Skip to content

Why the Church can’t be Synagogal

February 28, 2013

In the comments to Julia’s recent post , Ross very kindly complemented one of my prior posts, which looked towards a more exilic ecclesiology. Ross laments that the Church is not more like Judaism of exilic times. “Yoder’s reading of Jeremiah, the Jewish communal life in the exile took on a few key characteristics, characteristics which he believes the post-Christendom Church should emulate… Local cells of the Jewish community, called synagogues, were formed wherever ten households were present. No hierarchical recognition or initiative was needed or desired.”

To this, Kerberos adds, “When is Rome ever going to allow anything resembling that ?  Evangelicals do it all the time – and a good thing too. But Rome ? If only.”

The implication seems to be that the Church and the Papacy are still too deeply infected by the diseases which come from temporal power, from a monarchical model of the Church and Papacy.

If this is the main point, I and (more importantly) Pope Benedict, would definitely agree. For Ratzinger papal primacy is a primacy in love which has a martyrological structure and was instituted (in a sense) by Christ, for the purpose of preserving Church unity. Like Ross and Kerberos he laments the corruption of Church structures by their marriage to temporal power and rejoices in the fact that Napoleon’s conquest of the papal states freed the papacy from the slavery to much of that power.

He certainly did not see himself as any sort of monarch. In fact he changed centuries of custom by removing the tiara from his papal coat of arms.

“The Supreme Pontiff’s arms have featured a “tiara” since ancient times. At the beginning this was a sort of closed logo_ratzinger“tocque”. In 1130 a crown was added, symbol of the Church’s sovereignty over the States….

The Holy Father Benedict XVI decided not to include the tiara in his official personal coat of arms. He replaced it with a simple mitre which is not, therefore, surmounted by a small globe and cross as was the tiara.

The Papal mitre shown in his arms, to recall the symbolism of the tiara, is silver and bears three bands of gold (the three powers:  Orders, Jurisdiction and Magisterium), joined at the centre to show their unity in the same person.

On the other hand, there is also a completely new symbol in the arms of Pope Benedict XVI:  the “pallium”. It is not part of the tradition, at least in recent years, for the Supreme Pontiffs to include it in their arms.

Yet the pallium is the typical liturgical insignia of the Supreme Pontiff and frequently appears in ancient portrayals of Popes. It stands for the Pope’s responsibility as Pastor of the flock entrusted to him by Christ.

Pope Benedict, while recognize the need for deep ecclesial reform, does not all think of himself as a monarch or anything of the sort. Nevertheless, he would be deeply wary of Kerberos’ suggestions, why?

Because synagogue-like base communities are not sacramental, and the Church is. For the Jews in exile, temple sacrifice was no longer a possibility, thus they turned to synagogal community and became, more than every before, a people of the book. Yoder thinks this form of Jewish worship and life is the lasting one, not the monarchical for example. Nevertheless, upon the end of the exile, the Jews immediately rebuilt the temple. While they never go back to monarchical governance, they do subordinate the synagogue to the temple.

Similarly, we can and should probably have multiple  lively faith communities which are synagogue-like within each diocese, indeed, within each parish. Pope Benedict would not disagree with this, in fact, his hope for the future of the Church comes largely from his perception of the activity of the Spirit in the new ecclesial movements which often form such communities of fervent and integral Christian living within parishes and dioceses. Nevertheless, these communities are not churches in the proper sense.

Christ has supplanted the temple. The new sacrifice is the one everlasting and efficacious sacrifice which is re-presented at the altar of each Church. In other words,

Eucharist is the basic form of the Church. The Church is formed in the eucharistic assembly. … True human order is something different from the bars one places before beasts of prey so that they are restrained. Order is respect for the other and for one’s own, which is then most loved when it is taken in its correct sense. Thus order belongs to the Eucharist, and its order is the actual core of the order of the Church. The empty chair that points to the primacy in love speaks to us accordingly of the harmony between love and order. It points in its deepest aspect to Christ as the true primate, the true presider in love. It points to the fact that the Church has her center in the liturgy. It tells us that the Church can remain one only from communion with the crucified Christ. No organizational efficiency can guarantee her unity. She can be and remain world Church only when her unity is more than that of an organization–when she lives from Christ. Only the eucharistic faith, only the assembly around the present Lord can she keep for the long term. And from here she receives her order. The Church is not ruled by majority decisions but rather through the faith that matures in the encounter with Christ in the liturgy.

In short, Rome already allows synagogue-like communities. In fact, Pope Benedict encourages them, with the caveat that they are not churches. They remain ecclesial communities within the communion of their diocese. A community cannot become a Church on its own but can only receive its ecclesiality from the Eucharist, that is to say, as coming from Christ and sacramentally mediated to the people by apostolic succession.

Finally, I’d challenge each of us, if we find this sort of communal life lacking in our parish. If we find ourselves yearning for what evangelicals do all the time, or what the early Church seems to have done, then we ought to interpret that calling as a movement of the Spirit. Gather friends to our home, open ourselves in a radical and integral way to Gospel, and let the Lord transform us, just as he did for St. Benedict of old and also for Chiara Lubich and others more recently.

About these ads
47 Comments
  1. Jordan permalink
    February 28, 2013 2:45 pm

    Joshua B [February 28, 2013]: Like Ross and Kerberos he [Benedict XVI] laments the corruption of Church structures by their marriage to temporal power and rejoices in the fact that Napoleon’s conquest of the papal states freed the papacy from the slavery to much of that power. [my addition in brackets]

    I am surprised that the pontiff emeritus has identified the beginning of the end of the Papal States and the temporal monarchy with Napoleon’s imprisonment of Pius VI in 1798. I would have suggested the Italian army’s capture of Rome in 1870 (the completion of Risorgimento) as the definitive end of the temporal monarchy. Either way, Paul VI’s symbolic abdication of the temporal throne in 1964 through the renunciation of the tiara merely affirmed publicly what the Church refused to countenance for almost a hundred years. The Pope was and is no longer an Italian prince. Indeed, as Benedict states clearly, the papacy is based on self-sacrifice and not self-aggrandizement, as it is built on the foundation of martyrs and martyrdom.

