Wednesday 16 September 2009

The Lay vocation: clergy and religious are NOT the same thing

This portrait of The Holy Family by Claudio Coello, the 17th century Portuguese painter of the Spanish School of Madrid, tells us what we need to know about the model of religious life.

That is why devotion to the Holy Family is an antidote to some of the sillier notions that have crept into the Church in modern times, even among some of the most intelligent people.

Note how Christ is the link between the Holy Trinity and the Holy Family and how the Holy Family reflects the Holy Trinity, St Joseph, the Father, our Lord, the Son, and our Lady the Spouse of the Holy Spirit, also the spirit of that Holy Family.

Because of the fall of Catholic states and kingdoms, the concomitant decline of lay power in Church and State, and the corresponding rise of the power of the clergy, there are numerous Catholics who now look upon the religious life as a kind of "quasi-clerical" state.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

A nun is NOT (repeat NOT) a kind of quasi-cleric. A nun is a spiritual queen and mother, in imitation of our Lady.

To consider that she is so, is to misunderstand her vocation entirely and to misunderstand the role of the laity in the Church completely.

Our model should be the Holy Family who are the exemplars of the highest vocation and are indubitably the highest of those who dwell in heaven, our Lady being far and away above all others save God Himself.

And need I remind any reader of this very obvious fact:

Our Lady was not a cleric. Since she is a woman she could not be a cleric. Yet she is the highest in Heaven, after God.

The Queen of Heaven with her Holy Child.
In all heaven and earth there is no creature greater than she, not even the very Angels of God. She is the model of royal humility, religious perfection and maternal love. And she was a lay woman - not priest or cleric. Christ the Priest obeyed her as His mother. She is a model for all laity.

But who would dare to suggest that she did not exemplify in her life the highest of all roles that any Catholic Christian can fulfil or that her vocation was not the highest or that her perfection was less than any other, save God Himself?

No true Catholic would ever suggest such.

Yet, she was no cleric. No - not at all. Yet she is the Queen of all priests, of all saints, of all martyrs, of all Christians without peer and without exception.

See how God champions and prizes humility?

Equally, there are few things as odious to God as a proud and arrogant clergy who abuse their sacred office and dignity to oppress and trouble the Christian people. Theirs will be the most awful place in hellfire - above even many an unbeliever and scoffer. For who could so scoff at God as wickedly as a proud cleric?

So beware you bishops and prelates who trade on your office, who are faithless to your charge, who love to lord it over the people and to have the places of honour and the favour of the great at the expense of the humble Christian people. Yours will be the lowest place in Hell. So beware!

If our Lord Himself chastised the Pharisees for such conduct, think how much more He will chastise Catholic bishops who, having the fullness of truth and being ministers of God's one true Church, behave thus. They will be punished worse than the Pharisees!

We do not need to look to the Old Testament Pharisees when we have so many of our own who love to be seen with the great of this world, the Hollywood stars, the politicians, the millionaires and to smile upon their vacuous and superficial opinions, to excuse their immoral lives and even, in some case, to share in the same!

Duccio Di Buoninsegna. Christ Accused by the Pharisees. 1308-11.
If our Lord condemned the bad Pharisees, how much the more will He condemn evil Christians and especially evil prelates and bishops who betray their office and re-crucify Christ by their faithlessness and desire to be seen with the mighty of the world. Theirs shall be the worst fate of all.

Let us turn away from such boundless betrayal and re-crucifixion of Christ by those very souls whom He has appointed to such high office.

Let us turn, instead, to the wonderful humility of the Blessed Virgin Mother of God.

She was, and remains, a lay woman. Her role was the model both of all religious and of all mothers and of all queens. She exemplified the triple role of the Christian to perfection: to teach, to sanctify and to govern but she did so as a lay woman, not a cleric. She taught by her silence, she sanctified by her prayerful presence, and she governed by her meekness.

Through her, God is telling us that this is the way to perfection.

So, too, the mild and gentle St Joseph. He, like Mary, sprang from the royal race of King David and, according to tradition, was the rightful successor to the Kingship of Judah in the male line, just as Mary was, in the female line. This meant that St Joseph was rightful King and Prince of Judah and that his male adoptive Son, our Lord Himself, was truly King of the Jews in the flesh as well as spiritually.

But unlike our Lord, St Joseph, was not a priest, nor even a cleric. He came from, and headed, the Line of Judah which was the line of kings, not priests. It was the Line of Levi which was the line of Priests and Levites (or Deacons). Our Lady, too, came from the Line of Judah, not Levi.

St Joseph, Prince of Judah and model of royal humility and paternal love

They were, thus, both models of the laity not the clergy.

It is to them that Christian kings and princes - and all lay Christian leaders - look as their model.

In the ages of Faith, Christian kings and princes and lay leaders had their own proper sphere in the Church and in the State and all were ranged in hierarchy below them, both clerical and lay alike.

This was as our Lord willed it. There was to be a Spiritual sword, that of the clergy, and a Temporal sword, that of the laity, just as a man is both soul and body, spirit and flesh.

If either is missing, the man is dead.

So, too, Church and State.

This is the meaning of the now so little-regarded Catholic teaching on the Social Kingship of Christ.

In the best state, there is both temporal and spiritual in perfect harmony and marriage.

That is why it is such an offensive doctrine to teach the separation of Church and State in a Catholic society. It would be like separating Christ from his holy parents and placing Him in the care of robbers, murderers and thieves.

This is not, however, the merger of Church and State, as some falsely suppose. Each retains its proper sphere. The Emperor does not become a kind of super-priest any more than the Pope becomes a kind of super-king, though each will have some dominion over the estate of the other.

Likewise, too, when a man (symbolising both Christ and St Joseph) and a woman (symbolising both the Church, Christ's Body, and our Lady, who is the typos of the Church) marry, they do not cease to be one man and one woman, each individuals. Marriage joins in love, it does not submerge individuality and sexual difference. Indeed, if it did it would be no marriage.

Pope St Leo III crowns Charlemagne as Caesar Augustus Romanorum Imperator, Roman Emperor and the August Caesar, renewing the marriage vows between Church and State, thereby.

Just so with the marriage of Church and State: if one submerged the other, there would be no State and no Church but rather some monstrous hybrid.

Instead, the Social Kingship of Christ entails a perfect and beautiful marriage between Church (represented by womankind) and State (represented by mankind).

It is rather, or should be, a perfect balance between the two spheres, between the temporal and the spiritual just as, in a man, there should be a perfect balance between the body and the soul.

Ultimately, the spirit is higher than the flesh but without the flesh the man dies. So, too, the state - and that is our current condition in the modern age. We are governed by "dead" states.

