"Complexities", I wrote in my last post. When I was in Devon, with six churches to care for single-handed, I used to say as many as four Masses a Sunday. So of course I understand what Maurice and Pastor mean in their laconic observations. When I wrote "complexities" I assumed that what I meant was so obvious as not to need spelling out. The folks are there and you've got to do it.
What I was asking - and apparently doing so too obscurely - was, how we might get back to sounder instincts, in which one priest says one Mass for one people of God. I asked the question precisely because our present situation seems so many millions of miles from such a possibility. I do not see how we can even get within range of speculating on such a reform without asking more basic questions.
I do wonder - and this is a question and neither an answer nor a prescription - whether we are too anally retentive about priesthood; too inclined to professionalise, clericalise, restrict it. A devout man could be taught the mechanics of saying Mass quite easily. But for him to preach, he needs an education in Scripture and dogmatic theology; to hear confessions, a training in moral theology; to administer a parish, a training in canon law. I wonder if it is inevitable, in all times and all places, that we only make man a priest if he is capable of so being trained, and has been so trained, as to be safely permitted to do all these things.
When, in my youth, I used to go to Greece, it was clear to me that the country parochial clergy were trained to a comparatively low level of competence. In the English Middle Ages, there were manifestly greatly differing levels of priestly proficiency. Until comparatively recently, clergy needed a licence to preach. I know we gained immeasurably much from the Tridentine reforms, the invention of the Seminary, and all that. But it is not completely clear to me me that different cultural contexts might not suggest different possibilities.
What I do know is that in the Church of England, at least, we get the worst of both worlds. We have a horror of "mass priests", by which is meant people who just offer the Eucharist. So we try to train all clerical aspirants up to a level at which they all can safely do everything. Sometimes this is attempted in an-evening-a-week courses. But - as everybody knows who knows anything about present-day Anglican church life - we still have an increasingly poor quality of priesthood (reflected in a low level of of episcopal competence: most modern bishops would have been lucky to have been made rural deans a couple of generations ago), and most of these clergy can't even do the mechanical basics with any competence. And a shortage of clergy despite that. And despite trying to plug the holes by relying on the 'priestly' ministrations of unpaid divorced elderly women.