Those letters described an already extant, highly ordered, and intricate hierarchy with a threefold ranking of priesthood (deacon, priest or presbyter, and bishop) based on a monarchical episcopate. Moreover, long before Constantine, Justin Martyr offered a detailed description of a Eucharistic celebration written in about 153 A.D., which is a highly ordered liturgy replete with a male priest presider.
Carroll makes several references to the historic turn that took place at the Second Vatican Council with regard to the Jewish people. This included the revision of the liturgy to reflect a new sensitivity and a deepened understanding of the integrity of the abiding Jewish covenant and the Jewish people, especially in light of the Holocaust.
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This awareness on Carroll’s part makes it all the more odd that he demonstrates no appreciation for the deeply Jewish nature of both Catholic worship and its priestly hierarchy. Indeed, if Carroll were serious and consistent, he would attack with the same ferocity the pre-Christian Jewish temple hierarchy, with its all-male priesthood, as something that should also have been abolished. Of course, the Catholic Church and its ministerial priesthood have undergone change and development over the centuries. Retaining the substance of the Catholic faith, the Church offers new ways of expressing that faith. In the very speech that opened the Second Vatican Council on October 11, 1962, Pope John XXIII echoed the founder of the Paulist Fathers, Father Isaac Thomas Hecker, who wrote of speaking “old truths in new forms.” “The substance of the ancient doctrine,” the pope said, “is one thing, and the way in which it is presented is another.”
This, however, is not the agenda of Carroll and a host of others of his Vatican II generation. Carroll wants to jettison not “the imperium that took [the Church] captive 1700 years ago,” but the Church itself. Though he claims to want to recover the Gospels, Carroll is really about the business of proposing a new Gospel, one quite unrelated to the Gospel proclaimed by Christ.
No doubt, aspects of Christianity can be expressed and preserved outside of Church institutions, “partly written, partly unwritten, partly the interpretation, partly the supplement of Scripture, partly preserved in intellectual expressions, partly latent in the spirit and temper of Christians; poured to and fro in closets and upon the housetops, in liturgies, in controversial works, in obscure fragments, in sermons, in popular prejudices, in local customs,” as John Henry Newman said. This leaves ample room for variety, debate, and dialogue. Yet for all that, the Gospel has always required an institutional apparatus, without which it simply won’t be able to perdure throughout history.