Hahn, Scott. Many are Called: Rediscovering the Glory of the Priesthood. New York: Doubleday, 2010. Pp. 155. Hardcover. $14.99.
Many are Called: Rediscovering the Glory of the Priesthood is a slim volume in which Catholic scholar Scott Hahn shows his admiration and appreciation for this ancient and venerable ministry. Over the course of 12 chapters Hahn examines the priesthood in Scripture and history while highlighting the many roles that a priest plays: namely father, mediator, provider, teacher, warrior, judge, bridegroom, and brother.
He presents a redemptive-historical narrative in which the father was originally the priest of the family who passed down the role to his sons. Israel, then, was a nation of priests. But after the golden calf incident God stripped the nation of the priesthood and appointed a single tribe to serve the function.
Fast forward to the New Testament and we find Christ as our heavenly high priest; the one to whom the priesthood has always pointed. His body, the church, is an extension of himself and as such we are once again a nation of priests. But there are a sect of priests who serve the nation. They are the fathers to the fatherless; mediators (as extensions of Christ himself) between God and man; teachers of the laity; spiritual warriors charged with defending the faith and battling spiritual wickedness through prayer and fasting; and so much more.
Hahn does a great job of showing just how multifaceted the priesthood is while setting up a plausible foundation for the office based on Scripture. Where he doesn’t succeed, in my opinion, is in his case for celibacy. Sure, the Apostle Paul says that one can devote himself wholly to Christ if he does not marry, but he also says it’s better to marry than burn with desire. History is full of tales of priests who have carried on affairs with women and have even sired secret families. Had they been allowed to marry, as for example, the priests in the Orthodox Church, then there would be nothing scandalous about this. Add to this the fact that Peter, whom Catholics consider to have been the first pope, was married and it becomes hard to see a reason for making this a necessary vow for priests to make.
I was also somewhat disappointed with Hahn’s closing remarks about the frailty of priests. Of course we recognize that they’re human and on this side of eternity they’ll make mistakes and fall short of perfection. But the manner in which these remarks are presented seem like a thinly veiled defense of those caught up in the Catholic Church’s sexual abuse scandals. This volume would have been stronger had this material been omitted. But there is plenty to be gleaned from Hahn’s focused treatment and the positive features outweigh the negative.