Have you seen the new movie, “The Two Popes”? It has poignant scenes of Pope Francis as a young man, feeling the call to the priesthood, leaving behind a girl he loved and his secular work in a lab. And it repeatedly emphasizes his ascetic lifestyle, returning again and again to his aging and scuffed shoes, eschewing the red slippers of the papacy.
As several critics have noted, these scenes are largely fiction. But no surprise: we all tend to idealize the ministry, turning ordinary people into fictional, selfless heroes and ascetic saints.
When priests and ministers begin to believe this pious PR, however, there’s danger in such idealizations. When clergy believe that their own, very human selves aren’t good enough for ministry, they suppress and hide who they are. They become comfortable with lies. And out of this toxic stew of idealization and lies comes the scandals and sexual abuse that have damaged churches and shaken faith.
This week, in our sermon series, “Ritual, Reason and Mystery,” we come to the rites of ministry: ordination and holy orders. Ordination is an exclusive ritual, reserved for those with theological education and special talents. But Holy Orders is an inclusive call to ministry – “the priesthood of all believers.”
What should be our model of ministry? Exclusive, ordained ministry — subject to the dangers of idealization? Or, inclusive, holy orders — where everybody serves?
The answer is somewhere in between.