Padovano's Bad Theology

by Michael Sean Winters

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"Baptism unites the church, not ordination," said Anthony Padovano in a keynote address to the American Catholic Council held this past weekend in Detroit. Huh?

There is something decidedly un-Catholic about dividing the Sacraments and placing them in opposition to each other. But, more importantly, baptism unites because it brings one into the Body of Christ, the Church and the "source and summit" of our Catholic life is the Eucharist. No ordination means no priest and no priest means no Eucharist. This is Sacramental Theology 101.

I read this report of Padovano's remarks just before heading to Mass yesterday. Watching our pastor greet people before and after Mass, and apologizing for the fact that the air-conditioning was on the fritz, leading the community in worship, confecting the Eucharist and distributing it to the faithful, I thought to myself, "Who could possibly see these sacraments in opposition?" The priest comes from the people and, at the rite of ordination, the people give their assent to the ordination. Most people love their priests and, it turns out, most priests are actually lovable, although i concede I have been especially blest to always have wonderful priests in my life. But, even a clunker of a priest can, through the action of the Spirit, turn bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ and I can't do that and if I had to go through a Sunday morning without the Eucharist it wouldn't even seem like a Sunday.

I have many wonderful Protestant friends, many of whom are better Christians than I am, but I always wonder how they can keep going without the Eucharist.

I have seen, growing up in a small town, how newcomers who are Presbyterian will attend the local Congregational Church because it is close by, and they do not seem disturbed by the difference, but Catholics will drive to a nearby town to a Catholic church because they want the Eucharist. Some Catholics drift away, to be sure, and I wish every Catholic Church did a great job making sure that their eucharistic celebrations are beautiful and enriching, even though I know many do not. Still, the enrichment of the Eucharist trumps all. I couldn't live without it. After all, I was baptized in order to receive it. Failing to see how the two sacraments are intimately linked is not "empowering." It is just bad theology.

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