Thursday, October 09, 2003

Advice from St. Paul to Timothy on How to Handle Priests...

Paul's letter to Timothy has been the focus of the Office of Readings (from the Liturgy of the Hours) this week. Reading through it I can't help but think that revisiting this letter might be a good idea for the Church to examine its disciplines. Let me quote some passages--but realize that I'm quoting passages--read the whole letter for the context.

Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honour, especially those who labour in preaching and teaching; for the scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it is treading out the grain”, and, “The labourer deserves his wages”.

Elder or Presbyter is the Greek word for what we today call "priest." I like this passage because it talks about rewarding those who work hard in the church. I recently told a bishop that the first thing he should do in his diocese is rid it of all the lazy priests--they make more work for the good priests. The way the church is currently organized the priesthood is a socialist organization and the lazy and hardworking priest are paid and treated the same (in this life anyways).

Never admit any charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses. As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear. In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of the elect angels I charge you to keep these rules without favour, doing nothing from partiality.

Obviously a reference to their already being major problems in the early church in the priesthood. So this is nothing new. But what is clear is that when someone has a charge proven against them that it should be treated publicly and rebuked. Paul is emphatic about this and invokes the presence of all of Heaven that this be done with justice. Leaders in the church may be quick to quote the first part of the passage but largely have ignored the rest of it. The dangers to the faith are only compounded when these sins are buried.

Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, nor participate in another man’s sins; keep yourself pure.

Reading this in the context of the whole of Timothy, one would be struck by Paul's practicality. Paul's talk on the treatment of widows is mindful that young widows should remarry, not allowing lust to move them to rejecting commitments they might make. Timothy is young but we might presume married given the context of the letter where Paul tells him that bishops should be married only once. So I wonder if in the context of the letter we might not interpret this counsel of Paul's given our current situation of ordaining only celibate men--as a counsel to only ordain "older" men who are past the age where they might flea to marry?

Again if you read all of Paul letter you'll see it has a practicality about it that rings true to life. He warns against anyone prohibiting "marriage" or requiring abstinence from certian meats (referring the Judaizers).

Plenty of fodder here for thought.