Priesthood, like many aspects of Catholicism, had a long evolution. It did not 'come into being fully formed' by some edict of Jesus. It evolved over two millenia. Tom McMahon suggests that the form of priesthood we have known in recent history basically came into being with the Council of Trent in 1542 and the seminary system in the 17th Century. What were the forces that formed this particular model? Was it something inspired by the Holy Spirit or something driven more by human forces? Where do the needs of the female half of the population fit in? Tom continues his search for answers...
A bit of a skipping thru the tulips … lost? help?
It dawned on me as I typed the above title that there is no such experience as the psychology of priests — each person being that unique individual that is fashioned by the unique relationship of two quite unique persons. Creation offers us no two snowflakes alike and so too the human being. I have been searching for a generalization concerning priests, an impossibility. Perhaps the best I can do is to continue to give you a study of my own psychology, after all everything is projection; there is nothing that I know that has not been processed through my own system and related to you by projection. Knowledge becomes real when you process data through your own mind. This might be the great mistake of the seminary system as the bishop thinks that years of training in the Roman system all priests will have the same psychology or way of thinking, church from the 4th century relentlessly attempting to plough under the feminine and eliminating the female from clericalism.
I see the emergence of the woman as a Jesus resurrection coming forth from the tombs created by male popes and monks of the early and middle ages. Jesus has great patience, waiting to burst forth into the 21st century in his usual disguises. Just like Peter, fixated by the empty tomb (if one ever existed), the males today are in disbelief as to the way Jesus chooses to appear. Looking at the word suppression (to press down and under) I think that one can't keep the goodness (Godliness) of man and woman down. The rising Jesus is showing up at a time inconvenient for the Vatican as it holds tightly to male militaristic culture. I think John the 23rd would smile at that. Remember that it is a woman who first recognizes the risen Lord. Vatican officials are running in circles trying to get Magdalene out.
As I recently watched a History Channel presentation on Charles Martel, Pepin the Short, and Charlemagne as they battled the Moslems and defeated the Saxons … and then came the Vikings and eventual crusades adding to the multi-century mayhem of war and pillage … I consider I have been making a big mistake in looking for how the male secular priest survived. With my archetypes vested in the black-suited Trentan male model of the 1600's my mistake was looking for a male survivor. In early church community the tradition was "the Christian is another Christ" and there I see no gender. Jesus survived, as no one kills him again after his historical Calvary, in the women and the men who continued to gather in his name. This is the basic doctrine of Christianity … JESUS LIVES! I think we are still making the same gender identification mistake today. We males make big mistake when we tell the historical Jesus how to live in modernity. Women are emerging, called forth by the Spirit and Rome is unable to stop their ascendancy. A male, medieval Vatican fights the Holy Spirit as John the 23rd frees HER with fresh life-giving oxygen rushing through open church windows. It has all the dash and truth of a Middle Ages knight rescuing the fair maiden. One has to understand how myths are used.
A priest wrote me recently and I quote:
"Of course, the Vatican checks out your sites and articles — they're terrified! It is all changing so subtly and rapidly — from the bottom up, as change always does — and I suspect they know the truth: that God is bringing us to our knees (despite the influx of missionaries — a bishop said that over 60% of our clergy are from other countries!)"
(TMC: thank you, clerical male and honest friend! The ingredients of fear and people ignorance are fundamental to the religion of the above mentioned Asians; they are Third World cultures with 12th Century spirituality. One cannot deal with this mentality in terms of modernity.)
Let's look again at the period of the early Middle Ages, say around 700 c.e. Are there any clues in what I have previously written that substantiate my theory that the female played a role in preserving the secular priesthood? (I am pausing to think.)
