Another assault on Holy Orders

At Lifesite I read that in the caput malorum omnium, Card. Marx, Archbishop of Freising-Munich has proposed that lay men and (of course) women should preach at Mass.

Given the general state of things in Germany… they probably couldn’t do any worse.

But that isn’t the point.

It is really quite an assault on the priesthood.

These comments come shortly after a private and unannounced pre-Amazon Synod meeting took place near Rome, at which several German prelates and theologians participated, among them Cardinal Walter Kasper and Bishop Franz-Josef Overbeck. An official summary of that meeting called for the introduction of female deacons.

It is an assault on Holy Orders.

Since “talents are different,” the German prelate raised the question of lay preachers. “Do we not want to say: he who has a talent, he shall speak?” he asked. “May only the priest preach?” In general, Cardinal Marx hopes for “a greater diversity of that which is the homily.”

What this is is a reduction of orders simply to functions.  Hence, the ordained are simply functionaries, who do things, then why not pick the people who are good at those things.  That’s a Protestant view of “minister”, not a Catholic view of “orders”.

But, hey!, maybe this sort of talk slowed for a few minutes the number of people leaving the Church in Germany and, therefore, the decrease in the Kirchensteuer.

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  1. Gab says:

    I have to remind myself that nothing happens without God’s holy will, either His positive or permissive will,
    in order not to despair.

  2. sggreener says:

    Follow the money. Is trying to get more people into church an example of simony?

  3. Clinton R. says:

    The skids were greased by the regrettable decision by Paul VI to suppress minor orders. It opened the doors to have the laity (both male & female) “participate” in the Mass by fulfilling roles that had been carried out by men on their way to the priesthood.

  4. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Well, there was some use of laypeople in clerical or semi-clerical roles before suppressing the minor orders was even dreamed about. Acolytes, obviously. The choir, too.

    The main problem seems to be the separation of preaching from priestly powers, which is something that goes back to the Middle Ages or before. But instead of thinking, “Preaching at Mass is only for priests who know what they are doing; it’s a higher ability!”, you see your stereotypical Sixties/Seventies idea that preaching is something beneath a priest, and that’s it’s for junior laypeople or random nuns or somebody armed with a text of any kind whatsoever, or even with recordings of stupid pop songs. It’s not about love of getting the people taught most effectively. It’s, “Preaching is a giant pain in the butt for a priest. Who can I delegate it to?”

    The other thing is the idea that the homily is when you get the parish council budget report, or play the bishop’s videotape, or bring up laypeople to show their achievements and get applauded. When I was in parochial school back in the early 1980’s, they had me read my prizewinning pious essay. (The prize was me reading my essay, I think. It was not a very good essay or very pious, and it certainly wasn’t a substitute for a homily or any part thereof.)

    OTOH, if you read the Fathers, or if you look at sermons in Old English class, you will find that priests or bishops back then were pretty serious about homily time as being holy and important. Jesus did not find a homily to be something beneath him!

  5. JustaSinner says:

    I want a Priest leading Mass. I refuse to go through the Communion line with lay distributors and will not become one myself. There are many Dioceses with a plethora of Seminarians. Replicate what works. Treat them with respect, dignity and shower with treasure and praise. Rinse, repeat.

  6. Amerikaner says:

    The Germans seem bent on replanting Thor’s Oak. St. Boniface, pray for us.

  7. I can think of some archbishoprics that could be better governed by a layman.

  8. sggreener: of course, it’s all about money and bishops as CEOs of local businesses with branch offices on the corner. It’s what ordinaries have been reduced to in many cases, especially in inner city dioceses. Consolidation, abandonment of aging (ie maintenance-intensive) structures, cramming multiple St Elsewhere parish(s) into an amorphous “Catholic Community of Central East Jabip” with branch offices in 3 easy to access locations (in post 1960’s structures, since, you know, they aren’t as deteriorated) and assign one man to celebrate Mass in all 3 a half hour apart.

    Guess what? It’s up to US to put a stop to the craziness. I’m part of one effort that our host has mentioned a few times (and we’re starting to see the results); there’s many more that you never hear about, but, if it’s going to be done, and the whack-a-doodles derailed, the core of people (and the priests they love) will rebuild the Church, just as we’ve always done, and +Cdl George (RIP) observed.

    Now, the German experience may be a little different with the tax; when you don’t have to worry yourself about such mundane matters as keeping the doors open (since you’re essentially treated as a welfare recipient and the state will pay to maintain the buildings and you have a socialist safety net), you can afford to wander off into flights of progressive fancy and, as the good Fr. Z cogently says, propose, with the typical straight face, reducing the ontological reality of Orders into a functional job description.

    Is anyone really surprised that the latest assault on the priesthood comes from the same land that assaulted the Church in the 1500s? The land that recently gave us +Benedict also gave us Luther.

  9. Josephus Corvus says:

    Does the Cardinal have the right to allow that in his area? Quite a few years ago, my archdioceses actually had that, but just because the Archbishop (a well-know former abbot primate of the Benedictines) did it, doesn’t mean that it was allowed. The way it was implemented was that “because of the priest shortage” a woman who had some number of years of training was put in charge of a parish and a priest was assigned to help out with the sacraments. Because the priest wasn’t the pastor and involved in the parish, she was allowed to preach. Now whether or not it was called a homily, I don’t know, but I really don’t care what word you want to attribute to the speech between the Gospel and the Creed.

    On a humorous side note, I was in grade school during the time of the aforementioned Benedictine Archbishop. The class was reading something about him out loud and a particular girl got to his name and read the letters that indicate his order. Unfortunately for her, she got the order of those letters incorrect. I’ll leave it at that….

  10. MattH says:

    The question of who should preach at Holy Mass is not a question of the Church “not wanting to hear from” women or laymen. Much of the discussion seems to think of the homily as a talk just randomly inserted into our Sunday service. We need to instead think of it as a liturgical action, which needs to be carried out according to the internal ceremonial logic of the rite being celebrated. Anything else is disjointed.

    That absolutely doesn’t mean we don’t want to hear from others who can expound Scripture and Tradition for us. I “preached” our parish retreat the last two Lents- a priest celebrated Mass (properly, to its completion), then we all left the chapel, and in the hall, I gave a talk. Done that way, I do want to listen to Sister – or Dr. H or whomever. In fact, I will listen to them for longer then if they got to preach Mass. So it isn’t that the Church doesn’t want to hear those voices, but that we need not disrupt the organic unity of the Mass to do so.

    Of course, that would require people to remember they need to do more than their Masses of obligation if the want to grow in the Faith.

  11. robtbrown says:

    It is no accident that the push for lay preaching and reading the Gospel at mass arises with vernaculsr, versus populum celebration.

  12. Atra Dicenda, Rubra Agenda says:

    At what point is the German episcopate simply in schism over these issues?

  13. John21 says:

    In Paul’s letters to Timothy, he emphasizes again and again the importance of presbyters striving their best in proclaiming the word and preaching and teaching, as it is a sacred duty (Paul even charges Timothy “in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus…to proclaim the word” and “be persistent” in teaching (2 Tim. 4:1-2)). Why obstruct their fulfillment of this by introducing “competition,” as it were, into the mix (i.e. “we don’t like it when Father talks about [this or that hard saying] so let’s call the bishop and demand that [layperson so and so] instead preach at Mass”)? We should be helping our priests live their vocations by showing up for Mass, going to them for Confession, and yes, paying attention to and encouraging them in delivering homilies!

  14. Pius Admirabilis says:

    Lays already preach at Mass in many parishes with the expressive consent of the bishops. In some dioceses, they encourage laypeople to preach at Mass and give special homiletic courses to “train” laypeople for preaching, of course men and women.

    This really isn’t as revolutionary as it may seem, because that’s how it has been for at least the last 20 years.

    One archdiocesan has temporarily banned this practice, but it has in fact only be enforced in the diocesan seminary. The parishes do what they want anyway.

  15. cajunpower says:

    “But, hey!, maybe this sort of talk slowed for a few minutes the number of people leaving the Church in Germany and, therefore, the decrease in the Kirchensteuer.”

    And that’s the irony – as you know. Nobody stays in a Church that is casting off everything that made it comprehensible, even if they’re in favor of getting rid of what is being casting off. Why join a body that has, for 2000 years, said ‘these things are immutable,’ simply because it’s getting rid of the immutable stuff to align itself with ideologies that arose last week?

    But that’s never been the real reason for doing it…

  16. Philmont237 says:

    When are bishops actually going to come out and accuse these people, by name, of trying to destroy the Church? We need to stop being nice and instead flip some tables over in the temple. The Church seems to have become a “den of thieves.”

    And quite frankly I think we need to do a million man march on the Vatican and occupy St. Peter’s square until the Church gets its act together. Chant “Viganò!” over and over again during papal audiences, hold signs that say “The smoke of Satan has entered the Church,” chant “The synod is rigged.” I could go on but I think you get the idea. I don’t think Pope Francis will listen to us until he is FORCED to listen.

  17. Cy says:

    I esteem greatly our Pope Emeritus Benedict of Germany. And as you know Father Z I am a supporter of yours.
    Nevertheless this article has provoked a disturbing question:
    “How can we say it wrong in the instance of a “function” of a priest to be “transferred” to someone else, when it is ok for the “function” of a Pope to be “transferred” to someone else?”

    Is Benedict a Pope of the species Emeritus or is he no longer a Pope at all?

  18. Chris Garton-Zavesky says:

    I would like to accept the Cardinal’s premise, just for a very brief time.

    Can anyone think of a person who might fulfill the function of leading the Church in Germany in a more Catholic direction than His Eminence is currently doing? Perhaps the good Cardinal could sign the paychecks, but let other people do things like teach in the name of the Church, or serve as an advisor to His Holiness, Pope Francis? Can anyone identify a voice not being heard in his diocese or in his province? Perhaps one should let a lowly Porter, or Exorcist or Acolyte teach basic Catechism classes?

  19. Hidden One says:

    At a practical level, most popular support for non-ordained folk preaching within Mass comes from the people being subjected to terrible homilies by priests and deacons almost every time they go to Mass.

    “It wasn’t heretical, tone-deaf, way too long, completely disjointed, entirely off-topic, a repeat of last week, or delivered in a way that half the congregation couldn’t tell what the homilist said. In short, it was the best homily I’ve heard in months. This one gets one star out of five! Maybe Sr. Soandso could pull off a two star one.”

  20. Chuck4247 says:

    *Stupid question time*
    Isn’t this sort of the reason for existence behind orders like the Dominicans and Jesuits? People who are naturally gifted in the art of preaching or understanding of Theology responding to a calling to preach?

  21. rcg says:

    Like the new format!
    Preaching by all and sundry: they only want to do it at Mass because people won’t walk out on drivel out of respect. They will simply not come back. It is the same reason that people don’t crank up Haugen and Haas tunes in the parish hall after Mass, people would throw doughnuts at them. So they force people to sit through it when they know they won’t leave.

  22. G1j says:

    At the rate attendance at Mass is falling in our Parish in the Diocese of Buffalo, soon we will only be having “Communion Services”, led by a lay Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion, distributing consecrated Hosts delivered by USPS to the parish offices. Just keep putting money in the weekly offertory collection to make them happy. A sign of the times indeed.

  23. Kathleen10 says:

    This, and most other things we are seeing in the church, is our fault, 100% and entirely.
    When you see a layperson heading up to the lectern to deliver a “homily” (not a request for support) you get up from your pew, genuflect in the aisle, go get in your car and drive home.

    Do this every time it happens.
    Vote with your feet and take your checkbook with you.

    We tolerate way too much. When we do, the innovators keep innovating.
    Catholics need to get some fire in the belly and frankly, stop being so wimpy. Rorate had an interesting article the other day basically about how niceness can actually be cowardice and weakness. I think we are a confused people who can’t determine boundaries and are far too concerned about appearing “nice” and avoiding stirs. I don’t know about other people but I feel ready for a good stir. The other side is on fire and we lack all conviction!

  24. JabbaPapa says:

    If the CEO of any worldly organisation the size of the Church in Germany were to lose 200,000 subscribers/clients/etc, one would expect that CEO to resign or be replaced.

    Well, I suppose that such virtues as personal responsibility or a sense of honour do not belong to this man’s theology.

  25. WmHesch says:

    “Traditionally” the homily wasn’t a part of the Liturgy anyway. Also, “traditionally” many priests didn’t have faculties to preach, so preaching isn’t integral to Orders per se. It CAN be an expression of the munus docendi, but not necessarily.

  26. mburn16 says:

    “they only want to do it at Mass because people won’t walk out on drivel out of respect”

    I think this about sums it up. Anyone can preach. Men, women, left, right, straight, gay, etc.

    But only the Priest in his pulpit at mass has a captive audience, obligated to sit through his sermon regardless of the content.

  27. Gab says:

    ” “Traditionally” the homily wasn’t a part of the Liturgy anyway. ”

    Depends on how far back you go. St Justin Martyr described the Mass as it took place in 155 AD and it definitely had the homily in it delivered by the priest.

  28. Pius Admirabilis says:

    *archdiocese (to correct my previous comment).

    @Gab: That may be true, but it does not challenge the point. The homily is delivered during Mass, but is not part of Mass. Traditionally, a sermon/homily has been delivered after Mass. Saint Thomas Aquinas preached outside of the church to the people gathered on the piazza.

    The same is true for the Communion rite. Today, the People’s Communion is a normal feature of any Mass, be it Novus Ordo or Roman Rite, but it is not part of the structure of the liturgy. It used to be a freestanding rite of its own, and the handful of people who would receive, did so at a special service after Mass.

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