Modes of ministry : a comparison between Anglican and Roman Catholic priests' perceptions of the priesthood and approaches to their role in the contemporary South African context

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

Proceeding from the typology derived from an analysis of Newman's seminal sermon on The Christian Ministry, the scriptural basis of which accords in all essential respects with the catechisms of both the Roman Catholic and the Anglican Churches, the following aims were formulated for the present study: (1) to explore and compare the perceptions of representative samples of Anglican and Roman Catholic priests in respect of (a) the meaning of priesthood and (b) the role and responsibilities of the priest in the contemporary South African context; (2) to assess the extent to which the perceptions of the respective samples of contemporary Anglican and Roman Catholic priests in respect of the meaning of their ministry accord with the constructs derived from Newman's model of The Christian Ministry; (3) to assess the possibilities for Anglo-Catholic unity in the contemporary South African context at the level of practising priests' perceptions of their role and responsibilities in both the ecclesiastical and the socio-political spheres. A qualitative methodology was selected as most appropriate for probing and interpreting the participants' perceptions. Data was collected by means of a structured, open-ended and self-administered questionnaire, which was distributed to a representative sample (N 20) of Anglican (N = 10) and Catholic (N = 10) priests respectively. The data was analysed by means of tabulation and quantification of fixed-choice responses and a rigorous system of content analysis of the open-ended responses. The findings are presented and discussed in terms of the descriptive categories that emerged. In respect of the aims of this study, the findings indicate that (1) while there is significant conformity between Roman Catholic and Anglican priests in respect of their perceptions of the meaning of priesthood, there are significant differences in respect of their perception of their role in the South African context, with the perceived role and responsibilities of the Roman Catholic priests emerging as less defined by national context and hence less socio-politically oriented than indicated by the Anglican sample; (2) while neither sample's perception of either the meaning of priesthood or the definition of their role conformed entirely with the constructs comprising Newman's model, or with the doctrinal emphases of their own Church, the Roman Catholic perceptions were more uniformly in accordance with both than were those of the Anglicans; (3) given the differences in their perceptions of the significance of their context in informing their role priorities and responsibilities, and the emphasis of the Roman Catholic sample on the universal rather than the national identity of the Roman Catholic Church, the prospects would appear to be limited for more than a nominal ecumenism of concern and collaboration at local level in respect of social issues such as poverty and HIV I AIDS and a combined Christian voice in the public arena. While these findings are to be regarded as tentative given the essentially exploratory nature of the study, they point to key areas for future research.

Includes bibliographical references (leaves 135-145).