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    Fr. Joseph Jenkins

  • The blog header depicts an important and yet mis-understood New Testament scene, Jesus flogging the money-changers out of the temple. I selected it because the faith that gives us consolation can also make us very uncomfortable. Both Divine Mercy and Divine Justice meet in Jesus. Priests are ministers of reconciliation, but never at the cost of truth. In or out of season, we must be courageous in preaching and living out the Gospel of Life. The title of my blog is a play on words, not Flogger Priest but Blogger Priest.

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Questions & Answers About Holy Orders

What exactly do Catholics believe about the power of their priests?

We believe that priests are so configured to Christ that they have a special power from God to confer in Christ’s name the graces of redemption to men and women.

Does the Bible say anything about Christ commanding priests to distribute the graces of redemption?

It is clearly taught. St. Paul says, “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18). Our Lord commanded the apostles to go out and baptize all nations. They were to forgive sins and to commemorate the sacrifice of the cross for the sins of the world. Faithful to their ministry, they would pray over the sick, lay hands upon those in need of the Holy Spirit, etc. All this is evidence that God wished his apostles and priests to confer by these signs his divine favor and graces. The role of the minister of God cannot be reduced solely to preaching.

But is not Christ alone the mediator and dispenser of graces?

Assuredly, Christ is the central Mediator and the dispenser of his graces. This no one should deny. However, he distributes his graces through the ministry of priests.

Is not such a ministry part of the universal call given all believers in baptism?

No, this is not the case. We should not confuse our identity as members of a priestly people in the Church by virtue of baptism with that singular priesthood made possible by ordination. St. Paul attests to a distinction: “Now there are diversities of ministries, but of the same Lord” (1 Cor 12:5). He goes on to say, “God indeed has set some in the Church, first, apostles; secondly, prophets; thirdly, doctors (teachers)” (1 Cor 12:28 DRB). All are not apostles; all are not prophets; all are not teachers.

But the Bible says that we are all priests, does it not?

If such is strictly the case, then why did the apostles elect and ordain some men to be bishops and priests? Why were not all people ordained? Why did they not ordain women? And, why did St. Paul say that women should be silent in church? Baptismal priesthood is not ordained or sacerdotal priesthood. The priesthood of believers simply means that we all can sacrifice to God our prayers, good works and our hearts.

What do Protestants generally believe about the power of their ministers?

For the most part, they believe that their ministers possess no power whatsoever to distribute the graces of redemption. He is merely a preacher. According to this perspective, the ministers should not even pray for their people or bless them. If they do, then they are implying that they are intercessors and that they would have the priestly power to distribute the graces of Jesus Christ to their people.

Can a priest reconcile a sinner to God?

If the sinner is moved by faith and contrition, and receives the sacraments, then the priest can indeed reconcile him to God.

Why do Catholics call their priests “Father,” in contradiction to Christ’s command to his disciples not to be called Fathers?

Implementing a form of speech known as Hebraic Hyperbole, our Lord did not mean that the term could not be used regarding our male parent or a special spiritual father. Rather, he meant that they should not allow themselves to be called “Father” to the exclusion of our almighty Father in heaven. God himself is our ultimate Father and our Teacher. However, if the term is used with humility and in submission to God, our Father, then it is permitted.

Does the Bible say anything about priests receiving a special grace or power from God in ordination?

We read: “Do not neglect the gift [grace] you have, which was given you by prophetic utterance when the council of elders laid their hands upon you” (1 Timothy 4:14). The hands of bishops are imposed upon new priests or presbyters. We also read: “Hence I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:6-7).  St. Paul warns Timothy to be cautious regarding whom he invites to this sacrament: “Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, nor participate in another man’s sins; keep yourself pure” (Timothy 5:22). We also recall Christ’s words: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18) . . . “As the Father has sent me, even so I send you . . . If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained,” (John 20:21,23), etc. Christ sent his apostles with power, just as the Father sent him. St. Paul asserts, “This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God” (1 Corinthians 4:1) . . . “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18).

Did the apostles hand down this power and authority to others?

Yes, they did. The apostles prayed and imposed hands on Paul, and sent him out as the special apostle to the Gentiles. Such could also be said for Barnabas. Paul, in turn, imposed hands on Titus and Timothy. They imposed hands on others, and so on and so forth to the present day. “This is why I left you in Crete, that you might amend what was defective, and appoint elders [ordain priests] in every town as I directed you” (Titus 1:5).

