“The Priesthood” by Father Peter Joseph

Introduction by Eamonn Keane

…Given the widespread misunderstanding regarding the origin and nature of the ordained priesthood both inside the Catholic Church itself and beyond, a problem that has been exacerbated by the clerical sexual abuse scandals of recent times, I thought it would be worthwhile to produce a series of articles on the priesthood. As the first in the series I publish below an article authored by Australian theologian Fr. Peter Joseph titled The Priesthood. The article was first published by the Catholic Adult Education Centre in Sydney in 2009 as INFORM 120: Faith & Life Matters. I am grateful to the editor of Inform for giving me permission to reproduce the article here in my RenewAmerica column. It is the first time it has been published online.

Read The Priesthood by Father Peter Joseph

Editor’s note: The most essential and primary role of the priest is to offer sacrifice to God, for the people. The Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Catholic Holy Eucharist is the primary reason that we Catholics, for our ministers, require nothing less than suitably ordained priests.

And while every Catholic priest is indeed also a minister … not every minister is a priest … since only suitably ordained ministers (ordained in and through the Catholic Sacrament of Holy Orders, by the Catholic bishop’s duly authorized, laying on of hands) receive (among other things) the power from God to change ordinary bread and wine into the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ, at Mass.

The Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the holiest sacrament of the altar further underscores the fact that Catholic priests are true priests indeed … since at Mass, they offer up for us to God … nothing less than Jesus Christ … who remains the only acceptable sacrifice for the sins of the world.

Since priests carry on the ministry of Jesus Christ, literally acting in Jesus’ place … assisting the bishops in their task of teaching, sanctifying and governing … it’s not surprising that clerical failings and scandals wound so deeply the hearts of the Catholic faithful.

All the more reason we Catholics should demand strict oversight of our seminaries, and total accountability from those who are in charge of priestly formation and education … something which has been substantially out of control now, for several decades.