wide radius agreements in creating social orders capable of great public deeds. Two writers in First Things ( Monsignor Francis Mannion, “The Church and the City” Feb2000; and Robert Louis Wilkens, “The Church as Culture”) have written penetrating portraits of the public nature of liturgical and ecclesial culture. Their essays are all about social capital but the authors are invisible to the secularized social scientists wading in the brackish waters of their minituarized specialty.

The priesthood foretells Mankind - a renewed public relationship of adult men with a Christological basis. Humanity is formless and unredeemed, mankind is shaped around a person-“Behold the man”. (“Humankind” is an unforgiveable offense against language and the human ear.) The social capital debate is a confused plea for the reappearance of the religious male who builds wide radius agreement, linking self and cosmos to God by shaping the public relationships of ecclesia and polis.

The mission of the priesthood and the nature of male groups

The mission of the priest is to sanctify, teach, and govern. He is ordained to make Christ present in the world so through Him we might partake in the life of the Trinity.

There are three charisms of the male group which make it an especially effective sign of Christ’s continual presence in the church. Male groups are public, authoritative and protective.

To Sanctify (Male groups as Public)

The priesthood is meant to sanctify. The call to holiness is not a privatized affair. The Church is holy because she shares in the life of the Trinity by conforming to the person of Christ. This is most fully expressed in her public acts of the liturgy. The public liturgy is an act of the Trinity, which the world gains access to through the priesthood. The special election of the Jews, the unique identity of Christ and the exclusive rights and duties of the priesthood are all linked in the scandalous specificity of Christian revelation. (If women get mad that the priesthood is all male just think how the priesthood itself must grate on sincere Protestants. The really “unfair” proposition is that there are selected humans who exclusively represent the obedience of Calvary liturgically.) By their special election the Twelve and their successors carry out the priestly act of Christ. As laymen we are not diminished because there is a chosen group to perform these actions. We are no more insulted by the special, elevated and indispensable roles of priests than we are by the particular call to Abraham or the uniqueness of the Jewish mother who was chosen to give birth to a Messiah.

Our liturgical life repeats Christ’s life through time. We become a people set apart through baptism and our participation in the Eucharist. It is the official liturgical acts of the church however which perform the priestly mission of the Church most fundamentally. Reading the 19th century liturgical reformers it is clear that full participation by the laity meant engaging the “heart and intellect” of the layman in the sacerdotal activity of the hierarchy. This was not a democratic rebellion against the priesthood but a plea that the people pay full attention to the priestly action. The way the Church sanctifies is by drawing all of us into the life and sacrifice of Christ. This is done through the priesthood in a public liturgy –that is the “Catholic thing.” Christ bequeathed that mediating visible role to a communion of persons-the Twelve. We are all richer for His gift.

The public nature of the Eucharistic and the Paschal Mystery defines the Church in the world. It is a bold public seizure of time and space proclaimed by a band of men constituted by their Savior King. The priesthood shapes a people by sacramental acts which mark the weekly, yearly and personal cycles. This ingenious teaching strategy inherited from the Jews harnesses the cyclical time of the day, the week and the year to tell the story of Christ’s entrance into history. Keeping Catholic time infuses the cosmic and biological cycles with moral lessons. The sanctification of time is impossible except as a corporate and public act. It takes weight to reorient. To sanctify time is to reorient the center of gravity of the physical world around the moral axis of a Divine Person.

Male groups are by their very nature public. Unlike marriage and familial relationships male community is not directed toward intimacy. Male groups are public and wide radius because they are mission oriented. To tackle big tasks, a big group is needed. To build a city, to fight a war, to organize seasonal food storage takes the cooperation of many hands. The formation of a communal public personality (be a man!) allows the wide radius agreement which accomplishes big tasks. The Catholic priesthood is the original Promise Keepers convention. The male priesthood ordains manhood into the ultimate “bridging social capital” (Putnam). Manhood as a set of public duties assigned not by race or class but gender builds “wide radius trust”(Fukyama). That is the kind of trust which allows large public groups to form—not built on privatized loyalties but on shared duties and the love of some greater good which “makes claims on an individual’s personality” (Rief). The male group as an icon of public life brings us in contact with the cosmological nature of the church. Men are phototropic. They look out into time and space to find the truth. There they meet the total other-the Living God who reveals Himself as Creator of the universe-He who is calling the whole physical process back into ordered love with Him.