Why do Roman Catholic priests not marry?

  • Because the Church commands that her priests not marry.
  • Because even the apostles left their wives to follow Christ.
  • Because St. Paul exhorts priests to follow his example of the single life.
  • Because celibacy allows more time and energy for prayer, teaching, administration of the sacraments, visiting the sick, spreading the Gospel, leaving home and facing adversity, etc.
  • Because people would not so readily confess their sins to a married priest for fear that he would reveal them to his spouse.
  • Because it best protects the property and general interests of the Church.

Was not the law of celibacy made in 385 AD by Pope Ciricius?

He only commanded that it be more strictly enforced. This ruling existed long before this date. The Pope himself in that council called celibacy an institution of the apostles.

Would there not be less scandal if priests were married?

This is a fantasy. There are fewer scandals among celibate priests then among married men in general and even among married ministers. The only difference is that a fallen priest is exploited by the news while cases among others are usually ignored or deemed insignificant.

Honestly, is it not impossible to keep celibacy?

Honesty has nothing to do with it. Only those of dark and unbridled passions would insinuate such a thing. There are many among the laity, of strong will and pure hearts, who keep celibacy. Such can be much easier for the priest to whom God gives special graces to observe his celibacy.

But, how can this stance not contradict St. Paul, himself, who says: “A bishop shall be of one wife”?

The apostle is simply saying that a man married twice should not be raised to the dignity of bishop. If his wife dies, he should not remarry. In those early days they had to select some married men for the priesthood because they could not find enough single men to administer the increasing number of the faithful.

How is this fair? After all, St. Paul says that it is better to marry than to burn.

“To burn,” means to find great difficulty in preserving chastity. Such people, reasons St. Paul, should not become priests. Rather, they should get married. A simple temptation against chastity does not mean “to burn.” Such temptations should be overcome.

How might one define Holy Orders?

It is a sacrament by which bishops, priests and deacons are ordained and receive the power and grace to perform their sacred duties.

Who administers the sacrament?

The bishop does so as the successor of the apostles.

What ministries must a man pass through prior to ordination?

The revised pattern is that within his educational and spiritual formation, he will be installed as a Reader and as an Acolyte. These are lay ministries, but they act as a preparation for ordination and the clerical state. Formerly, there were many other stages and the clerical state began with tonsure.

What are the three tiers of Holy Orders?

They are the diaconate, the priesthood, and the episcopacy (bishop).

What are the deacon’s duties?

The diaconate is an apostolic office of divine institution (Acts 6:1-7). Authority is granted to preach, to baptize, to administer Holy Communion, to proclaim the Gospel, to preach, and to assist the priest at Mass.

How is the ordination to the diaconate conducted?

During the Mass, the bishop imposes his hands upon the candidate, he is vested with stole and dalmatic, and the Book of the Gospels is presented to him.

What are the powers particular to priesthood?

He has the power to celebrate the sacrifice of the Mass, to forgive sins and to administer the other sacraments, with the exception of Confirmation (unless he is so delegated) and Holy Orders.

How is the ordination to the priesthood conducted?

The priesthood is also granted during Mass. The bishop instructs the person to be ordained concerning the duties of the priestly life. During the Litany of the Saints, he lies outstretched with his face on the floor. The bishop invites him forward and imposes hands upon his head. This is the crucial gesture, which imparts the priestly character. He is invested with the priestly stole and with the chasuble. The palms of his hands are anointed and he receives the sign of peace from the attending bishops and priests. He is presented with the paten and chalice for the celebration of the Eucharist.

What is the highest rank of priesthood?

The highest rank is that of bishop. He possesses the fullness of priesthood. A successor of the apostles, the bishop administers confirmation and holy orders, and has charge of a diocese. The consecrating bishop lays hands upon a priest being elevated to the episcopacy. The crosier or bishop’s staff is handed him as a sign of his office of shepherd and of his power to discipline. A ring is placed on his finger as a sign of his faith and fidelity to the Church. He also receives a mitre, which, like a helmet, signifies the courage and force with which he must proclaim the Gospel and defend the Church.

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