Why Priests?: A Failed Tradition
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In his most provocative book yet, Pulitzer Prize–winner Garry Wills asks the radical question: Why do we need priests?
Bestselling author of Papal Sin and Why I Am a Catholic, Garry Wills spent five years as a young man at a Jesuit seminary and nearly became a priest himself. But after a lifetime of study and reflection, he now poses some challenging questions: Why do we need priests at all? Why did the priesthood arise in a religion that began without it and opposed it? Would Christianity be stronger without the priesthood, as it was at its outset?
Meticulously researched, persuasively argued, and certain to spark debate, Why Priests? asserts that the anonymous Letter to Hebrews, a late addition to the New Testament canon, helped inject the priesthood into a Christianity where it did not exist, along with such concomitants as belief in an apostolic succession, the real presence in the Eucharist, the sacrificial interpretation of the Mass, and the ransom theory of redemption. But Wills does not expect the priesthood to fade entirely away. He just reminds us that Christianity did without it in the time of Peter and Paul with notable success.
Wills concludes with a powerful statement of his own beliefs in a book that will appeal to believers and nonbelievers alike and stand for years to come as a towering achievement.
atonement, 184–85, 203, 210–12 on creation, 183–84 on God’s love, 218–19 on Jesus’ killers, 176, 177–85, 197, 207 Proslogion, 182–83 symmetries of, 183 on the Trinity, 180, 184, 191–92, 203 Why God-Man? (Cur Deus Homo?), 168–70, 177–78 apocrypha, 134 Apollos, 120 apostasies, 224–25 apostles, 7–14 definition of, 8 as equals, 11–12 as Holy Men, 17 names for, 9–10 roles of, 8, 10–14 The Twelve, 8–11, 233 see also specific apostles apostolic succession, 3 Aquila, 120 Arians, 226
rise higher. (Aeterni Patris, par. 17–18) 6. Innocent VI, Sermon on Saint Thomas. 7. Pius X, Pascendi Dominici Gregis (1907), par. 45; Pius XII, Humani Generis (1950), par. 31. 8. Augustine, Sermon 227. 9. Henri de Lubac, Corpus Mysticum: L’Eucharistie et l’église au moyen âge; étude historique (Aubier, 1944). The English translation by Gemma Simmonds, C.J., edited by Richard Price and Christopher Stephens (University of Notre Dame Press, 1949), is of the revised 1949 edition, and it omits
Publishers, 2000), p. 51. 14. Mitchell Dahood, Psalms III: 101–150 (Doubleday, 1970), p. 112. 15. Ibid., p. 117. The text of Psalm 110 is garbled, especially in verse 3, as one can see by the three variants cited in footnotes to the New English Bible version of that verse alone. It may be best to give here Dahood’s translation of the whole psalm: Yahweh’s utterance to my lord: “Sit enthroned at my right hand. A seat have I made your foes, a stool for your feet.” He has forged your
(9.22). With the importance of the priesthood and of blood sacrifice in mind, we can trace the progress of the Letter’s argument, in eight main steps, with an exhortation, sometimes long, sometimes short, after each step. 1. Superiority of the New Pact (1.1–14) A modern reader, with the long history of Christology in mind, may wonder why the Letter begins with the messianic Psalm 110 to prove that Jesus is superior not only to Moses but to angels. But we should remember that it was popularly
patriarchs have fidelity to a Pact that was not yet given? For those living before Moses was given the Pact, the promises (epaggeliai) given the patriarchs, and especially to Abraham, offer a lodestar for fidelity (11.9, 17). The author says that the promises to Abraham and his descendants were forebears of the Pact. It must always be remembered that belief or unbelief was not the issue for the Letter’s audience. It believed too much in the old Pact, making it backslide from the new one. In line