The model, ultimately, is not the Church and clergy alone, nor the Pope and Cardinals alone, nor the PP and his deacons alone. The model has always been broadly that of Pope and Emperor, Archbishop and King, Bishop and Count, Rector and Squire, Curate and Gentleman, Clerk and Yeoman, Sexton and Peasant, up and down the hierarchy of human authority.

The ultimate model is that of the Holy Family: a community of lay and clerical. Christ the Priest is obedient to His mother and to St Joseph, both lay, albeit King and Queen of the Holy Family and also, albeit disenthroned by sinful men, King and Queen of the wider community, that of God's chosen race and people, the Jews, which, in turn, symbolises the Church.

THAT is our model - not just the clergy, alone, with layman acting as no more than quasi-clergy at best. The laity have a distinct role and vocation of their own, as the Holy Family teaches us.

They were also models of the religious life, a life which had already begun in Israel with the Essenes, a community of laity, not clergy.

St Anna the Prophetess,
the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser. Married at age fourteen, widowed at twenty-one, she entered the Order of Widows of the Essenes and became a model of religious, waiting upon our Lady and her Holy Child when they came to the Temple in Jerusalem.

Some say that Anna the Prophetess, she who prophesied that Christ Child was the Messiah, was an Essene. She was certainly another model of the religious life.

Those who think of religious as a kind of sub-member of a clerical caste wherein lies all power, spirituality and perfection are in danger of falling into the serious heresy of clericalism.

A particularly clericalist analogy is that one still sometimes hears from a particular type of clericalist priest. It considers the Church as an army in which the bishops are generals, the clergy are officers, the religious are the NCOs and the laity are the foot soldiers.

It is utterly false, untraditional and un-Catholic.

It is also very modern.

None of our ancestors in the ages of Faith would have even recognised such an un-Catholic view of the Church.

They knew better since they could see that emperors, kings, dukes and lay Catholic leaders were no more the "footsoldiers" than were abbots, priors and religious superiors, merely the "NCOs" of the Church.

In any case, in Christianity, we are all the servants of each other and should strive, not for the highest places, but rather for the places where we may be the humblest servant of all. Therein lies holiness and perfection.

The Catholic model strikes a balance between the lay and the clerical, just as our Lord intended it, with a lay leadership on the one hand and a clerical leadership on the other.

The fact that the spiritual "arm" (of the clergy) is overall higher than the temporal "arm" (of the laity) does not mean that emperors, kings, abbots and priors are somehow a lower vocation and intended to be purely and exclusively the servants of the clergy.

On the contrary, emperors and kings expected obedience from the clergy within their domains and had very direct power over them and expected their loyalty and fealty.

St Henry the Emperor, a model for Christian kings and emperors and lay leaders

Likewise, abbots and priors expected the same of the clergy under their domain.

It is also entirely false to suppose - as the majority of Catholics now do - that abbots and priors were all priests. In the original and traditional religious life they simply were not. Indeed, many of them were not major clerics at all and some were entirely lay.

St Anthony, the father of ascetic monasticism, was a layman.

St Benedict, the father of western monasticism, was neither priest nor deacon.

St Francis of Assisi was not a priest but is thought to have been a deacon since he is depicted in the diaconal dalmatic in some portraits.

Yet no-one can deny that these men were the appointed superiors of the religious communities and orders that they founded. Their inferiors, including the clergy, called them "Father".

Indeed, it is a pity that the title "Father" has, in the English-speaking world, become fixedly associated with the office of priest. This is a mis-development, in some ways. Abbots, priors and lay religious leaders were also called "Father" in the ages of Faith and, even today, on the continent of Europe, only religious clerics or superiors are called "Father"; secular clergy are called by various titles roughly corresponding to our knightly title of "sir" (e.g. Don in Spain and Italy or Hochwurden in Germany. France is closer to us with its Monsieur l'Abbé). Indeed, as readers of Shakespeare will know, that is how Catholic secular clergy were styled in Britain before the Protestant Reformation e.g. Shakespeare's secular clergy like Sir Oliver Martext, Sir Christopher Urswick and so on.

The traditional model of religious life pre-supposes that the superior will NOT be a priest, save in those orders which are expressly clerical, like the Order of Preachers (Dominicans) and the Society of Jesus (Jesuits).

See this from the Holy Rule of St Benedict, a model of balance and religious perfection which has not a trace of clericalism in it:

Of Priests Who May Wish to Live in the Monastery

If a priest asketh to be received into the monastery, let consent not be granted too readily; still, if he urgently persisteth in his request, let him know that he must keep the whole discipline of the Rule, and that nothing will be relaxed in his favour, that it may be as it is written: "Friend, whereunto art thou come" (Mt 26:25)?

It may be granted him, however, to stand next after the Abbot, and to give the blessing, or to celebrate Mass, but only if the Abbot ordereth him to do so; but if he doth not bid him, let him not presume to do anything under whatever consideration, knowing that he is under the discipline of the Rule, and let him rather give examples of humility to all. But if there is a question of an appointment in the monastery, or any other matter, let him be ranked by the time of his entry into the monastery, and not by the place granted him in consideration of the priesthood.

But if a cleric, moved by the same desire, wisheth to join the monastery, let him too have a middle place, provided he promiseth to keep the Rule and personal stability".

St Benedict, Abbot and father of Western monasticism, was not a priest or even a deacon.

and this:

Of the Priests of the Monastery

If the Abbot desireth to have a priest or a deacon ordained, let him select from among his monks one who is worthy to discharge the priestly office.

But let the one who hath been ordained be on his guard against arrogance and pride, and let him not attempt to do anything but what is commanded him by the Abbot, knowing that he is now all the more subject to the discipline of the Rule; and in consequence of the priesthood let him not forget the obedience and discipline of the Rule, but advance more and more in godliness.

Let him, however, always keep the place which he had when he entered the monastery, except when he is engaged in sacred functions, unless the choice of the community and the wish of the Abbot have promoted him in acknowledgment of the merit of his life. Let him know, however, that he must observe the Rule prescribed by the Deans and the Superiors.

If he should otherwise, let him be judged, not as a priest, but as a rebel; and if after frequent warnings he doth not amend, and his guilt is clearly shown, let him be cast forth from the monastery, provided his obstinacy is such that he will neither submit nor obey the Rule."

See how wise this Holy Rule is!

The priest shall only take a higher place "when he is engaged in sacred functions", otherwise he shall only have the place dating from his entry to the monastery unless the Abbot or community choose otherwise.

This excellent Rule recognises the grave danger to religious life of a priest or cleric who thinks himself personally above others because of his priesthood.