    If one considers a synagogal model of the Church, then one must also consider the possibility of a reinstatement of the trappings of the papal temporal monarchy. Strange bookends, indeed, but a necessary contrast. Objectively, the temporal kingdom is no more. Yet, the next pope, or any pope, could elect to be crowned with a coronation. Would I like to see this happen? Certainly not, as such a development would re-associate the papacy with a now non-existent political entity, as well as destroy much of the conciliar and post-conciliar eccelsiology patiently cultivated since Paul VI’s tenure.

    A community cannot become a Church on its own but can only receive its ecclesiality from the Eucharist, that is to say, as coming from Christ and sacramentally mediated to the people by apostolic succession.

    By analogy, no pope can create a past but now defunct aspect of his office because the Holy Spirit, working through apostolicity, have abandoned this construct.

    • March 1, 2013 2:01 pm

      Thanks for your thoughtful reply, Jordan.

      I don’t think the analogy quite works. In some sense we have to affirm that a return to a coronation could at some hypothetical point in time be a legitimate ressourcement, but I do not think we could have a “return” to synagogal form of Church which did not also feature the Eucharist. That being, I agree that it seems the HS is pushing us beyond the constructs of Christendom, though I have no competence for interpreting the movements of the Spirit.

    • March 4, 2013 4:12 pm

      I’m not so sure I buy all this talk of renouncing the tiara being humble and all that.

      Isn’t part of the dynamism of Christian imagery that we make the Crucified our King. That we exalt the humble?

      But doing so would seem to require maintaining a tension between the two poles, between the center and the periphery. That is to say, we need to maintain the imagery of exaltation if we want to be able to simultaneously subvert it by exalting the humble. A Crown and a Throne and an Orb & Scepter have to retain a significance if we are to crown the Infant King or understand the crown of thorns.

      Crowning the Pope is supposed to be like crowning an image of Christ or an icon of the Virgin Mary. If we simply renounce the crown, if we reject the very idea of exaltation, then we likewise reject the ability to construct the paradox of exalting the lowly.

      If the Pope is not a Crowned Prince…then where is the pathos in him washing the feet of paupers on Holy Thursday? If Popes never take up the crown, then how would it be possible to lay it down?

      In this sense Paul VI was very selfish in his gesture; his gesture was “parasitic” on the fact that 200 Popes before him had worn the crown. The power of the symbol of laying it aside is symbolically dependent on a tension with the glory they had imbued it with. And yet it is a gesture that could really only be done once. So the message comes across more as “I, Paul, am more humble than all my predecessors” rather than saying anything about the papacy as an office as a whole. Furthermore, by not having coronations of their own in the first place, future popes therefore lose the ability to preform a similar gesture: you can’t humble yourself if you’ve never been exalted in the first place. In reality, every Pope laid aside his crown: at death, the great equalizer which humbles us all. By never having the symbols of exaltation in the first place, we risk utterly losing the tension on which is dependent the symbolism of humiliation. A very clumsy and unsubtle decision, if you ask me.

      We cannot crown the crucified if we’ve come to see crowns as a bad or corrupt thing in general. If there is no notion of exaltation and glory (and having these things be good, rather than taking an absolutely negative or cynical attitude towards them)…then it becomes impossible to exalt or glorify humility or lowliness.

    • Jordan permalink
      March 5, 2013 11:50 am

      re: A Sinner [March 4, 2013 4:12 pm]: Your evaluation of the tiara is very insightful. I agree that the juxtaposition of crown and suffering courses throughout Christianity, beginning with Paul. It is also true that iconic crowning of Our Lord and Our Lady echo and even magnify this juxtaposition. However, despite my many disagreements with Paul VI’s decisions (especially with regard to liturgy), I do not consider him “parasitic” because of his symbolic abdication of the temporal monarchy.

      While I agree that Paul VI’s renunciation of the tiara “for the poor” suggests false humility, Pope Paul’s decision merely reflected the postmodern sensus fidelium with regard to the history of the papacy as a political entity (i.e. the papal states, the papacy’s standing army, papal temporal subjects etc.) The tiara has become a symbol of past papal avarice and not necessarily the glory of the office. A coronation suggests that human glory resides in the accumulation of wealth and influence with little or no regard to Christian values. I cannot think of another way to resignify the coronation and tiara without invoking the centuries of popes who desired the office out of human desire for wealth and influence and not from a desire to shepherd Christ’s Church.

      It’s true that a pope, despite his highest office, will also suffer because of this office. I am convinced that Pope Benedict resigned in part because he could no longer handle the stress of not only the private affairs of the Church but also the unrelenting criticism of the public eye. Even the daily stressors of the papal office are, in my estimation, a form of suffering. Yet the glory of the modern papacy is not in its temporal history but rather in its apostolicity. The pope is glorified through Christ’s specific trust in Peter as the cornerstone. This mandate is divine, unlike worldly riches which are divinized by men.

      • March 5, 2013 7:35 pm

        “The tiara has become a symbol of past papal avarice and not necessarily the glory of the office. A coronation suggests that human glory resides in the accumulation of wealth and influence with little or no regard to Christian values. I cannot think of another way to resignify the coronation and tiara without invoking the centuries of popes who desired the office out of human desire for wealth and influence and not from a desire to shepherd Christ’s Church.”

        But that’s exactly the thing. We can’t have the Infant King on Christmas, if there is not also a King Herod to provide the contrast.

        The Popes, in some sense, need to “play Herod” in the drama. By renouncing the crown and attempting to take on the symbolism of being poor…this is really just a “step further” of co-opting the symbolism for the sake of aggrandizement, is it not? Since 2000 years of Christianity has made lowliness glory, they will now renounce exaltation in favor of lowliness (because lowliness is what is really exalted!) This is what the notion of “false humility” is no? Showy gestures of “humility” designed to actually glorify, since Christianity has given glory to humility.

