after reading Gary Wills’ “Why Priests?” I have decided to nail a thesis to a door: that the Eucharist, at least in the sense we may think the early Christians conceived it, is not in any sense a “sacrifice”.
A “commemoration” certainly. But was it a commemoration of the death on Calvary, or a commemoration of the commitment to fraternal and sororal love and service at the Last Supper? Gary Wills’ central thesis – as I understood it – is that the central act of Christians was to share communally a meal as a symbol of the love he wished us to share and propagate. Christians would, by faith and love, recreate and resurrect his own self (body and blood, to use a quainter expression). Agape was the essence of the meaning of the kingdom. In such a paradigm, in such a “covenant”, in such a movement, the concept of “Priests” (hiereus/sacerdos) had no place.
But it insinuated itself, or was insinuated over time.
Gary Wills’ reasoning – again, in my understanding – was that therefore the 1000+ year old tradition, or dogma, of priestly necessity, of sacramental governance, was counterfeit and false. And we, both laity and priests themselves, are dupes.
You know, this is a shocking way to put it to people who may have only known the Roman Catholic religious paradigm as the means for their religious conceptualisation and expression – which I dare say applies to most of the contributors and devotees of Catholica. If my psychology or feeling is typical, then it really goes against the grain to conclude that the kinds of religious thoughts and positions one might hold are not Catholic – as we have come to know and distinguish it – at all but deeply Protestant.
Let’s face it: many of the ideas expressed by Catholicans are not what we think of when we think “Catholic”. It matters little if what we mean by “Catholic” is Tridentine Roman Catholic. So let’s face it: Gary Wills, in agreeing with Augustine, not Thomas Aquinas, in agreeing with Luther, not Lumen Gentium, is by any measure “protestant” and not capital “C” “Catholic”.
Now, why should I go to the trouble of saying all this? Should we worry about this? Well, in answer to the first, the reason is that perhaps I retain a little of the black/white logical rigour or narrowness of my very own “Catholic” and “priest-oriented” formation, and feel a need to pin, as it were, the butterfly of religious understanding – and justification – firmly to the board by its wings (shudder!).
And, in answer to the second, I’d like to encourage my brothers and sisters not to worry about being that strange Boschian beast I might call, for convenience, a ‘protestant catholic’.
For I believe that Gary Wills, and I, and most of my co-Catholicans, to be fundamentally both “Protestant” with a capital “P” and, curiously, “Catholics” with capital “C” (but without a capital “R” for “Roman” as we have come to know it). There are some of you I think are not in the same place as me but I won’t mention names.[ ]