Friday, September 11, 2009

SOLUTION TO CRISIS OF MINISTRY? SCHILLEBEECKX ON EUCHARISTIC PRESIDERS

It was Schillebeeckx who contended in his 1980 book Ministry: Leadership in the Community of Jesus Christ that the church had gone awry by connecting the faithful’s right to Eucharist to some “magical power” of the hierarchy to ordain, thereby disconnecting it from the community of Christians. He noted that the Council of Chalcedon in the fifth century had declared any ordination of a priest or deacon illegal, as well as null and void, unless the person being ordained had been chosen by a particular community to be its leader.
Because the church has basically ignored that clear directive of the early church throughout the second millennium, Schillebeeckx recommended “new possibilities” for reconnecting the Eucharist to its community roots, even if such actions contradict current church law. In “Church and Ministry,” the newly released document, the Dominicans put forward such “new possibilities” as this: “Men and women can be chosen to preside at the Eucharist by the church community; that is, ‘from below,’ and can then ask a local bishop to ordain these people ‘from above.’ ”
If, however, “a bishop should refuse a confirmation or ordination” of such persons “on the basis of arguments not involving the essence of the Eucharist, such as a requirement that deacons or priests be celibate, parishes may move forward without the bishops’ participation, remaining confident “that they are able to celebrate a real and genuine Eucharist when they are together in prayer and share bread and wine."
taken from National Catholic Reporter interview, December 14, 2007

This quote has always had a powerful effect on me, as a daring solution to so many ills besetting the Catholic community in this time, the sexual scandals being at the top of the list. It would require extraordinary daring to implement, however, and culturally would be next to impossible to receive widespread acceptance. However, in those communities deprived of the services of a priest for as long as a year (1 yearly visit for confession and baptisms in some remote mountain villages in South America), the 'lay catechist' should surely be entitled to lead the community in the celebration of the Eucharist. But I've also proposed elsewhere that communities of disaffected gay Catholics, who feel bound in conscience to remain outside the formal worship of the Church, should then gather together and celebrate the Supper of the Lord.


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