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PostPosted: Mon Jul 09, 2007 3:04 am 
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Deluded Simpleton

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MithLuin wrote:
The vocation crisis in the US isn't sufficient reason. The only concession we are likely to see is the Vatican II re-establishment of the permanent diaconate, which is open to married men.



I was recently witness to the ordenation of seven men here in Sacramento, the most to be elevated in this diocese in many years. (It made the papers, even.) I wonder, Mith, why you think that the American "vocation crisis" carries no weight in Rome. It has profound impact on this country's catholic presence.


Does the Vatican think that "Deacons" (which is how I understand this 'diaconate' you refer to) will somehow transplant the priests, if indeed the institution is re-established? If so, do the sacraments suffer?


I ask these questions from the outside, and as one who strives to understand this, um, stuff so that I may talk about it with a bit of knowledge instead of with under-informed prejudice. I am not personally engaged with the Catholic faith, but it is all around me, and its venerability makes it part of my cultural heritage, like it or not.

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 09, 2007 3:29 pm 
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Fëanoriondil
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Yes, Catholics are ubiquitous ;).

It is common for American Catholics to think of the Church in terms of the Church in America. But we often forget that the rest of the world (including the Vatican) does not look at it that way. Meaning, the rest of the world considers the Catholic Church in America to be a strange and bizarre entity living in its own reality. Before the last papal election, someone asked one of the American cardinal electors if there was a possibility we'd see an American pope. He very politely said no, not a chance ;), and explained that it wouldn't be right to choose the pope from a country that was a superpower at the moment. A very diplomatic way of saying an American would not be representative of the whole Church.

So, for an issue like vocations, Americans look around and say we have a problem. The rest of the Church looks at us and says, no, you have a problem, we're doing just fine, thanks. It is very true that the number of priests being ordained right now (we only had two this year) and the number of priests retiring means that the US is having trouble staffing all its parishes. There are parishes without priests now, and the situation is likely to get worse, not better, in the near future. The same is true for Canada. But...the problems in Africa tend to be "our seminary is too small and we can't afford to expand it or accept all the young men who want to be priests." Similar in India. Latin America does not have a vocation crisis, so much as a distribution problem - all the priests are in the cities. France is the same way - about half the priests in France are in Paris. I don't pretend to understand why that is.

If the Vatican were to consider a change on the requirement of priestly celibacy, they would do so for other reasons, not just because of the situation in America. They look at the world-wide Church when making such decisions. And realistically, it would be a very significant decision financially, because then the Church would be commiting to support not only the diocesan priests, but also their families.


And yes, I'm sorry, diaconate means deacons (the way priesthood means priests). Deacons are ordained, but they are not priests. So, they cannot say mass or hear confessions. Sacramentally, they can do baptisms and weddings. They can preach at mass (give the homily). Deacons cannot replace priests, in other words, but they can help out a diocese. They tend to have ministries that most priests do not have the time for - hospital or prison chaplains, for instance. Currently, being a deacon is considered a part-time job for retired men. (So, it does exist already, though not all dioceses have the program.) It is also (as Alatar pointed out) a step on the way to becoming a priest for a seminarian.


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 09, 2007 4:25 pm 
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Very good post, Mith!

The St. Michael's Cathedral ordained 7 priests recently.
I totally agree that the seminaries in the third world are too small to accomodate every young men. In fact, in India there is a small town wherein one in every family has a son who is a priest or a daughter in the monastery.

Like Mith said, there are a lot of priests in Latin America and Asia, the problem is there are not enough Catholic Churches in the small towns. When I was 14 I attended the World Youth Days in Asia and our group visited the small farming towns and stayed with the farmers (an immersion program), we had to get up at dawn to attend mass at 5:30 am because we had to walk a few kilometers to the nearest church. I couldn't believe it when I saw this make shift hut turned into a church and it was full of people (some where even in bare foot). Mass is at dawn because the farmers have to start work early, plus the fact, the priest have to travel back to the monastery because he doesn't have a place to stay in that farming community (the church is just a skeletal structure with straws as a roof). The priest had to travel by motorcycle just to reach the community. (I heard in some parts of Latin America they have to use a donkey. I'm not kidding.) The priest even told us he used to travel by water buffalo cause the place is so remote, no roads, yet, this farmers want to hear the word of God. Unfortunately, they can't afford to build even a Church for the priest to stay.