The clerical state is the more dignified state in the Church but it is not the highest vocation in the Church.

The highest vocation is that of Faith, Hope and Love, the greatest of which is Love, as exemplified by the life of poverty of spirit, chastity and obedience to God, following the so-called "Evangelical Counsels" or Biblical advice on spiritual perfection, the clearest example being the life of the religious who take formal vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.

His Most Eminent Highness Fra' Matthew Festing.
The Prince and Grand Master of the Order of Malta is a temporal sovereign, a religious superior and Grand Master of the world's oldest religious order of knighthood, the Order of St John of Jerusalem. He is not, however, a cleric. He is a religious layman. He has jurisdiction, like an abbot, over all the churches and chapels of the Order as well as the clergy of the Order. This is the traditional model of a religious superior.

But it is not just religious who must lead this life. We all should strive to do so within our state in life. Thus for the married Christian a life of poverty means a life dedicated to one's obligations to family, friends, the poor and to others, no matter how rich we are; chastity in our married state; obedience to the law of God and to our lawful superiors in accordance with the laws of God.

We should all beware the 3 concupiscences which the Fathers warn us of: the Concupiscence of the Eyes, the Concupiscence of the Flesh and the Pride of Life, that is, love of wealth, love of pleasure and love of power and worldly might.

The antidote to these are poverty, chastity and obedience, according to our state in life, whether emperor, king, abbot, prior, layman or cleric.

We are all called to this life just as we are all called to the Christian roles of prophet, priest and king, although not all ministerially.

The ministerial priesthood is neither the most powerful, nor the highest, nor the best vocation in the Church. Because of its special place, it is, however, the most dignified.

The highest vocation in the Church is that of Love; and to that vocation any and all must aspire.

Those who achieve it the more shall be the greatest in heaven.

The best example, among creatures, is, of course, our Lady: a Queen, a Prophetess, a Religious and a Mother - but a laywoman, not a cleric.

And let us never forget it.

Diego Rodriguez de Silva y Velazquez. The Coronation of the Virgin. 1645.

May Thy Kingdom Come!


Anonymous said...

Jolly good! I quite agree. I’m sure we all know priests who flounce about and lord it over others.

But in this day and age the dignity of the Catholic priesthood is valued less than it’s ever been before. I’m not sure that clericalism is nearly as big a problem as anticlericalism.

But who would dare to suggest that she did not exemplify in her life the highest of all roles that any Catholic Christian can fulfil or that her vocation was not the highest or that her perfection was less than any other, save God Himself?

You are right up to a point. But don’t forget that the priesthood is a higher office than Our Lady’s with a greater dignity.

Equally, there are few things as odious to God as a proud and arrogant clergy who abuse their sacred office and dignity to oppress and trouble the Christian people. Theirs will be the most awful place in hellfire - above even many an unbeliever and scoffer. For who could so scoff at God as wickedly as a proud cleric?

Again, this is quite right. But don’t forget that the Pope is a cleric, and he is the Head of the Church on Earth. He has jurisdiction over the laity as well as over the other clergy just as bishops do in their dioceses.

And the Pope doesn’t just have jurisdiction over the Church. He also has jurisdiction over secular rulers, and over the world itself. Don’t forget the words of the Papal Coronation.

Accipe tiaram tribus coronis ornatam, et scias te esse Patrem Principum et Regnum, Rectorem Orbis, in terra Vicarium Salvatoris Nostri Jesu Christi, cui est honor et gloria in sæcula sæculorum. Receive the tiara adorned with three crowns and know that thou art Father of Princes and Kings, Ruler of the World, Vicar of Our Savior Jesus Christ in earth, to whom is honor and glory in the ages of ages.’

And remember, the Pharisees themselves were not clergy. They were writers!

Jeff said...

A lovely and well-articulated post.


Tribunus said...

Dear Ollie,

I suppose I should be amazed and grateful that you read and agree with me. But...

Consider the possibility that there might not be quite so much anticlericalism around if there had not, first, been too much clericalism.

Therefore, to get to the root of the problem one needs to address ALL of it – not just the part that happens to offend oneself.

It is a false strategy that one might rescue those teetering toward anticlericalism by being clericalist. On the contrary, you are likely to put them off all the more.

Clericalism is omnipresent today – every bit as much as anticlericalism. And clericalism is in many ways worse than anticlericalism because it poisons the clergy and relations with them.

In saying “But don’t forget that the priesthood is a higher office than Our Lady’s with a greater dignity” you might as well say “But don’t forget that although I agree with you, I disagree entirely with you”.

I do not agree that the office of priesthood is, in all things, higher than that of our Lady.

Let me repeat that:

I do not agree that the office of priesthood is, in all things, higher than that of our Lady.

I hope that is now clear.

The office of priesthood is higher in dignity but not vocation.

Indeed, the whole point of my article is that the priesthood is NOT (repeat NOT) a higher vocation than that of our Lady or, indeed, of religious, generally, or even, in some cases, of the unconsecrated lay state perfectly lived.

If this were not so, then why is our Lady Queen in Heaven and higher than all priests, bishops and popes without exception? And why is she their Queen, if their office is higher?

Your position illogically excludes from the “higher” vocation half the human race i.e. all women, which is clearly absurd.

Moreover, it is another example of the danger of clericalism leading to anticlericalism since such an exclusionary view of vocation and office is one very large reason why the women’s ordination movement began in the first place.

But your “don’t forgets” meander into other equally dangerous waters.

See next post.

Tribunus said...


Your view of the Papacy is also skewed.

The Thomist view of the relations between Church and State are well rehearsed by Dante in his De Monarchia. He sums it up well thus:

"[The] Imperial authority derives immediately from the summit of all being, which is God...But before the Church existed, or while it lacked power to act, the Empire had active force in full measure. Hence the Church is the source neither of acting power nor of authority in the Empire, where power to act and authority are identical...since it is impossible that an effect should exist prior to its cause...Christ attests it, as we said before, in His birth and death. The Church attests it in Paul’s declaration to Festus in the Acts of the Apostles: 'I stand at Caesar’s judgment seat, where I ought to be judged'; and in the admonition of God’s angel to Paul a little later: 'Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Caesar'; and again still later in Paul’s words to the Jews dwelling in Italy: 'And when the Jews spake against it, I was constrained to appeal unto Caesar; not that I had aught to accuse my nation of', but 'that I might deliver my soul from death'. If Caesar had not already possessed the right to judge temporal matters, Christ would not have implied that he did, the angel would not have uttered such words, nor would he who said, 'I desire to depart and be with Christ', have appealed to an unqualified judge". (De Monarchia, Book III, Ch.XIII.)

