Continuing Lumen Gentium
Priests are reportedly (with some blaring exceptions) among the happiest people in the United States in their vocations. In the book, “Why Priests Are Happy,” they claim an, “extraordinary high rate of priestly happiness and satisfaction.” Perhaps this is because you don’t get into this life without some heavy reflecting and you only pick it if indeed you are cut out for it.
Be that as it may, we always seem to be talking about how to make priest’s lives happier. Every year that I have been a priest somebody brings up the idea at some meeting or another that we should start living in communal rectories so that we can have more brotherhood. (The diocese does in fact have a policy for this.) The problem is: Do you get to pick with whom you live? If you got to move in with your best friends that’s one thing, if you move in with a grouch who doesn’t empty the dishwasher, take a bath, and eats all of the Value Time Cheese Curls, that’s another.
So paragraph 29 sets up the ideal for the priesthood. It assumes we are all holy, hard workers, and best friends. But you have to start somewhere right? So why not start with the ideal and then work it out from there?
Now, if the bishop is bishop in his own right, the priest is his vicar in the various parishes – his representative assisting him with the sanctifying and teaching of all the people: the ideal being the father/son (and I assume adult son) relationship. That connotates mutual respect & love, and a certain amount of deference (obedience) on the part of the priest. This is because it is not about the priest. He just happens to get to be there. It is firstly about God. The priest reaches his highest dignity when celebrating Mass because it is then he stand in personal Christi, in the person of Christ. The same follows with the other sacraments. It is not the priest, it is Christ who acts.
In his other ministries, it is not about the priest no matter how charismatic, righteous, or holy he may be. He is there to make the universal Church present. He is the “on site” symbol of the entire Church, the universal (catholic) Church founded by Christ. He is the tangible connection to the whole body. That is why it is imperative that he be connected to His bishop (who in turn is connected to the rest of the Church . . .) If he is not connected to his bishop in this international brotherhood that is fine. But he is not part of the Catholic Church no matter how many times he uses the word Catholic, says Mass, and claims to be doing what Christ calls him. This is true if he is celebrating the old Latin Mass or is a new contemporary break away. He has decided to change the rules and so he is starting something new. He no longer has the right to use the word “Catholic.” It is to a great, universal brotherhood to which we are called. “That they may all be one.”
This rather long paragraph (on which I have skimmed over and interjected a lot of my own thoughts – my apologies) also makes it possible to restore the deaconate for areas that make it difficult to have enough priests to fulfill the mission of the Church. “It is even possible” says the document to confer this office on married men. However, if single, the same rules of celibacy apply to them as it does to priests. This is also true of deacons who are widowers.