Tom McMahon, still recovering from his recent stroke, shows in today's commentary that the fight has not yet left the man. While critical of the feudal system that so many today are rejecting, Tom urges us to search for the alternative that does take us to the real Spirit of Jesus.
Is the Roman Catholic Church with its manorial setting
I open with a 1965 story I wrote in 2002.
PRIEST: A JOB? A GOD CALLING?
Greg McAllister was ordained a deacon of the Roman Catholic church in 1965, slated for ordination to priesthood and service in the diocese of Santa Rosa. Leo Maher, Santa Rosa's first bishop had been Archbishop Mitty's secretary when I was ordained in 1954. Leo was smooth, proper, always publicly smiling, immaculate of appearance. Humorously Greg tells the reason why he never went on to be ordained a priest: in a discussion the bishop challenged Greg as to who was the competition to the Catholic Church, Leo answering his own question with four words … "THE BANK OF AMERICA!" Greg had initiated the conversation around the Jesus spirit of living with the poor. Greg had spent the summer registering voters in the South.
What is the role of priest in feudalism? Did the secular priest actually exist in the feudal period? Did the diocese of Santa Rosa lose out on a Christian priest in 1965? Is it difficult for a Christian priest to work inside the Roman system?
From Wikipedia: Feudalism, in its most classic sense, refers to the Medieval European political system composed of a set of reciprocal legal and military obligations among the warrior nobility, revolving around the three key concepts of lords, vassals, and fiefs. Although derived from the Latin word feodum (fief), then in use, the term feudalism and the system it describes were not conceived of as a formal political system by the people living in the Medieval Period.There is no broadly-accepted modern definition of feudalism. The term, which was coined in the early modern period (17th century), was originally used in a political context, but other definitions of feudalism exist. Since at least the 1960s, many medieval historians have included a broader social aspect, adding the peasantry bonds of manorialism, sometimes referred to as a "feudal society". Still others since the 1970s have re-examined the evidence and concluded that feudalism is an unworkable term and should be removed entirely from scholarly and educational discussion, or at least used only with severe qualification and warning. [end of Wiki] (Please note in the above the words warrior nobility; Tom does not agree that feudalism is an unworkable term; it exists today)
For practical purposes Tom holds that the present day clerical estate (the hierarchy of pope, bishop, priest, and deacon, Vatican City, worldwide dioceses, and parishes in 2009) is the sole remaining vestige of medieval feudalism along with the warrior nobility and pseudo military obligation. The ceremony in which I was ordained a priest in 1954 was a replica of the lord setting aside a vassal whose main purpose was to oversee the fiefs. It was not knighthood. It was 12th century staging replayed in the 20th century, costumes and language, all under the guise of religion.
After 12 years of seminary I would undergo a probationary period before I was appointed a vassal pastor; I had to learn the system (not taught in seminary) and need be proven trustworthy and loyal to the system. Years into the priesthood I began to accept the woeful fact I was a church employee and had a job, at least that is what the bishop expected. At ordination I had pledged obedience to the lord of the manor of the Archdiocese of San Francisco and I was bound into his military system. Their understanding of obedience differs from mine today; obedience in the mind of 4th Century Benedict, founder of the monastic system, called for the one making the promise to listen to his superior and the bishop in return to dialogue with the younger. This system of mutual trust existed only in theory. The church system in which I served was a pseudo militaristic system that demanded blind adherence to teachings that could not be authenticated. In 2009 one finds a healthy obedience system in the orders in which Joan Chittister has membership; these systems are rare, a worrisome and ignorant Rome now investigating the brilliance of such women. As the movement for human freedom and dignity moves forward the old Roman system continues to fall into disrepair.
As to the role of the priest, Tom sees the secular priesthood virtually dying out after celibacy is imposed in 1139 c.e. while the liturgical priesthood survives in the monks and monastery system. Let us set up our straw man priest now living in a small 13th century township, a ruminant of a once vibrant Christian community of the 9th century; he lives poorly with no supervision and what religious practices does he maintain? Who has trained him? Who has ordained him? It is in 1127 that a Roman edict states that only a priest can say Mass; the institution's system of orders has become chaotic, having abandoned the peaceful equality of earlier Christian community. At the Council of Trent in the 1500's the spot light will turn full circle on the priest, re-inventing an ignorant and destitute clergy, in the future to be replete with great privilege and accountability only to Rome. The Mass-priest will become the monetary bread and butter of a manorial world wide system. True to medieval military fashion blind obedience is required of the vassal-priest, even in cases of injustice and immorality. Roman power will reign even over the Gospels and Jesus himself.
Martin Luther will lead the revolt over abusive practices such as the selling of magic relics etc. and the Council of Trent will address the issue of who is an ordained priest in the 16th century. Our straw man priest may attend the bedside of a peasant dying from the Black Death in 1349 c.e. while a monk may refuse to go out of fear of contracting the disease himself [cf. The Black Death by John Hatcher]. A once nearly dead priesthood will be resurrected by Trent. Can Rome in 2009 resurrect a dying Trentan priesthood? The priests themselves seem to be the culprits shooting themselves in the foot.
I have often wondered about the privileges so generously given by the people to the third estate (the institutional church today) and how they would survive in countries where the monarchical systems have been overthrown. The Roman Catholic Church today is a monarchical-manorial system right out of the Middle Ages, existing alongside (or within) the American system of human independence, where all are equal (I write from an American prospective while realizing this is a worldwide phenomenon). There is a quid pro quo involved as the hierarchy promises to protect people from evil and get them into heaven while the people pledge blind obedience. The "atom bomb" of clerical paedophilia has destroyed the peoples' trust and exposed the abuse in this system of power and silence. The institutional church acts as if a man transcends humanism by being ordained. A modern educated people are not fooled, a younger generation being cautious and unwilling to even listen.
How this medieval feudal sub-system survives in America — a land where all humans are free and have a vote — is a mystery to me. The main calling card of Roman Catholicism is its claim to have God as its founder and present guide; sound research has proven both of these claims to be improbable. This is the type of conversation that need be employed by sincere people as they search together for truth. Here I recommend again the books of Australia's Michael Morwood as he offers a new plan for understanding the mystery of God and the human race. Readers of Catholica have Tom Lee as he writes beautifully about the INVENTION OF CHRISTIANITY. Tom is so careful and accurate in his historical exposés. Mine is not the task of solving all these problems or being historically correct.
Behind every movement there is reason; psychology is nothing more than an awareness of spirit that promotes action. We are moving away from the psychology of the feudal-clerical system. Its roots are vested in ancient Roman military might and control of people by fear, secrecy, and ignorance. The Holy Spirit, the psychology of Jesus, is missing in the medieval system. In the 12 years I was a student for Roman priesthood I had no course on the life of Jesus or his psychology
I close again quoting Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy:
"God's specific quality in us is the power to break away from the established order of mind and body and create a new future".
Rosenstock-Huessy wrote that in the trenches of WW1. We are deeply involved in mystery.
Tom McMahon, San Jose, Ca. (20/07/09) Next week back on the trail of that illusive psychological link…
What are your thoughts on this commentary?