        In reality, I think Elizabeth II shows much much more humility than Paul VI (or his successors) in how she carries herself and approaches her role. Yes, she takes up the crown and all that, but in an utterly neutralized way, and yet with fundamental dignity. She lives only to do her duty, and that duty is as a figurehead of pageantry; so be it. The crown of glory becomes, for her, a humiliation, because of how democracy has rendered her authority utterly nominal and figurehead. When she goes into parliament, they ceremonially bar the door to the Commons against her representative (the “Black Rod” ceremony) first! And yet, at the end of the day, she still wears the crown and sits in Lords and gives her Throne Speech.

        I contrast this with, say, the US presidents. They would never put on a crown, would scoff at the idea. The American attitude would disdain such a thing, because we are now “above crowns.” The president knows that his glory and power are exactly in being a “suit” and NOT a monarch (who, nowadays, could only be ceremonially), because that narrative puts the glory in the ragtag band of bourgeoisie who overthrew King George. And yet, it is exactly this rejection of monarchy which is the new form that Worldly Glory takes on in the regime of the Republic.

        As such, by renouncing the crown at this stage in history (not previously, but at this stage), the Pope has actually seemingly aggrandized himself by cozying up with the modern regime of Power which is found in the (ultimately false/disingenuous) ideals of the Republic, which give worldly glory to the new regime, and which humiliates the ancien. By laying down the tiara, the Pope has made himself more President than Queen. Yet, nowadays, a President is the one with much more worldly glory, and the Queen much more humility in her office by far.

        Nowadays (perhaps, indeed, thanks to 2000 years of Christian influence) it is the absence of the crown (replaced by the Cap of Liberty, perhaps) which signifies power and heroism and glory in our world, and its presence which signifies humiliation (the humiliation of monarchy neutered at last by democracy). Therefore, it would be in KEEPING the crown that the Pope would show himself humble as, indeed, this is true with the Queen. By being, as it were, nothing more (in that particular ceremony, at least) than a vessel of tradition, a puppet of pageantry for the people, a museum-piece of the ancien regime that has fallen.

        By taking on “democratic” symbolism, however, (or, at least, anti-monarchical) all he’s doing is showing himself allied with the new world order and ITS notions of glory.

        • Jimmy Mac permalink
          March 7, 2013 5:34 pm

          The beauty of a vestment should derive from its material and form rather than from its ostentation. (Roman Missal 306)

          Ordinaries, by the encouragement and favor they show to art which is truly sacred, should strive after noble beauty rather than mere sumptuous display. This principle is to apply also in the matter of sacred vestments and ornaments. Sacrosanctum Concilium (no. 124)

  2. Ross permalink
    February 28, 2013 7:12 pm

    Thank you for this most excellent and detailed response to my original comment. Love Vox Nova! Don’t get me wrong, I’m not calling for somekind of move so that we all become Presbyterians or base communities. I love the Holy Father. But the current reality is that we are utterly leaderless from Bishop, to Cardinal to Pontiff. It’s worth exploring how that feels, why it happened and what we can learn. I don’t think we will have to wait long before Benedict is declared a Doctor of the Church. The only real highlight of being a Scottish Catholic over the last few years was the Papal visit in 2010.

    • March 1, 2013 2:05 pm

      Ross,

      Thanks for response. I am glad to hear you enjoy being part of our little community in this corner of the interwebs.

      I’m not sure I understand what you are getting at. Are we currently leaderless because we are without a pope or because our leaders well….aren’t leaders? What might we need to learn?

      For the record, admitting that “long” is a relative term, I won’t be holding my breath on Benedict being named a doctor of the Church. All of the official doctors are saints, and while I hold Ratzinger in the highest esteem, I doubt we will be hearing santo subito chants upon his passing.

    • Kerberos permalink
      March 1, 2013 10:03 pm

      ## AFAICS, the Church is indeed Eucharistic (whatever that is meant to mean), but that’s not a reason for it not to be more Evangelical, and more Christian; and a lot less top-heavy in its structure. The Pope as he has become in recent times is essentially a Pharaoh; not a servant. The rhetoric of service is used – but that proves nothing: a tyrant can be called “Chairman”, and yet be a tyrant. The “servant of the servants of God” has never been slow to act as their lord. If the Pope is a temporal ruler, with a court & diplomatic service, or if he is subject to no law or discipline within the Church, he is a servant who is so like a sovereign lord that the title “servant of the servants of God” either is without meaning, or, the meaning of the title is so contradictory to the facts of life in the Church as to set up an intolerable tension. Christ, by contrast, shows what service is – He did so to the extent of being crucified. There is no contradiction, no dissonance, there. The last Pope who was crucified was St. Peter (though, properly speaking, he was never a Pope).

      The Pope is still a monarch, and still an absolute one; he is if anything even more the master of the Church than in 1870, because Papal power has grown even more. Lacking (some of) the trappings of monarchy does not change this – such a lack can be an excellent disguise for the extent of monarchical power.

      STM the Papacy, & the Church, should be less concerned with being Eucharistic, and a lot more concerned to have the apocalyptic attitude that is essential to the NT understanding of Who Jesus is. It is not at all clear that the Eucharist is a major theological category – it certainly isn’t in the NT. Catholic theology may have a lot of bright ideas, but the relation of many of them to the meaning of the NT is tenuous at best. STM this is a major source of the Church’s problems today. It would be wrong to blame all the Church’s ills on the Papacy – but equally wrong to ignore its part in causing them. For NT theology, Christ is the servant-king, the crucified Messiah; & He has no servants in the NT who behave as kings when they are meant to be elders in His Church. The ideology of Papal kingship is not Christian; it deforms the Church. All the more so, by requiring such a close, almost suffocating, union between Rome and the churches in the Church.

      • March 3, 2013 7:25 pm

        Kerberos, thanks for reading and responding.

