How To Destroy Priesthood with the Help of Father William Bausch

by Fr. Terence Purcell


An article on the disintegration of Sacred Tradition in the Eastern Australian dioceses stemming from the distrubing teachings of the American priest, Father William Bausch. This is of interest to Catholics in the United States because Fr. Bausch is a prolific writer and many of his books are readily available.

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JOHN XXIII Fellowship Co-op. Ltd., Australia, September, 1999

By the year 1990 it became obvious that many priests and lay teachers in Australia had succumbed to the teachings of the American priest, Father William Bausch, particularly in schools and on the tertiary level. Still a prolific book writer, his books could be found in diocesan liturgical centres as well as in Catholic education and adult education outlets.

Bausch's basic teachings include the assertion that although Christ did appoint twelve apostles they had no successors. The twelve did not hand on any powers to others. The priesthood grew up at a later time by social necessity. Any baptized Christian could be designated by the community as a "presider" at the Eucharist. Baptism and the Community were the only two elements required to be a "presider".

Well might Ezechiel say in the Old Testament: "Nonne greges a pastoribus pascuntur?" (Are not the flocks being fed by the pastors?) Neglect by pastors has resulted today in several dioceses in Eastern Australia being heavily infected by Bauschianism, as well as elsewhere.

Early in 1991 a group of ten priests was convened to discuss the situation. As a result we issued a short statement to all bishops and priests in the Archdiocese of Sydney as well as the dioceses of Parramatta and Broken Bay, rejecting the opinions of Father Bausch and pledging our loyalty to the true doctrine of the Church.

An article was subsequently published in the Australasian Catholic Record in October 1992 by Father Brian Gleeson C.P„ rejecting the criticism by the group of ten priests and "substantially" agreeing with Father Bausch.

As convenor of the group of ten priests, and using my expertise as an Honours Graduate in Divinity from the University of London, I extensively researched the matter in Scripture, Church Councils and the Fathers of the Church. As a result I submitted an article in August 1993 to the Australasian Catholic Record replying to Father Brian Gleeson. Publication was refused.

Far from improving, the situation has worsened. Institution of Holy Orders and the Eucharist at the Last Supper is continually called into question. A new type of Congregationalism, based on baptism of all the believers is replacing the need for clergy.

The following is a copy of the statement issued by the group of ten priests in April 1991. It is as relevant now as it was then.

Did Christ Institute The Priesthood? Can Lay People Celebrate Mass?

Acting as individuals, not as representatives of any organisation, the undersigned priests of the Archdiocese of Sydney and the Dioceses of Broken Bay and Parramatta, submit for your perusal and judgment as a brother priest, loyal to our Bishops and the Church, the following:

1. We submit that a highly dangerous theology of Holy Orders is being widely promoted by means of a book entitled A New Look at the Sacraments by Father W. Bausch, a parish priest in the diocese of Trenton, New Jersey, USA. This book is on sale at several outlets in Sydney, including official Church organizations. It is recommended by some priests and is utilised in the formation of teachers, in adult education, in liturgical formation and is in use by catechists and others. We are concerned especially by chapter 17 headed: Holy Orders, Holy Order. Our copy bears the date 1988: 5th printing of 1983 Revised Edition.

2. A fuller treatment of the subject is to be found in an earlier book by the same author entitled: Ministry— Traditions, Tensions and Transitions (or Traditions, Tensions, Transitions in Ministry). This book, to which Father Bausch frequently refers, was warned against in the Catholic Weekly of July 1, 1986.

A priest lecturer has named Father Bausch's book on 'Sacraments' as the key set text in his treatment of the theology of the sacraments. This course is: Sacrament People unit RE36 for semester 3, 1991 at MacKillop and Castle Hill campuses of the Australian Catholic University.

As late as February of this year Sacraments was on sale at the Liturgy Resource Centre, Archdiocese of Sydney. Sacraments and/or Ministry have been available from the Aquinas Academy; the Catholic Book Club of Australia, a special work of the Marist Fathers, Hunters Hill, and Parish Ministry Publications, which has the same address and telephone number as the Catholic Adult Education Centre, Archdiocese of Sydney.

3. To illustrate our concern, some of Father Bausch's statements in chapter 17 of his book on Sacraments - abridged but not altered - are as follows:

• "The first Christians would be puzzled by the 16th century Council of Trent's affirmation that the Sacrament of Holy Orders confers power". "About the only thing the early Christians would recognise... would be the imposition of hands. And even here, they would see this gesture as one of recognition and appointment, hardly as the outward sign of some internal power to offer sacrifice and forgive sins" (p. 244).

• We now know Christ called twelve apostles but at their death they were not replaced; the same with the seventy-two disciples and the seven deacons (pp. 244, 245 passim).

• In the early church, "significantly, there is no mention of anyone having the power 'to offer sacrifice', which would have been a foreign concept at this point". After the apostles, "leadership was prompted by sociological necessity" (p. 245); they were appointed by local communities; most with no specific title. Slowly in the first two centuries, these leaders emerged from being a kind of chairman of the board to become sole leader and presider, president, or in English, bishop (p. 246, cf. para beginning: "How were such leaders chosen and why?").

• The crucifixion and death of Jesus replaced forever the need for any sacrifice or priesthood so "there was no reason for early Christianity to think in terms of priests. (p. 249).

• Priests in existence by the 4th century. Tertullian is cited as saying "that any layman could preside in the absence of a priest" (p. 250).

We submit that Father Bausch's book on Sacraments attempts to destroy the nature and origin of the priesthood as taught by the Catholic Church, based firmly on Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture, that the Sacrament of Holy Orders was instituted by Our Lord, Jesus Christ at the Last Supper and that at Ordination, the priest receives the power to offer the Eucharistic Sacrifice and to forgive sins. (cf. Lumen Gentium 21 & C/C canon 1008)

We look to you, our brother priests, both to expound the Church's received teaching and to correct this error so that the doctrine of faith shall prevail.

© Fidelity, JOHN XXIII Fellowship Co-op. Ltd., P.O. Box 22, Ormond, VIC, 3204 Australia

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