You are on page 1of 2


reading these languages which is a design, you will be ready to guess what
pity. The second point that the
is might be the contents and spirit of
author’s understandable enthusiasm this book.
for Blondel’s brilliance is at times a The title and subtitle are a
little uncritical and leads him to think reminder that all priestly activity is a
of Blondel as a deeper thinker than response to a call to service in the
someone else, like, say, Boutroux. The name of Jesus Christ. The author is a
undue complexity of Blondel’s style is canon penitentiary at the cathedral of
often matched by an undue complex- Merida-Badajoz. He has had various
ity in his thought, and this problem or assignments as teacher of theology,
these problems need to be acknowl- and he is a member of the Inter-
edged by all scholars trying to make national Marian Pontifical Academy.
sense of Blondel’s philosophy. Lastly, He has written two books and many
and this is merely a speculative point, articles. He dedicates this book ’to all
if Blondel indeed had a scientific priests, my brothers’ and he writes out
method which it took him some time of his own experience of priesthood in
to perfect, his later philosophy would the household of the Church, which
have to differ slightly if not substan- he loves. The cover design, a tree
tially from the earlier one in structure with full foliage, expresses his wish for
and tone. It might be interesting then a priestly ministry continually in
to speculate whether Blondel was touch with its roots and bearing much
more in the grip of a philosophy of fruit.
consciousness at the end of his writing From all of this, you might expect
than at the beginning. But this is not some very cosy, self-confident writing.
the issue at hand. But it becomes clear that the author
The fact that these speculative sees ministerial priesthood as being in

questions can arise now is due to the a state of crisis. He situates this crisis

high level of historical scholarship in the wider crisis of faith, of author-

evidenced in Conway’s book. The ity, of the supernatural, of ecclesial
text shows exceptional high quality structure, of charity. He believes that
and indeed mastery in an area of study the crisis in priestly ministry is aggra-
often neglected in the English-speak- vated by our failures to integrate the
ing world and for this reason it will be ecclesial, christological, and pneu-
welcomed by Blondel scholars. This matic aspects of priesthood, and by
piece comes from a young and accom- some questionable forms of democra-

plished researcher in the field whose tisation in the Church. Topics like the
obvious talent will soon manifest decline in vocations, the large num-
itself again in print before long. ber of laicisations, and the quest for
FIACHRA LONG optional celibacy, are placed in the
Cork context of these imbalances.
In the long introduction, the pages
THEOLOGY OF PRIESTHOOD on the crisis are followed by twenty

pages, which outline the positions of

Llamados a servir: Teologia del sac- six writers who are seen as challeng-
erdocio ministerial. By Miguel Ponce ing official Church teaching. The
Cuéllar. Barcelona: Herder Books, introduction is followed by three sub-
2001. Pp. 526. Np. ISBN 84-254- stantial parts. The first is on scriptural
2174-8. foundations. There is detailed mater-
ial on the unique priesthood of Jesus
If you attend to the title and sub- Christ, on the priesthood of all the
title, if you read the curriculum vitae of faithful, on the various forms of min-
the author as well as his introductory istry in the New Testament, on how
words and his words of dedication, sacerdotal language came to be
and if you take note of the cover applied to ministry. The second part
deals with tradition, magisterium, and reject but to see whether or not they
theology, from the Didachj to the can be accommodated in what is fixed
Second Vatican Council and after. in Catholic tradition. He draws heav-
The third and most interesting part ily on the work of P. Grelot and A.
consists of theological reflection. Vanhoye when he is dealing with the
Ministerial priesthood is presented in implications of E. Schillebeeckx’s
terms of the presence of Christ, head positions on such topics as absolute
and shepherd of the Church. The ordinations, the call of the commu-
sacrament of orders is looked at from nity, incorporation as minister into
its christological, hierarchic, commu- the concrete community, the right of
nitarian, and pneumatic aspects. the Christian community to the
There are sections on the rite of ordi- Eucharist, ministry from below rather
nation, the sacrament as an anointing than above, the possibility of provi-
by the Holy Spirit, the character in sional praxis alongside official praxis,
the setting of the three specific func- the limitations of the ontological
tions of priesthood, the diversity of approach to character. Less detailed is
ministries and the unity of the sacra- his treatment of the positions of H.
ment, ministerial functions at the ser- King on apostolicity, a canon within
vice of ecclesial communion. a canon, institution and charism, the
From the foregoing, you might sacralisation and sacramentalisation
wonder whether we have here an of orders, and L. Boff’s positions about
updated version of the old style text- base communities, the Church as
book. Having dealt with the ’errors’ sacrament of integral liberation, the
and presented the ’true doctrine’, does re-inventing of the Church, and the
the author crown his work with unas- functional nature of ministries.
sailable conclusions? The answer is Much importance is given to the
no. While he sets out to give a clear trinitarian foundations of Christian
and comprehensive presentation of priesthood and to the special role of
Catholic doctrine, he also sees himself the Holy Spirit. There is no formal
as being engaged in a search, in a treatment of priestly spirituality but
spirit of what he calls sincere dia- openings are continually provided.
logue. He is convinced that the Neither is there a formal treatment of
Church should be ready to learn from celibacy or of the question of the ordi-
the possibilities that are opened up in nation of women. It would appear
various new movements. He talks that the reader is being encouraged to
about nuclear and permanent truth
a find a setting for these topics in the
about priesthood. He points out that chapters on tradition and on theolog-
perspectives have changed from ical reflection.
Trent’s emphasis on a hierarchical Does the book make significant
priesthood and on power over the new contributions to the theology of
eucharistic body of Christ to a call by ministerial priesthood? I do not think
the Second Vatican Council to act in so. Its main value will be as a resource
the name of Christ the head. book for anybody lecturing on the
Presumably he is asking us to be open foundations of priestly ministry, in
to new changes of perspective. any setting. The layout and organisa-
Could the approach of the book be tion of the material, as well as the
described as basically conservative? I attractive and lucid style, make it a
would prefer to describe it as main- joy to read. It can be easily read by
stream and immersed in the whole of anybody with a basic knowledge of
the Church’s tradition. Of recent the Spanish language.
writers, the ones most drawn on are THOMAS LANE, CM
Galot, Arnau, Rahner, Ratzinger and Dublin
Congar. In dealing with new app-
roaches, the author’s urge is not to