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

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

5
THE SPECIAL CHARACTER OF ORGANIZED RELIGION

The model of social change presented earlier directs our attention to officials who possess the primary expertise needed by the Catholic Church. This group is pivotal because officials with the dominant expertise in modern organizations also dominate the mechanisms of power and control. We identified this group of officials as the clerical ministry, with priesthood at its core, also calling it the Catholic technostructure. So the first premise of my analysis is that to change the form of Catholic ministry is to change the entire organizational structure of Roman Catholicism. The second is that the key traits of Catholic ministry are those structural characteristics of priesthood that are under serious stress and conflict. Pursuing these premises, we found that the priesthood today is characterized by a sacramental, sacerdotal, male, celibate monopoly of control over the Catholic means of salvation.

This chapter begins by trying to show that sacramentalism and sacerdotalism are the primary elements of Catholic ministry. These characteristics are essential because they represent structural forms whereby Roman Catholicism adapts to the transrational, spiritual levels of human development. The explicit recognition of a transcendent domain and development of structures that take it into account is what makes religious organizations different. Authentic religion emphasizes transrational behavior, while other types of organizations center on prerational and rational human behavior.

In discussing these differences, I also demonstrate that religious organizations are unlike others in an additional way: Organized religion relies on two kinds of power. The first is relative because it is based on finite, material resources and human rationality, just like the power structures in any modern organization. In radical contrast, however, the second is absolute. It is based on transrational levels of human consciousness and spiritual resources perceived as infinite. Structural adaptation to an infinite power source establishes the uniqueness of authentic religious organization. The social form characteristic of absolute power is hierophany and that of relative power is hierarchy. In religious organizations, hierophany corresponds to sacramentalism and hierarchy to sacerdotalism. Charismatic persons and other uniquely religious resources embody hierophanic power. Because of their extraordinary spiritual, nonrational source, hierophanic events must be routinized and made accessible to ordinary religious practitioners. In the Roman Catholic tradition, the routinization of hierophany and its integra-

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