Yet the situation is even more serious than
it appears. The question has also to be asked, how many
priests still have the faith? And even a further question,
regarding some of the priests ordained in recent years:
are they true priests at all? Put it another way, are their
ordinations valid? The same doubt overhangs other sacraments.
It applies to certain ordinations of bishops such as that
which took place in Brussels in the summer of 1982 when
the consecrating bishop said to the ordinand, "Be an apostle
like Gandhi, Helder Camara, and Mohamed!" Can we reconcile
these references, at least as regards Gandhi and Mohamed,
with the evident intention of doing what the Church intends?
Here is the order of service for a priestly
ordination which took place at Toulouse a few years ago.
A commentator starts off, introducing the ordinand by his
christian name C., with the words "He has decided to live
more thoroughly his self-dedication to God and to man by
consecrating himself entirely to the service of the Church
in the working-class." C. has worked out his "pathway,"
that is to say, his seminary training, in a team. It is
this team who present him to the bishop: "We request you
to recognize and authenticate his application and ordain
him priest." The bishop then asks him several questions
purporting to be a definition of the priesthood: Do you
wish to be ordained a priest, "to be, with the believers,
a Sign and a Witness of what Mankind is seeking, in its
striving for Justice, for Brotherhood and for Peace," "to
serve the people of God," "to recognize in men's lives,
the action of God in the ways they take, in their cultural
patterns, in the choices open to them," "to celebrate the
action of Christ and perform this service;" do you wish
"to share with me and with the body of bishops the responsibility
that has been entrusted to us for the service of the Gospel?"
The "matter" of the sacrament has been preserved
in the laying on of hands which takes place next, and likewise
the "form," namely the words of ordination. But we are obliged
to point out that the intention is far from clear. Has the
priest been ordained for the exclusive service of one social
class and, first and foremost, to establish justice, fellowship
and peace at a level which appears to be limited to the
natural order only? The eucharistic celebration which follows,
"the first Mass" in effect, of the new priest was, in fact,
on these lines. The offertory has been specially composed
for the circumstances. "We welcome you, Lord, by receiving
on your behalf this bread and wine which you offer us; we
wish to show by this all our work and our efforts to build
a more just and more humane world, all that we are trying
to bring about so that better living conditions may follow..."
The prayer over the offerings is even more dubious: "Look,
Lord we offer you this bread and this wine, that they may
become for us one of the ways in which you are present."
No! People who celebrate in this manner do not believe in
the Real Presence!
One thing is certain; the first victim of
this scandalous ordination is the young man who had just
pledged himself for ever without exactly knowing to what,
or thinking that he knows. How can he not fail, sooner or
later, to ask himself certain questions? Because the ideal
that has been proposed to him cannot satisfy him for long;
the ambiguity of his mission will become evident. The priest
is essentially a man of faith. If he no longer knows what
he is, he loses faith in himself, and in his priesthood.
The definition of the priesthood given by
Saint Paul and by the Council of Trent has been radically
altered. The priest is no longer one who goes up to the
altar and offers up to God a sacrifice of praise, for the
remission of sins. The relative order of ends has been inverted.
The priesthood has a first aim, which is to offer the sacrifice;
that of evangelization is secondary.
The case of C., which is far from being unique,
as we know of many examples, shows to what extent evangelization
has taken precedence over the sacrifice and the sacraments.
It has become an end in itself. This grave error has had
Evangelization, deprived of its aim, loses
direction and seeks purposes that are pleasing to the world,
such as a false "social justice" and a false "liberty."
These acquire new names: development, progress, building
up the world, improving living-conditions, pacifism. Here
is the sort of language which has led to all the revolutions.
The sacrifice of the altar being no longer
the first end of the priesthood, it is the whole of the
sacraments which are at stake and for which the "person
responsible for the parish sector" and his "team" will call
upon the laity, who are themselves overburdened with trade
unions or political tasks, often more political than trade
unions. In fact, the priests who engage in social struggles
choose almost exclusively the most politicized organizations.
Within these they fight against political, ecclesiastical,
family and social structures. Nothing can remain. Communism
has found no agents more effective than these priests.
I was explaining one day to a Cardinal what
I was doing in my seminaries, with their spirituality directed
above all to the deepening of the theology of the Sacrifice
of the Mass and towards liturgical prayer. He said to me,
"But Monsignor, that is exactly the opposite of what our
young priests now want. We now define the priest only in
terms of evangelization." I replied, "What evangelization?
If it does not have a fundamental and essential relationship
with the Holy Sacrifice, how do you understand it? A political
evangelization, or social, or humanitarian?"
If he no longer announces Jesus Christ, the
apostle becomes a militant and marxist trade unionist. That
is very natural. We quite understand it. He needs a new
mystique and he finds it this way; but loses that of the
altar. We must not be surprised that, completely bewildered,
he gets married and abandons the priesthood. In France,
in 1970, 285 ordinations; in 1980, 111. And how many of
them have returned or will return to civil life? Even the
startling figures we have quoted do not correspond to the
actual decline in numbers of the clergy. What is offered
to young men and what it is said they "now desire" evidently
does not satisfy their aspirations.
The proof is easy to demonstrate. There are
no more vocations because they no longer know what is the
Sacrifice of the Mass. In consequence, one can no longer
define what the priest is. On the other hand, where the
Sacrifice is known and respected as the Church has always
taught, vocations are plentiful.
I have witnessed this in my own seminaries.
