CNS PHOTO | PAUL HARING
Pope Benedict breathes over chrism oil, a gesture symbolizing the infusion of the Holy Spirit, during Holy Thursday chrism Mass in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican April 5.
Pope Benedict has firmly criticized dissent from Church teachings and disobedience of God's will as illegitimate paths to reform and renewal.
The pope cautioned against calls for women's ordination and said such campaigns seem more "a desperate push" to fulfill one's own preferences than a sincere attempt to conform one's life more closely to Christ.
During the Chrism Mass in St. Peter's Basilica, during which priests renew their promises of fidelity to Christ, the pope asked all priests to meditate upon what their consecration means.
"Are you resolved to be more united with the Lord Jesus and more closely conformed to him," which entails a renunciation of oneself and "of the much-vaunted self-fulfillment," he asked.
Being Christ-like means not to be served but to serve, not taking but giving, he said at the April 5 Mass attended by more than 1,600 priests, bishops and cardinals.
If that is the nature of the priesthood, then what should be the response of priests when faced with "the often dramatic situation of the Church today," he asked.
Without specifying the country, Pope Benedict said a group of priests from a European nation have issued a call for disobedience of Church teaching, specifically regarding the question of women's ordination.
Last year, the president of the Austrian bishops' conference, Vienna Cardinal Christoph Schonborn, condemned a Call to Disobedience, signed by 250 of Austria's 4,200 Catholic priests.
The document urged Catholics to campaign in support of women priests and "priestless eucharistic liturgies," as well as for Communion to be given to non-Catholics and remarried divorcees.
Also, 311 theologians from Austria, Germany and Switzerland signed a memorandum last year demanding the ordination of women and married men, as well as an "open dialogue" on the Church's "structures of power and communication."
Pope Benedict asked, "Is disobedience a path of renewal for the Church?" Blessed John Paul II, he noted, taught "irrevocably that the Church has received no authority from the Lord" to ordain women.
Pope Benedict said that perhaps concern for the Church motivates such campaigns. Perhaps the leaders of such campaigns believe "the slow pace of institutions has to be overcome by drastic measures, in order to open up new paths and bring the Church up-to-date."
"But is disobedience really a way to do this?"
True renewal must be based on lives that are radically conformed to Christ and God's will, he said.
Christ did seek to correct errors in human traditions, the pope said, but only those customs that stifled God's word and will, seeking to eliminate "human caprice" so as to reveal God's authentic desire for his people.
Being humble, subservient, and obedient to God and following Church teaching are not excuses "to defend inertia, the fossilization of traditions," he said.
The era following the Second Vatican Council showed what a process of "true renewal" looks like.
It can be seen in many of the new movements and ways of life that are "filled with the joy of faith, the radicalism of obedience, the dynamic of hope and the power of love," he said.
The pope also called on all priests to continue to look to Christ and the saints for guidance in how best to serve and renew the Church and minister to humanity.
"God is not concerned so much with great numbers and with outward successes, but achieves his victories under the humble sign of the mustard seed," the pope said.
He urged bishops and priests to remember their role as teachers and to use the upcoming Year of Faith to combat "the growing religious illiteracy found in the midst of our sophisticated society."
Accurate, authentic guides of what the Church teaches can be found not only in sacred Scripture, but also the texts of Vatican II, the Catechism of the Catholic Church and Pope John Paul II's writings, which "are still far from being explored," he said.
Later in the day at Rome's Basilica of St. John Lateran, the pope celebrated the Mass of the Lord's Supper.
In his homily, the pope said pride and wanting to be free to do as one wants is "the real essence of sin."