CLASS 16 - HOLY ORDERS AND OTHER CONSECRATED LIFE
I. Jesus Himself is the leader of the Church, but He also wanted there to be a visible ministry to continue guiding His Church, able to assure people of what is the true Church, what is the true faith, and what are the true sacraments.
A. The clergy (i.e., bishops, priests and deacons) draw their sacramental authority from Jesus Himself. "Christ is Himself the source of ministry in the Church. He instituted the Church. He gave her authority and mission, orientation and goal. In order to shepherd the People of God and to increase its numbers without cease, Christ the Lord set up in His Church a variety of offices which aim at the good of the whole body. The holders of office, who are invested with a sacred power, are, in fact dedicated to promoting the interests of the brethren, so that all who belong to the People of God may attain salvation." Catechism 874.
1. During His
earthly life, Jesus specifically appointed twelve men, called Apostles,
to show forth His truth and glory before Him. Jesus also called
seventy-two other disciples to assist Him in other ways. See,
e.g., Luke 9:1-6, 10:1-12. Thus, even during His earthly life
Jesus appointed men to represent Him at different levels. At the
end of His earthly life, He commissioned the Twelve Apostles and gave
them authority to proclaim the faith, to administer the sacraments,
and to defeat the forces of evil. See, e.g., Matt. 18:18-20; MarkMarl
16:15-18; Acts 1:1-8. "Jesus is the Father's Emissary.
From the beginning of His ministry, He called to Himself those whom
He desired. . . . And He appointed twelve, who He also named apostles,
to be with Him, and to be sent out to preach. From then on, they
would also be His emissaries (Greek "apostoloi".) In them,
Christ continues His own mission: 'As the Father sent Me, even so
I send you.'" Catechism 858.
just as Christ was sent by the Father so also He sent the apostles,
filled with the Holy Spirit. This He did so that they might preach
the Gospel to every creature and proclaim that the Son of God by His
death and resurrection had freed us from the power of Satan and from
death and brought us into the Kingdom of His Father. . . . By the power
of the same Holy Spirit they entrusted this power to their successors.
This apostolic succession structures the whole liturgical life of the
Church and is itself sacramental, handed on by the sacrament of Holy
Orders." Catechism 1086-1087.
3. Scripture and Tradition confirm this notion of having offices to succeed the Apostles, and other offices to assist these successors.
- Especially in
two of the pastoral letters, 1 Timothy and Titus, the Bible describes
these different levels of Church office. See, e.g., 1 Tim. 3:1-13,
5:17-22; Titus 1:5-16.
- Early Church
documents plainly refer to the offices of episcopos (bishop), presbyter
(priest), and dioaconos (deacon.) See, e.g., Didache ch.
15; Letter of St. Polycarp to the Philadelphians ch. 5-6; Letters of
St. Ignatius of Antioch to the Trallians ch.3 and to the Magnesians
ch. 3-4, 13, and to the Philadelphians ch. 7-8.
C. "The whole Church is apostolic, in that she remains through the successors of St. Peter and the other apostles, in communion of faith and life with her origin: and that she is sent out into the whole world. All members of the Church share in this mission, though in various ways. The Christian vocation is, of its nature, a vocation to the apostolate as well." Catechism 863.
1. There is a
priesthood of all believers because all Christians have a role in sanctifying,
not only their own lives, but all of the world and increasing the kingdom
of God on earth. "You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood,
a holy nation, a people of His own, so that you may announce the praises
of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light."
1 Peter 2:9.
2. But there
is also a special office of those who are set aside to sanctify, bless
teach and guide the Church and thus continue the role of the Apostles
in making Christ present throughout the ages. "The divine mission,
which was committed by Christ to the Apostles, is destined to last until
the end of the world (see Matt. 28:20), since the Gospel which they
were obligated to hand on is the principle of all the church's life
for all time. . . . The bishops, therefore, with priests and deacons
as helpers, took on themselves roles of service to the community, presiding
in God's place over the flock of which they are the pastors, as teachers
of doctrine, priests for sacred worship and ministers of government."
Vatican II Council, Lumen Gentium 20.
