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Priesthood (Holy Orders)

The Catholic priesthood is under attack from all sides. This is due partly to the shortcomings of some priests, but in a broader sense the crisis of the priesthood and the attacks upon it arise from the Protestantization and secularization of our surrounding culture, which has affected even those within the Church herself.

For a succinct and lucid explanation of Catholic teaching on the ordained priesthood, there is no better source than the Catholic Catechism, starting with no. 1536. But if you want an even more abbreviated treatment, scroll down to no. 1590, where the entire teaching is set forh "In Brief".

One of the premier modern attacks on the essential character of the priesthood is the insistence in some quarters on the ordination of women. Lest anyone believe this has not been definitively settled by the Church in the negative, it is well to read Pope John Paul II's decisive intervention in 1994. There is also more on this in the closing section below.

Finally, a deep examination of the origins of the priesthood in the Old and New Testaments sheds abundant light on its nature. Who better to read on the subject than Cardinal Ratzinger (now Benedict XVI), in particular the address with which he opened the synod of bishops devoted to priestly formation in 1990.

If you only have time to look at three things, LOOK AT THESE.

  1. The Catechism on Holy Orders
  2. Apostolic Letter On Reserving Priestly Ordination to Men Alone (1994)
  3. Cardinal Ratzinger (now Benedict XVI) on the Nature of the Priesthood

And if you've got more time...

A hundred priestly issues could be considered: formation, support, collaboration with the diaconate, preaching, parish administration, you name it. Two particular issues stand out for further study, however.

First, a fuller explanation of the reasons behind John Paul II's declaration against the ordination of women may be found in an earlier document from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (1976): Declaration on the Admission of Women to the Ministerial Priesthood (Inter insigniores).

Second, in the wake of the sexual abuse scandals early in this millennium, the 2005 declaration of the Congregation for Catholic Education against the ordination of those with homosexual tendencies is particularly noteworthy: On Priesthood and Those With Homosexual Tendencies.

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