        1 – For the Church to be eucharistic means that the Church is the Body of Christ, with an emphasis on the sacramental nature of this image. It is to say that the Eucharist is the sacramental means by which the Triune God transforms a diverse and disunified agggregate of sinners into the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. (See De Lubac’s Corpus Mysticum, or Paul McPartlan’s Sacrament of Salvation, or tangentially my old post here.

        2 – I don’t think its fair to say the eucharist is not a major theological category in the NT. I understand why you might say that, but I don’t think it is accurate. In fact, I’d argue that every text of the NT has a eucharistic provenance. (See Denis Farkasfalvy’s Inspiration and Interpretation).

        3 – I agree that an ideology of Papal kingship deforms the Church, and, more to the point, so would Benedict XVI. One can reasonably disagree with his prudential decisions, or his theological or pastoral approach, but I don’t think one who has read of much of his writings or any reports of those who have met him can reasonably describe him as a tyrant monarch. He’d agree that there are abuses and problems. That the papacy has become a stumbling block. I think his papacy and especially his resignation, can be read as a step in the direction of reform.

        Pax,

      • Jimmy Mac permalink
        March 5, 2013 8:46 pm

        Amen.

  3. March 2, 2013 10:03 am

    Thanks for this interesting article, especially the discussion of the coat of arms.

    I think your argument that the church is essentially eucharistic, and that the sacramental celebration of the eucharist is the constitutive practice of ecclesial worship, is strong. But the link to the apostolic succession as constitutive of that sacramental celebration is a weak point in the argument, unlikely to convince anyone who doesn’t already believe it — especially given the historical evidence that the early church was pluriform in structure and governance. The emphasis on apostolic succession seems to have emerged in order to define/defend orthodoxy and preserve order, not to confect the eucharist: it had to do with handed-on teaching, not powers imparted by the laying on of hands.

    I think one might more convincingly argue that the apostolic succession is the normative means by which the church epicletically empowers its ministerial priesthood to preside over the eucharistic celebration. This leaves room for the Holy Spirit to work outside those normative structures, mending links that were broken due to human weakness, and abiding with ecclesial communities whose eucharistic celebrations have been unbroken. (As Mary Tanner delightfully puts it in her paper on the Porvoo Agreement[1], this recognizes a succession of “bottoms on seats” in addition to that of “hands on heads”.)

    [1] Mary Tanner, “The Porvoo Agreement,” Built Together: The Present Vocation of United and Uniting Churches, Faith & Order Paper No. 174

    • Jordan permalink
      March 2, 2013 6:42 pm

      re: gaudetetheology [March 2, 2013 10:03 am]: Thank you for your post, and especially your quotation of Prof. Tanner. While I appreciate her metaphors, I wonder if her model is sufficiently ecumenical to gather together churches of diverse governmental structures.

      The churches of the Porvoo Agreement are all episcopal in polity. All Porvoo churches fulfill Tanner’s proposition that apostolicity derives from a consistent celebration of the Eucharist. All participant churches also consecrate, ordain, or elect bishops. The Roman doctrine of apostolic succession is not relevant at this point in the discussion. The model of episcopal governance is the one durable link which binds all of these churches together.

      Other ecclesial models exist — presbyterianism and congregationalism in particular. Let’s say that the Church of Scotland (Reformed presbyterian) desired to sign the Porvoo Agreement. Would the already participating episcopal churches permit a non-episcopal church to join the union? It’s true that the Church of Scotland has a consistent post-Reformation eucharistic tradition. Yet, the difficulty of incorporating presbyterianism within an episcopal structure suggests that the model of governance, while not the absolute mark of apostolic nature, nevertheless provides an effective means of maintaining confessional identity and practical order in the present day.

      • March 2, 2013 9:53 pm

        Jordan, thanks for your reply. I meant Tanner’s phrasing and the Porvoo Agreement, which indeed as you note involved only episcopal-polity churches, as just one instance of the basic approach that identified a consistent celebration of the eucharist as an alternative manifestation of apostolicity.

        I would argue that the eucharistic celebration is far more fundamental to the church than polity.

        Although the Roman doctrine of apostolic succession was not at issue in this agreement, the Protestant version of it was: the issue was precisely whether apostolic succession could be recognized even in cases where the strict lineage of bishops ordaining bishops was broken during the Reformation.

        To the extent that the episcopal model of governance

        while not the absolute mark of apostolic nature, nevertheless provides an effective means of maintaining confessional identity and practical order in the present day

        I would consider that a bug, not a feature: maintenance of confessional identity is inherently defined over against a different confessional identity, and thus inherently tends toward reinforcing the scandalous divisions within the Body of Christ.

        “The difficulty of incorporating presbyterianism within an episcopal structure” suggests to me that attempting to do so is the wrong answer, and possibly an attempt to answer the wrong question. Why should polity, of all things, be a church-dividing issue?

    • March 3, 2013 7:30 pm

      gaudetetheology, thanks for your response. I understand and share your ecumenical concerns. For the record, I think Benedict does too.

      Unfortunately I don’t have time get into all the historical difficulties here. For sake, the point being made is that ecclesiality is not a sociological reality. A community cannot declare itself to be church, rather it must receive itself from without, from Christ as mediated sacramentally through His body.

  4. David Cruz-Uribe, SFO permalink*
    March 2, 2013 12:07 pm

    Joshua, thanks for this interesting article. However, I think I am inclined in the direction that Kerberos goes above, though perhaps not as far. There is no contradiction in arguing that the Church is a eucharistic community and that therefore we need the apostolic succession and even the papacy, and, on the other hand, observing that the Church in its governance has become overly centralized and hierarchical at the expense of local bishops and often to the detriment of local communities. Subsidiarity needs to play a role in the Church as well as in the secular world.

    A useful distinction might be drawn here using anarchist terminology: the pope and bishops must be central to the Church, but they must not be over the rest of the Church. So the Church should not be a synagogue, but there are many ways in which it can be the Church while moving away from a vertical, hierarchical model.

