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Ordain local leaders

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Locally ordained community leaders an ancient solution to a contemporary problem Bishop Fritz Lobinger

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Ordain local leaders

  1. 1. Visiting Bishop Fritz Lobinger’s ideas on Priesthood in two forms: Priests and Elders.
  2. 2.  In 2008, nearly 49,631 of the world’s 218,865 parishes did not have a resident priest. (CARA)   "The Brazilian bishops, especially the pope's close friend Cardinal Claudio Hummes, have asked Pope Francis to enable married priests in Brazil to return to their pastoral ministry. With its 140 million Catholics, Brazil needs at least 100,000 priests but it only has 1,800, (National Catholic Recoder Dec 30, 2016)  In 2014 Bishop Erwin Krautler, a bishop who leads a geographically expansive diocese in the Brazilian rain forest met with Pope Francis to discuss how much the priest shortage affects the church in the Southern Hemisphere. Krautler’s diocese only has 27 priests for 700,000 Catholics. As a result, many Catholics might only hear Mass a couple of times a year.  Salford Diocese has revealed plans to cut its number of parishes from 150 to 75. By 2020 it is estimated that there will only be 108 priests (under 75 years of age) in pastoral ministry. “To allow the parishes to be missionary, lay people will have to take up not only a great deal of the administration but also their rightful part as co-workers with the priests in the task of evangelisation and other ministries. (Bishop John Arnold)
  3. 3. 4. A church order which has developed historically can both help and hinder what it was intended for. 5. There are promising developments in the explosion of lay ministries across the church the development of which are often hindered by the absence of a male celibate priest. 6. These new developments in many respects parallel the Spirit inspired diversity of the New Testament communities 7. After Vatican II which changed the basis on which celibacy is seen as a necessary requirement for ordination, it is clear that celibacy is no longer a requirement for ordination. 8. However the Church is extremely reluctant to change the rule of celibacy. 9. Where do we go from here?  Schillebeeckx argues: 1. The community has a right to priests 2. The decisive element in ministry is the recognition of the minister by the community 3. Problems arise when priestly ministry is no longer related to the church community but to the power associated with celebrating Eucharist
  4. 4. The 12 and the other apostles and the prophets we hear about in Acts and the Didache were sent, by their dead and risen Lord, to continue his proclamation of the kingdom and his enacting of reconciliation. This is initially based on first hand experience of Jesus. When they died the communities they had founded were conscious of what they had received and of the importance of passing this apostolic foundation on.
  5. 5. The Pastoral Letters begin to work out ways to carry on the apostolate, but there’s no apostolic succession, no fixed form of ministry. However by the end of the first century we have a range of terms for ministers presbyters, episcopoi /overseers, and diaconoi/deacons but it is difficult to work out exactly what their duties were e.g. presbyters are sometimes called episcopoi. Interestingly the ministry did not develop around the Eucharist or liturgy but from building up the community. Such minsters/ leaders are models for the community through whose lives and ministry the community can see the Gospel of Jesus. What is important is the continuity of the story of, and about ,Jesus, and the continuity of a radical discipleship following him under the inspiration of his teaching of the kingdom of God.
  6. 6. In the third century Cyprian, the bishop of Carthage , martyred in 258, introduced a new word. He loved the Old Testament, and applied its institutions to the Christian Church. He begins to talk of the Eucharist in terms of OT priestly sacrificial language and he calls the minister at the eucharist sacerdos/priest. A link the earliest church avoided as Christ was the only high Priest (cf Hebrews) and the community is a priestly people but whose leaders are not called priests. This introduction of the word sacerdos/priest had unforeseen effects. The Hebrew priests were required to abstain from sex before their service in the Temple. By the end of the 4th Century married priests were required to abstain from sexual intercourse the night before they celebrated Eucharist. As the Western Church began to celebrate daily Eucharist abstinence became a virtually permanent condition for married priests and in the 12th century it was turned into the law of celibacy. Increasingly Priesthood (as sacerdos rather than presbyteros) becomes seen in relation to the cult rather than the community.