There is a familial dimension to Christianity because our relationship with Christ allows us to call God “Father.” Christ however did not come to establish a family. He did not get married and build the loves of the church upon his intimacy with a woman. The Devinci Code hypothesis is not a new idea but it sprouted like a beanstalk fertilized by the anti patriarchal bias of feminism and watered by an almost universal ignorance of the Church’s role in establishing the Scriptural canon. For forty years in popular culture and sadly in many of our seminaries exclusive male groups have been defined as inherently oppressive. No wonder people were ripe for a conspiratorial theory portraying the church not as the shining lamp of revelation but as a bushel basket of male oppression concealing the true Christ.

The kingdom of God is built on a city not a marriage. This public dimension is often obscured in parish life which is so easily engulfed by the “one big happy family” model. We are family as we are one body but so are we a kingdom. The wide radius nature of male agreement allows our liturgical life to be a template for the Trinity, a sign of cosmological breadth, a model for civic agreement and a promise for the brotherhood of mankind.

The priesthood is defined by mystery, communion, and mission according to Pope John Paul II. (Pastores Dabo Vobis)) To understand the public nature of priestly communion which allows the evangelical mission of the church, priests are called to contemplate the mystery of Christ. This public pope has introduced the 5 luminous mysteries of the rosary to center the contemplative prayer more acutely on the public nature of Christ’s life. He has also continued the project of Vatican II to deepen the awareness and expression of the collegial and priestly nature of the bishop’s office especially in the synods.

The priesthood incarnates this universal dimension in a local church in a particular diocese around a singular bishop. As Lumen Gentium states, “priests share in the bishop’s rank and form his spiritual crown. They should preserve the bond of priestly fraternity, abound in every spiritual good, and give living evidence of God to all men.”

The Christian narrative is taught by a group of men unrelated by kinship because the truth of the Christian proposition is bigger than any family, kinship group, or nationality. It is a particular story but it widens the stage and perspective of every man who tells it and every believer who hears. The priesthood is organized around an act—the liturgical act of making Christ’s death, resurrection and reign in heaven present to the world. The masculine communion of the priesthood is not an end in itself. It does not seek intimacy for itself. The apostolic fraternity is always at the service of the sacerdotal task of bringing the whole world back into the ultimate locus of holiness -communion with the Trinity.

To Teach (Male Groups as Authoritative)

The priesthood is meant to teach. The Church teaches what is peculiar to the church— the revealed narrative of Christ and salvation history. The priest’s first teaching assignment is to tell the story of the Gospel. The horrible miniaturization of life that secularism imposes on the individual and the cosmos is a stifling banality. This is answered by the dynamism of the Christian narrative. Our God lives in a Trinity and has invited us to participate in that love. Even though we have sinned He became man to reintegrate us in the loving community of persons that is the Trinity. To tell such a tale it helps to have a very big group of men nodding in agreement. Revelation depends on a authoritative and credible witness. Because male groups order the protective life of a community they constitute the most convincing icon of authority. Imagine Christ walking the streets of Jerusalem or smaller cities flanked by His fishermen and filled out with “the seventy” and other men attracted to His strength, clarity and powers of healing. When he multiplied the loaves there were 5000 men in attendance. Reflect on the orderly and space filling presence of Jesus and his men. The Pharisees said “we could not take Him-the crowds would not let us.” Ask if the only time Jesus’ followers were armed was the night of the Last Supper. Armed or not, a masculine presence turned upside down the moral center of gravity in a city ruled by the Roman Empire and guided religiously by Judaism.

Do not fear the physical nature of Christ’s dominance. Do not be frightened by the male presence on an altar when fifty male priests concelebrate. Christ did not fear authority. He healed the sick, cast out the demons and stilled the winds of the sea. The necessity for priests to act with authority resonates with the anthropological function of male groups.

