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John, In the first three lines of your last paragraph, you say: "Vatican II opened the door to new understanding of the priesthood, stating that the priesthood did include all the faithful. But Vatican II also said that there were still essential differences between the ordained priesthood and the common priesthood, which is Rome’s doctrine of the priesthood of all Christians. But Vatican II clearly did not go very far in specifying what constitutes this difference." The doctrine of the baptismal priesthood is not a new doctrine; it has been part of the Catholic faith from the beginning. In the middle of the fifth century, for example, St. Leo the Great wrote: "For all, regenerated in Christ, are made kings by the sign of the cross; they are consecrated priests by the oil of the Holy Spirit, so that beyond the special service of our ministry as priests, all spiritual and mature Christians know that they are a royal race and are sharers in the office of the priesthood." (Sermon 4) The Church has no authority or power to make up new doctrines or abandon old ones. She has never treated 1 Peter 2:5,9 as referring only to the ministerial priesthood. The Catechism explains the difference between the baptismal priesthood, which is common, and the ministerial priesthood, which belongs only to the ordained. (CCC 1546-1547) Vatican II did not need to explain the difference between the baptismal priesthood and the ministerial priesthood, because the unique character of the ministerial priesthood had already been explained at the Council of Trent (Session 23). The late fourth century - early fifth century bishop of Constantinople, St. John Chrysostom explains it clearly in his work titled "On the Priesthood." The first three lines of your last paragraph seem to be suggesting that Vatican II introduced a new doctrine, and that perhaps in the future, the distinction in Catholic doctrine between the baptismal priesthood and the ministerial priesthood will be dissolved. If that's what you are suggesting, then you are looking at the Catholic Church through a "hermeneutic of discontinuity", i.e. the Protestant paradigm, as though the Church has the power to make up new doctrines and abandon old ones. The Church has no such power or authority. She is steward of what she has received, such as the doctrine of apostolic succession which is the basis for the distinction between the ministerial priesthood from the baptismal priesthood. To give up apostolic succession would be to destroy the Catholic Church and the Catholic faith. So, from a Catholic point of view, apostolic succession (and thus the distinction between baptismal priesthood and ministerial priesthood) cannot be lost until Christ returns, because the gates of hell shall not prevail over the Church. In the peace of Christ, - Bryan
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Jul 2, 2010