The Fishwrap sure lived up to its name this time. Fishwrap (aka National Schismatic Reporter) has gushy piece about a reunion of old men who were seminarians of class 1966 at the Pontifical North American College in Rome. The arrived in Rome in 1962 and were ordained in 1966. Hence, they were in Rome during the Second Vatican Council.
That’s the point of the Fishwrap piece, of course: those halcyon days. And, with Francis, they’re back… or should be.
The whole piece is rather pathetic. Fishwrap’s breathy account of the reunion, with the cute little jokes and quips the ol’ gang bandied about, belies the underlying subtext. Here’s a passage:
Fifty-five were eventually ordained. Sixteen are still active priests. Thirty-one left the active priesthood.
They came home aflame — and ran headlong into the mid-1960s. The turbulence of change was fierce, but so was their zeal. Something had to give. For many, it was the priesthood. Most thought, in the wake of Vatican II, that mandatory celibacy would soon become optional. They were wrong. They thought the ban on contraception would be overturned. They were wrong. As some joined the first great wave of resignation, laicization or whatever term you choose, they feared their fellow Council Class members would ostracize and reject them.
They were wrong.
Many forged new paths, establishing careers — frequently pastoral in nature — getting married, raising kids. Keeping tabs on one another wasn’t as easy then as it is today. There was no internet yet, no email.
But they had Bill Freburger, who left the priesthood in 1976 and worked for NCR.
That about sums it up. They were wrong. 56% of the class quit. But you could work for Fishwrap!
And, by way of explanation of the rot that infested theology and whole swaths of the priesthood in those wondrous, halcyon days that produced streams of men and women out of religious orders, the destruction of catechetics, wholesale obliteration of our Catholic identity in a new springtime of post-Conciliar transformation….
An article shared by Joe Reid about the old theological notion that an “ontological change” occurs through ordination became a running gag throughout the four days here. The class never bought that, had great fun with it, and gave it a serious thrashing.
Get it? In this reunion group – the one that Fishwrap is all agog over – the ontological effect of the Sacrament of Orders is, for them, a joke. They don’t believe in priesthood as the Church believes in priesthood. One hero of the group, a priest from Detroit (whom I bet was involved in Call To Action back in the day) cited “lay empowerment” as the “blueprint for the future”. These guys have been wrong about just about everything their whole lives, it seems, but they’ve got stunning insights for us now. Here’s some more, straight from the Fishwrap‘s fevered imaginings:
I do think that will be the major challenge of the next several years, to break this clericalism and think of ways of transforming the sacrament of orders into a living kind of leadership sacrament that anybody in the church would be eligible to be appointed to, obviously with preparation and some kind of spiritual grounding.
Perhaps the sort of preparation that these jokers had?
This is warmed over Rahner and Schillebeeckx. Choose someone from the community to preside. When that person no longer embodies the needs of the community, choose another. In seminary, in the 1980’s, this is crap we got, from faculty trained around the same time as this tragic reunion group. We were even forbidden to use the word “priest” but rather to say “ordained minister”. Everyone, you see, is a “minister”, either ordained or unordained. If you don’t believe that there is an ontological change in the man who is ordained, and that change imparts something to what the priest does, then priesthood is simply a job, a role that any person could fulfill. So, why not choose this person or that person who has – for now – what we want? The selection effectively has nothing to do with God.
Of course, of the guys who were ordained for my native place, were I to be counted among that class of ’91, I’m the only one left.
Look. No one begrudges a bunch of guys a reunion, but this is really sad.
Another quote also reveals something of the Fishwrap view.
“The Vatican Council gave a whole new vision of possibility for the Catholic church,” said Bob Livingston of Detroit, who left the active priesthood, married and, had a long career with General Motors. “That was personally transformative. It was the most exhilarating intellectual and faithful thing I have ever experienced. When Francis came in, it was like going back to 1966. It was like coming out of a long, dark tunnel. Francis was like stepping back into John XXIII, a breath of fresh air.
Ah…. those halcyon days of springtime and transformation!
What a springtime it has been!
A final piteous example, making reference to John XXIII’s “Moon Speech” on the evening of the Council’s opening day…
Most of all, they are, as Jim Murphy put it, by way of Thomas Merton, a finger pointing at the moon — in all its phases, including its exhilarating fullness, even when obscured. These classmates would say, “Don’t pay attention to us. Pay attention to what we’re pointing at,” and the moon they’re pointing at is the Second Vatican Council, reflecting the light of that major eruption of the Holy Spirit, a moon capable, in its fullness, of lighting our way forward into the future.