Establishing authority is an obligation. Authority is necessary for community. Male groups establish authority. We do this because weather and disorder in nature requires communal order to live through the inclemency of seasons or the disappearance of food. Men organize authority because there is evil in the world. There are other men who will not live by the law. Criminals need to be disciplined by authority or they will prey on the weak. There are outside groups of males who will pillage the bounty of work if there is no male group preventing them. There are vulnerable and weak people (the widows and orphans as the psalms remind us) who need someone to care for them-they too need authority. But it is not just the state of disorder, the needs of the weak or the existence of evil that evoke authority. In Dei Verbum(Vatican II document on Revelation) the only time the actual word “traditio” is used is to describe the handing over of the teaching authority by the apostles to their successors through the ages. The Scriptures, the liturgy the sacraments, theological teachings, - all of them can be handed down because authority has been handed down. This communal form of authority—Christ at the head of an elected (chosen) body of men is a form particularly suited to the mission of preaching a gospel that must be proclaimed. The very structure of Revelation—that God’s presence and purpose must be explained (not reasoned to) necessitates authority. The world has a story and a purpose and it is very good news indeed. This must be passed on. It has been revealed and now it must be proclaimed. This is the ultimate purpose of authority. The Covenant foreshadowed by circumcision and fulfilled in the priesthood orders masculine authority to the mission of preaching this good news.

To Rule (Male groups as Protective)

The priesthood is meant to rule. The necessity for governance and protection implies a good to be protected and an evil to be protected against. Male groups remember that the contours of life are shaped as a battlefield. This particular characteristic of the male group --that there is an in group and an out group(in nature usually defined by territory) postures the community to recognize the Being of Evil “prowling the world seeking the ruin of souls.” Male groups stand in agreement but with an eye peeled to the outer perimeter. Christ did not tell Peter to put down the sword because there was no one to fight. He had bigger fish to fry. Christ had to pass through Roman torture to break into the real enemy’s camp and sunder the gates of hell. Universally the relationship that best assumes the duty of long term, widescale and continual guard duty is the masculine protective agreement. No NFL football team would consider facing the enemy in any other formation. The priesthood fights a rather bigger battle guarding the truth of revelation and the living Presence of God upon a cosmic battleground. The corruption of the masculine fraternity of the priesthood has produced many twisted fruits. One particular poison has been the substitution of a sickly pacifism for the blessedness of protective peacemakers “who shall be called sons of God”.

Fraternal Communion serving the mystery of the Eucharist and the Mission to Evangelize

To become a priest is to be called into a fraternity. The vocation to marriage is never an abstract call. It is a woman calling a man or a man calling a particular woman. The priesthood too is a call by a living fraternity of men to a man to partake in the fellowship that Christ established on the roads of Galilee and ordained in the upper room. Come and join us!! That relationship is incarnated throughout the world in particular dioceses in a friendship among the local bishop and his priests. That local fellowship signifies a fraternity that extends across the world in space and back through history in time to the first night when Jesus ordained the Twelve. The bond of the Twelve was instituted in anticipation of the sacrifice on Calvary. The apostles were given the mission to remember and draw all mankind back into Christ’s priestly sacrifice. To contemplate Christ is to become His contemporary. The priesthood does not draw Christ into a private friendship but unites us with the act which defined Christ’s loving obedience to the Father. Our personal relationship with Christ is drawn into the pivotal historical act which the liturgy mysteriously makes contemporary. The priesthood has been uniquely authorized to bring us into the eternal realm of Divine Love made present in the world by the Paschal Trinitarian event.

The male priesthood in a directly analogical way forms a bond of charity which can be extended to men across the world in a public brotherhood. That brotherhood finds its natural protective expression in civic bodies of nations, states and cities. That brotherhood does not include women or children. But everywhere that brotherhood flourishes, women and children are cared for and safe. That certain public bonds exclude adult females is no more insulting than the exclusive nature of marital ties is to single people and the ordained clergy is to laymen. All of these communions of persons are in service to some larger group than themselves but all of them have a character of duty and obligation that necessitate exclusivity. The male priesthood is the communion of persons that leads to the deeper communion of persons that is the Body of Christ. To disfigure one is to scourge the other. To reconstitute one is to glorify the other.

Dr David Pence is a Catholic physician, editor of City Fathers magazine and author of "Religion, Sex and Politics - For Men Only".

Posted: 1/1/05



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