  7. 7. In the council of Chalcedon in 451 the rule is that no-one is to be ordained unless a community was assigned to him i.e. only someone called by a particular community to be its pastor and leader authentically receives ordination. So the community maintains its right to leaders and takes the initiative and the link between the community and its leader was such that he could not be moved to another community except out of need. And a minister who for personal reasons ceased to preside over a community returned to being a layman. Recognition of his leadership as arising from the community and recognised as the gift of the Holy Spirit to them is crucial. Concelebration referred originally to the community celebrating with the priest presiding in a servant role. The Eucharist in the early community is a function of the community not the individual. Tertullian argued at the beginning of the 3rd century that where no ministers had been appointed the people, the laity, must celebrate Eucharist and baptise.( A right that Augustine would subsequently deny the laity). 
  8. 8. At the 3rd and 4th Lateran Councils (1179 & 1215) the emphasis is on the individual discerning a priestly calling, making it known, training and being ordained and waiting for appointment by a bishop. The claim of the community , previously so important an element of ordination, now disappears. Now the 4th Lateran Council declares that the Eucharist can only be celebrated by a validly and legitimately ordained priest. Christian leadership is detached from the local church. The great boundary is now between the ordained priest and the layperson. Ordination, now a sacred rite, gives a man a status and a power he did not have before, irrespective of any involvement with a local church. It opens up practises like private masses. Now ordination gave him power in connection with the mystical body of Christ in the Eucharist. This power of consecration becomes further emphasised in the Reformation debates and for many Catholics since is the core reality of the priesthood.
  9. 9. Vatican II tried to sort all this out. It re-emphasised the priesthood of the whole people of God, of all the baptised . It emphasised the Eucharist as the sacrament which builds and sustains and gives identity to community. But in exploring the scriptures and tradition it ended up with a compromise between the model of the presbyter, what we might call the local community leader and the model of the sacerdos/priest, the holy person, ordained to do holy things in a holy place through the power of ordination. Although it avoided potestas/power language in describing this and emphasised the language of service e.g. munera and ministeria.
  10. 10. The Alternatives 1. Imitate what the Eastern Churches, the Ethiopian Church, or the Anglican Church does.  2. Ordain some of the highly educated married Church employees that are already serving the parishes in some countries.  3. Ordain some of the many voluntary proven married local leaders that we find in great numbers in our parishes and communities.  4. Ordain women from among the many who already minister in our parishes in formal and informal ways. In the discussions among bishops and priests, this suggestion is presently omitted because it is regarded as something that can at this moment not be expected realistically. Retired missionary bishop presently residing at Mariann-hill, South Africa, has a doctorate in missiology at the University of Münster, Germany. He wrote and edited the series “Training for Local Ministries” at the Pastoral Institute of Lumko (1971- 86). His latest book is Every Community Its Own Ordained Leaders (2008).
  11. 11. In the Eastern Churches the monks are all celibate while the priests of the parishes are practically all married. There is no real shortage of priests. But post Vatican II we have a participatory model of liturgy and Pope Francis is encouraging a more participatory model of church at every level.  To try and imitate the pattern of the Orthodox Churches would mean to abandon celibacy altogether and this suggestion would, in the present situation, split the Church. Celibate parish clergy have proven to be of enormous value in our Church. Any attempt to copy the pattern of the Eastern Churches would lead to chaos. Lobinger points out the Eastern Churches don’t offer an example for a professional pastoral clergy of celibate priests working next to married ones.  Anglican model of "self-supporting priests. “Non stipendiary ministers. These are teachers and office workers who had for many years, besides caring for their families, assisted the congregation through their voluntary work. They then received theological education through distance learning methods and were ordained.  The scheme was so successful that now about half of all Anglican priests are self-supporting. However the non stipendiary clergy are called "Reverend," and they dress in the same way as the full-time priests. They usually work next to an overburdened full-time priest, almost like an assistant priest although they are not called by that term. It is usually one self-supporting priest working next to one full-time priest.  Lobinger asks would this lead to a more particpatory Church?
  12. 12. From countries where the Catholic dioceses have introduced highly trained full-time pastoral workers in their parishes. They are married but have often completed the same theological courses as the priests. They are a great asset to the parishes and their priests, although they cannot administer the sacraments. Ordination is ruled out for them because they are married.  These highly trained and well remunerated married pastoral workers are only found in the older dioceses of Europe and North America. The young Churches of the developing world could not afford financially to employ such persons.  This would lead to a mixture of two types of full-time priests, some being full-time celibates while others are full- time married priests. In our present public climate, it is impossible to expect half of the priests to remain celibate while this is not expected of the other half, although they do exactly the same kind of pastoral work. Lobinger points out that the early Church had ordained elders who were all married, but after some centuries they were all celibate. Some individual exceptions are possible, but it will soon lead either to an all-celibate or to an all-married priesthood, as the examples show. Although we all know that the discipline of priestly celibacy is fraught with some great difficulties and problems, we also know that it is very highly prized by many Catholics.
