Centered on the dialogues and publications of the French “philosophes” (Voltaire, Rousseau, Montesquieu, Buffon and Diderot), the High Enlightenment might best be summed up by one historian’s summary of Voltaire’s “Philosophical Dictionary”: “a chaos of clear ideas.” Foremost among these was the notion that everything in the universe could be rationally demystified and cataloged. The signature publication of the period was Diderot’s “Encyclopédie” (1751-77), which brought together leading authors to produce an ambitious compilation of human knowledge.
Catholic Priests: A Difficult and Unfolding Issue
There are many wonderful Catholic priests who have dedicated their lives to God and their church community. This is not a priest-bashing essay, but rather, a reminder that none of us are exempt from our sinful nature, even the "clergy." This is not just a "Catholic problem". In fact, many believe that there's another "story to unfold" that is just as far-reaching as the scandal within the priesthood. Specifically, there is no reason to assume the rate of child sexual abuse to be greater among Catholic clergy than among Protestant clergy. For instance, in California alone during 2001, there were six convictions involving Protestant ministers and sex-related crimes with minors. There are approximately 46,000 Catholic priests in the United States and 300 cases filed to date, which is under .7% of the priesthood. There are approximately 324,000 Protestant churches in the United States. If the math is correct, the number of cases among Protestant denominations could potentially dwarf the size of the Catholic scandal.
What does all this mean? Why are we focusing on this terrible tragedy? It has nothing to do with Catholicism, Protestantism, or the truth of Christianity in general. It is a humbling reminder that we live in a fallen world, a world prone to sin and deceit - a world not in need of organized religion, but a world in need of an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ Himself.
This lead us therefore, to the role of the priest within the liturgy. The priest is alter Christus. He plays the part of Christ and Christ works through the priest in the action of the Eucharistic sacrifice. As a man his sexuality matters because he brings to this action of redemption the fact that he is not only a human, but like Christ, he is a man. Women participate in the redemptive sacrifice as did the Blessed Virgin–as women and as mothers. For a woman to be a priest is therefore as impossible as it would be for a man to be a mother.