Urban myths are a dangerous thing to live by; especially in the realm of faith and history.
One that I heard and then believed ad nauseam was “What about the priesthood of all believers? The Church Jesus left was supposed to be pure and pristine. One way those Catholics have it wrong is that only a select few are priests and thus they take away true freedom of the gospel and the priesthood of all believers.”
There is a further one that says, “anything from the Catholic Church that softens things up is a later development to make it look nice in the last 100 years.”
Below I will address both.
To proclaim the gospel is a charge to all Christians and the Catholic Church affirms this as a natural unfolding of the great commission to make disciples and baptize them (Matthew 28:20). It is just implied that it is not official likely because it is not in the midst of a mass where clergy read the words of one of the actual gospels of the Bible. The calling of priesthood happens to all Christians upon initial justification. But the empowerment for ones expression of the common priesthood is in what is called Confirmation.
1305 This “character” [sacrament of Confirmation] perfects the common priesthood of the faithful, received in Baptism, and “the confirmed person receives the power to profess faith in Christ publicly and as it were officially (quasi ex officio).”[122 St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theolpgica III,72,5, ad 2]
In reference to the referred Confirmation, it is a matter of one having a connection with the divine through God the Holy Spirit that binds the baptized to a common fellowship with the Godhead and not just “my Holy Spirit experience”. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, Christ is proclaimed since no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except through the Spirit of God.
But doesn’t the role of the priesthood take away from non-priests like a second class citizen placement? Not at all. I have bones and I have muscle. I need one to keep me moving and another that fits in and supports passing on the blood flow. This is consistent with the many passages in the New Testament where there are distinct gifts to the Body of Christ and how not everyone can say they are everything.
1547 The ministerial or hierarchical priesthood of bishops and priests, and the common priesthood of all the faithful participate, “each in its own proper way, in the one priesthood of Christ.” While being “ordered one to another,” they differ essentially. In what sense? While the common priesthood of the faithful is exercised by the unfolding of baptismal grace –a life of faith, hope, and charity, a life according to the Spirit–, the ministerial priesthood is at the service of the common priesthood. It is directed at the unfolding of the baptismal grace of all Christians. The ministerial priesthood is a means by which Christ unceasingly builds up and leads his Church. For this reason it is transmitted by its own sacrament, the sacrament of Holy Orders. [22 Lumen Gentium,1965 10 § 2]
So if one was to an argument that one side exists to the own detriment of the other, it is really the position of the Catholic Church that the servants are the clerical priests.
1141 The celebrating assembly is the community of the baptized who, “by regeneration and the anointing of the Holy Spirit, are consecrated to be a spiritual house and a holy priesthood, that through all the works of Christian men they may offer spiritual sacrifices.” [Rev 1:6; cf. Rev 5:9-10; 1 Pet 2:5,9] This “common priesthood” is that of Christ the sole priest, in which all his members participate:
Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful should be led to that full, conscious, and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy, and to which the Christian people, “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a redeemed people,” [1 Peter 55-67AD] have a right and an obligation by reason of their Baptism. (11 Sacrosanctum Concilium,1965 14; Cf. 1 Pet 2:9; 2:4-5, 55-67AD)
“Aha! But there you have the problem of how you Catholics go about ceremony that has a form of godliness but denies the power of God thereof. Just dry religion.”
For that I would respond that such premises are incorrect and miss the good, the true and the beautiful with the following points.
Liturgy is a word that comes from the Greek that is liturgia meaning the work of the people. Sounds like a non-Christ centered work? Consider that Jesus spoke of the “work” to believe in Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3) which was the night he was betrayed and said of communion “Do this in remembrance of me”.
As for the celebration of these two forms of priesthood? It is the sacrifice of thanksgiving that is tied to the nearness of Jesus through the Eucharist. This may be implied where Paul writes, “Your kindness should be known to all. The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God” (Phillipians 4:5-6). The word for thanksgiving is eucharistia where we get Eucharist. Once again, we see a participation of Christ’s priesthood who has done the direct work by suffering and death on the cross. When we do liturgy we are doing what Jesus said with a supernatural remembrance “Do this in memory of me”. Sacramentally, when I go to my parish in Tempe, Arizona, I do not re-sacrifice Jesus in my common priesthood but Christ lives out his sacrifice in me.
1546 Christ, high priest and unique mediator, has made of the Church “a kingdom, priests for his God and Father.” [1 Peter]. The whole community of believers is, as such, priestly. The faithful exercise their baptismal priesthood through their participation, each according to his own vocation, in Christ’s mission as priest, prophet, and king. Through the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation the faithful are “consecrated to be . . . a holy priesthood” [Lumen Gentium].
Yes, some were within the last 100 years. The latest ones I can find are in the Catechism quoting from the Vatican II council in the 1960’s. But one of the source quotes are from St. Thomas Aquinas from the 1200’s. That is far before any possible “remodeling”. Plus, for the Bible passages they are quoting that show the common priesthood, it is worth noting that such scriptures that point to a common priesthood were approved as scripture by the Catholic Church. If the Catholic Church is so against the priesthood of all believers, why did they call those passages as divinely inspired public revelation? This was accomplished in the 380’s and 390’s AD with approval by popes.
One other thing about this common priesthood of the faithful are those who are later in heaven. There is more than biblical room that the worship before God in heaven can include such intercession ongoing.
When he took it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each of the elders held a harp and gold bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of the holy ones. (Revelation 5:8).
The beauty is not that Jesus is usurped of his status as Lord, Savior and Redeemer. The Church does not teach that. It is that the role of the believers is one that participates in what Jesus did and does in an ongoing way. We are “a holy priesthood”(1 Peter 2:9). It is no coincidence that Catholic means “according to the whole”. Jesus makes it that way.