Goodbye Father: The Celibate Male Priesthood and the Future of the Catholic Church

By Richard A. Schoenherr; David Yamane | Go to book overview

11
PRIESTLY COALITION

The decisive aspect here is the leveling of the governed in face of the governing and bureaucratically articulated group…. In the Catholic Church all independent local intermediary powers were eliminated…. The transformation of these local powers into pure functionaries of the central authority was based on the political party organization of Catholicism.

Max Weber, Economy and Society

Authoritarian leaders are comfortable with unambiguous concrete faith, and ill at ease with mystery, the central identifying component of all true religion…. That is why such leaders possess so little spiritual authority.

Eugene C. Kennedy, Tomorrow's Catholics, Yesterday's Church

Leadership in religious coalitions is either priestly or prophetic. Historically, the main function of a priest is to solemnize an established social order. The role of the prophet, in contrast, is to urge believers to change their attitudes and behavior. A priestly coalition relies primarily on hierarchic and bureaucratic forms of power. It is dedicated to leveling opposition and conserving the status quo. 1 A prophetic coalition draws mainly from hierophanic and charismatic forms of power. It is bent on breaking through old organizational structures to establish something new. Hierarchic power leads to authoritarian leadership characterized by permanence and taken-for-granted legitimacy. Hierophanic power generates spiritual authority, characterized by instability and ambiguity.

Although priests try to preserve and prophets try to change the status quo, both believe they are acting in the name of God. Symbolically, both priest and prophet are the human embodiment of divine action. The prophet literally speaks for God, particularly in uttering the word that creates something new. The priest is the divine caretaker, preserving and celebrating what God has wrought. Thus, by labeling one type of coalition priestly and the other prophetic, I call attention to their religious functions. Though always in tension, both coalitions are essential for the well-being of religious organizations.

For the most part, the priestly coalition dominates organized religion. As we have seen, the papacy lies at the center of the dominant priestly coalition within

-143-

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