why priests?


Wills argues that an alternative understanding of Jesus and the eucharist, one more consonant with the New Testament (Hebrews excepted) and informed by Augustine, sees Jesus as coming to harmonize humanity with himself. The eucharistic meal remains a meal (as it was in the first century), not a sacrifice, one that celebrates the union between Christ and his followers. “One does nothing but disrupt this harmony by interjecting superfluous intermediaries between Jesus and his body of believers,” Wills writes. “When these ‘representatives’ of Jesus to us, and of us to Jesus, take the feudal forms of hierarchy and monarchy, of priests and papacy, they affront the camaraderie of Jesus with his brothers.” If some elements of Wills’s thesis sound familiar, they are. In the not-so-distant past, another formidable thinker and critic — someone who also favored Augustine over Aquinas — mounted a similar case. In his 1520 “Address to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation,” Martin Luther argued against “Roman presumption” and punctured the pretensions of the clergy: “Priests, bishops or popes . . . are neither different from other Christians nor superior to them.” Similarly, in “The Babylonian Captivity of the Church,” published the same year, Luther wrote that “priests are not lords, but servants,” and “the sacrament does not belong to the priests, but to all men.”

more from Randall Balmer at the NY Times here.