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Priestly power.

The article on clericalism by Jim Purcell (NCR, Aug. 26-Sept. 8) hit the nail on the head regarding the narrow focus of clericalism and its emphasis on "priestly power" inherent in the Mass and sacraments. In it, he encourages preaching as an antidote. I would just add that the style of preaching is key. One of the best compliments a pastor can receive from his listening congregation is: "You don't preach to us; you talk to us."

Christians traditionally refer to Jesus Christ as the "eternal high priest." But the historical Jesus was not a priest. He did not sit on a papal throne or even a presider's chair. He was too busy engaging people, and was eventually executed for criticizing traditional religion and the abuse of power.

I find it ironic that liturgical law separates the ordained from the priestly people by prohibiting them from leaving the sanctuary at the sign of peace, while Jesus got up and left the "table" to wash his disciples' feet.

The scriptural passage "You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek" (Hebrews 7) is sometimes interpreted literally by applying it to an "indelible mark" acquired at ordination. After spending more than 40 years presiding at the altar, once in a while I remind those close to me that the "priest" part is temporary, but the "friend" part will last forever.


Ubly, Mich.

Jim Purcell says, "Pope Francis' openness to the possibility of having women deacons is not nearly enough to achieve this essential organizational revolution."

While I agree with his overall point, the problem is language. When we use the term "women" as a modifier we modify our concept of what follows. It would be better, and perhaps more accurate, to say Pope Francis is open to the possibility of women being deacons.

Every time I read the expression "women deacons," my confidence in the possibilities for women in the church suffers. We never use the term "men" as an adjective. No, the language we use assumes men occupy the position of authority so there is no need for modification. Using the term women modifies not just the word deacon, but our entire concept of what it might mean to have women take their rightful place in that order. It establishes in the mind a two-tier system, which, given our history will be inherently unequal.

If we are to give this idea serious consideration, let us begin by discussing not "women deacons" but women as deacons. Language shapes as well as proceeds from concepts. Let's be scrupulous with our words as well as our thoughts.


Tiverton, R.I.

I appreciated Jim Purcell's opinion but I would like to suggest that, at least in Midwest, most parishes are not as clerically dominated as he suggests.

I am a senior priest, 78 years old, and have been retired for eight years. I have been serving as a sacramental minister in a neighboring parish, St. Vincent de Paul, which has not had a priest pastor for nine years.

During my time assisting there, we've had three different pastoral administrators who run and lead the parish: a professed sister, a deacon and, currently, a layman. Under their leadership, the parish gets along well, even surviving the painful merger of two mission churches into St. Vincent's.

I make my pastoral contribution celebrating liturgy and sacraments. At no time do I feel "pedestalized," or get the sense that I am the "real" pastor, there on weekends.

We have about a dozen such pastoral teams and arrangements in our Saginaw diocese, and for the most part, they work very well. Far from being clerical, they show forth the leadership and gifts of all the people.

I'm sure Purcell is correct in his assessments, but I suggest there is hope and good things are happening. We've got a long way to go, but at least we have the vision.


Lake Isabella, Mich.
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Title Annotation:COLUMN/LETTERS
Author:Hammond, Charles A.; Pimental, Susan Mcgreavy; Kawka, Fred
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Article Type:Letter to the editor
Date:Oct 7, 2016
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