Pure hatred of modernists for tradition, hierarchy and the priesthood. "The cassock, Satan of the Synod"

For Stijn Van den Bossche, doctor of theology, there is still a long way to go to think and act in a truly synodal manner. Clericalism and its symbols (Roman collar, ecclesiastical titles) remain very much alive within the Church.

Cardinal fighting for the Faith
Stijn Van den Bossche
General Secretary of the Interdiocesan Commission for Catechesis of the Belgian Bishops' Conference. 

All kinds of measures are proposed today in the Church to fight against the abuse of clerical power, a drift which largely explains sexual abuse. But we must also change the clerical culture of the Church. Since the Council of Trent, the priest has been defined above all as sacramentally representing the figure of Christ (in persona Christi), facing the body of the ecclesial community.

Unfortunately, what was supposed to be only a distinctive priestly – and above all liturgical – characteristic quickly became almost the entire identity of the priest and his pastoral identity. The danger then becomes very great that the “slightly less holy” priest begins to take himself for Christ, with all the “dignity” that that implies. This priestly image therefore easily leads to self-exaltation and the abuse of power.

Here I would like to first show that we still have work to do before thinking and acting in a truly synodal manner, to then propose the return to an identity of the priest as shepherd.

To be (or not) recognizable

Until the 5th century, the Church required the clergy to wear simple clothing. Then the Church demanded that the priest be recognizable. Following the Council of Trent, priestly clothing took the form of a cassock with a high collar. When the latter was abolished by Vatican II, the collar remained as a relic.

Today we all talk about Synodality, but at the same time we see more and more young priests wearing a Roman collar again. I have good friends among them and I don't blame anyone, but I ask the question: if Pope Francis' shepherds are going to smell like sheep, shouldn't they also look a little more like sheep? With the end of Christianity, the counter-argument of recognizability no longer has the same significance. It is not certain that today, in the public square, it is important that everyone can immediately see that someone is a priest... A small cross also allows the priest to be recognized, in a more modest way. But these priests always wear a Roman collar, even where they are well known. It is therefore a more profound question of showing oneself different, of forming another state, which represents the supernatural.

Because the great theologian Karl Rahner did not want to wear this collar which symbolizes this other state, he was not authorized to be photographed with Pope Paul VI...

The expansion of concelebration

Concelebration was authorized by Vatican II so that each priest would not have to celebrate separately each day. The third session of the Council thus began with the first concelebration. There were 24 concelebrants, among 2,000 bishops present.

But at the ordination of Bishop Terlinden a few weeks ago, which I sincerely found very beautiful, we saw, between the Faithful and the Bishops, a sea of 251 concelebrant priests and assistant deacons. Was it still an expression of collegiality or rather a clerical state in its own right? How would this be perceived symbolically by an outside observer of our liturgy? For the latter, it was also striking to note that there was not a single woman... Synodal?

Cathcon:   Belgium was the birthplace of the liturgical movement.  It has ended in these tasteless liturgical chants.

A title for every ecclesiastic

Finally, there is this old pain: clerical tenure... Another great theologian, Hans Urs von Balthasar, knelt before the Oope to ask him to eliminate this. An ordained person is at least reverend, up to very reverend. Canon may still have some meaning. Next comes monsignor, who can be minor or major. The Vishop is an excellence, a Cardinal becomes an eminence. All these titles are recognizable to insiders thanks to accessories in the clothing. But how is all this biblical…?

My title thus becomes clearer: the cassock (as pars pro toto) is a veritable Satan, experiencing true synodality with many clerics – from deacons to bishops – succumbing to clerical temptation. Because synodality is opposed to clericalism, in which ordination means becoming a higher form of Christian, an added value compared to baptism, rather than equipment for a service to the faithful, the service of a shepherd.

Sheep and Shepherd

From the earliest centuries, the image that best captures the identity of the priest has been that of the shepherd - in Latin pastor. A shepherd leads his sheep and serves them. He gives himself entirely for them. His teaching is a ministry. It is therefore a question of "leading by serving", and not "serving by leading", as is wrongly associated with in persona Christi.

Of course, a shepherd can also abuse power. Just read Ezekiel 34. That's why a shepherd is first and foremost always a sheep. This also applies to Jesus: the Good Shepherd is the Lamb of God.


Cathcon:  This is a manifesto for the abnegation of responsibility from the pastoral office of the priest.  He is right that concelebration is evil but for all the wrong reasons.

Ezekial 34

Evil pastors are reproved. Christ the true pastor shall come, and gather together his flock from all parts of the earth, and preserve it for ever.