    • Julia Smucker permalink*
      March 3, 2013 2:11 pm

      I agree on the need to integrate a number of complementary ecclesial qualities (sacramentality, apostolicity, collegiality, etc). I would add to your distinction that “vertical” ultramontanism and “flat-line” egalitarianism as ecclesial models have the same basic flaw: they are both one-dimensional. Not that I see you going to the other extreme, but I just find it necessary to point out the ditches on either side of the road (which I think is what Josh was doing).

    • March 3, 2013 7:35 pm

      David,

      What Julia said. Also, I agree entirely with your first paragraph. I was a little disappointed, but surprised, he didn’t do more to move in a more collegial direction. That being said, I expect the next pope to attempt some sort of curial reform. For a number of reasons, these things happen slowly, but they are happening. I’ll be interested to see how newly designate Bishop Brendan Leahy, an active member of the Focolare, attempts to enflesh their communal charism in his structures of his diocese.

      With regard to your second paragraph. I’d basically echo what Julia said and add that the reference to anarchism makes me a little nervous. Admittedly I don’t really know or understand Catholic anarchism well. But, I am deeply saddened by the often anti-Catholic tendencies of some of the Catholic Worker houses. I blame this on non-existent formation and Dorothy’s anarchism. I share her critique of the state, especially the modern nation-state, but I am not convinced that anarchism is a viable alternative.

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO permalink*
      March 4, 2013 7:24 pm

      With regards to anarchism, I am not quoting Catholic anarchist thinkers directly. This is an idea I got from Ursula le Guin’s great novel The Disposessed, which in turn was deeply influenced by a number of mid-twentieth century anarchist thinkers such as Paul Goodman. The key problem which anarchist thinkers have wrestled with is that any social group larger than a tribe or extended family needs organizational structures, and people who have to fill “leadership” roles. In experience, some people will fill roles that are more important to the functioning of the community than others. How do you create and maintain such social structures without creating a hierarchy, in which one person is “above” another. One way is to re-envision the social structure using the concept of centrality: someone’s role is more central to the functioning of the community, but the person himself is not above any other person in the community.

      Such thinking is implicit in some parts of Catholic thought and practice—witness that St. Francis commanded that the leaders of Franciscan communities be called “minister” and not “prior” or “abbott”. Similarly, the Pope is referred to as “the servant of the servants of God”. On the other hand, it is clear from practice and language (just search the Catechism) that the Church is viewed hierarchically, with some people (Pope, bishops) viewed as “above” others (the laity).

  5. Ross permalink
    March 4, 2013 7:36 am

    Hi Joshua, you stated that you are not sure what I am getting at and also asked what might we need to learn? For me it’s very simple, from our perspective here in Scotland. Our own Scottish Catholic hierarchy are entirely unfit for purpose and have lost all authority anyway so it is a realistic situation not a theoretical idea. As things stand we have no Bishop, Cardinal or Pope. The leaders of our Scottish Catholic Church have totally lost all authority to speak on matters of human relationships. I agree that the Church is a eucharistic community and that we require the apostolic succession and the papacy. But perhaps now only in a sacramental (priestly) sense, not in any real leadership role. Those days I think, are at an end. I cannot see how we come back from this and be the same. And it is this which I think we need to look at and discuss. Like it or not, the harsh truth is that ordinary Scottish Catholics have been incessantly grossly betrayed by the Catholic hierarchy. Not nice to hear, but true.

    • March 4, 2013 10:01 am

      Thanks for the clarification Ross. I was thinking “we” referred to the global Church not merely the Scottish Church.

      Your perspective is indeed helpful and in itself a goad to reform. I absolutely agree that real lasting reform will only come from the bottom up. It always has. The Spirit uses the little poor ones, the anawim, the remnant, or as Ratzinger puts it, “creative minorities” through whom to bring reform to the Church. I feel like a broken record saying this again, but Ratzinger agrees with you. I think that his hope for real reform for a lived and experienced ecclesiology of communion lies with the ecclesial movements who are already developing and practicing various versions of a spirituality of communion. As these movements and there more holy and radical members continue to mature and grow up, this spirituality will act like yeast and change the Church from within, organically, as it were. But, these sorts of slow revolutions, which are the only kind which fully respect human freedom and refuse to resort to violence and coercion, take time, generations perhaps. Yet, in the midst of these stormy waters in which the Ark is rocked by scandal and disunity, the Lord remains with us, and there is cause for hope.

  6. Ross permalink
    March 4, 2013 7:40 am

    Or in short “It’s the laity not the clergy who will provide a spiritual ark of survival.

  7. Jordan permalink
    March 6, 2013 11:17 am

    re: A Sinner (March 5, 2013 7:35 pm): I have transferred by response here given the lack of room on the previous thread.

    A Sinner, you’ve made a convincing and orthodox case for the reinstatement of the coronation and tiara. I particularly appreciate your understanding of the tiara as a symbol of the human frailty of the papal office and the inherent temptation towards aggrandizement common to all persons. I agree that the humility of apostolicity inherent in the vicar of Christ, which is a face of Christ’s humility, must be tempered by the self identification of a newly elected pope with the past abuses of the papal office which have marred the papacy and even the unity of the Church. Perhaps you’re right that a restoration of the coronation and tiara might better display both the human and and humble side of a divinely instituted office.

    It’s important to note that the Queen has never worn the hereditary crown and jewels except for her coronation. She has worn smaller tiaras for Commonwealth coin issues, but just as often the Commonwealth monarchs have appeared on coins and notes with unadorned heads (such as in Canada’s current and past issues, e.g. George VI). While I agree with your metaphorical analogy between ER II and the postconciliar papacy, don’t forget that the Queen has not worn her hereditary crown outside the specific ritual which defined her then nascent reign. If a future pope were to receive a coronation and tiara, perhaps he would do best to wear the tiara only for the coronation. The coronation will, as you have stated, “humiliate” the future pope with the baggage of past sins of the office and the relative insignificance of his temporal power. However, a decision to wear mitres exclusively during a pontificate would integrate the humility of human sinfulness with a future pope’s “lowly” commitment to his episcopal and papal pastorate.

