Thursday, July 24, 2008

Problem of Bishops




Very occasionally I have the pleasure of a telephone call from the good and wise Father Zuhlsdorf, and he has just phoned from the Americas.


Apart from a brief frivolous discussion about Mac's foolish and blond desire for ordination to Exorcist, we spoke of the problem of Bishops in the documents of Vatican II. Before the Council, to be simple about it, priests and bishops where really the same thing, except Bishops had greater jurisdiction, we spoke about a priest being "consecrated" as a Bishop. The Council introduced the idea of the Bishop as a priest-plus, and someone was "ordained" a Bishop, in the same sense as a deacon is ordained a priest. Vatican II identified ordination as the laying on of hands rather than through the giving of instruments, or symbols of office.


One might argue that a Bishop has extra-sacramental powers but there is a welter of evidence that during the middle-ages, and earlier some simple priests ordained men to the minor orders and even to the diaconate and even to the priesthood, more discoveries have been made since the Council.


My understanding, which could be wrong! was that the Investiture Crisis at the beginning of the 2nd millennium, was about princes making priests bishops by investing them with the symbols of office and jurisdiction by the giving of a ring, miter, crosier, pectoral cross and enthronement. All of which, incidentally, were given to an abbess, who often had jurisdiction equal to any bishop (the mitre was generally armorial but sometimes actually carried before them). I suspect the fag end of this were lay commendatory bishops, who mainly collected diocesan revenues in pre-revolutionary France, but in some cases had limited jurisdiction.


So Mac could not be ordained a priest, but if she were invested with the symbols of office and given jurisdiction she would be a very fine Abbess.

6 comments:

gemoftheocean said...

It's not so much priests/bishops I have a problem with. It's more the deacons. Granted deacons go back to apostolic times *BUT* even so, given that the definition of a sacrament is "an outward sign instituted by Christ to give grace" where do the apostles get off deciding that their own creation of deacons shared the same sacramental priesthood that they did?

Just asking. I've asked a few priests, and haven't gotten an answer. Mind you, I'm not going to throw a monkey wrench in my faith over it. But it is something I simply don't understand. I'd asked the Sainted Fr. S. a while back, he of the 40 years + teaching and the theology degree from the Angelicum...but he didn't have an answer either, as the question had never occurred to him before. He may have thought of an answer, but if he has, I haven't heard of it.

I expect part of the reason they did away with minor orders is that although one can see how those *functions* developed over time, one would be hard pressed to call the minor orders actual orders. i.e. a sacrament.

But the bishops/priests I have no problem over. BTW, a good friend of mine who was in the seminary for a number of years mentioned that in his classes the question arose could a priest ordain a man or did it have to be a bishop who had that exclusive function. The question arose because when some man had been purportedly been ordained a priest, he really was lying there saying to himself "I don't really want to do this" but didn't have the guts to get up and walk out during the ordination. He'd preformed to all appearances, priestly functions ... but hadn't at the time of the ordination given his free will consent. After a year or so, he decided he really DID fully want to be a priest, and took the matter to his confessor. Without giving the details of who, etc. his confessor (not a bishop) somehow kicked it upstairs to see how to handle it. What happened was that confessor priest was ordained a bishop in pectore, to preserve the seal of confession and apparently he later carried out the ordination.

That's the story as I remember it, anyway.

gemoftheocean said...

Oh, and "in pectore" may not be quite the right term, but you catch the drift.

Gregor said...

"Vatican II identified ordination as the laying on of hands rather than through the giving of instruments, or symbols of office."

I think that was rather Pius XII in Sacramentum Ordinis (1947), in which the sacramentality of episcopal ordination/consecration is presupposed. The well known traditional Dogmatics of Ott says that episcopal ordination/consecration is a sacrament is sententia certa.

Mac McLernon said...

No. Abbess isn't good enough. I feel certain that I'm called to be a traddy womynpriest, and no mere man is going to convince me otherwise.

;-)

Fr Ray Blake said...

Gregor, you are of course right, that Sacramentum Ordinis defined it, but VII then extrapultates a deeper and more problematic theology from SO, because it goes further, with its episcopology but fails to develope a sacerdology in the same vain.

GOR said...

I don’t blame Mac one bit for not wanting to be an Abbess. Abbesses are not what they used to be. As Father points out, they were once ‘on a par’ with bishops – at least as to externals (mitres, etc.) and in their own minds!

Which reminds me of a story from years ago. One Abbess had taken herself so seriously that she required people – even priests - to genuflect upon meeting her. This went on for some time until some of the local clergy complained to the bishop and requested a ruling about the genuflections.

The bishop – presumably after much prayer, reflection and probably tongue in cheek - finally replied that the clergy “should not genuflect - as they would to the Blessed Sacrament, but rather bow - as they would to images.”

The reaction of the Abbess is not recorded, but I suspect she was an image to behold…