Presbyterorum Ordinis 2b: It Gets Them Nervous …

Talking about the priesthood of the baptized without the qualifier:

The same Lord, however, has established ministers among his faithful to unite them together in one body in which, “not all the members have the same function.” These ministers in the society of the faithful are able by the sacred power of orders to offer sacrifice and to forgive sins, and they perform their priestly office publicly for men in the name of Christ.

Presbyterorum Ordinis continuies, outlining the traditional hierarchy: apostles, their successors the bishops, then presbyters (or priests). The latter hold the apostolic office in a lesser degree indeed, as the decree states. But then the discussion turns to the rite of ordination:

Wherefore the priesthood, while indeed it presupposes the sacraments of Christian initiation, is conferred by that special sacrament; through it priests, by the anointing of the Holy Spirit, are signed with a special character and are conformed to Christ the Priest in such a way that they can act in the person of Christ the Head.

That “special character” seems somewhat along the same lines as the “specialness” conferred by baptism, the call to move and live beyond the pre-Christian life and move in the circles of truth and sacrifice.

God gives priests a special grace to be ministers of Christ among the people.

Note: not primarily in community; the first specific manifestation of the priestly character is to be that “person of Christ” among people. Do modern Catholic priests see this as primary?

They perform the sacred duty of preaching the Gospel, so that the offering of the people can be made acceptable and sanctified by the Holy Spirit.

I stumbled on this one. Liturgically, priests do preach the Gospel and they do preside at the Eucharist. But are we not urged to proclaim God and make sacrifices as the baptized? Confining the notion of proclamation and sacrifice to the liturgy seems short-sighted to me. But I suppose I can see the need to reinforce … order. The decree does explain itself immediately:

Through the apostolic proclamation of the Gospel, the People of God are called together and assembled. All belonging to this people, since they have been sanctified by the Holy Spirit, can offer themselves as “a sacrifice, living, holy, pleasing to God.” Through the ministry of the priests, the spiritual sacrifice of the faithful is made perfect in union with the sacrifice of Christ. He is the only mediator who in the name of the whole Church is offered sacramentally in the Eucharist and in an unbloody manner until the Lord himself comes. The ministry of priests is directed to this goal and is perfected in it. Their ministry, which begins with the evangelical proclamation, derives its power and force from the sacrifice of Christ. Its aim is that “the entire commonwealth of the redeemed and the society of the saints be offered to God through the High Priest who offered himself also for us in his passion that we might be the body of so great a Head.”

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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