Sunday, April 22, 2007


It's never enjoyable to be unavoidably wide awake when the rest of the world is sleeping. Invariably thoughts tend to wander to sad subjects and self-pity...at least they tend to do that for me in the middle of the night. Tonight I got to thinking about Fresno Bishop John Steinbock's prediction that soon the sheep in his diocese would have no one to follow but fellow sheep.

I had reason, some years ago, to spend many days in the yard next to a sheep pasture. We were exhibiting at the Waterford Craft Fair, and our exhibit space was a few feet from living sheep. They were quite an education. Sheep do follow other sheep when there is no shepherd. They run from this corner of the pasture to that corner to that tree over there, in a pack, behind a single sheep. Their progress is aimless, but they put everything they have into making that "progress." They are so confused and so purposeless and so committed to every move they make as though their very life depended upon it. They don't walk, they run. Always. It's sad to watch them dash about foolishly. They will even run away from offered food. An apple suddenly becomes the most terrifying object on earth. But when the shepherd appears, they are a different creature. They know where to go and what to do and who to trust. When the shepherd appears their life takes on meaning for a short time. Food is no longer frightening. They stop following other sheep. The shepherd is all-consuming. Being abandoned to follow fellow sheep is just about the biggest curse that I can imagine.

Martinist priesthood reminds me of this sad state of sheep without a shepherd. At the Martinist Temple of the Holy Grail website we are given this description of the practice of priesthood:

After Ordination, Priests and Priestesses operate their own independent ministries in compliance with the Home Temple Code of Ethics. They are licensed under a Home Temple Bishop of their choice, and they may apply for a legal Church Charter by the Home Temple. They are empowered to use any liturgy, theology, vestments, or other orientation that seems best to them--Christian, Buddhist, Wiccan, Jewish, Hindu, Taoist, Theosophical, etc. Their only obligation is to keep the Code of Ethics. They pay no dues or other fees to the Home Temple or their Bishops, but are expected to keep in collegial contact and link their web site or e-mail address to the list of churches in the Home Temple online and other published directories. Those who develop effective ministries will be nominated by their Bishops and formally invited for advancement into the Independent Episcopate.

That sounds very much like what I saw next to the sheep pasture: sheep running here and there to no purpose, with no favorable outcome, merely wasting units of energy. A tree or the corner of the pasture fence could just as well be a "Christian, Buddhist, Wiccan, Jewish, Hindu, Taoist, Theosophical, etc." liturgy. It has no real meaning. Yet this same state of affairs is what Bishop Steinbock is telling us is the future of the faithful in his diocese.

Oh sure, he was talking about training the leading sheep. We have seen over the course of 40 years where that training leads. Most of us have heard heretical doctrine preached by the lay leaders of various church programs, even sacramental preparation programs. I personally remember the baptism program leader who was trying to convince us that baptism was the process by which we join the church, as though the church were one big social club. She didn't want to hear about original sin. That belonged to the old church, and we were in the new church. The church of the "New Wine" that Bishop Steinbock is proposing, I guess.

Given this state of affairs, it did my heart little good to run across a quote from Fr. Joseph Ratzinger in the website of Tradition in Action recently. Look at what he proposed in Fe e Futuro, [Faith and Future] Petropolis: Vozes, 1971, pp. 76-78:

"From today’s crisis, a Church will emerge tomorrow that will have lost a great deal. She will be small and, to a large extent, will have to start from the beginning. She will no longer be able to fill many of the buildings created in her period of great splendor. Because of the smaller number of her followers, she will lose many of her privileges in society. Contrary to what has happened until now, she will present herself much more as a community of volunteers ....

"As a small community, she will demand much more from the initiative of each of her members and she will certainly also acknowledge new forms of ministry and will raise up to the priesthood proven Christians who have other jobs. In many smaller communities, respectively in social groups with some affinity, the normal care of souls will take place in this way"
(Fe e Futuro, [Faith and Future] Petropolis: Vozes, 1971, pp. 76-78).

This non-professional priesthood of ministers who have other jobs, who minister in small communities is described in Dr. Lewis Keizer's book PRIESTHOOD IN THE NEW AGE. Of course as Dr. Keizer describes it, it is not Catholic. How odd that they are both saying much the same thing.

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