A central tenet of my iteration of neo-protestantism, as I stand with certain spiritual forbears, involves criticism of the Roman Catholic ekklesiological institution. This post is the final installment of a three-part series of protests of R.C. institution–specifically of their idea of priesthood.
John Vianney was looked to as a model because of his simple, quiet life of service. He is said to have become one of the greatest “confessors” ever. The term “confessor” can pertain to booth-style Roman Catholic confession sessions, or to a special historical role of sufferer recognized by the R.C. institution. I’m not sure which sense is intended when used in reference to this John.
I learn from the article’s author that “four or five priestly vocations were awakened” in John’s parish in Ars, France. What makes a vocation priestly? I’m given no details, but I suspect that if these four or five were listed, I would react in one of two ways to each, in succession: either the “vocation” is bogus, or it is for all Christians, not just those at certain hierarchical levels in institutions.
Not to downplay the various offenses I felt as I first read this article, but there was a single paragraph that represented the height of either ludicrousness or blasphemy—take your pick. These words are attributed to John Vianney, when he was “speaking of the Holy Orders” (whatever those are):
Go to confession to the Blessed Virgin, or to an angel; will they absolve you? No. Will they give you the Body and Blood of Our Lord? No. The Holy Virgin cannot make her Divine Son descend into the Host. You might have two hundred angels there, but they could not absolve you. A priest, however simple he may be, can do it. Oh, how great is a priest! If he understood himself he would die, not of fear, but of love. He will not understand the greatness of his office till he is in Heaven.
Simply put, I feel deeply embarrassed for John Vianney and for the writer of this article who perpetuated such nonsense. The above paragraph is an embarrassment to all who would claim to honor the name of Jesus.
Look critically at the assumption of any continuing function of Mary, the assumption of transubstantiation, the capital letters that erect a façade of hierarchy and mystery, and of course the attempt to imbue the “office of a priest” with significance. Where is the reality?
Roman Catholics accept that there is some power and authority vested in ordained priests. I accept no such thing. The author of this article concludes by asserting that a priest “is a man ordained to continue the Savior’s work of Redemption until the end of time.” I respond, “We are all to continue His work. There is no special class of humans recognized by God.” Any attempt to assert a clergy class based on scripture will be in vain.
In a strangely parallel reading (in Jeremy Begbie’s Resounding Truth), just today I noted the celebrated spiritualist composer Olivier Messiaen’s affirmation of “the existence of the truths of the Catholic faith.” This statement, along with every news-media mention of “The Church” when referring to the Roman Catholic institution—or any other, for that matter—gives me spiritual pain. The “Catholic faith” must be recognized as a human system, a superimposition on biblical Christianity, and a system gone awry. Really, every human system goes awry; it’s just that this one has survived so many centuries of scripture-defying presumption that I feel a profound need to criticize it resoundingly.
And so I leave my criticism of the Kansas monks and the brand of religion they stand for. Good riddance, clergified concepts of priesthood and all monkish ideals. And may God truly have mercy on all our souls—including yours, you sincere but misguided friends in similar faith.
Long live reforming.