Slightly off topic, yet here in North America, we complain that the mass is so long. These people in the third world have to wake up at dawn to hear mass!!! In fact, Princess and I had a little argument yesterday since she was upset when the priest announced that they are shortening the homily, thus, the one hour mass becomes 45 mins. so that the people won't be uncomfortable in church (it's too hot) and enjoy the summer. She was fuming, she goes "I couldn't believe it! Now, the church has to change the mass just to accomodate the people! Why can't people set aside Sunday as the day of the Lord, just one day! I tell you! I can't believe the church is bending backwards now!" I told her that, "Would you rather have a few people attending mass or more people? The fact, that they changed it because people are busy nowadays, even Sunday is a workday for some people. People have short attention span and it's not about how long the mass is, it's what you take from it.

She was still fuming and considering of driving to the other parish for Sunday Mass. :shock: (Our parish is just walking distance.) I go, it's still the same mass only shorter.

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Last edited by Lurker on Mon Jul 09, 2007 10:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 09, 2007 6:34 pm 
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Wow. So far as I know, any Anglican priest, be they deacon, chaplain, canon, minor canon, dean, bishop, Archdeacon or Archbishop can say Eucharist (by which I mean consecrate the bread and wine).

Anyone at all can preach (give the sermon), but it is usually just ordained priests and lay readers. It makes for a very varied experience, usually.

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 09, 2007 10:09 pm 
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Fëanoriondil
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For the Catholic Church, there are three levels of holy orders: you are ordained a deacon first, a priest second, and bishop third.

A deacon has only had the first, while a bishop has had all three. Any other designations aren't sacramental - monsignor is an honorary title some priests have, and an archbishop is just bishop of an archdiocese. Cardinals are bishops who are part of the college of cardinals and (if they are under 80) elect the pope.

I can preach, if I want to. Anyone can speak before or after mass. But to give the homily after the gospel, you have to have holy orders (so, deacons, priests or bishops). Sometimes, a priest will use his homily to "introduce" another speaker, but they're not really supposed to do that. Lay people speak after communion.

Most of the other tasks at mass are done by lay people: altar servers, readers, eucharistic ministers, cantors, etc.

Consecrating the bread and wine requires priestly ordination.


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 09, 2007 10:17 pm 
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Thanks so much, Mith.


I don't have truly direct understanding of this, and I'd like to get it right when I refer, which I sometimes do.

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 09, 2007 11:57 pm 
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In my church anyone who is confirmed can serve in any role (my daughter and I have both served as assisting minister and served the bread at Communion to half the congregation). The one exception is that an ordained minister is supposed to "preside" at Communion and say the Communion prayer, including the words of institution. Theoretically, when our pastor's away and we have only the un-ordained intern pastor substituting, he or she is not supposed to serve Communion. We do it anyway though (shhh).

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 10, 2007 3:43 am 
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Fëanoriondil
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We can have a communion service without a priest - my Mom takes communion to the women in the prison near us, for instance. Distributing communion is fair game for the laity - it is the consecration that matters.

But, Catholics take that very seriously. It's theology, but for Catholics, what happens during the consecration is called transubstantiation. This means that when the priest says "This is my body" and "This is my blood" we believe the bread and the wine truly becomes....Jesus. It still looks like a piece of bread, but it's true substance is the body of Christ. John 6 in its most literal sense - for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink...unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood you shall not have life within you. As far as I know, the only other Christian Church that takes it that seriously is the Orthodox. Most of the Protestant churches swing more towards symbolism, though some have Real Presence, which is similar. Without an ordained priest, nothing happens, and the words are just words.