D. Bishops, priests and
deacons then carry out a specific role as ordained ministers to represent
Christ in specific ways, for governance, prayer, teaching, and above
all the sacraments. "In the ecclesial service of the ordained minister,
it is Christ Himself who is present to His Church as Head of His Body,
Shepherd or His flock, high priest of the redemptive sacrifice, Teacher
of Truth." Catechism 1548.
II. "Holy Orders is the sacrament through which the mission entrusted by Christ to His apostles continues to be exercised in the Church until the end of time: thus it is the sacrament of apostolic ministry. It includes three degrees: episcopate, presbyterate, and diaconate." Catechism of the Catholic Church 1536.
A. The bishops are the successors of the Apostles and receive the authority to lead and teach the Church that Christ gave to them. "Jesus Christ, the eternal pastor, established the holy Church by sending the apostles as He Himself had been sent by the Father. (See John 20:21). He willed that their successors, the bishops, should be shepherds of his Church until the end of the world." Vatican II Council, Lumen Gentium 18. Jesus proclaimed some things to the public at large, but at other times, He, such as at the Last Supper and in the Upper Room after the Resurrection, He spoke specifically to the Apostles. For example, He explained the parables especially to the Aposltes and, in the Upper Room, He specifically gave the Apostles the authority to forgive sins. See, e.g., Mark 4:10-12; John 20:22-23. And at the Ascension, He said to the Apostles, "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." Acts 1:8.
1. In the early
Church, the Apostles plainly led the Church, exercising their authority
from Pentecost onward. See, e.g., Acts 2:14-41, 5:1-17, 10:34-48,
15:1-34, 16:4. Sensing the need for assistants, they appointed
others to assist them, the beginning of the offices or diaconate and
priesthood. See Acts 6. The Apostles would also appoint others,
such as Sts. Paul, Barnabas, Timothy and Titus to lead specific churches.
Thus, "the divinely instituted ecclesiastical ministry is exercised
in different degrees by those who even from ancient times have been
called bishops, priests, and deacons." Vatican II Council, Lumen
2. Thus, "to
fulfill their exalted mission, the apostles were endowed with a special
outpouring of the Holy Spirit coming upon them, and by the imposition
of hands they passed on to their auxiliaries the gift of the Spirit,
which is transmitted down to our day through episcopal consecration.
. . . Episcopal consecration confers, together with the office of sanctifying,
also the offices of teaching and ruling. In fact by the imposition
of hands and through the words of consecration, the grace of the Holy
Spirit is given, and a sacred character is impressed in such wise that
the bishops, in an eminent and visible manner, take the place of Christ
Himself, teacher, shepherd, and priest, and act as His representative."
Catechism of the Catholic Church
B. The Pope is the
Bishop of Rome and the successor of Peter, the leader of the apostles,
who preserves the unity and independence of the Church with his teaching
and guidance. "In order that the episcopate itself, however,
might, be one and undivided he placed blessed Peter over the others,
and in him set up a lasting and visible source and foundation of unity
both of the faith and communion." Vatican II Council,
Lumen Gentium 18. Jesus said, "You are Peter and upon this
rock I will build my Church, and the jaws of death shall not prevail
against it." Matt. 16:18. (In Aramaic, the word cephas means
both Peter and rock.)
C. Priests are the assistants to the bishops and share in part of their authority to help bring the sanctifying, teaching, and guidance roles of the Apostles to a more local level.
it is joined with the episcopal order the office of priests shares in
the authority by which Christ Himself builds up, sanctifies and rules
His Body." Vatican II Council,
Presbytorum Ordinis 2; Catechism of the Catholic Church 1563.
"The function of the bishops' ministry was handed over in a subordinate
degree to priests so that they might be appointed in the order of the
priesthood and be co-workers of the episcopal order for the proper fulfillment
of the apostolic mission that had been entrusted to it by Christ."
Catechism of the Catholic Church 1562.
2. At the high
point of this authority is the ability to celebrate the Mass, forgive
sins, anoint the sick, baptize, witness marriages, teach and guide the
people of God.