    • Julia Smucker permalink*
      March 6, 2013 12:41 pm

      An interesting discussion going on here. “A Sinner” has brought up an interesting and thought-provoking interpretation of the papal tiara which I had not considered before. I can see the merit in this interpretation, but I think it comes down to effective symbolism – and the effect of the symbol is somewhat contingent on the immediate past. That is to say, while I like the concept of coronation being an ironic sign of humility, a return to the papal tiara after it has been discarded would be much more broadly seen to signify temporal power rather than humility. An analogous situation might be the ad orientem liturgy as it continues in the Eastern rites, which has certain arguable merits, but which the RC Church could not now return to without sending entirely the wrong message.

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO permalink*
      March 6, 2013 1:28 pm

      A sinner: this is a clever argument, but I am ultimately unconvinced by it. First, if we look closely at the case of Elizabeth II, I don’t think your reading of her “humility” is anywhere near universally held. I don’t claim to be an expert in Republican (i.e. anti-monarchical) opinion in GB, but it seems to me that they would see this not as humility but arrogance: the royal family continues to cling to the their few remaining powers and perquisites long after their role in government has ended. More centrist opinion would not see humility but dignity as she carries out her role as head of state (as opposed to head of government). The “black rod” ceremony you point to is not some modern attempt to humiliate the crown; rather, it is an archaic hold-over from a time when parliament was attempting to assert its independence from and power with respect to the crown. So in summary: the symbolism that surrounds Elizabeth is multi-valent, and the weight of interpretations go against your particular reading.

      Second, you create a false dichotomy when you assert that if the papacy, in this day and age abandons the symbolism of monarchy it will embrace the symbolism (and power trappings) of the modern democratic age. In this and in every other age, the Papacy, like all Christians, needs to stand as a sign of contradiction to the signs of worldly glory of the current or past ages, as long as those symbols retain any meaning (such as coronation).

      What we need is symbolism that speaks to this sign of contradiction. Benedict took a step in this direction by adding the pallium to his coat of arms, as a sign of the bishop as shepherd. However, he acted against this by including (in a somewhat attenuated form) the triple crown on the miter.

      What kind of symbols would speak to this age? Instead of a coronation, have the newly elected pope led out by a halter, symbol that he is indeed the slave of the slaves of God. Or have him come out bearing a yoke, sign that the duty of any pastor is to help bear the burdens of his flock. Or bearing a cross, symbolizing the call of Jesus.

    • March 6, 2013 2:21 pm

      I think what Jordan says about the tiara being a reminder of the temptation of aggrandizement, and an identification of the current Pope with the identification of past sins of the office.

      Part of the utter presumptuousness of laying down the tiara is also manifested, for example, in Pope John Paul’s “purification of memory.” It’s as if they’re trying to say, “Look, we’re different now! They were the bad guys then, maybe, but we’re not like THOSE Popes anymore. Trust us!”

      Ha! I think the absurdity of this is being shown in the abuse scandals playing out for the last decade. As long as the Church remains a human institution, it simply WILL be a temporal polity (internally, certainly, if not so much externally anymore). Therefore, notions of disconnecting or disidentifying ourselves from the past abuses of the institution really function as just another way to aggrandize the institution in the present by pretending it is something other than the very same human institution that did those things in the past and which, thus, could do them again in the future.

      Besides this discontinuity posing theological problems for the Church, it also is fundamentally an act of pride and presumption (the progressive pride of “we know better now,” which often is used to cloak NEW atrocities in the present through the demonization of the past and the idea “Well, at least we’re not THEM.”) The idea is something like, “Yes, the Church in the past could be bad. But that’s because of the corruption of monarchy. The New Humble Church with Democratic Values…it could never do wrong! We’re no longer in bed with temporal power and those sorts of temptations!” Except, of course, it is and has and does. Wearing a crown at least ADMITS it, whereas the modern attempt at “disavowal” just seems like “protesting too much.”

      I’ll admit that there are problems with starting the ritual AGAIN after it has already been laid aside. This is why I think Paul’s gesture was so lamentable, as I said; it’s something you can only really do once before it loses its cache. However, I’d ask you this Julia: which act do you think would cause more contempt, more outrage, more ridicule to heaped upon the Church? If the next Pope has an “inauguration”? Or if he has a “coronation”? I tend to think the act that will cause us to be laughed at and have eyes rolled and have us labeled irrelevant is the more “humiliating” act by far!

      And that’s notwithstanding the boorish over-simplified understandings of people like the Republicans in David’s example. I think British Republicans, for example, have no nuance or subtlety regarding symbolism, and their opposition to the monarchy is childish. Even more absurd, however, are your suggestions that the Pope come out wearing a halter or yolk or carrying the cross. Talk about presumption and false humility! The Pope cannot simply “Play Jesus” in the drama, exactly because the Pope is a sinful man, and so that contrast or tension must always be there. Having a Pope coming out in the symbols of slavery would just be a mockery and “seen through” by everyone, not an act of humility at all.

      Taking up the tiara again would be, I think, an act comparable to Christ’s “triumphant” riding into Jerusalem on an ass and colt. Yes, I like the word Julia says, it must be “ironic” like this.

      [Some minor points to cover: I DO believe ad orientem could be restored without sending any "wrong message," would point out that Eastern hierarchs ALL wear crowns, and that while Elizabeth may not wear her coronation regalia, she does wear the Imperial State Crown every year for the Throne Speech, which I'd argue is the one day of the year when she is MOST "submissive" and constrained utterly; it's as if she's being led around on a leash, and somewhat rightly so! As far as I know/imagine, the Pope only wore the tiara at his coronation, and then only once a year at the Urbi et Orbi, unless he was doing something like promulgating a dogma ex cathedra. I think once a year is a fine balance, and is similar to the Queen's in that sense.]