Moreover, you misinterpret the Latin from the Papal Coronation.

The Latin says Rectorem Orbis.

That does NOT mean, as you mistranslate it, “Ruler of the World” which title is justly that of the Emperor (albeit in a symbolic more often than political sense).

Rector means "one who straightens or puts right" and, in this context, means the same as the Rector of a Church i.e. the spiritual director.

And so, indeed, is the Pope the spiritual director of the world. But not the temporal director.

And that is one of the PRINCIPAL POINTS OF THIS BLOG which, despite being a regular reader, you seemed to have missed.

Also the Pharisees were not simply writers. The Scribes were the writers.

The Pharisees were a sub-division, or theological school, of Jewry who disagree with the Sadducees (who dominated the Temple worship) about the resurrection of the body. The word “Pharisee” comes from the Hebrew perushim from parush, meaning "separated".

The Pharisees arose in the Second Temple period (536 BC–70 AD) and are the school of Judaism that came to predominate, after Titus destroyed the Temple, as Rabbinic Judaism (i.e. Judaism without cohen or priests) which, in turn, ultimately became the basis for most contemporary forms of Judaism.

There were many good Pharisees as well as the bad ones. St Paul was a Pharisee at one time.

The analogy with modern churchmen is therefore apt: some are good and some are gross hypocrites.

And we know what our Lord said about the hypocritical ones.


Anonymous said...

Remember! We salute the rank, not the man.

The office of the priesthood is higher than that of Our Lady because it is the office of Christ Himself. There can be absolutely no question about this. In Heaven, however, where souls are ranked according to their merits and virtues, a priest still maintains the mark of the priesthood on his soul but he no longer exercises his office. The same is true of priests who go to Hell (where, according to St Alphonsus, most of them end up). The priesthood, don't forget, is a terrestrial office, not a celestial/infernal one.

I think where the confusion is arising is over this concept of vocation. Personally I think it's highly questionable whether the priesthood itself can really be said to be a "vocation", though I accept that I'm rather out on a limb there. It is certainly not a vocation in the same way as a vocation to the religious life is a vocation. Sanctity is more likely to be found in the religious life rather than in the life of a secular clergyman. I certainly have not claimed that it is a "higher vocation".

Yes, I accept that anticlericalism may have been caused in part by clericalism. But my feeling, based on my limited experience of the secular clergy, is that the problem is actually just as much the other way, if not moreso. Anticlericalism in society makes priests shy and socially inadequate, and as a result they shun normal people and deliberately surround themselves with sycophants and toadies who pander to their clerialist tendencies. Paradoxically, if we want the clergy to behave more normally then normal people are going to have to show them more respect.

My point about the Pharisees was not particularly important. But it was the Sadducees that were the priests (the word being derived from Zadok, as in the priest). In that sense it was the Pharisees who were "anticlerical".

Anonymous said...

I don't know what point you're trying to make with your bit of Dante. Our Lord specifically says to Pilate that Pilate would have no authority if it had not been given to Pilate by Him. The Pope is Our Lord's Vicar on Earth. QED! (Have a look at Boniface VIII if you're still not sure.)

My translation of Rector was not my own but filched from Wikipedia. Lewis and Short's definition of the word is on line here. Rector Orbis does not mean the same as 'Rector of a Church'. It means 'Rector of the World'.

Tribunus said...

Dear Oliver (since you object to “Ollie”),

As to your re-iteration about priesthood, if we are discussing “saluting” whether rank or man, far more salutation is due to our Lady than to any priest. You will be hard put to find evidence of an archangel having attended upon a priest and saying to him “Hail, full of grace!”.

The office of the priesthood is not higher than that of Our Lady, save when the priest acts in persona Christi at the altar or, similarly, when administering the other Sacraments.

If you are suggesting that the priest acts in persona Christi all the time then you are on a flight of theological fancy all of your own.

There is absolutely no question about that.

(Look up the CCC if you still don’t see the point).

Your comment about priests in heaven or hell is true – but irrelevant.

So is your discussion about whether priesthood is a vocation. Plainly it is a vocation. The Church calls (vocare) a man to that office.

If you think showing the bishops more “respect” is the solution to the problem of clericalism then you are in for more disappointments, I’m afraid.

Bishops, who are very powerful in today’s Church, temporally as well as spiritually, already have more respect shown them than almost any other public official – more, indeed, than the Queen in the case of numerous Catholics. Has it made them better? Not noticeably. They are as craven, weak and compliant to the will of the world as they ever have been and, sadly, often a great deal more.

The Sadducees were, indeed, the priests. That is just as I said. However, it would be wrong to say that the Pharisees were "anticlerical".

Their chief disagreement with the Sadducees was not over priesthood but over the resurrection of the body which the Pharisees (rightly) believed in.

For the purposes of this discussion (as is surely obvious) the Pharisees are referred to as being the object of our Lord’s censure for their hypocrisy, a fact which many modern clerics – and clericalists - would do well to remember.

Tribunus said...

The extract from Dante is self-explanatory, even if you don't understand it.

The temporal power - of which the Empire is the supreme example - derives its title to authority directly from God and not via the Papacy, as you seem to be suggesting.

THAT is the point Dante is making, Oliver.

Your reference to our Lord's words to Pilate make no difference to that for reasons which are pretty obvious.

The misunderstanding lies in your next sentence.

The Pope is our Lord's spiritual Vicar on Earth.

Temporal princes, and the Emperor par excellence, were the vicegerents - or temporal vicars - of Christ upon the earth.

Perhaps you were simply unaware that was one of the titles of emperors, kings and princes and that it was recognised as such by the Pope and the Church.

You have interpreted (wrongly, with respect) the term “Vicar of Christ” as referred to the Pope as being a temporal as well as spiritual vicariate, which it isn’t (save incidentally e.g. as temporal sovereign of the Vatican City State).

We do not need to refer to Boniface VIII who, notoriously, was the most Caesaro-papist of all the popes and precipitated a series of pointless political crises thereby, but without affecting Catholic doctrine on the subject which remains as I have stated it.

You might as well pray in aid the private views of Paul VI as the last word on the subject of the traditional Roman rite as the private views of Boniface VIII on this subject.

Even clericalists concede that much.

(Have a look at the CCC if you're still not sure.)

Even Wikipedia concedes that the word Rector means "teacher" and is used in largely academic contexts.

Indeed it provides a list of such titles now in use which are virtually ALL in an academic context.

This simply re-inforces my point.

The use of the term is now in the context of a teacher or an administrator of an academic establishment. That, in turn, is because the meaning ascribed to the word over successive centuries by the Church was largely spiritual, didactic and only administrative in an ancillary sense.

