Church and Religion

On priestly life and ministry
John L. Allen Jr.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, the Congregation for Clergy and the Pontifical Lateran University co-sponsored a symposium on one of the lesser-known documents of Vatican II, Presbyterorum Ordinis, on priestly life and ministry. The event was held at the Lateran.

Colombian Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos, prefect of the Congregation for Clergy, said that during conciliar debate on the text of Presbyterorum Ordinis, it became clear that two different conceptions of the priesthood were at work: one, a " functional vision of priestly ministry," seeing the priest as the one who proclaims the Word, leads the community in prayer , and so on; the other, a "sacramental/ontological view" of priesthood, seeing the priest as conformed to Christ by the sacrament of holy orders.

In the end, Castrillón Hoyos argued, the two visions are "complementary and inseparable."

This is the reason, Castrillón Hoyos said, for traditional bits of ecclesiastical discipline such as the ban on lay people presenting homilies during Mass.

"A homily by a lay person can be very well-prepared theologically, but that person cannot act with the sacramental identity and the authority of Christ," Castrillón Hoyos said.

This point, Castrillón Hoyos said, also explains the church's teaching as to how "sacred power ," the so-called "power of orders," belongs only to ordained priests acting in persona Christi.

"It's not a majority vote of a community that bestows priestly power," Castrillón Hoyos said. "It's a question of sacramental power. A community is by definition incapable of that act ."

Castrillón Hoyos warned that the proper sense of priestly identity had sometimes been obscured in the immediate post-Vatican II period.

"For years during the period of liturgical reform, there was a misunderstood sense of creativity and adaptation, and abuses were not lacking. This was a source of suffering for many," he said.

In that regard, Castrillón Hoyos pointed to a Vatican instruction of 1997 drawing a sharp distinction between the ordained priesthood and lay ministry, which, as he observed, was approved in forma specifica by Pope John Paul II, meaning that it carried the force of a papal act.

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Online, 17/04/2024 às 18:53:44h