A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post called “Why Priests“. In that post, I included two reviews of a book by Hans KÃ¼ng called Why Priests: A Proposal for a New Church Ministry.
Even though I couldn’t find the book in the school’s library, James at “Idle musings of a bookseller” was able to find the book. Here are excerpts that he’s posted over the last few days:
The Church and its credibility and effectiveness in society stand and fall according to whether it is the place where Jesus and the remembrance of him are to be found, whether it steps forward privately and publicly for the cause of Jesus Christ, whether is remains the advocate of Jesus Christ in the modern world and society despite failure in both word and deed.â€”Why Priests, page 18
“…a Church which bears the name of Jesus Christ, hears his word and is sustained by his Spirit can never be identified with a particular class, caste, clique or authority. Like Jesus himself, his Church too addresses itself to the whole people and particularly to the underprivileged. The Church, then, is the whole community of believers in Christ, in which all may regard themselves as people of God, body of Christ, structure of the Spirit. The decisive criterion of this community is not a privilege of birth, state, race, or office. What is decisive is not whether someone has an ‘office’ in the Church or what office he has, but whether and to what extent he is purely and simply a ‘believer': that is, one who believes, obeys, serves, loves, hopes.”â€”Why Priests?, pages 27-28
â€œUnlike the pagan or Jewish cult, the Christian needs no priest as mediator at the innermost part of the temple, with God himself. Rather , he is granted an ultimate immediacy to God which no ecclesiastical authority can destroy or even take away from him. No one has the power to judge, control or command decisions which fall within this innermost realm. To be sure, the Christian faith does not fall directly from heaven; it is passed on in the Church. But ‘Church’ means the whole believing community which, through the proclamation of the gospelâ€”often done more by the humbler folk than by the hierarchs and theologians, more by deeds than by wordsâ€”awakens faith in Jesus Christ, invites commitment in his Spirit, makes the Church present in the world through the Christian witness of daily life and thus carries on the cause of Jess Christ. It is after all everyone, not just a chosen few, to whom the proclamation of the Christian message in all the different kinds of congregation is entrusted; an individual and social life according to the gospel is required of all, and to all are entrusted baptism on [sic] the name of Jesus, the memorial, thanksgiving and covenant meal and the word of forgiveness of sins; the ministry of daily life and responsibility for their fellow men, for the congregation and for the world is given over to everyoneâ€”in all these basic functions a community of liberty, equality, fraternity.â€â€”Why Priests, page 28
â€œLiberty is both a gift and a task for the Church. The Church may and should be a community of free people: as advocate of Jesus Christ it can never be an institution for domination or, still less, a Grand Inquisition. Its members are freed for freedom: liberated from slavery to the letter of the law, from the burden of guilt, from dread of death; liberated for life, for service, for loveâ€”people who are subject to God alone and therefore neither to anonymous powers not to other men. To be sure, faith in the crucified Christ cannot and is not meant to abolish law and power in society; the kingdom of complete freedom is yet to come. But this faith effectively subsumes law and power and completely relativizes them. Faith in the crucified Christ makes man become so free within the scheme of law that he is capable of renouncing a right for the sake of another person without recompense, and even of going two miles with someone who has made him go one. It lets him become so free in society’s power struggle that he is capable of using power to his own disadvantage for the sake of another person, and so to give not only his coat but also his cloak. The Christian message, for instance, the words of the Sermon on the Mount, supported by Jesus’ life and death, are not meant to set up any new law, to create any new juridical order. The are meant to free men from the law.â€â€”Why Priests, page 29
“On the basis of this freedom which it has received and made concrete, the Church may and should be a community of fundamentally equal people. To be sure, we do not mean by this an egalitarianism that would put the multiplicity of gifts and ministries all on the same level; we mean rather that all members, whatever their differences among themselves, have the same fundamental rights. As advocate of Jesus Christ, it can never be the Church of a class, race, caste or officials. It is through a free decision that individuals have joined the community of faith or remain in it. Those who are unequal should be brought together here in a solidarity of love: rich and poor, high and low, educated and uneducated, white and non-white, men and women.”â€”Why Priests, pages 30-31
“As advocate of Jesus Christ, the Church can never have a patriarchal authority structure as its government. Here only one is the holy Father, God himself; all members of the Church are his adult sons and daughters and they must not be reduced to the status of minors. In this society men may set up only truly fraternal and not paternalistic authority. Only one is lord and master, Jesus Christ himself; all members of the Church are brothers and sisters. In this community the supreme norm is therefore not the patriarch, but the will of God, which, according to the message of Jesus Christ, is directed to men’s welfareâ€”indeed, the welfare of all men…No one in the Church has the right to substitute for this brotherhood a clerical system’s paternalism and cult of persons and thus continue strengthening the rule of men over men.”â€”Why Priests, pages 32-33.
“Although various functions are mentioned in the New Testament, the problem of a Church office is never explicitly dealt with. Church ‘office’ is not a biblical concept. It came later after reflection and is not without its own difficulties. Evidently the secular words for ‘office’ were deliberately and consistently avoided in the New Testament in connection with Church functions. They express a relation of domination…
“Of course there is authority in the Church. But authority is only legitimate when it is based on service and not on power, prior rights and privileges from which the obligation of service is then considered to flow. We would therefore do better, if we want to speak in a precise theological fashion, to speak about Church ministry rather than about Church office. To be sure, it is not the word that counts but the way it is understood; talk about Church ‘ministry’ can also be misused to hide the realities if the exercise of domination in the Church is not abandoned at the same time…
“Power can be used well or badly. Even in the Church power cannot simply be abolished. But it can be used, when effectively channeled, to carry out functions that serve the common welfare. The unavoidable use of power is one thing; the use of it by individuals or groups to dominate is quite another. In the latter case it is a matter of retaining a privileged position or increasing one’s own power. Power can be used responsibly in the Church only in terms of service and is to be evaluated according to its quality as service; such power which comes from service is genuine (and primarily inner) authority. The opposition is therefore not between power and service but between the use of power to dominate and its use to serve.”â€”Why Priests, pages 39-40
What do you think?