All we do is to affirm the everlasting truths. Vocations
have come to us of their own accord, without publicizing.
The only advertizing has been done by the modernists. I
have ordained 187 priests in thirteen years. Since 1983
the regular numbers are from 35 to 40 ordinations per year.
The young men who apply to enter Ecône, Ridgefield (USA),
Zaitzkofen (West Germany), Francisco Alvarez (Argentina)
and Albano (Italy) are drawn by the Sacrifice of the Mass.
What an extraordinary grace for a young man
to go up to the altar as the minister of Our Lord, to be
another Christ! Nothing is finer or greater here on earth.
It is worth the cost of leaving one's family, of giving
up having a family, or renouncing the world and accepting
poverty. But if there is no longer that attraction, then
I say frankly, it is not worthwhile, and that is why the
seminaries are empty.
Let them continue on the lines adopted by
the Church for the last 20 years, and to the question "Will
there still be priests in the year 2000?" The answer must
be, "No." But if there is a return to the true notions of
the Faith, there will be vocations, both for seminaries
and for the religious orders.
For what is it that makes the greatness and
the beauty of a priest or a nun? It is the offering up of
oneself as a victim at the altar with Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Otherwise the religious life is meaningless. The young men
are just as generous in our times as they were in former
times. They long to make an offering of themselves. It is
our times that are defective.
Everything is bound up together. By attacking
the base of the building it is destroyed entirely. No more
Mass, no more priests. The ritual, before it was altered,
had the bishop say, "Receive the power to offer to God the
Holy Sacrifice and to celebrate Holy Mass both for the living
and for the dead, in the name of the Lord." He had previously
blessed the hands of the ordinand by pronouncing these words
"so that all that they bless may be blessed and all that
they consecrate may be consecrated and sanctified." The
power conferred is expressed without ambiguity: "That for
the salvation of Thy people and by their holy blessing,
they may effect the Transubstantiation of the bread and
the wine into the Body and Blood of thy Divine Son."
Nowadays the bishop says, "Receive the offering
of the holy people to present it to God." He makes the new
priest an intermediary rather than the holder of the ministerial
priesthood and the offerer of a sacrifice. The conception
is wholly different. The priest has always been considered
in Holy Church as someone having a character conferred by
the Sacrament of Holy Orders. Yet we have seen a bishop,
not "suspended," write, "The priest is not somebody who
does things that the ordinary faithful don't do; he is not
'another Christ,' any more than any other baptized person."
This bishop was merely drawing the conclusions from the
teaching that has prevailed since the Council and the liturgy.
A confusion has been made with regard to
the relation of the priesthood of the faithful and that
of priests. Now as the cardinals said who were appointed
to make their observations on the infamous Dutch catechism,
"the greatness of the ministerial priesthood (that of priests)
in its participation in the priesthood of Christ, differs
from the common priesthood of the faithful in a manner that
is not only of degree but also of essence." To maintain
the contrary, on this point alone, is to align oneself with
The unchanging doctrine of the Church is that
the priest is invested with a sacred and indelible character.
"Tu es sacerdos in aeternum." Whatever he may do,
before the angels, before God, in all eternity, he will
remain a priest. Even if he throws away his cassock, wears
a red pullover or any other color or commits the most awful
crimes, it will not alter things. The Sacrament of Holy
Orders has made a change in his nature.
We are far from the priest "chosen by the
assembly to fulfill a function in the Church" and still
more so from the priest for a limited period, suggested
by some, at the end of which the official for worship--for
I can think of no other term to describe him--would take
his place again amongst the faithful.
This desacralized view of the priestly ministry
leads quite naturally to querying priestly celibacy. There
are noisy pressure groups calling for its abolition in spite
of the repeated warnings of the Roman Magisterium. We have
seen in Holland, seminarians go on strike against ordinations
to obtain "guarantees" in this matter. I shall not quote
the names of those bishops who have got up to urge the Holy
See to reconsider the subject.
The subject would not even arise if the clergy
had kept the right understanding of the Mass and of the
priesthood. For the true reason appears of itself when we
fully understand these two realities. It is the same reason
for which Our Blessed Lady remained a virgin: having borne
Our Lord within her womb it was perfectly right and fitting
that she should remain so. Likewise, the priest by the words
he pronounces at the Consecration, brings down God upon
earth. He has such a closeness with God, a spiritual being,
spirit above all, that it is right, just and eminently fitting
that he also should be a virgin and remain celibate.
But, some object, there are married priests
in the East. However, let us not deceive ourselves: it is
only toleration. The eastern bishops may not marry, nor
those holding important positions. This clergy respects
priestly celibacy, which forms part of the most ancient
Tradition of the Church and which the apostles had observed
from the moment of Pentecost. Those who like Saint Peter
were already married continued to live with their wives,
but "knew" them no longer.
It is noticeable that the priests who succomb
to the mirage of a so-called social or political mission
almost automatically get married. The two things go together.
People would have us believe that the present
times justify all sorts of licence, that it is impossible
under present day conditions to live a chaste life, that
the vows of virginity for religious people are an anachronism.
The experience of the last twenty years shows that the attacks
made on the priesthood under the pretext of adapting it
to the present time are fatal to it. Yet a "Church without
priests" is not to be envisaged because the Church is essentially
In these sad times they want free-love for
the laity and marriage for the clergy. If you perceive in
this apparent illogicality an implacable logic having as
its objective the ruin of Christian society, you are seeing
things as they are and your assessment is correct.