Rather than produce another full-length article, I shall reply to my interlocutor merely by bullet-points.
• I have received numerous private communications from priests, bishops, and theologians from around the country and from Rome, gratefully affirming the principal points of my essay.
• My assertion that the Pope engaged in no consultation prior to the promulgation of his motu proprio has been confirmed by officials of the Holy See with whom I have been in contact. Interestingly, Paul VI underscores the wide consultation process he employed in the lead-up to Ministeria Quaedam.
• Speaking of Ministeria Quaedam, in case I did not make it clear in my original article, I believe the document was very ill-advised from a number of angles, too many to cite here. However, it was indicative of Paul VI’s proclivity for “polishing brass on a sinking ship.” Further, his seeming suppression of the subdiaconate failed to take into account its place in the Churches of the East, both Catholic and Orthodox.1 Even more ridiculous is the so-called Rite of Candidacy (presumably replacing First Tonsure), whereby a seminarian declares himself and is held to be by ecclesiastical authority a “candidate” for Holy Order. I say this rite is ridiculous because it is usually undergone some time during a seminarian’s final years of study. So, if he had been a college seminarian, was he not a “candidate” then? Or not until his second or third year of theology?
• Further to this point, let us consider Pope Paul’s declaration that even though a man did not receive the subdiaconate but had been instituted into the “ministries” of lector and acolyte, he could be called a subdeacon. This is a bizarre exercise in nominalism: Something (or someone) is what I call it, not what it necessarily is.2 Our author goes on to say that these changes of Paul VI were “salutary for the life of the Church.” Really? Is that why seminaries are nearly empty?
• Mr. Senz reminds us that Pope Francis considers the desideratum of the Amazon Synod for female access to these ministries as part of his consultative process. The rigged Amazon Synod? Surely you jest!
• Truth be told, the opening to laymen of the offices of lector and acolyte has been a dead letter. To the best of my knowledge, the only diocese in the United States that has instituted non-seminarians into these “ministries” is that of Lincoln.
• And why has that been the case? Because there is no need to have a ritual to depute someone to do what he (or she) can do by virtue of one’s baptism. As a boy of eight, I began to serve at the altar. I was not “commissioned” or “instituted” or “ordained.” I just did what I thought a good Catholic boy could and should do. Ritualizing these functions seems to accomplish nothing other than promote the self-aggrandizement of the “minister.” Beyond that, after someone is “instituted” as a lector or acolyte, how will anyone else ever know? Will that person read with greater verve or pay closer attention to the ringing of the Sanctus bell? Will the person’s attire change? Will the person “feel” more “commissioned”? Probably so, and therein lies the problem. It is the Sacrament of Baptism that confers the primary dignity on an individual, not a seeming movement closer to the Sacrament of Order.
• In my reflection, I suggested that feminists would not be placated by this move of Francis. I have been proven right as most of those offering their reaction to the document have classified it as “patronizing.” A few have taken it as an opening to ordination—as I also opined. The only truly enthusiastic reception of the document I have seen has come from none other than Jesuit Father James Martin—and that ought to give any right-thinking Catholic pause.
• Words matter. Calling something by its proper name is not being fastidious. We should recall that all the first councils in the history of the Church dealt with finding the correct nomenclature for the God-Man. In fact, the point of contention in the Nicene Creed we recite so blithely every Sunday was not even about a word but a letter — Homoousios versus HomoIousios, the Greek iota (which gives us our English adage, that something doesn’t make an iota of a difference—but, in reality, it did!). The Church’s historical caution about the indiscriminate use of “ministry” deserves serious reflection and acceptance.
To sum up: Yes, I believe Paul VI opened a can of worms, creating a mess. And Francis has put a huge exclamation point on it all.
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