Book Review: Ministers of Christ - Recovering the Roles of Clergy and Laity in an Age of Confusion

Dr. Peter Kwasniewski has written yet another outstanding book entitled Ministers of Christ (Crisis Publications, 2021).  This solid book comes highly recommended and in my opinion should be required reading in every minor and major seminary to help address the storm cloud of latent confusion that continues to harass Catholic teaching.  In clear language the author identifies the foundations, deviations, and the restoration that is necessary to move forward with a proper understanding of the issues.
The book makes an important contribution at an opportune time vis-à-vis the discussion of the roles of clergy and laity in this age of confusion in the Church.  This has been a hot button issue of contention for over 50 years and it is thankfully (finally) being addressed by a competent theologian who understands the issues and happens to be a towering intellectual giant.  

I must admit I have been waiting for this book to be written since I first read as a teenager Pope Paul's two perplexing Motu Proprio decrees of August 15, 1972:  Ministeria Quaedam and Ad Pascendum, by which the discipline of First Tonsure, Minor Orders, and Subdiaconate in the Latin Church were done away with and new norms were put in place for the Sacred Order of the Diaconate.  The truth is, these blessed things should not have been toyed with in the first place - they should have been left alone.  The Church's form of worship must always correspond to Her dogmatic confession.      

The book itself is impressive for its readability, thoroughness, breath of scope, clarity of teaching, historical reach, and level of scholarship.  In chapter 6 the author gives a brief account of his own personal testimony, growing up in a typical parish in the 1980's where many underlying errors were tolerated by Church leadership.  These collective experiences have given him deep insights to share in retrospect.  We are all a product of our age, having grown up in a climate of liturgical bedlam.  

One of the book's many strengths is that it effectively addresses the underlying issues as well as the theological quandaries surrounding these same issues.  One of the biggest questions tackled is the misunderstanding of "active participation," the all-important watchword of the liturgical reform that was envisaged by the proponents of liturgical revolution.  The book is full of many golden nuggets on the subject.  This is one of them: 
"I would say that the single most misunderstood concept of the twentieth century has been 'active participation.'  The phrase itself, coined as we have seen by Pope Pius X and disseminated in his 1903 motu proprio Tra le Sollecitudini, has often been interpreted in a manner diametrically opposed to St. Pius X's own teaching and that of his successors" (p. 136).  
Also included is bonus material from Bishop Athanasius Schneider, calling for a long overdue restoration of the minor orders.  Both authors spell out the obvious, that latent confusion is at work, effectively causing harm to the venerable centuries-old (indeed bimillennial) traditions that are part of the living Tradition of the Church.  In short, the book is a must read for those who love the liturgy and mourn the present confusion in the Church.  It asks the right questions and draws forth the corresponding proper conclusions, giving long-overdue answers to an embittered side of Church doctrine that has been under attack for far too long.  

Additionally, there is a wonderful chapter on the theology behind women covering their heads in church (chapter 14).  This topic is apropos for a great many serious Catholics, both women and men who are perhaps re-connecting with or re-discovering this forgotten tradition that has its roots in apostolic times and was done away with under the same typical specious pretext that "modern man" needed something more up-to-date. Tradition is always encoded in symbols.   

The book can be purchased here.

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