Moreover, Wikipedia is hardly the last word on the meaning of ecclesiastical Latin.

It is in the ecclesiastical sense that the word is meant to be understood and that is why it is akin to the Rector of a church.

The Pope is Rector of the world in the same way that a Parish Priest is Rector of his parish and church. There are elements of temporal authority, inevitably, but the principal role is as a spiritual, not a temporal, governor.

That is what I said and what I clearly meant (despite your attempt to pretend that you did not understand my clear meaning – and I am well aware that orbis means “world” and not “church”).

Lewis and Short in no way contradict this understanding.

Tribunus said...

And - for the avoidance of any doubt - when I say that the office of priesthood is not (save as excepted) higher than that of our Lady, I mean here on earth below, just as much as in heaven.

She was as much their Queen on earth as she is now in heaven and for the same reasons.

God willed it so and so it must be - whether clericalists like it or not.

Anonymous said...

St Alphonsus Liguori in The Dignities and Duties of the Priest writes:

'In his epistle to the Christians of Smyrna, St. Ignatius, Martyr, says that the priesthood is the most sublime of all created dignities: "The apex of dignities is the priesthood." St. Ephrem calls it an infinite dignity: "The priesthood is an astounding miracle, great, immense, and infinite." St. John Chrysostom says, that though its functions are performed on earth, the priesthood should be numbered among the things of Heaven." According to Cassian, the priest of God is exalted above all earthly sovereignties, and above all celestial heights-he is inferior only to God.'

St Alphonsus was declared a Doctor of the Church by Blessed Pius IX in 1871.

I have never suggested 'that the priest acts in persona Christi all the time', and I regret it if I gave that impression.

Anonymous said...

Scripture certainly refers to angels attending upon a priest [Lk 22:43, Mt 4:11, probably others as well]. But the phrase 'We salute the rank, not the man.' is taken from an old TV-series. I thought you might appreciate the sentiment.

Anita Moore said...

If Jesus had wanted priestesses, you'd think He'd have conferred the priesthood first on His own Blessed Mother.

But He didn't.

That ought to suggest something to the women's ordination crowd.

But it doesn't.

Tribunus said...


Yes, you certainly did give both of those wrong impressions.

Permit me to say, if you will, that I think you might stand a better chance of escaping such impressions if you tried the straightforward answer instead of the clever-dick answer, if you will pardon the phrase.

For example, in your last post you say "Scripture certainly refers to angels attending upon a priest" citing Lk 22:43, Mt 4:11.

In fact, those verses refer to Christ and not any ordinary priest.

Your response thus looks like pure clever-dickery and no more.

St Alphonsus is entirely right. But I did not contradict what he said. Indeed, I affirmed it. I said that the priesthood was highest in dignity and that is what St Alphonsus said. He does not say that it is the highest vocation.

Cassian, too, is referring to dignity not vocation.

Please be so good as to remember what I said and don't misinterpret me. I said this:

"The office of priesthood is higher in dignity but not vocation".

I am in full agreement with St Alphonsus and Cassian and always have been.

QED (again!).

Tribunus said...

You also misinterpret me with regard to what I said about Boniface VIII.

You do not need to quote Unam Sanctam at me (actually, I was writing about it when you were still in nappies!).

Here is what I said - and, please, do take note:

"We do not need to refer to Boniface VIII... but without affecting Catholic doctrine on the subject which remains as I have stated it".

Do you see that?

"Without affecting Catholic doctrine".

I am not speaking about Boniface's infallible teaching (which OF COURSE has to be accepted by all Catholics) but about his views as a private doctor which were inclined to excess as even some of his curial cardinals tended to think.

Then I said:

"You might as well pray in aid the private views of Paul VI as the last word on the subject of the traditional Roman rite, as the private views of Boniface VIII on this subject".

It is perfectly clear that I am talking about the views of Boniface VIII as a PRIVATE doctor not in his capacity as Supreme Pastor teaching infallibly.

Or are you going to suggest that popes are infallible even when speaking as private doctors (which is heresy)?

But since you are so seemingly determined to ignore what I wrote, let us examine what Boniface VIII taught and its context, shall we?

First, he was teaching against King Philip the Fair of France who was threatening to take over the Church in France as Henry VIII later did in England.

Boniface wrote:

"And we are taught by evangelical words that in this power of his [i.e. of the Church] are two swords, namely spiritual and temporal...".

That, if you remember, is exactly what I said - and what I say in numerous places on my blog, if you read it.

Then he goes on to teach that the spiritual sword is higher than the temporal.

That, too, is EXACTLY what I wrote.

He then teaches that the temporal sword is to be exercised by kings - and I wrote exactly the same.

He also teaches:

"It is necessary that we confess the more clearly that spiritual power precedes any earthly power both in dignity and nobility, as spiritual matters themselves excel the temporal... ".

Once again, he is saying that the spiritual power is higher than the temporal. I wrote exactly the same.

He goes on to say that the spiritual power may judge the temporal which is, of course, right, and that no-one may judge the pope, which is again, of course, true.

Then he ends with his famous sentence requiring that every human creature, to be saved, must be subject to the Roman Pontiff.

This has occasioned a lot of theological ink to be spilt over what this means in terms of Protestants, Jews, Muslims and other non-Catholics but no-one has ever suggested that he is talking about anything other than a spiritual subjection.

The Pope does not say that it is temporally "necessary" to be subject to the Pope (as your last partial quote might imply) but rather that it was "necessary for salvation".

No-one has ever suggested that the Pope is the temporal suzerain of all, nor that temporal power derives from the papal power.

As you rightly quote, Boniface expressly denied going that far.

Once again, I wrote exactly the same.

And, getting back to the point at issue, nowhere does Boniface even begin to say that the priesthood is the highest vocation or that individual priests are all higher in temporal power than layman.

Indeed, he does not even say that they all have higher spiritual jurisdiction. Indeed, if he had said so then he would have had to terminate the appointment of a lot of abbots and priors who were not priests but had power over priests under their charge.

But he did not even begin to say that.

His primary aim was to emphasize to King Philip the Fair that spiritual supremacy in the Church lies ultimately with the Pope and not the King of France, even in France.

So your whole post simply supports EXACTLY what I said.

QED (again!).

Oliver said...

I wrote on Wednesday the 16th of September that ‘the priesthood is a higher office than Our Lady’s with a greater dignity’. You replied that as an office the priesthood is not ‘in all things’ higher than that of Our Lady. Could you please give some examples of ways in which it is not higher?

