Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Misdirections in Tradition: The Catholic Episcopacy

Some thoughts on the Catholic Episcopacy but before that . . .

On an Amy Welborn post on the Diocese of Oakland giving dispensation to Asian Americans to celebration a tradition feast, there is considerable discussion. I think it is the bone-chilling racist sentiment couched "orthodox" concerns and passes for "dialog" that's going on. Anyway, someone linked to a Vatica Document, Pastores Gregis which is a document about Bishops.

Out of curiousity, I decided to take quick glance at it and cut out a couple of passages that give me hibby jibbies. I don't cut bishops any slack, my take on the Catholic hierarchy is that it is all about power, getting it and keeping it.

My general take on the current state of the Catholic Bishops is that they are structurally corrupted by unchecked power. Bishops have three kinds of power that reside in each one. There is first the Sacramental power. That is the idea that "without the Bishop there is no Church" and that all sacraments in a diocese extend from the Bishop, if not essentially, canonically. Secondly, there is ecclesial power. That is, the fact that one man reigns supreme and unchecked over anywhere from 100,000 to 2 million people. Bishops are kinds within their own domain, answerable only to Rome and of course, Rome has no way of checking in all the thousands of dioceses worldwide. Of course, Rome is obsessed with it's own power, so as long as Bishops perpetuate Rome's dominance, Rome is happy. Thirdly, there is the secular political power that comes from having access to hundreds of thousands of secular politician consituents in their dioceses. Thus, they can influence secular policy by "threatening" politicians. How? Easy, instruct priest to preach on certain messages or themes, have a letter read in each parish on a particular Sunday and scare the parishioners (I've seen this first hand), use the diocesan media, etc.

That's three distinct nodes of power, unchecked power in any individual Bishops. No wonder these men think they are gods. This is NOT the intention of the Holy Spirit, we can say with confidence. The Bishops and hierarchy hide behind flowerly words of service, but they have to think that we are pretty stupid as lay people to buy all this.

Anyway,So here goes. Here's a couple of passages from the document:

We were all agreed [the Pope and Bishops] that the figure of Jesus the Good Shepherd represents the primary image to which we must constantly refer. No one, in fact, can be considered a pastor worthy of the name, nisi per caritate efficiatur unum cum Christo.3

You're kidding right? This is a restrict the club membership statement. Of course, the issue here for me is the fact that this renders any ordination outside of the Catholic Church useless. Nothing new here, but I find it particularly abhorrent. You don't have to be John the Baptist to see that power of God manifest in communities with Bishops separated from this flock.

This is the fundamental reason why ''the ideal figure of the Bishop, on which the Church continues to count, is that of the pastor who, configured to Christ by his holiness of life, expends himself generously for the Church entrusted to him, while at the same time bearing in his heart a concern for all the Churches throughout the world (cf. 2 Cor 11:28)''.4

1. Precisely what does that mean? 2. Bishops are configured to Christ by their holiness? Is this a joke? This is why people don't take all this stuff seriously.

The document then goes on to talk about the establishment of the episcopacy. I will say that I have a personal eccesiology that does not agree with of the Church so the following statement is made in that vein. There is a definite place for such an office as Bishop and governance. In Talmida's comment box, I had made the following statement. In John 21:16 "Tend my sheep" is "poimaine ta probata mou." Then Mt 2:6 "for from you shall come a ruler who will govern my people Israel" is "ek sou gar exeleusetai hegemenos, ostis poimanei to laon mou ton Israel."

"poimanei" is "tend" in John and "govern" in Matthew. I think I've seen this use elsewhere, just can't think of it now.
Excuse the bad Greek transcription.

First, I don't buy that Peter's specific charism or whatever you want to call it transfered down and viola, habem papam. But I do accept that the Apostles left people in charge who were called Bishops. But here's where Scripture and tradition use different maps.

1 Corinthians 12:4-11
Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.
5: And there are differences of administrations (diakonion), but the same Lord.
6: And there are diversities of operations (energematon), but it is the same God which worketh all in all.
7: But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.
8: For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit;
9: To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;
10: To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues:
11: But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.

To whom precisely the Holy Spirit decides to endow with His power for ANY of the gifts, operations or administrations, is the Holy Spirit's choices and is not dependent on the agency of any human.

1 Cor 12: 27-31
Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.
28: And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.
29: Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles?
30: Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?
31: But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.

Now note that Paul separates the apostles from governments. Now, anyone who tries to answer that the difference corresponds to Bishop v priest should be beat on the head with an old shoe. In the New Testament, Bishops are not Apostles.

Ephesians 4:11-14

And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors (poimenas) and teachers;
12: For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
13: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ:
14: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;

Again, here apostles are distinct from pastors (poimenas--remember that this was the "tend" my sheep in Jn 21 and "govern" my people in Mt 2), who are in turn distinct from teachers and it is pastors who are Bishops. (Note that Ephesians is a late Pauline or Pseudo-Pauline letter). Also we see that it is the responsibility of these five disctinct ministries to take care of the body of Christ. But clearly, crystalized in Scripture is an understanding of Apostleship that is distinct from pastoring.

1 Tim 2:7

Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, (I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not;) a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity.

Note that Paul sees both as distinct, i.e, preacher and apostle. (cf. 2 Tim 1:11)

Of course there's 1 Tim 3:1-7

This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop (episkopes), he desireth a good work.
2: A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;
3: Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous;
4: One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity;
5: (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)
6: Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.
7: Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

and then Titus 1:5-9

5: For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders (presbuterous) in every city, as I had appointed thee:
6: If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly.
7: For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre;
8: But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate;
9: Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.

