Over at the PrayTell Blog this summer, each week a different contributor posts a question for discussion. The current offering by Jonathan Day proposes this thesis on the Church's perception of the ministerial (ordained) priesthood:
I believe that the last century has witnessed two fundamental changes in this perception. At the beginning of the 20th century, the stress was almost entirely on the priest as a modern Levite, a man set apart to bring about the daily miracle of the altar.Day offers no conclusions or solutions but the post and the combox there are worth your time.
The middle of the 20th century saw a shift in emphasis, from the priest as cultic minister to the priest as a proclaimer of the Word, and as a servant-leader of the community.
And the last few decades – roughly, the papacies of John Paul II and Benedict XVI – have seen the return of the priest-as-Levite.
So I thought we might discuss several questions. First, is my reading correct? Has a change taken place? Second, what implications would a shift in perception of the priesthood have for issues confronting the Church today? – I think, for example, of the abuse crisis and of conflicts around the liturgy. And third, is there an understanding of the priest and his role that transcends or unites the two I have set out?
Please note that I am not presenting the change as ‘a good thing’ or ‘a bad thing’ – just as a change.
Day calls on three witness to make the case that indeed a change has taken place. The first is James Joyce, who completed A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man in 1914. The second is the Vatican II Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests, Presbyterorum Ordinis, promulgated in 1965. And the third is Pope Benedict XVI, in his homily on 11 June 2010, concluding the Year for Priests.
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