C. . Deacons are ordained to assist the bishops and priests, especially in the sacramental ministries and charitable works. "Strengthened by sacramental grace, they are dedicated to the people of God, in communion with the bishop and his presbyterate, in the service of the liturgy, of the word, and of charity." Vatican II Council, Lumen Gentium 29. "Deacons share in Christ's mission and grace in a special way. The sacrament of Holy Orders marks them with an imprint ('character') which cannot be removed and which configures them to Christ, who made Himself a deacon or servant of all. Among other tasks, it is the task of deacons to assist the bishop and priests in the celebration of the divine mysteries, above all the Eucharist, in the distribution of Holy Communion, in the assisting at and blessing marriages, in the proclamation of the Gospel and preaching, in presiding over funerals, and in dedicating themselves to the various ministries of charity." Catechism of the Catholic Church 1570.
- A deacon can either
be transitional, that is in preparation for the priesthood, or permanent,
that is, intending to continue as deacons until the end of his life.
There have always been permanent deacons in the Eastern rites of the
Church. From about the fifth century to the Vatican II Council,
permanent deacons were rare in the West, but there were some exceptions,
most notably St. Francis of Assisi. The Vatican II Council restored
the common use of permanent deacons, and said that married men could
receive this consecration.
III. "This sacrament configures the recipient to Christ by a special grace of the Holy Spirit, so that he may serve as Christ's instrument for His Church. By ordination one is enabled to act as a representative of Christ, Head of the Church, in His triple office of priest, prophet, and king." Catechism of the Catholic Church 1581. Because the recipients of Holy Orders are acting in the person of Christ, they must be men and are preferably celibate. The former requirement is absolute from the sacrament itself. The latter quality has always been preferred and has been universally required in the West for bishops and priests for 900 years.
A. As the Pope John Paul II defined in Ordinatio Sacertalis (1995), it is a matter of infallible Church dogma that the episcopacy and priesthood are reserved to men alone, for the priests must be in imitation of Christ, and Christ's masculinity (like all men's masculinity and women's femininity) is at the essence of the person.
- It will not do to
argue, as many have done, that Jesus did not appoint women as Apostles
because it would contradict the social norms. Jesus was quite
willing to cross social boundaries (e.g., by welcoming sinners, lepers,
and the like) when He wished to. And, as the Holy Father argued,
if Jesus had wanted women to be priests, surely His mother would have
been the first candidate.
- Although it
has never been specifically defined, it would seem that the same is
true of deacons.
1. There are several reasons for this requirement. First, the priest acts more like Christ who took the Church as His mystical spouse. See, e.g., Eph. 5:31-32; Rev. 21:2, 9-14. Second, the priests acts more like the saints in heaven, who are not married or given in marriage. See Mark 18:25. Third, the priest has a more mystical sense of prayer in union with the Church; in a similar fashion, the priests of the old covenant were required to refrain from conjugal relations for three days before ministering in the Temple. See 1 Kings 21:4-5; cf. 1 Cor. 7:5. Fourth, the priest can be more exclusively devoted to service in the Church. See 1 Cor.7:32-35.
2. "All ordained
ministers of the Latin Church, with the exception of permanent deacons,
are normally chosen from among men of faith who live a celibate life
and who intend to remain celibate for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.
Called to consecrate themselves with undivided heart to the Lord and
to the affairs of the Lord, they give themselves entirely to God and
to men. Celibacy is a sign of this new life to the service of
which the Church's minister is consecrated; accepted with a joyous
heart celibacy radiantly proclaims the Reign of God." Catechism
IV Other walks of life, although not instituted with a sacrament, constitute consecrations to God for His glory and the salvation of humanity.
A. Consecrated religious sisters are mystically espoused to Christ on behalf of the Church, as priests and religiously consecrated men are espoused to the Church on behalf of Christ. "The religious [brothers and sisters] recall that wonderful marriage made by God which will be manifest in the age to come, and in which the Church has Christ alone for her spouse." Vatican II Council, Perfectae Caritatis 12. "Holy women are an incarnation of the feminine ideal." John Paul II, On the Dignity and Vocation of Women 27.
religious men and women are member of religious orders (e.g., Benedictine,
Franciscan, Dominican, Ignatian, Missionaries of Charity) that are joined
in a common spirituality. There is more on these traditions in
weeks 29 and 30.
B. Some people also chose to remain single in order to serve God and neighbor more freely. "An unmarried man is anxious about things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord. . . . An unmarried woman or virgin is anxious about the things of the Lord, so that she may be holy in both body and spirit." 1 Cor. 7:32, 34.