If the priesthood is indeed a vocation then it is the same vocation as that of our Divine Master. How then can the vocation of Our Lord possibly not be a higher vocation than that of Our Lady? As St Alphonus writes, ‘According to St. Cyprian, a priest at the altar performs the office of Christ. … According to St. Ambrose, a priest, in absolving a sinner, performs the very office of the Holy Ghost in the sanctification of souls.’ How can a "calling" to such an office not be nobler, higher and better than a calling to any other office or dignity in all of Creation?

Can Our Lady say Mass? Can Our Lady absolve sinners? Assuredly not! And are these things not the very essence of the priesthood?

It is not through her "vocation" that Our Lady is Queen of Heaven but by the greatness of her merits and virtues. It is not how God calls us that matters. What matters is how we answer.

Oliver said...

When I wrote ‘Have a look at Boniface VIII’ I specifically posted a link to Unam Sanctam. Why did you suppose that I was referring to Boniface VIII's views as a ‘private doctor’? (As it happens I have no idea what his private views were.)

The point of Unam Sanctam is that ‘it is necessary that a sword be under a sword and that temporal authority be subject to spiritual power’. This is not the same as the ‘perfect balance’ that you write of.

For it is not God’s intention that the temporal authority of kings should “balance” the spiritual power of the Popes. Instead, it is His intention that the temporal authority of kings be subject to the spiritual authority of the Popes.

Do you accept this?

Tribunus said...

Dear Oliver,

You seem to share with Glorfindel a penchant for endless repetition of your same view regardless of what is said in reply.

Despite my having several times already provided them, you now ask me for examples of ways in which the office of priesthood is not higher than that of our Lady.

For the 3rd time I shall state it again:

"The office of priesthood is higher in dignity but not vocation".

The primary vocation of a Christian is not to dignity, nor even the administration of the Sacraments, highly important though that is.

The primary vocation is faith, hope and charity, the latter being the greatest.

Our Lady achieved this to the greatest degree among mortal men.

The office of our Lady, moreover, is that of Virgin Mother of the Saviour and Queen of heaven.

This vocation is higher than that of any priest.

However, it is not higher in point of dignity because of the Sacramental power vouchsafed to the priesthood.

I have now explained this to you at least 3 times. If you still cannot understand that there is a difference between vocation and dignity then I am not sure there is much more I can say to assist you.

The vocation of our Lord is plainly far higher than that of our Lady since He is God.

That is a truism.

But we are speaking of mortal men as priests, not God.

The vocation of human priests partakes of the vocation of our Divine Master but is plainly not as great as that of God Himself. If you think it is then you are putting mere men on a level with God which is plain folly.

As I have already made abundantly clear, when St Alphonsus writes, "According to St. Cyprian, a priest at the altar performs the office of Christ" he is speaking of the priest acting in persona Christi at the altar as I have already said before (and you conceded).

Likewise, when St. Ambrose says that "a priest, in absolving a sinner, performs the very office of the Holy Ghost in the sanctification of souls" is again referring to the action of God at the hands of the priest and thus to the superior dignity of the office not to the superiority of the vocation of the individual man.

You rightly say that we salute the rank and not the man but you are in danger of confusing the two yourself.

You are right that this "calling" is nobler, higher and better in point of dignity than a calling to any other office or dignity in all of Creation but that is not the issue.

It is not higher qua vocation.

The office of our Lady is exceedingly high in dignity, too.

However, her vocation is highest of all and - since she fulfilled it - she is highest in heaven and that by a very long margin.

We are not all called to the same height of vocation. God is not an egalitarian. Some are simply called to a higher vocation than others. We cannot achieve more than the vocation to which we are called. What we have to do is to live up to the vocation to which we are called.

Our Lady will always be higher than any of us whatever we do. But the beauty of heaven is that we will be happier with that arrangement than with one of our own choosing.

Thus it DOES matter how God calls us (as well as how we answer).

And thus it is also through her "vocation" as well as her fiat that our Lady is Queen of Heaven. God called her before time to be His mother.

Having said that, God has not decreed that the female half of the human race is permanently and forever excluded from the highest vocation.

And that is because the highest vocation is NOT the priesthood but rather than of charity in accordance with our state of life. And all are called to that vocation, cleric and layman alike.

Nestorius the heretic could say mass and absolve sinners but that did not mean that he was higher in vocation than others, even though he had been given the high dignity of the episcopacy.

Tribunus said...

You seem to overlook the fact that it was I who referred to the views of Boniface VIII as a private doctor, not you.

Despite that, you then wrongly took that as a reference to his solemn magisterial teaching.

You then (irrelevantly) quoted Unam Sanctam which is plainly magisterial teaching and not his private views.

It was precisely because I suspected that you did not know of the private opinions of Boniface that I referred to them.

That is why your reference to his infallible magisterial teachings was irrelevant. It was not what I had referred to.

But you still seem to be missing the point even of Unam Sanctam itself, despite my attempting to explain at some length. Perhaps I explained badly.

The spiritual sword is above the temporal sword. I have said this throughout this discussion but you (persistently) seem to think I have not.

But this is a spiritual not a temporal superiority.

And that IS a perfect balance just as there is a perfect balance between body and soul in man, though the soul is higher.

Accordingly, it certainly is God’s intention that the temporal authority of kings should balance the spiritual power of the popes.

But this balance is achieved by the temporal authority of emperors and kings being subject to the spiritual authority of popes and bishops.

But conversely, popes and bishops must (and always did) recognise the temporal authority of the Emperor and kings.

But because - ultimately - the spiritual arm is greater than the temporal, no-one may judge the Pope whereas the Pope may judge the Emperor - but only spiritually. He cannot judge him as his temporal suzerain.

And so it always was in Christendom.

When a pope judged an emperor he did so spiritually and could excommunicate him and relieve his subjects of their duty of allegiance.

But the Pope did not have the right to appoint a new emperor. That was the job of the Prince-Electors.

On the other hand, the Emperor had no spiritual power to judge the Pope, although he did have a power (until 1912) to veto his election.

However, if a pope "judged himself" (as Bellarmine and others put it) and so deposed himself by heresy then it was the job of the Emperor, as protector of the Papacy, to maintain and restore peace in the City of Rome so that a new conclave could meet in peace and elect a pope.

This is what Otto the Great did in the 10th century when the Papacy fell into great corruption and error.

THIS is the perfect balance of which I spoke.

It is like the perfect balance that should exist between husband and wife, although the husband is the head of family.

But none of this means that the priesthood is the highest vocation for a Christian.

I return you your rather impudent question: do you accept this?

Anonymous said...

So, what are the different meanings you give the word 'vocation' (perhaps unwittingly, indeed)? Let's have a look!

