Letters to Jesus (Church, Religion, and Sacraments)-7
The best book I ever read on the foibles of institutional religion is Eugene Kennedy’s 1969, The People are the Church. I’ve been through it a couple of times and the relevance, even after 40+ years, has not paled. Quite the contrary, it seems more relevant today than ever.
One salient case in point is the characterization of institutional churchmen. Kennedy believes the weight of the institution behind them keeps them in a defensive posture that often compromises the integrity of sincere Christians. Even the most liberal cannot escape the pressure of this ponderous weight.
I have a friend who is a deacon. He characterizes most (but not all) priests as members of an “elitist club.” He doesn’t mean this in regards to their special calling but rather to the way their responses to that calling slowly remove them from a realistic grasp of the conditions of the people they were ordained to serve and shepherd.
It would be interesting to learn what You think of the priesthood and its hierarchy as it has grown out of the movement You initiated. There may be some clues in the gospels. The times You said, “Go and do likewise...” or, “What you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven...” etc. or, “I am with you always till the end of time,” or many other instances that may be used to support the notion of ministry – none of which, in fact, ever mention directly the concept of priesthood. Paul and other non-synoptic or Johanine writers dwell more on a “priesthood of believers,” of the baptized, of the faithful, than an ordained sacerdotal hierarchy.
Historically as the role evolved, by dint of education and isolation the priesthood was indeed separated from the people it served. Usually, in concept, it had the interests of these sheep at heart, but being a human institution it was subject to easy abuse. There will always be others we look to for guidance and insight. You Yourself are our first object, and, secondarily, You as reflected in the ordained priest – an extension of the Good Shepherd.
The relationship between the institutional church and its priests is what I wonder about. It is not ours to judge, but judge we do. What we judge is the dissimilarity between some priests and You.