1 And the word of the Lord came to me, saying:

Et factum est verbum Domini ad me, dicens :

2 Son of man, prophesy concerning the shepherds of Israel: prophesy, and say to the shepherds: Thus saith the Lord God: Woe to the shepherds of Israel, that fed themselves: should not the flocks be fed by the shepherds?

Fili hominis, propheta de pastoribus Israel : propheta, et dices pastoribus : Haec dicit Dominus Deus : Vae pastoribus Israel, qui pascebant semetipsos! nonne greges a pastoribus pascuntur?

3 You ate the milk, and you clothed yourselves with the wool, and you killed that which was fat: but my flock you did not feed.

Lac comedebatis, et lanis operiebamini, et quod crassum erat occidebatis, gregem autem meum non pascebatis.

4 The weak you have not strengthened, and that which was sick you have not healed, that which was broken you have not bound up, and that which was driven away you have not brought again, neither have you sought that which was lost: but you ruled over them with rigour, and with a high hand.

Quod infirmum fuit non consolidastis, et quod aegrotum non sanastis : quod confractum est non alligastis, et quod abjectum est non reduxistis, et quod perierat non quaesistis : sed cum austeritate imperabatis eis, et cum potentia.

5 And my sheep were scattered, because there was no shepherd: and they became the prey of all the beasts of the field, and were scattered.

Et dispersae sunt oves meae, eo quod non esset pastor : et factae sunt in devorationem omnium bestiarum agri, et dispersae sunt.

6 My sheep have wandered in every mountain, and in every high hill: and my flocks were scattered upon the face of the earth, and there was none that sought them, there was none, I say, that sought them.

Erraverunt greges mei in cunctis montibus, et in universo colle excelso : et super omnem faciem terrae dispersi sunt greges mei, et non erat qui requireret : non erat, inquam, qui requireret.

7 Therefore, ye shepherds, hear the word of the Lord:

Propterea, pastores, audite verbum Domini :

8 As I live, saith the Lord God, forasmuch as my flocks have been made a spoil, and my sheep are become a prey to all the beasts of the field, because there was no shepherd: for my shepherds did not seek after my flock, but the shepherds fed themselves, and fed not my flocks:

Vivo ego, dicit Dominus Deus, quia pro eo quod facti sunt greges mei in rapinam, et oves meae in devorationem omnium bestiarum agro, eo quod non esset pastor : neque enim quaesierunt pastores mei gregem meum, sed pascebant pastores semetipsos, et greges meos non pascebant :

9 Therefore, ye shepherds, hear the word of the Lord:

propterea, pastores, audite verbum Domini :

10 Thus saith the Lord God: Behold I myself come upon the shepherds, I will require my flock at their hand, and I will cause them to cease from feeding the flock any more, neither shall the shepherds feed themselves any more: and I will deliver my flock from their mouth, and it shall no more be meat for them.

Haec dicit Dominus Deus : Ecce ego ipse super pastores : requiram gregem meum de manu eorum, et cessare faciam eos, ut ultra non pascant gregem, nec pascant amplius pastores semetipsos : et liberabo gregem meum de ore eorum, et non erit ultra eis in escam.

11 For thus saith the Lord God: Behold I myself will seek my sheep, and will visit them.

Quia haec dicit Dominus Deus : Ecce ego ipse requiram oves meas, et visitabo eas.

12 As the shepherd visiteth his flock in the day when he shall be in the midst of his sheep that were scattered, so will I visit my sheep, and will deliver them out of all the places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day.

Sicut visitat pastor gregem suum, in die quando fuerit in medio ovium suarum dissipatarum, sic visitabo oves meas, et liberabo eas de omnibus locis in quibus dispersae fuerant in die nubis et caliginis.

13 And I will bring them out from the peoples, and will gather them out of the countries, and will bring them to their own land: and I will feed them in the mountains of Israel, by the rivers, and in all the habitations of the land.

Et educam eas de populis, et congregabo eas de terris, et inducam eas in terram suam, et pascam eas in montibus Israel, in rivis, et in cunctis sedibus terrae.

14 I will feed them in the most fruitful pastures, and their pastures shall be in the high mountains of Israel: there shall they rest on the green grass, and be fed in fat pastures upon the mountains of Israel.

In pascuis uberrimis pascam eas, et in montibus excelsis Israel erunt pascua earum : ibi requiescent in herbis virentibus, et in pascuis pinguibus pascentur super montes Israel.

