THE VICAR OF CHRIST SPEAKS
on the role of the Laity
INSTRUCTION on Certain Questions regarding the Collaboration of the Non-ordained Faithful in the Sacred Ministry of Priest
Eighth installment: THEOLOGICAL PRINCIPLES part four
3. The Indispensability of the Ordained Ministry
For a community of the faithful to be called a Church, and indeed to truly be a Church, it cannot be guided according to political criteria or those of human organisations. Every particular Church owes its guidance to Christ since it was He who fundamentally linked apostolic mission to the Church and hence no community has the power to grant that mission to itself(40)
(40: Cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Letter Sacerdotium Ministeriale, n. III, 2: l.c., p. 1004.)
or to delegate it. In effect, a canonical or juridical determination
made by hierarchal authority is necessary for the exercise of the munus of teaching and
(41: Cf. Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, Nota explicativia praevia, n. 2.)
The ministerial priesthood is therefore necessary for a community to exist as "Church": "The ordained priesthood ought not to be thought of as existing (...) posterior to the ecclesial community, as if the Church could be imagined as already established without this priesthood".(42)
(42: John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores dabo vobis, n. 16: l.c., p. 682.)
Indeed, were a community to lack a priest, it would be deprived of
the exercise and sacramental action of Christ, the Head and Pastor, which are essential
for the very life of every ecclesial community.
Thus the ordained priesthood is absolutely irreplaceable. As an immediate consequence of this there is the necessity for a continuing, zealous and well-organised pastoral promotion of vocations so as to provide the Church with those ministers which she needs and to ensure a proper seminary training for those preparing for the Sacrament of Holy Orders. Any other solution to problems deriving from a shortage of
sacred ministers can only lead to precarious consequences.
"The duty of fostering vocations falls on the whole Christian community, and they should
discharge it principally by living full Christian lives".(43)
(43: Second Vatican Council, Decree Optatam totius, n. 2.)
By following Christ more closely and in overcoming indifference, all the faithful have a responsibility to foster a positive response to priestly vocation. This is especially true for those nations where a strong sense of materialism is evident.
NEXT ISSUE: Theological Principles -part five 4. The Collaboration of the Non-ordained Faithful in Pastoral Ministry
DAILY CATHOLIC Vicar of Christ Speaks volume 8, no. 39