And now you can understand why the early Christians were accused of cannibalism. But it's all above board...honest. :D



Looking at my earlier post, I realized I forgot to mention something. (I'm not always good at explaining to someone who is outside, bt, sorry - I grew up with this.) The Vatican is not indifferent to the vocation crisis in the US at the moment. Certainly, they offer support to the American bishops, and would like to change that. One temporary solution is to import priests - so, many parishes have a priest from Poland or India or Nigeria. This is of course difficult on the priests, who had to leave their home and culture behind to become missionaries. And they are not always welcomed by their parishoners, who may find their English difficult to understand or their sermons to be in a different style than they are used to...you know how people can be. When I said the Vatican considers the world church, that's what I meant. It's not that they ignore us here...it's that they see more than just us, and would look for a solution that works for everyone...not just the US and Canada, or Western Europe, or India, or...well, you get the idea. So, when the US says "we need priests" and an African nation says "we need funding for our seminary"...the Vatican says, "ah-ha. The US will pay for your seminary, and you will send them your priests. Then everyone will be happy." They don't say, "ok, we should let married men join the priesthood."


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 10, 2007 7:07 am 
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Consecration of the elements isn't an essential part of it for Lutherans, as we don't believe in transubstantiation. However, we do believe in legalities—all our churches have constitutions, for example, and all confirmed people are voting members. :P

With us I think it's more a matter of wanting to keep the sacraments (of which we have only two) from "escaping"—except in emergencies, they need to be carried out by, or under the supervision of, people who understand and accept our church's doctrine.

(For us, a sacrament has to have been instituted by Christ—that's why the only ones we have are baptism and communion.)

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“There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 10, 2007 11:27 am 
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Transubstantiation. The one thing that really bugs me.

How could Christ have made his own body and blood present in the bread and wine that he himself held? If he didn't do this, then transubstantiation makes priests more powerful than Christ himself!

In the Anglican Communion, the Body and blood are spiritually present in the bread and wine.

Which, for me, makes much more sense.

But a priest has to consecrate it, I think, and actually give out the actual bread. Lay eucharistic assistants help with the wine, usually.

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 10, 2007 1:50 pm 
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Fëanoriondil
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Crucifer wrote:
How could Christ have made his own body and blood present in the bread and wine that he himself held? If he didn't do this, then transubstantiation makes priests more powerful than Christ himself!


It is a mystery. But just to make clear, the priest has no power to do anything. It's all the Holy Spirit. Part of the Eucharistic Prayer (an essential part) is "...may your Spirit come upon these gifts and make them holy..." So, asking if the priest is more powerful than Christ is a bit silly - the priest is in persona Christi and that is all.

Jesus took the bread and said, "This is my body." Likewise, he took the cup of wine and said, "This is my blood." How can his body be present and be the bread? How can his body exist in all the tabernacles throughout the world? I cannot answer the how except to say that he is God. But I do believe that it is so. People have asked me how I can believe this, being a chemist...but to me, that really isn't the issue. The wine tastes like wine, and surely would have the chemical properties of wine (it stains like wine...) And yet it is blood.

God is present in all of creation, in each one of us. So, for me, saying that Jesus is spiritually present in communion isn't really much different from saying he is spiritually present in this conversation we are having. And yet...receiving Eucharist is a very different experience than any prayer I have ever said. Eucharist is the body of Christ.

I understand that other Christians do not see it this way (except the Orthodox). Speaking of them....their communion prayer has the order reversed, so that the priest repeats Christ's words ("this is my body...this is my blood") first, and then later invokes the Holy Spirit. The moment of consecration thus comes with the invocation, not by saying "this is my body." So maybe it is clearer what is happening there.


Last edited by MithLuin on Tue Jul 10, 2007 1:53 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 10, 2007 1:52 pm 
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Crucifer:

Considering that God was simultaneously present in Heaven and Jesus, that shouldn't be such a stretch! But seriously, a while back Canterbury and Rome announced that their theology of the Eucharist was "not substantially at variance."


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