      • March 6, 2013 2:55 pm

        I thought of some more things:

        The “disavowal” of the symbols of exaltation is exactly what modern democratic/republican regimes use. Yet doesn’t this make them all the more dangerous? It’s easy for people to hate a king when he’s bad, but when the message you officially promote is “We are a government by the people, for the people! No More Kings!!” that usually makes it much easier to pull the wool over people’s eyes, because the very authority leaders in a democracy claim is the authority granted by revolution AGAINST authority. This makes it much harder for they themselves to be the subject of revolution when it is called for, because it requires a “revolution against the revolution” which many people can’t wrap their heads around. Like I said, just look at the US President. No crown there! And yet the American Empire with its cult of the goddess Liberty…is the oppressor and tyrant in the world today! And yet so much harder to see exactly because it’s embraced the “power and glory disavowing” language and (non-)trappings of democracy and republicanism.

        In reality, I think this is all also related to the notion of “becoming sin.” God’s humbling of Himself to become a servant took the form, exactly, of entering INTO the World and into Flesh and into, even, temptation by the Devil. He “became sin.” The Church does likewise.

        I know some of you are familiar with the Mennonite tradition. While I have great respect, in some ways, for their austerity, I also have to think that one of the “problems” with that tradition is the notion of remaining apart from the world so as to “not be corrupted,” at least in the more Amish variations. The idea that we can stay holy and uncorrupted by withdrawing from the saeculum. The Church has never had this delusion. While there are monastic enclaves within the Church (at its heart, really) for such withdrawl for the sake of an “engine of prayer” and contemplation for the community, the Church itself as an institution has always been willing to be “become sin” and enter INTO the messiness of temporal affairs and politics. It has to, it could be no other way. The Church must accept the “humiliation” of coming down from the pure and perfect realms of Heaven that are spiritually “safe” (a concept Kyle discussed in a recent post) and actually enter into the messiness and temptation and sinfulness of the world, with all the spiritual risk inherent therein.

        Part of this “becoming sin” is accepting the fact that she is a temporal institution and thus has some measure of temporal power/influence (whether the Church has much of a State anymore or not; though they still have a tiny one, of course). Admitting this fact through a crown at least makes you vulnerable to critiques of this dynamic in a straightforward manner, whereas trying to take up the democratic “doublespeak” of power-through-renouncing-power clouds the water so much more, and makes true critique harder to level, because then you’re in a “house of mirrors” which obfuscates the fact of your own glory and power and aggrandizement. A King is at least open to hatred. An eminence rouge or eminence grise, however, is a coward in addition to being a tyrant, exactly because he does not admit his real role. In this sense, the most PRIDEFUL and presumptuous of the Pope’s titles is not “Supreme Pontiff” but rather “Servant of the Servants of God,” inasmuch it suggests a humility that the papal office really doesn’t have (inasmuch as it still maintains, you know, supreme jurisdiction and all that…it’s largely a pretense or ideal, not a reality>)

      • March 6, 2013 3:03 pm

        Basically, I think my point boils down to basic honesty: if the Pope acts and run things as a monarch (and whether he “should” or not, he inevitably will and does)…then he should at least admit it by dressing like one. Anything else is just dishonest. He has power, inevitably. Obfuscating that fact by disavowing the symbols (but retaining the reality) of power…is a very dangerous proposition, I’d think.

    • Jordan permalink
      March 8, 2013 8:22 am

      re: A Sinner [March 6, 2013 2:21 pm]: As long as the Church remains a human institution, it simply WILL be a temporal polity (internally, certainly, if not so much externally anymore). Therefore, notions of disconnecting or disidentifying ourselves from the past abuses of the institution really function as just another way to aggrandize the institution in the present by pretending it is something other than the very same human institution that did those things in the past and which, thus, could do them again in the future.

      One tangent that you have not considered, A Sinner, is the possibility that Paul VI’s decision to renounce the tiara reflects aspects of the theological vision of the Second Vatican Council and not necessarily a conscious decision to deceive by distracting the world from the inherent sinfulness of the institutional Church and the papacy in particular. The Council’s emphasis of the pilgrim church over the Tridentine triumphant model (c.f. Lumen gentium VII) suggests that Pope Paul’s renunciation of the tiara at the end of the Council confirmed the change of ecclesiology in LG from a Church which presides with an extra-temporal doctrinal absolutism to a church which participates within the eschatological economy as the gateway of salvation and also as a people in need of salvation.

      • March 8, 2013 2:14 pm

        A change in vision which itself represents a sort of ecclesiastical Utopianism, like the dictators of communism all wearing drab and beige on account of their new political vision for the people.

        • Jordan permalink
          March 9, 2013 3:28 am

          re: A Sinner [March 8, 2013 2:14 pm]: Your point is well taken. First, a comparison. Mao Zedong did not abandon his litter until the founding of the PRC. Although he wore his eponymous suit during the Long March, he did not shun the chosen transport of the Chinese elite until it was politically expedient to do so. In this case, the utopianism (perhaps, “false egalitarianism”) of post-1949 Maoist China stemmed from a ideological and propaganistic erasure of Mao’s previous elitist lifestyle.

          Paul VI was certainly no Chairman Mao. A complex man beset by great hamartiai, but no megalomaniac. Pope Paul presided over the creation of profound declarations of modern theology, but also sang the requiem for Latin in the liturgy and subsequently the profoundly deleterious death of Latin in the daily life of the Roman Church. His reign is still divisive because the 1960s still confound. This decade witnessed the social classes and mores battered by the world wars finally and spectacularly collapse. This lens, and not one of so-called humility, perhaps better clarifies Pope Paul’s abdication. I am convinced that he viewed the abdication, the liturgical reforms, and the diverse rationalizations of the papal court as merely prudent responses to a Western world right in the midst of a haphazard reformation of social order. Perhaps for these same reasons Pope Paul was disillusioned by the widespread rejection of Humanae vitae: he had worked diligently to move the Church with the zeitgeist, only to be shunned for unchangable doctrine.

