Sunday, May 23, 2010

Radio Replies Second Volume - The Roman Hierarchy

289. Is not the constitution of your Church monarchial, instead of democratic?

The constitution of the Catholic Church is undoubtedly monarchial. And you are wrong in supposing that it ought to be democratic. The Pope rules the whole Church, and each Bishop is a supreme spiritual ruler in his own diocese. Of course even a democracy must have its officials. But the Catholic Church differs very greatly from any merely human society. It is a society which includes God, who really governs the Church through the Pope and the Bishops. For Christ, God the Son made man, appointed a hierarchy or sacred body of rulers to teach and to regulate the conduct of Christians in His name and with His authority. And the whole Church on earth was to be subject to the supreme authority of St. Peter and his successors. That constitution appointed by Christ cannot be changed by men.

290. There is no room for a hierarchy with supreme governing powers.

That may be the logical position from the Protestant viewpoint. But it is not so in the Church as Christ intended it to be. The true Church is a living organism. In a living human body, next to the soul comes the central nervous system, not the distant cells. In the Catholic Church, Christ is the Head; the Holy Spirit is the soul; and next to the soul comes the Catholic hierarchy. Under the influence of the Holy Spirit, the Pope and the Bishops are the center of thought and discipline, regulating the activity of the multitude of living cells.

291. Jesus said He would send us the Holy Spirit to teach us all things.

That is true. But He also sent the Apostles to teach all nations in His name. If we are going to accept one thing Jesus said, we must accept all. It is the Holy Spirit who teaches us through the Church, and always in accordance with the doctrines of the Church. God does not contradict Himself. He does not send the Holy Spirit to teach us one thing, and the Church to teach us another. If we find ourselves in opposition to the Catholic Church, we can be quite sure that the Holy Spirit is not responsible for our ideas. One thing is certain. The Holy Spirit could not possibly have inspired all the contradictory ideas people insist on attributing to Him.

292. We read of Bishops ordaining priests; but who ordained the Apostles? There were no Bishops then.

The Apostles were ordained by Jesus Christ. He personally called them apart from other men to fulfill the sacred duties of the ministry He established. He endowed them with the priestly power to preach, to forgive sin in His name, to offer the Sacrifice of the Mass, and to rule His Church on earth. He also endowed them with the power to ordain other priests to continue the ministry of the Christian religion. They were to be "Bishops" or "Shepherds" of the Christian flock. The "Bishops" are simply those who have received by transmission from the Apostles and from Christ the plenitude of the Christian priesthood. Jesus Himself was the Great High Priest with an absolute plenitude of priestly power. In the First Epistle of St. Peter, 1 Pet 2:25, we find that great Apostle teaching us that Jesus Himself was indeed a Bishop. "Christ," he writes, "suffered for us . . . and you are now converted to the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls." Jesus Himself, therefore, the supreme Bishop of souls, ordained the Apostles and originated episcopal power in the first representatives of the Christian priesthood as we know it today. And the Apostles ordained others to continue the work of the Church. So St. Paul wrote to Titus, "For this cause I left thee in Crete, that thou shouldst ordain priests in every city as I also appointed thee." Titus 1:5.

293. The history of the Middle Ages in Europe will prevent men from putting themselves under the domination of priests any more.

Firstly, by becoming a Catholic, one does not put oneself under the domination of priests in any sense such as that you have in mind. Secondly, you are evidently laboring under the superstition that the middle ages were dark, dismal, and dominated by priestcraft. But educated people have long since grown out of that antiquated notion. Mr. Douglas Jerrold has recently written a book called "England." He may not be a Catholic, but he is not blind to the facts of history. "It is hard," he writes, "in this age of unsatisfied desires to recapture the atmosphere of a century of fulfillment. The faith of the thirteenth century was not our faith; the belief in God had not given place to the belief in man as the mainspring of human hopes. Its economy was not ours. The means of production were, as compared with today, ludicrously poor; but on the other hand, they were in the hands of the many, not of the few. Even its politics were different, for the taxpayer was still a free agent with an effective right to decide the limits of his contribution. In the thirteenth century were laid the intellectual foundations of most of what human wisdom has to tell us of the rights of man and the order of nature, and all that modern wisdom has forgotten of man's duty to God." Such is the estimate of Douglas Jerrold, a writer who does know his subject. And he has indicated the real reasons why people do not wish to become Catholics. It is not really, as you suggest, fear of putting themselves under the ''domination of priests." They are at least too sensible to believe in the fears that dread word enkindles in some timid souls. The real reasons are that belief in God has given way to belief in man as the mainspring of human hopes, and that man's duty to God has been forgotten by multitudes who, despite their profession of Christianity, are really indifferent to religion altogether.

294. The historical ecclesiastic has much to live down.

A close examination of history will reveal that ecclesiastics are not the only ones with a skeleton in the cupboard. All groups, classes, and professions, have a past history which is not without blemish. But, confining ourselves to ecclesiastics, if indeed the historical ecclesiastic has much to live down, it is equally true that he has much more that redounds to his credit. The holy, gentle Christ-like priest appears much more frequently on the stage of this world than the one who has proved unworthy of his calling. But the good ecclesiastic is not "news." He is merely what he is expected to be. It is the occasional bad ecclesiastic who is "news" to a world which delights in the abnormal and unexpected. Moreover, evil men resent the goodness of others, if only for the reason that goodness wherever it appears is the condemnation of evil conduct. And as the evilly-disposed do not like being condemned, they watch the Church with malicious eyes, ready to pounce on anything to her discredit, exaggerate it out of bounds, and broadcast it to all who are willing to listen. It is an indictment of our poor human race that the scandalous can always get much more publicity than the edifying.

295. Our poor diseased world has ever suffered from ecclesiasticism.

It has not. An operation involving the complete removal of ecclesiasticism from its midst would not benefit the patient in the least. Its condition would become rapidly worse.

296. If the Church were always ruled by angelic priests it would be ideal.

It would undoubtedly be to the great advantage to the Church were all priests saintly men, though even in that case there is no guarantee that all Catholics would be equally submissive to the directions of those angelic priests. Yet it would not really be ideal for the Church to have only angelic priests. We must face the realities of life, and the essential frailties of human nature. The only way in which all priests could be rendered angelic always would be for God to render them either absolutely immune from all temptations or incapable of yielding to temptation. But surely, even though one is a priest, he should have to meet his own temptations just as any other man, and should be capable of losing his soul as well as of saving it. It is not ideal that a man should have a through-ticket to heaven just because he has been ordained a priest. Priests are subject to the same laws of virtue as all other men. They have to fight for it, doing violence to themselves, and resisting the temptations life itself carries with it. And on the law of averages, it is to be expected that some will fail even while some fight their way to the heights of holiness. Others will remain fair average quality. But the Catholic Church remains ever the same, whatever be the variations in the personal holiness of her priests. We cannot say that the Catholic Church is right when we meet a saintly priest, and then say that the same Church is wrong when we meet a careless priest. An unworthy priest may not practice what he preaches; but at least he will not dare to preach what he practices, in those matters at least where he falls short of Christian virtue. And the Church must be judged by those who do live up to her teachings, not by those who do not.

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