Now, the laying on of hands was not something restricted to the 12 Apostles, which then blunts the notion of the Twelve passing on a distinct ministry. Paul was called and graced directly by Christ and he in turn layed hands on others. More specifically, in Acts, Ananias, who is not identified as anything, but is more likely a lay person, lays hands on Paul and initiates his ministry.

I Tim 4:14

Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery.

It was the presbuterous, elders, who laid hands on Timothy, not the Apostles or Bishop. Of course Paul was in that crowd (2 tim 1:6), but Paul is pointing to presence of grace through the presbuterous.

Now, of course, one can easily argue that as the Church developed distinct roles that may have been necessary in the early Church, merge into the office of the Bishop of which the priest is an extension. For instance, in 1 Tim 4:11 Paul tells Timothy, "These things, command and preach." Fair enough. However, the fact that something happens in tradition does not in any way mean that is the definitive prism to understand scripture. In fact, when anything is conveniently dropped from Scripture for the sake of power and control, then you have begin to question.

There are valid reasons for the development of the office of the Bishops in the early Church, but the price we pay for those developed structures is that the vibrancy and multifacetedness of the Scruptural witness is crushed.

We have now gotten to the point where everything that pertains to ministry, that was once freely distributed in the community by the will of the Holy Spirit, is now tightly controlled to a select group for the sake of preserving power in house. The present Church cannot turn to Scripture to justify the development of the episcopacy to what we have today. Now if the Bishops were honest, they would engage in self reflection and question if maintaining all that power is the will of Christ. But they won't. You ask how I know? I don't. But I bet if you asked the Bishops if they sensed that it was the will of God to give up power in the Church, would they do it? Their answer would essentially be, no. It may be couched in terms of, it's possible, blah, blah, but Christ would do no such thing.

The very blindless of us Christians is amazing. We are Christians precisely because devout Jews could not conceive that God would take the convenant of Moses in as radical a direction and they were right for believing that. Why should you believe that some guy who breaks the law at every turn, is the Messiah and has abrogated the law? If it has happened once before, then it can and will happen again. Of course, this leads to my heretical Hegelian eschatology, but that's a different story. The point is that the flow of tradition has eclipsed the promptings of the Spirit evident in the purity of the its earliest presentations in the New Testament. This should be a clear sign that if we are to stay on course, we need to radically rethink what we adhere to as Catholics, including the notion of the hierarcy, which is more destructive to the workings of the Holy Spirit than helpful.


Blogger Nate said...

I have to admit to some level of confusion by this whole post, but especially the last paragraph -- are you saying that Jesus is not the Messiah?

7:38 PM  
Blogger Ono said...

Das post is confusing, I chuckle because I'm saying to myself as I was writing it, "this is not a post, this is a book or an article." Too much assumed and unsaid, thus chronically unclear. I suppose someday when I spell out what I am trying to say it would make much more sense.

But in regard to the last paragraph, you actually pick up on an important point. Again another unspoken assumption and something I may post about. Jesus is the Messiah and Christianity was the true development out of Judaism. What I am saying is that devout Jews at the time of Christ had every reason to believe that they were all set and there would be no new religious form to come, but as Christians, we believe that we see something that many of them didn't and a new religious form did emerge that we call Christianity. The analogy is that as Christians, especially Catholics, we are certain that we have the final form of God's covenant history on the earth. I am no longer convinced of that. At some point, a new form is going to have to emerge and it will be distinct from Catholicism.

I think Christianity/Catholicism has failed and at some point in the future, who knows when, a new form of the covenant will develop out of Christianity. Just as Christianity does not invalidate the Jewish covenant or the special covenantal status of Jews, so also any new form will not invalidate Christianity, but the point is if people are to become what God intended, it will have to be apart from Christianity/Catholicism. I am far from convinced that Catholicism or Christianity is capable of producing Elohim. 2 Cor 5:17 says if we are in Christ, we are new creatures. The NT speaks with firmness about what our baptism in Christ is supposed to produce in us, i.e, the fruit of the spirit in Gal 5. But yet, look around, in 2000 years, we are as pathetic as we've always been. No fruit. We are mean spirited, selfish, etc, nothing like Gal 5's fruit of the Spirit or Mt 7.

This is the thrust of my heretical Hegelian eschatology I refer too. However, Jesus is and still will be the Christ, Son of God, etc in this new religious form. The point is just that there will have to be a new "way" to participate in the divine life, so that we can fully attain that Elohim that we've been called too. If this all makes any sense.

8:59 PM  
Blogger Nate said...

It does make sense now. I'm not sure that I agree with it, but it's food for thought. It would seem to be stupid to say that what you're saying is impossible, since -- as you wrote -- the Jews essentially said to Jesus: "What you're saying is impossible." If we can accept that it was possible for Jesus to offer a New Covenant that fulfilled the Old Covenant but was still distinct from it, then it would be silly not to accept the possibility that there will be a Newer Covenant, so to speak. God does what God wants to do, not what we think He should do.

10:29 AM  
Anonymous rob mckay said...

what is the translation of , nisi per caritate efficatur unum cum Christo?

And does your interpretation of John Paul square with what the pope was referring to? My interpretation is that a bishop must endeavour to be like Jesus.

Rob rob@taapapa.co.nz

10:02 PM  
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