          Pope Benedict’s resignation reminds us that the petrine chair itself is often a most exquisite and exacting cross. The Church institutional and the People of God hanged on the same cross of confusion and upheaval with Pope Paul. Still, we hang on this cross, but not forgetting that the pontiff of his time also suffered in his way.

  8. Ronald King permalink
    March 7, 2013 12:34 pm

    Very interesting ideas about symbolism. It seems that whatever symbol is presented by the man who becomes pope is a statement of his beliefs about spiritual and political power and their influence on human beings. What do human beings need from a Pope in order to more clearly understand the Christ?

    • March 7, 2013 4:49 pm

      First and foremost, Ronald, what human beings need from a Pope in order to more clearly understand Christ: to understand that the Pope is NOT Christ.

    • March 7, 2013 4:59 pm

      I mean, isn’t the proper response to the fact that the papal crown has been tarnished with blood and filth and lucre…to continue wearing it for that very reason? If we change our gloves every time we get blood on our hands, that’s just a shirking of responsibility, is it not? Shouldn’t the Pope be forced to bear on his head, the very form of that oh so tarnished crown the weight of the culpability of all the sins of power in the institutional Church? It is the height of cowardice to think that when an organization acquires too many debts (symbolic or otherwise) that the solution is basically to “dissolve the company” by reincorporating under a “new brand” that legally thus renounces the “debts” of the old, with a “clean slate.” No, symbols accrue accretions over the course of their march through history, and renouncing the crown in favor of a new “clean” symbol just because we feel like the old one has too much accretion of mud or scratches…is just “the easy way out.” Real existential responsibility would be bearing the weight of the tarnished crown and having to do the hard work of “rehabilitating” the symbol rather than the act of simply renouncing continuity with that identity.

  9. Ronald King permalink
    March 7, 2013 7:46 pm

    Thanks for your response Sinner. I understand your points. So it seems that in order to rehabilitate the symbol the Pope would need to act in a manner which is different from the expectations of that position. It seems to me that he would need to be more of a servant than an administrator and perhaps living a life that is closer to martyrdom. Does this make sense?

  10. Julia Smucker permalink*
    March 8, 2013 3:25 pm

    In response to A Sinner, I think David makes a good point above about setting up a false dichotomy between monarchial and democratic ways of embracing temporal power. I am seeing a second one between an Anabaptist-style withdrawal into a pretension of purity and an “aw, to hell with it” resignation to wallowing in moral corruption. The Church cannot effectively preach the gospel by closing herself off to the world and simply saying, “Look how pure and perfect I am,” nor can she preach the gospel by flaunting her own taintedness as if it were a virtue (even ironically), and giving the world legitimate reason to crucify her. The next successor of Peter must rather embrace the kenosis of Christ, which was the reason Peter went to Rome in the first place.

  11. March 8, 2013 5:54 pm

    Well, if some people here think overt symbols of humility are called for, then would anyone here support bringing back for all clerics the tonsure? That shearing was part of an overt symbolism of humiliation slavery. But the same people who think the tiara or cappa magna should be gotten rid of on account of pride, also tend to scoff at the idea of bringing back something like the tonsure on account of it being too weird looking or too much of a burden on modern clerics. So it seems like what people really support is just conforming to the styles of the age in every way.

    • Julia Smucker permalink*
      March 10, 2013 1:26 pm

      That may be what some people want, but it’s not what I’m talking about – nor, it appears to me, is Jordan or anyone else on this thread. You are creating a straw-man here.

      • March 10, 2013 10:58 pm

        So if the renunciation of the tiara is about renouncing pride or triumphalism, would you be against the restoration of an overt symbol of slavery and humiliation like making priests wear a tonsure? And if not, why not? Because, personally, it seems to be that a lot of people dislike BOTH and though they might say it’s “for different reasons,” the fact that a dislike for both seems to be so correlated suggests a hidden unity underlying the dislike, and I’d like to figure out what that hidden cause or logic is.

        • Julia Smucker permalink*
          March 11, 2013 7:59 pm

          It’s all a question of how the symbol would be perceived. I don’t have strong feelings on the tonsure one way or the other, but I think it could be a beautiful sign for the vicar of Christ to visibly represent the humility of the incarnation by carrying a large cross on his back, or something like that.

        • March 11, 2013 10:37 pm

          You don’t think people would perceive that as hubristic??

          In my experience, whenever people dare to compare themselves to Jesus…it is very POORLY received!

        • March 11, 2013 10:39 pm

          I mean, what if instead of a tiara, the Pope wore for his crown a crown of thorns? (Or a metal replica, etc) By your “symbolic logic” that would make sense and solve the problem. But in reality it would simply seem to CAUSE more problems than it it solves. First and foremost by being utterly presumptuous!

        • Julia Smucker permalink*
          March 12, 2013 9:56 am

          Personally, I like the idea of a crown of thorns replacing the papal tiara – which probably would work better than the cross thing. But if symbols of humility can be read as hubristic (and I do see your point there), and symbols of earthly power can be read as humbling, I guess that goes to show you can never please everybody.

          More significantly, perhaps it also shows how Christ’s “upside-down kingdom” turns the world’s idea of power on its head.

        • March 12, 2013 11:27 am

          No, you can’t please everyone. A symbol of power could be prideful but, in a Christian regime, a symbol of humility could seem just as (if not more) prideful if done in a deliberate self-aware or self-conscious manner (as surely any adoption of any symbol by a Pope would be). Hubristic and presumptuous.

          So if we are, in some sense, damned if we do and damned if we don’t…shouldn’t the presumption be given to tradition? At least something done according to tradition will not be interpreted as a self-conscious gesture.

        • Julia Smucker permalink*
          March 12, 2013 3:14 pm

          I suppose so. I actually have somewhat of a conservative temperament and tend to favor putting the burden of proof on change (hypothetical flights of fancy on crosses and crowns notwithstanding). To my mind, this applies to the reintroduction of the papal tiara now that the last few popes have done away with it. Obviously there would be precedent for that, but it would be a disastrous change relative to the more immediate past.

Comments are closed.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 867 other followers

%d bloggers like this: