4 May 2009

Binating, ternating, quad ...

"Complexities", I wrote in my last post. When I was in Devon, with six churches to care for single-handed, I used to say as many as four Masses a Sunday. So of course I understand what Maurice and Pastor mean in their laconic observations. When I wrote "complexities" I assumed that what I meant was so obvious as not to need spelling out. The folks are there and you've got to do it.

What I was asking - and apparently doing so too obscurely - was, how we might get back to sounder instincts, in which one priest says one Mass for one people of God. I asked the question precisely because our present situation seems so many millions of miles from such a possibility. I do not see how we can even get within range of speculating on such a reform without asking more basic questions.

I do wonder - and this is a question and neither an answer nor a prescription - whether we are too anally retentive about priesthood; too inclined to professionalise, clericalise, restrict it. A devout man could be taught the mechanics of saying Mass quite easily. But for him to preach, he needs an education in Scripture and dogmatic theology; to hear confessions, a training in moral theology; to administer a parish, a training in canon law. I wonder if it is inevitable, in all times and all places, that we only make man a priest if he is capable of so being trained, and has been so trained, as to be safely permitted to do all these things.

When, in my youth, I used to go to Greece, it was clear to me that the country parochial clergy were trained to a comparatively low level of competence. In the English Middle Ages, there were manifestly greatly differing levels of priestly proficiency. Until comparatively recently, clergy needed a licence to preach. I know we gained immeasurably much from the Tridentine reforms, the invention of the Seminary, and all that. But it is not completely clear to me me that different cultural contexts might not suggest different possibilities.

What I do know is that in the Church of England, at least, we get the worst of both worlds. We have a horror of "mass priests", by which is meant people who just offer the Eucharist. So we try to train all clerical aspirants up to a level at which they all can safely do everything. Sometimes this is attempted in an-evening-a-week courses. But - as everybody knows who knows anything about present-day Anglican church life - we still have an increasingly poor quality of priesthood (reflected in a low level of of episcopal competence: most modern bishops would have been lucky to have been made rural deans a couple of generations ago), and most of these clergy can't even do the mechanical basics with any competence. And a shortage of clergy despite that. And despite trying to plug the holes by relying on the 'priestly' ministrations of unpaid divorced elderly women.


Fr David Clues said...

I am sure you have seen the most recent 'Inspection Report' for S Stephen's House. I admire Fr Principal for keeping his cool. The inspectors suggest a lowest common denominator in 'training' - a 'taste of varieties of worship' for example. It is small wonder that the Church of England believes anyone can do it. Such a perspective will certainly be confirmed by the forthcoming Job Description for clergy.

motuproprio said...

It appears that hobby ministry for church-minded ladies will be more and more what passes for priesthood in the gently declining Church of England.

Pastor in Monte said...

Random thoughts:
There is nowadays an expectation—indeed a requirement—that priests will always preach at Mass on Sundays and Holy Days. In some ways I regret this: I think that indifferent preaching is a major cause of lapsation. Those clergy in Greece, I understand, are forbidden to preach or hear confessions, being simply sacrament-dispensers.
And also, in former times, it was customary to use an altar only once in any day.
Though, of course, it is the Mass that matters, it is a bit of a shame that the offices have been rather left unknown to the majority of (R) Catholics. You in the CofE have been rather more successful in preserving at least Evensong, though that, too, seems to be disappearing. I would love to be in a parish where I could celebrate Lauds, Mass (once) and Vespers on a Sunday, but I wonder how practical that would be.
Finally, my old parish priest when I was first ordained solemnly admonished me that for a good reason on a weekday, a priest might binate; for a good reason on a Sunday he might trinate, but fournication is always forbidden!

Ben Whitworth said...

Pastor in Valle, we only have one Sunday Mass in this parish, and I have just started a Gregorian chant choir, so if you can arrange a transfer to the diocese of Aberdeen we can make your dream a reality!

Anonymous said...

ChrisJones commented in the last post, "Maybe the church is too big."


There are any number of simple examinations that could be conducted to weed out the tares, but the examiners are the root of the problem. The institutional church has become a pseudo-intellectual behemoth that gnashes the bones of the saintly, god-fearing Christian man who seeks a vocation. In far too general a way, the present bishops and priests, East & West, will not stand for a whipper-snapper who believes that the truth can set us free. These clerical fat, lazy pigs all to readily know that ordaining holy men will end their revolution. That godly new priests will despise their slovenly modern liturgical manners and loath their tepid devotion; and their bloated, satanic egos cannot abide this.

Which brings me to a question: What happened to the young men who operated "massinformation?" Obviously, they did so clandestinely because they reckoned their orthodoxy would draw the curtains on their priestly vocations. But has their bed of crimson joy been found out by the worm that flies in the night, in the howling storm? Why must young men like these suffer intimidation and injustice, especially from their spiritually inferior ecclesiastical superiors?

Father, I think that until the problem of "bishops in sheep's clothing" is eradicated there is no hope for resolution of the dilemma of multiple masses. To this end, I believe that the Louisville Slugger possesses the cure.

Michael said...

I sympathise with much of what is said in this post.

In the Greek church, under Ottoman rule, it was often difficult to give the academic and pastoral training that is necessary for all that apriest is expected to do and, in many places, what was done is precisely what you have described. A devout man would progress through the minor orders, learning the services as he went along. Eventually, he would be ordained priest and would serve the Liturgy, perform Baptism, Unction, and such like. He would not, however, hear Confession or preach.

To this day, in the Greek tradition, (and followed in some places in the Antiochian church), it is possible to distinguish between priests who do and do not have a blessing to preach and hear Confession. Those who do usually wear the diamond-shaped palitza, which is actually a vestment of bishops but which is granted them so that he faithful can distinguish.

This tradition was born of necessity rather than desire but I imagine that an Anglican situation where priests are running from parish to parish on a Sunday morning can fairly be described as necessity. Clergy can't be expected to be worn out like this and properly continue to do what they should be doing.

Surely, it wouldn't be that difficult to implement. The OLM scheme means that in many places, there is already a culture of identifying and developing home-grown vocations. Could the approach to this not simply be modified slightly? How difficult would it be for a sensible bishop to implement this in his ownn diocese? Would it require a passed motion on the part of the General Synod for something like this to go ahead or perhaps just the House of Bishops?

Nebuly said...

Oh Lord Michal

This is not the Sublime Porte

and we have few enough 'flocking' to Anglican altars

( and yet a massive increase in the Hierarchy it must be said )

Might we not just ask of the People of God that they make the sacrifice of travelling the same distance to assist at the Divine Liturgy as they do to shop for Corn Flakes?

But PLEASE no more hobby Clerics

AP said...

"When, in my youth, I used to go to Greece, it was clear to me that the country parochial clergy were trained to a comparatively low level of competence..."

I've heard that this has changed a lot since the 1970's. And, at any rate, if by "competence" one means a university education of the kind that has ruined orthodoxy in much of the West, I guess the Orthodox would be better off sticking to the greatest school of all: the daily cycle of liturgical services.

AP said...

"There is nowadays an expectation—indeed a requirement—that priests will always preach at Mass on Sundays and Holy Days. In some ways I regret this: I think that indifferent preaching is a major cause of lapsation."

You are lucky not to be in the Philippines, where priests are expected to sermonize everyday, with disastrous results.