15 I will feed my sheep: and I will cause them to lie down, saith the Lord God.

Ego pascam oves meas, et ego eas accubare faciam, dicit Dominus Deus.

16 I will seek that which was lost: and that which was driven away, I will bring again: and I will bind up that which was broken, and I will strengthen that which was weak, and that which was fat and strong I will preserve: and I will feed them in judgment.

Quod perierat requiram, et quod abjectum erat reducam, et quod confractum fuerat alligabo, et quod infirmum fuerat consolidabo, et quod pingue et forte custodiam : et pascam illas in judicio.

17 And as for you, O my flocks, thus saith the Lord God: Behold I judge between cattle and cattle, of rams and of he goats.

Vos autem, greges mei, haec dicit Dominus Deus : Ecce ego judico inter pecus et pecus, arietum et hircorum.

18 Was it not enough for you to feed upon good pastures? but you must also tread down with your feet the residue of your pastures: and when you drank the clearest water, you troubled the rest with your feet.

Nonne satis vobis erat pascua bona depasci? insuper et reliquias pascarum vestrarum conculcastis pedibus vestris : et cum purissimam aquam biberetis, reliquam pedibus vestris turbabatis :

19 And my sheep were fed with that which you had trodden with your feet: and they drank what your feet had troubled.

et oves meae his quae conculcata pedibus vestris fuerant, pascebantur : et quae pedes vestri turbaverant, haec bibebant.

20 Therefore thus saith the Lord God to you: Behold, I myself will judge between the fat cattle and the lean.

Propterea haec dicit Dominus Deus ad vos : Ecce ego ipse judico inter pecus pingue et macilentum :

21 Because you thrusted with sides and shoulders, and struck all the weak cattle with your horns, till they were scattered abroad:

pro eo quod lateribus et humeris impingebatis, et cornibus vestris ventilabatis omnia infirma pecora, donec dispergerentur foras,

22 I will save my flock, and it shall be no more a spoil, and I will judge between cattle and cattle.

salvabo gregem meum, et non erit ultra in rapinam, et judicabo inter pecus et pecus.

23 AND I WILL SET UP ONE SHEPHERD OVER THEM, and he shall feed them, even my servant David: he shall feed them, and he shall be their shepherd.

Et suscitabo super eas pastorem unum, qui pascat eas, servum meum David : ipse pascet eas, et ipse erit eis in pastorem.

24 And I the Lord will be their God: and my servant David the prince in the midst of them: I the Lord have spoken it.

Ego autem Dominus ero eis in Deum, et servus meus David princeps in medio eorum : ego Dominus locutus sum.

25 And I will make a covenant of peace with them, and will cause the evil beasts to cease out of the land: and they that dwell in the wilderness shall sleep secure in the forests.

Et faciam cum eis pactum pacis, et cessare faciam bestias pessimas de terra : et qui habitant in deserto, securi dormient in saltibus.

26 And I will make them a blessing round about my hill: and I will send down the rain in its season, there shall be showers of blessing.

Et ponam eos in circuitu collis mei benedictionem : et deducam imbrem in tempore suo; pluviae benedictionis erunt.

27 And the tree of the field shall yield its fruit, and the earth shall yield her increase, and they shall be in their land without fear: and they shall know that I am the Lord, when I shall have broken the bonds of their yoke, and shall have delivered them out of the hand of those that rule over them.

Et dabit lignum agri fructum suum, et terra dabit germen suum, et erunt in terra sua absque timore, et scient quia ego Dominus, cum contrivero catenas jugi eorum, et eruero eos de manu imperantium sibi.

28 And they shall be no more for a spoil to the nations, neither shall the beasts of the earth devour them: but they shall dwell securely without any terror.

Et non erunt ultra in rapinam in gentibus, neque bestiae terrae devorabunt eos : sed habitabunt confidenter absque ullo terrore.

29 And I will raise up for them a bud of renown: and they shall be no more consumed with famine in the land, neither shall they bear any more the reproach of the Gentiles.

Et suscitabo eis germen nominatum, et non erunt ultra imminuti fame in terra, neque portabunt ultra opprobrium gentium.

30 And they shall know that I the Lord their God am with them, and that they are my people the house of Israel: saith the Lord God.

Et scient quia ego Dominus Deus eorum cum eis, et ipsi populus meus domus Israel, ait Dominus Deus.

31 And you my flocks, the flocks of my pasture are men: and I am the Lord your God, saith the Lord God.

Vos autem, greges mei, greges pascuae meae, homines estis : et ego Dominus Deus vester, dicit Dominus Deus.


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