  13. 13. Ordination of Proven Local Leaders This third proposal is of a different nature than the other two. It is suggested that it is impossible to mix full-time celibate priests with full-time married priests. However if teams of local leaders are ordained the two different types of priests will need each other and will complement each other instead of competing with each other. The key issue is actually in their difference,. Two Distinct Forms of Priesthood: Priests and Elders This, in part, already exists in the young Churches. In mission territories with large parishes consisting of many self-ministering communities the priests already exercise the role of formaters of communities. The idea then would be to create two types of priests, two forms of priesthood. The one type dedicates his whole life to his priestly ministry. The other type remains embedded in the local community, having a family, having a secular profession, being addressed like anybody else. Lobinger suggests a differentiation of role encapsulated in different titles.
  14. 14. Priests and Elders. Both Priests and Elders are ordained by the same sacrament of the ministerial priesthood. There is no difference in their sacramental definition, but there is a big difference in their role. The difference in title explains the difference in preconditions. The priest will effectively be full-time spiritual formators, involving a life commitment, including celibacy, full theological training to a tertiary standard. For the role of Elders it would be expected they would have the normal education of the particular area, but it would be expected that they have a proven track record over years of lived Christian example and community leadership. The difference in role explains the difference in preconditions. The use of a different term is partly to protect the Elders against unrealistic expectations . The difference between Priests and Elders will also be reflected in their number. The number of Elders will be far higher than that of Priests. In the missions it is not unusual for one priest to accompany or serve ten to twenty self-ministering communities, or two priests about forty. In this revised model each community would have their team of four, six, eight ordained Elders. Then there would be a ratio of 20:1 and even higher, between the Elders and the full-time Priests.
  15. 15. When Lobinger discussed this question with groups of priests, he found that many of them were initially reluctant to agree to this change in role. They said they were trained to be priests, not to be formaters. Only gradually it became clear to them that most of them were already exercising the role of formaters. For many years each one of them had been training the effective leaders of these "self-ministering communities." Each of them was constantly giving ongoing formation to fifty, hundred, and more leaders. As a result to prepare such leaders for ordination would not be a completely new and highly specialized task. It would only mean a rather small change. It would be possible for most of the existing priests. When the practical implementation of such a proposal is discussed in detail, then it also becomes clear that the change would not be a sudden one. It would be a slow and gradual one. Initially only a few of the priests would change their role, and even these few would not change their role completely but only partially.
  16. 16. An Enhancement of Priesthood There is no doubt that the role of formater-priests would be more demanding than priesthood is today. The bishop, the priests, and the communities would be determined that in the future, only such candidates would be accepted for priesthood of whom they can be sure they will be willing and able to work as formater priests. For the two forms of priesthood, this would mean that both move in a certain direction. The priesthood of the Elders would move closer to the side of the community. The priesthood of the formater-priests would move closer to the side of the bishop. Their role would become more similar to that of an overseer. It would be a more intensive participation in the role of the bishop. The formater- priests will have a greater need to sit down with their bishop and plan together. They will become even more intimate co- operators of the bishop. Some bishops may even prefer to appoint many of them as Episcopal Vicars for the areas where they act as formaters. It will certainly, and in several ways, mean an enhancement of their priesthood.
  17. 17. Pilot Projects as the Best Way to Start Lobinger thinks it is unlikely that a Synod of Bishops or a Council could come to a unanimous decision to permit the ordination of teams of Elders. It therefore seems advisable that the bishops should rather aim at the permission to start several pilot projects. A few dioceses which are well prepared for such a step should ask the Holy See for the exceptional permission to ordain teams of Elders. In their application they should clearly and in great detail indicate in what way they would implement this project. In this way the other dioceses could more concretely see that this step is not endangering the present priests but it is an enhancement for them. Bishops of dioceses with many priests have objected to experiments of this kind because they feared that such innovations would necessarily spill over into their diocese and would cause harm to their priests. But the rarity of the sacraments in parts of the church is like an open wound in the body of the Church and this wound must not be left unattended. It must be healed. Lobinger proposes a more widespread and more thorough discussion of this important topic which we, the Germans, the south Americans and some of the Africans have begun to take up. What do you think?

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