In speaking the Sacrament of Holy Orders, the Catechism of the Catholic Church opens the discussion of the name “Holy Orders” by telling us that the “word order in Roman antiquity designated an established civil body, especially a governing body” (CCC 1537). Because of this, we should remember that the priest does not merely act in persona Christi, but is rather ordered to a body of men, modeled on the fraternity of the Apostles around Christ under the Father, through which “the mission entrusted by Christ to his apostles continues to be exercised in the Church until the end of time” (CCC 1536, emphasis mine).
Now during the seesaw struggle between church and state during the Middle Ages and then following the 16th century Protestant Revolt, the focus of the Church’s teaching regarding collegiality (i.e. the fraternal bonds of the ordained ministry) has been placed on the role of the bishops united to the pope. This is of course the most fitting description of the matter since the bishops and the pope are the direct successors of the Apostles and their head, St. Peter. Nevertheless, Christ gave the Church a model of leadership by which men are not tied together by family bonds but rather to a sworn oath sealed through blood, a sacred ministry of re-presenting anew the once for all sacrifice of Christ at Calvary. As the bishops carry out this action in union with the pope at an international level, the priests of the bishop carry this out at a local level.
Like the bishops and priests, our nation was founded upon the oaths of our forefathers under God following the blood-stained battles at the beginning of the Revolution. As the signers of the Declaration of Independence wrote after Lexington and Concord: “…with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.” These were men united not by family bonds but by honor, sacrifice, and the courage to do what was just while trusting in the providence of the Father. To this day, every American male of fighting age must register for the draft and prepare to enter into the protective duties of our forefathers. Those men who enjoy the benefits of the nation also possess the duty to defend her.
Both Holy Orders and the shared military duties of a nation’s men are alike in another way: they are both discriminatory institutions. There are prerequisite requirements for entry. These requirements, however, are not based on race or culture. In America, only men are called to sacrifice and these men must be of good health, have attained the age of 18, and (until recently) be sexually oriented to the opposite sex. In the past, men were greatly saddened when some physical impairment led the military to reject them despite their desire to serve. Today, young men are pleased to avoid what pacifists call the “tragedy” of war. (And if you’d like to see a story about a young man who wanted to do his duty but failed to meet the physical requirements of war, check out this trailer for the upcoming movie Captain America.)
It is also noteworthy to point out that the declining numbers of men to the priesthood began during an era in which young men refused to fight, dodging the draft and taking up the troubled notion of pacifism. Perhaps the best thing for our nation and our Church would be to better articulate the fraternal bonds which predate the official beginnings of their mutual institutions. In a decade during which the effeminate priesthood has produced disobedient one-man shows like Fr. Corapi and Fr. Pfleger and scores of child molesting priests, the nation should see the current state affairs in the Catholic Church as a sign of what is sure to come when the American nation embraces pacifism while creating a softer, effeminate military.