As the Roman Empire falls there are still Christian communities, mostly urban and tied into monasteries; some rural remnants remain, having been abandoned as power moves to the castle. Security after the Fall of the Roman Empire is found in castle or monastery. Recall my innocently mentioning that the mother played a meaningful influential role in the priestly formation of her son as father trains son. My imagination sees this Christian woman holding tight to the teachings of Jesus, she may well have had access to a Gospel left behind when her priest-husband was killed or sent by his bishop away from their marriage in 1139. This valiant woman continues on in Christian thinking, a genuine underground church dependent on the presbyter (elder), here a female. The more I think of this scenario the more I like it. It is classical Jesus staying alive while mayhem reigns. I shall retire for now, re-reading Mary T. Malone's WOMEN AND CHRISTIANITY From 1000 to the Reformation.
Later: so much of what Mary Malone writes could be used to support my thesis. The problem lies with the archetype that I grew up with, the male priest in black; shifting thru the Early Middle Ages for the man in black is like looking for a needle in a hay stack that ones knows is not there. The man in black clearly arrives with Trent in the 16th century. It is in the context of the male immorality of the feudal times that we will attempt to understand the Ryan Report, people separated by 1300 years not being that much different psychologically. We have such little evidence of female psychology … and then again there I go looking for a generalization. We do have great women of the period, such as Eleanor of Aquitaine, Julian of Norwich, Joan of Arc, Heloise, and Hildegard of Bingin … plus. Surely they are priestly people; can we see them as having some rank or order in church and their own community? Again as we have written before "what really is a priest?"
In ALCUIN, FRIEND OF CHARLEMAGNE (1951), a study of education in the 700's+ by Eleanor Shipley Duckett, the word priest appears now and then; the problem is ever present as one tries to distinguish between the secular priest and the monk priest. The word priest appears to be used interchangeable, for example "the court priest, or well to do family priest," or "…Any priest who after repeated admonition from his bishop shall neglect to acquire the learning need for his ministry…." Here is your "vaugi" (vagrant) or wandering cleric upon which Michener in his TEXAS will model, an alcoholic RC priest wandering in vast territory; he is absolutely necessary as only married folk can buy land and "marrying sam" does the legal job, sober or not. In early Rome they explained this theological grace position as clear water remaining clean as it flowed through rusty pipes, the ex opere operato theory of sacraments.
It appears obvious to me that Duckett's uneducated priest is not a monk who would be party to education if he lived in a monastery where learning was available. There were monks who live outside a monastery and yet worked with the people. Their life is not easy and surely not supported by the king's treasury. Professor Gary Macy tells us it was the year 1127 c.e. that a Roman edict states only a priest can say Mass, one of the first signs of a pecking order which will take over the Roman system heavily in the Second Millenium. To what kind of priest does the edict refer? The year 1127 tells me much as to public power chaos struggle within the church. The secular priest is not a major player yet there are a few learned men such as Englishman Father John who tends to the needs of the people in 1347 c.e. as reported fictionally in THE BLACK DEATH by John Hatcher (2008).
John Dominic Crossan encourages us if we are to understand Jesus or any religious position we need to appreciate the 'matrix of origin" — what culture does the issue arise in? Next week I shall ask Brian to run THE WIND BENEATH MY WINGS, a 2002 article I wrote about a woman priest in Pleasant Hill, Ca., ordained by the will of the people.
Alcuin is the great teacher to the Frankish Court and School, 700's c.e.; from his writings a mosaic can be fashioned that offers understanding of education for the privileged, the secular priest not being included. Education for the peoples' priest will have to wait until the teachings of the Council of Trent in 1542 and the seminary system of the 1700's (to this day). In the meantime it is catch as catch can for the worldly priest and the ordinary people during the Middle Ages. This is the arena in which explodes the religion of magic that Luther attacks.
Help! I feel like a man about to drown … too much information and too little time and space to read and write well about this hidden period. Hope to see you next week with our braiding of civic power and papal religion and the predictable consequences for and in the 21st Century.
Tom McMahon, San Jose, Ca. ... My health has daily improved and my neurologist, simply put, tells me I had, a month ago, a small bleeding in a dry brain cell and all stroke symptoms are vanishing. (10/08/09)
What are your thoughts on this commentary?