(i) You argue that Our Lady had a "vocation" to be Queen of Heaven. If she did have a vocation to be Queen of Heaven then it was by definition a vocation for her alone. It is not open to anyone else apart from her so it's hardly a vocation that any ordinary Christian can aspire to. If your argument is then that nuns have vocations to pretend that they're Queens of Heaven as well, or that they're Mothers of God, then that's a slightly weird view of the female religious life. (The normal phrase is "Brides of Christ", in the same way that the Church is Christ's bride.) But it certainly wouldn't make the female religious life somehow higher than the priesthood, which is the office of Christ Himself and not His holy mother.

In fact, is the logic of what you are saying that each and every individual has his or her own vocation, and that we'll only find out whose vocation was higher than whose when we get to Heaven? (All jolly fun, mystical existentialist stuff, to be sure, but hardly Catholic!) If this is what you're saying then how can we possibly know what vocation (i.e. whose vocation) is really "highest" (after Our Lady's, that is) until the Last Day - when we'll be beyond caring?

(ii) The implication of all your hot air about 'emperors, kings, abbots and priors', and about their not being a 'lower vocation' [sic] than the clergy, must surely be that one can have a "vocation" to be an abbot or a "vocation" to be a King - and thus trump the lowly vocation of a mere priest! Did your famous Emperor have such a "vocation", one wonders? In that case, why shouldn't there be a vocation to be a barrister? Or a blogger?

I know I'm pulling your leg, but think about it. Being emperor is not a vocation. In the vocations stakes, an emperor qua emperor has no vocation whatsoever. If one has a vocation to the priesthood then one clearly has a higher vocation than an emperor who does not have a vocation.

(Show me where I'm going wrong here.)

My reductio ad absurdum at the other end of the scale was to point to the Pope. If one can have a "vocation" to be Pope (which would, by definition, have to be a priestly vocation) then surely that is the highest vocation possible in this life! But you're even having problems with that because you're feeling all awkward about admitting that the Pope is above secular rulers - which of course he is.

(iii) Finally, your argument about Faith, Hope and Charity is just stretching the very term 'vocation' beyond all plausible meaning. If this is a "vocation" (rather than a divine mandate, which is what I'd always thought it was) then it is clearly a "vocation" for the whole of the human race and bestows just as much rank, honour and authority on the lowliest catechumen as it does on Popes, emperors and Our Lady. (Similarly one thinks of the Vatican II document on the lay apostolate, which at one and the same time talks about "the Christian vocation" - which is, presumably, non-negotiable - and of "choosing" one's vocation - a Humpty-Dumpty way with words that is truly mind-boggling.)

But again, if the highest vocation is to Charity then is not the greatest exemplum of this vocation not the priesthood of Christ, who died on Calvary out of charity in order to institute that priesthood?

I see you mention this unfortunate individual Glorfindel. My advice to him would be to stick to balrogs and Black Riders. With them he may have more chance of success.

Tribunus said...


Forgive me for saying so but there are considerable gaps in your knowledge.

Taking your points in turn:

(i) Vocation means calling. God calls us to sanctity. "All the Faithful, whatever their condition or state... are called by the Lord to that perfection of sanctity...Charity is the soul of holiness to which all are called" [CCC#825-6]. The Catechism then quotes from St Therese of Lisieux, a Doctor of the Church, thus: "Love, in fact, is the vocation which includes all others".

Clearly some do this better than others and some are called to a higher level than others, whether priest or lay.

Even more clearly, our Lady was called to that vocation, and fulfilled it, far more than any other creature, even including the Angels.

The fact that some have higher vocations than others does not mean that their higher vocation is somehow not a vocation.

Each is called but some are called to a higher level.

That is clear from Sacred Scripture itself: Omnes vocati, pauci electi [Matt 22:14] and nisi unicuique sicut divisit Dominus unumquemque sicut vocavit Deus ita ambulet et sic in omnibus ecclesiis doceo [1 Cor 7:17].

Here is what the Catholic Encyclopaedia has to say on the subject: "And in the celebrated passage 'every one hath his proper gift from God' (1 Corinthians 7:7) St Paul does not intend to indicate any particular profession as a gift of God, but he makes use of a general expression to imply that the unequal dispensation of graces explains the diversity of objects offered for our choice like the diversity of virtues. We agree with Liguori when he declares that whoever, being free from impediment and actuated by a right intention, is received by the superior is called to the religious life".

See that? One is "called" to the religious life but "graces are dispensed unequally". Not everyone is offered ALL graces. God can choose Mary to be His mother and not Jane or Hannah.

And even if you are called, and answer, there are nonetheless wise virgins (i.e. good religious) and foolish virgins (i.e. bad religious).

The wise ones will certainly be queens in heaven, although clearly not of the rank of our Lady.

If you think this a "pretence" (an unfortunate word for you to use when speaking of God's plan) then you are doubting God's Word that we shall have "crowns in heaven".

Scripture confirms this: Bonum certamen certavi cursum consummavi fidem servavi; in reliquo reposita est mihi iustitiae corona quam reddet mihi Dominus in illa die iustus iudex non solum autem mihi sed et his qui diligunt adventum eius. [2 Tim 4:7-8].

Kings and queens have crowns. That is the origin of the meaning of the word.

Are you really calling God's plan a "pretence"?

Moreover, nuns are indeed mothers, too, understood spiritually, otherwise what would be the point of their being "Brides of Christ"?

Or do you consider them all, by definition, sterile brides?

Brides are married and married women have children. That's one of the purposes of marriage, my dear Oliver, in case you'd forgotten!

The spiritual motherhood of nuns is, in a spiritual and mystical sense, an imitation of the motherhood of Mary.

I'm sorry if you think this "slightly weird" but that is more a reflection upon your own outlook rather than upon God's divine plan.

Once again you appear to think that merely repeating yourself, even after your case has been answered, will somehow improve your argument, provided you add the word "certainly" to it.

It won't.

If you wish to convince, then cite some sources more authentic than your own unaided and unsupported opinions.

Tribunus said...

Any religious life, male or female, is, if fulfilled, higher than the life of a mere secular cleric.

If that were not so then why would some clerics seek to enter religious life? Just a matter of taste? For a comfy life? For the fringe benefits? Come, now, Oliver!

If you don't believe me then read De Perfectione Vitae Spiritualis by St Thomas. It will be a voyage of discovery for you!

Read also the Summa II-II, Art.184, Q.8 in which St Thomas says the following in answer to the very issue we are now discussing, "Whether parish priests and archdeacons are more perfect than religious?":

"On the contrary, It is stated (XIX, qu. ii, cap. Duce): 'If a man while governing the people in his church under the bishop and leading a secular life is inspired by the Holy Ghost to desire to work out his salvation in a monastery or under some canonical rule, since he is led by a private law, there is no reason why he should be constrained by a public law'. Now a man is not led by the law of the Holy Ghost, which is here called a 'private law', except to something more perfect. Therefore it would seem that religious are more perfect than archdeacons or parish priests".

