This is a summary that was prepared by the Diocese of Fort Worth. It provides a quick overview which I thought might be interesting.
I. Doctrinal Overview
A. HISTORICAL SUMMARY OF THE SACRAMENT OF HOLY ORDERS
1. Summary to 100 A. D.
a. Only one priest – Jesus Christ; his ministry, service.
b. All believers share Christ’s ministry
c. Ordained priest – a special sign of Christ’s priesthood and a call to serve all Believer in living out Jesus’ ministry.
d. First priestly leaders (Bishops) recognized by their outstanding service and guided community in learning Jesus’ teachings, doing good works and celebrating the Eucharist.
e. At first there were different types of Church government but before too long the monarchical form – as for a king – prevailed.
f. Bishop looked to talents of other Christian men and women – preaching, teaching healing, and prophesying – to help him in his ministry.
g. Two groups became recognized assistants: Priests to act as advisors, deacons to work with the daily needs of the people.
2. Summary: Second to Sixth Centuries
a. All the individual tasks of ministry had an ordination rite to give “authority” for the job.
b. Authority within the whole Church was by “collegiality,” mutual consultation and renewal.
c. Bishops delegated power to priests so they could minister to the growing number of churches.
d. Priest’s role as “Vicar of Christ” carried idea of special spiritual power.
e. Clergy gained further power by acting as judges and counselors in government.
f. Power-authority tended to overshadow as priestly ministry.
3. Summary: Sixth to Sixteenth Centuries
a. Monastic life influenced priesthood
1) Separateness of clergy emphasized in tonsure and special clothing
2) Celibacy for all priests
3) A life of prayer and spirituality separate from everyday world.
b. Middle ages and Renaissance saw priesthood as one of several levels of power. Bishops, not priests, had power to confirm and ordain.
c. Clergy took over total responsibility for worship and devotion – no role for people.
d. Priests tended to form an elite class with political and church power.
e. Council of Trent tried to limit Bishops’ power and to insure better education for priests.
4. Seventeen and eighteenth centuries the aspect of secular and political power in the priesthood began to disappear. The clergy became pastors, “sacristy” priests, caring for the church and ceremonies of worship, holding office hours in the sacristy, and seldom leaving the confines of the church except to visit the sick. The continued to be “separated” men, held to be wise in the ways of God, but sharing little with the lives of the people.
5. Nineteenth Century to Vatican II
a. With the resources of the Vatican library at hand, scholars begin to examine the history and development of the priesthood.
b. Catholic theologians began to examine the signs of Christ’s priesthood in their own ministries and those of other faiths.
c. In 1962, the Bishops at Vatican II commissioned new rites of ordination that talk of sharing and service rather than authority and power. Like the early Church leaders, they begin working things out in collegiality. (Adapted from The Changing Sacraments. Reprinted by permission of St. Anthony Messenger Press, 1615 Republic Street, Cincinnati, Ohio 45210. All rights reserved.)
6. Vatican II to the present.
a. Vatican II’s renewal of Church traditions affirms the role of Bishop as fullness of priesthood.
b. The relationship of priests to their bishop in a spirit of collegiality is emphasized.
c. The office of deacon is restored as a permanent order in the Church’s sacramental ministry.
d. Restoration of the essential place of Scripture in the life and worship of the Church brings about a new emphasis on the role of preaching in the life and ministry of all ordained ministers.
e. The Council’s vision of the Church as the People of God infuses its understanding of ordained ministry with a more communitarian spirit. Clergy become more free to utilize the talents and experience of laity in the exercise of their ministry of leadership and service.
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