IN ORDER to address the dwindling number of priests in the world, a proposed ordination of lay persons was discussed in a memorial lecture honoring Dominican theologian Fr. Edward Schillebeeckx, O.P.

Titled Revolutionizing Priesthood the lecture delved on Schillebeeckx’s ideas on priesthood, especially his advocacies in revolutionizing the ordained ministry. It was attended by Thomasian seminarians and held last February 17 at the Martyr’s Hall, UST Central Seminary.

Schillebeeckx, one of the foremost and influential icons of 20th century Theology, died last Dec. 23, 2009 at Nijmegen, Netherlands due to natural illness. He was 95.

Institute of Religion professor Noel Asiones, who focused his talk on the “lay perspective,” said it is about time to ordain lay people.

Asiones tried to consider the idea after recognizing the impossibility of the “ordination of women and mandating the celibacy [as] optional,” both ideas supported by Schillebeeckx.

“The ordination of community leaders will introduce two kinds of priesthood––the community leaders themselves and the priests who will continue the community elder’s education,” he said, adding that this would address what others call “Eucharistic famine.”

“We can, and must respect some form of resistance. But I still believe this theological movement we do together now is a small step to that direction,” Asiones said.

However, Central Seminary Rector Fr. Gerard Timoner, O.P., expressed reservations on some of Schillebeeckx’s ideas on the evolution of priesthood.

“There are things that in my gut feeling are not yet time [for implementation]… maybe in Holland, (Netherlands), but not in the country,” Timoner said.

Weathering politics

“[However], Schillebeeckx once said, a theologian knows that what he will say will not be welcomed by everyone,” Timoner said.

Meanwhile, Bishop Teodoro Bacani, one of the speakers during the panel discussion, noted that changes in the ordained ministry need proper contemplation, saying that it is difficult to go back once changes have one.

Bacani also told the seminarians that a priest’s goal “should not be ordination or promotion but service to the church.”

“What harms the church is the ambition for greater power rather than the ambition for greater service,” he said, adding that priests should be conditioned to be “servant” than to be “priests.”

‘His theology is his life’

Born on November 12, 1914 in Belgium, Schillebeeckx was a professor of dogmatic theology and has published several books about Christology. In a specific juncture on his life, he was condemned because of his unorthodox ideas on priesthood.

“He was a courageous advocate of the Vatican II,” said Msgr. Sabino Vengco about Schillebeeckx, who was a member of the Second Vatican Council and famous for his views on the ordination of women as priests and the suspension of celibacy as a response to the declining number of priest in the world. Cliff Harvey C. Venzon


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