In short, exactly the very point I make above.

Indeed, my dear Oliver, where do you think I got it from? From my own invention?

Sources, Oliver, sources. Every scholar must have them.

But you call this - what was it now - "All jolly fun, mystical existentialist stuff, to be sure, but hardly Catholic".

Well, Oliver, St Thomas does not agree with you. Nor, I may add, do any of the other Doctors and teachers of the Church!

Tribunus said...

ii) The above largely suffices to answer your second point and will, I trust, cause you to see that it is not my "hot air", as you offensively call it, but rather the "hot air" of the doctors and saints of the Church, together with the "hot air" of Sacred Scripture.

You can now, I hope, very clearly see that one can, indeed, have a "vocation" to be an abbot which does, indeed, thus trump the vocation of a [secular] priest.

The vocation of emperor or king is also a lay vocation but it is not a religious vocation. It is a very high and dignified lay calling but this must be distinguished, once again, from the vocation to perfection.

Our primary vocation is to perfect sanctity (and faith, hope and charity). There are degrees of perfection, however. In heaven we shall all be perfect (which means “complete”) but some will be more perfect than others (e.g. our Lady).

That kind of vocation is to be distinguished from the use of that word to signify a calling – by a worldly superior as much as by God – to an office of dignity and rule.

In that sense, save that it is a lay not a clerical role and therefore has not the Sacramental character, the vocation of emperor or king is one of dignity and power, temporally, just as the priestly role is, spiritually

(Now please read that sentence again and note the words “save that it is a lay not a clerical role and therefore has not the Sacramental character” before you leap to your keyboard and spout any nonsense about me calling the imperial role a sacramental one like that of priest).

Thus, just as the office of pope is the highest dignity in the clerical vocation, so that of emperor is the highest in the lay vocation.

There is some coalescence since the Pope clearly also has some temporal power and the Emperor has some power over matters spiritual. Moreover, it has been the custom since early times for the Emperor to be made a cleric by the Pope - at first sub-deacon but, from the time of Charles V, a deacon. Nevertheless, the role of Emperor was always regarded as a primarily lay role by the Church.

You are right to distinguish this use of the word “vocation” from that of the vocation to perfection but it is, nonetheless, a vocation since the office-holder is, indeed, called to it (by election) in each case.

The role of emperor is different from that of barrister or blogger because there is no Christian role of Christ the blogger or even Christ the barrister (although the Holy Spirit is, of course, our "Advocate" or "Paraclete").

However, the role of Christ the King is one of the 3 roles of a Christian, they being Prophet (or teacher), Priest and King.

All of us, lay and clerical, must fulfil these roles.

We can do that as a layman (there is a priesthood of all the faithful which is wider than the ministerial priesthood) or as a cleric (a cleric chiefly rules spiritually but also has some temporal power. These are kingly roles).

The Emperor exemplifies in his person, role and vocation the summit of the layman’s fulfilment of the role of Christ the King.

I am not going, yet again, to spell out to you the sense in which the Pope is spiritually superior to Christian princes but not temporally. You are clearly not listening (or reading).

You will, in any case, find the position well described by that greatest of Thomist poets, Dante Alighieri, in his monograph on the subject entitled De Monarchia.

I have already referred you to it. Why not read it? It is not long.

You will then not have to rely solely on your own unaided and unsupported opinions and you will spare the rest of us their mere repetition made more tedious still by your injunctions to “think about it” with its implication that we have not been thinking until you reminded us to do so.

Who knows, we might even be spared the rather arrogant assertions that I am “feeling all awkward” about my position even though it is a position well supported by good authority (unlike yours).

Tribunus said...

The above suffices to answer your point (iii).

The logic of your position is that because Christ is God, died for us and is a priest of the New Covenant, that all Catholic priests are also God and also died for us because they are also priests of the New Covenant.

That needs but to be stated for its absurdity to be seen.

However, I suggest you read St Thomas, who puts it all very much better than I can.

Tribunus said...

I am not publishing your other post which is very much more offensive and arrogant and adds little else to the debate.

The only part that addresses the issue, and is thus worthy of comment, is this:

"You insisted that the priesthood is a vocation. Therefore, since the priesthood is the highest office in the Church, if it is also a vocation then it must perforce also be the highest vocation. If one were to have a higher vocation than the priesthood then one would have to have a higher office with a greater dignity. But there is no higher office, because the priesthood is the office of Christ Himself".

I have already answered this above.

Priesthood is not the only office of Christ Himself, as you wrongly imply.

There are the roles of Prophet and King, also, which you forget and so omit.

The priesthood, as I have now many times said (and you simply ignore) is higher in dignity but not in all things.

The use of the word "vocation" has more than one sense, as I explain in my earlier post.

In the sense of a calling to perfection, the priesthood is not the highest vocation.

In the sense of a calling to an office, which connotes dignity and power, the priesthood is the higher but only in a spiritual sense, and not temporally.

Temporally, the lay vocation is higher.

However, the spiritual is higher than the temporal but here we speak generically.

Within each office (if you prefer that to vocation) there are higher and lower roles.

For the spiritual, the highest office is that of the Pope and for the temporal it is that of the Emperor, although each role does coalesce, to do some small degree, with the other.

Each is the Vicar of Christ in his own sphere.

The Pope is higher than the Emperor spiritually and vice-versa temporally.

However, since the spiritual is higher than the temporal, a papal excommunication, if just and right, ought to be obeyed above an imperial rescript.

However, if the papal injunction were unjust or trespassed unjustly upon the imperial power, then the imperial rescript, if just, was to be preferred.

This is the "balance" of which I spoke and the idea was supported by popes, Doctors, saints and theologians.

Moreover, an illegal or immoral order of the Pope can justly be resisted, as Robert Grosseteste, Bishop of Lincoln, did - in the name of the Papacy and the proper use of papal power, please note - when he refused a rich canonry in his Cathedral to the nephew of the reigning pope who had insisted on it.

Thus you can see that your rather clericalist view of the various roles, offices and vocations in Church and State is inadequate.

Tribunus said...

Finally, a diagram might assist your appreciation and understanding of the various roles in the Church:

........|......... SECULAR
........|......... RELIGIOUS

Thus you can see that there are 2 separate axes forming a cross (appropriately): one axis is religious/secular and the other axis is lay/clerical.

You are in danger, like many, of confusing the clerical with the religious and the lay with the secular.