Christians are all Alter Christus
Sue Rakoczy IHM, St Joseph’s Theological Institute, Cedara, KZN – In his letter “Respect Priests” (February 28), Br Dzinisa Hyacinth Ngcongo emphasises that a priest is “another Christ” and thus must be respected. The reality is that all people who are baptised into Christ are also “another Christ”. The emphasis on the specialness of a priest as alter Christus is the source of the sin of clericalism and its manifestations as clerical privilege.
Pope Francis, who sadly has to breathe in the stench of clericalism which pervades the Vatican, has written and spoken out against clericalism many times. It is the root cause of the continuing scandal of sexual abuse by the clergy which is doubly sinful: the abuse itself and the cover-up by priests and bishops.
Clerical privilege is evident when priests in another African country insist that people in a parish must prostrate themselves before him, and in South Africa when at least one priest insists that at the end of the Sunday liturgy people must come and kiss his feet.
I have often thought that at ordinations of deacons, priests and bishops, only one of two gospel texts should be chosen: Matthew 20:20-28, where Jesus calls us all to be servants, or John 13:1-15, the washing of the feet.
When I mentioned this to a colleague a while back he laughed and said: “By ordination day it is too late. The damage has already been done.”