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Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC
"Behold, I make all things new“(Rev 21:5)

- Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC

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PRIESTS AND HOLY ORDERS

By Linda Joseph Kavalackal

The New Testament reveals an order to the organisation of the church. Catholics believe that this hierarchy within the church constitutes a sacrament. The sacrament of holy orders is conferred in three ranks of clergy: bishops, priests, and deacons.

Paul describes the "faithful people" chosen to hand on God's revelation and carry on principal church functions. Bishops (episcopoi) - who care for multiple congregations and appoint, ordain, and discipline priests and deacons (1 Tim. 5:19–22; 2 Tim. 4:5; Titus 1:5) Priests (presbuteroi) also known as "presbyters" or "elders" who have the responsibility of teaching, governing, and providing the sacraments in a given congregation(1 Tim. 5:17; Jas. 5:14–15) The English term "priest" is a contraction of the Greek word presbuteros. Deacons (diakonoi) are the assistants of the bishops and are responsible for teaching and administering certain church tasks (Acts 6:1–6)

It is clear from Paul's writings that he and the Apostolic Church were aware that order in the Church was conferred by the imposition of hands. Paul reminds Timothy that this action should not be taken lightly. The Acts of the Apostles testifies to the belief and practice of creating orders in the early Church. Paul himself was ordered or ordained by the leaders of the Church at Antioch.

Acts 6:6
They presented these men (seven diaconoi) to the apostles who prayed and laid hands on them.

Acts 13:2-3
While they were worshipping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." Then, completing their fasting and prayer, they laid hands on them and sent them off.

Acts 14:23
They appointed presbyters for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, commended them to the Lord in whom they had put their faith.

Acts 8:17
Then they (Peter and John) laid hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.

The Early Fathers affirm the role of Orders in the sacramental system and in the life of the Church.

Ignatius of Antioch (AD 110) (Letter to the Magnesians 6:1) - "Take care to do all things in harmony with God, with the bishop presiding in the place of God, and with the presbyters in the place of the council of the apostles, and with the deacons, who are most dear to me, entrusted with the business of Jesus Christ, who was with the Father from the beginning and is at last made manifest".

Didache, Ch 5, Syria, 70-110 – “Elect therefore for yourselves bishops and deacons worthy of the Lord, humble men and not covetous, and faithful and well tested; for they also serve you in the ministry of the prophets and teachers. Do not therefore despise them, for they are the honored men among you along with the prophets and teachers”.

Clement (Rome, 92-101), Letter to the Corinthians, Ch 47, MG 1, 308 - It is disgraceful, beloved, very disgraceful, and unworthy of your training in Christ, to hear that the stable and ancient Church of the Corinthians ... should revolt against its presbyters.

Ignatius (Antioch, d. 110), Letter to the Trallians, Ch 7; MG 5, 680 - Anyone who is within the sanctuary is pure and anyone who is outside is impure, that is to say, no one who acts apart from the bishop and the priests and the deacons has a clear conscience.

The Magisterium of the Church in Ecumenical Councils has always affirmed the role of Orders.

Clerical celibacy

The vocation of celibacy was explicitly advocated  and practiced—by both Jesus and Paul. For Eastern Rite Catholics, married priests are the norm, just as they are for Orthodox and Oriental Christians. There are married Latin-rite priests who are converts from Lutheranism and Episcopalianism. There are Uniate Churches, churches in union with Rome such as the Greek Byzantine Church, who have a married clergy. Celibacy for priests is a discipline in the Catholic Church, not a dogma: in other words, a church regulation, but not an integral part of Church teaching. St. Peter, seen as the first pope, as well as many subsequent popes, bishops, and priests during the church's first 270 years were married men, and often fathers. The practice of clerical continence, along with a prohibition of marriage after ordination as a deacon, priest or bishop, is traceable from the time of the Council of Elvira. The Catholic Church demands celibacy--no voluntary sexual pleasure and no marriage--as a prerequisite to the order of presbyter. The Church notes that the practice is sanctioned by the New Testament.

Mt 19:12
Some are incapable of marriage because they were born so; some, because they were made so by others; some, because they have renounced marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Whoever can accept this ought to accept it.

1 Cor 7:6-7
This I say by way of concession, however, not as a command. Indeed, I wish everyone to be as I am (single? widowed?), but each has a particular gift from God, one of one kind and one of another.

1 Cor 7:25-26
Now in regard to virgins, I have no commandment from the Lord, but I give my opinion as one who by the Lord's mercy is trustworthy. So this is what I think best because of the present distress: that it is a good thing for a person to remain as he is.

1 Cor 7:32-34
I should like you to be free of anxieties. An unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord. But a married man is anxious about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and he is divided. An unmarried woman or a virgin is anxious about the things of the Lord, so that she may be holy in both body and spirit. A married woman, on the other hand, is anxious about the things of the world, how she may please her husband.

Fundamentalists argue that only a man who has demonstrably looked after a family is fit to care for God’s church; an unmarried man, it is implied, is somehow untried or unproven. This suggestion is absurd. Each vocation has its own proper challenges: the celibate man must exercise "self-control" (1 Cor. 7:9); the husband must love and care for his wife selflessly (Eph. 5:25); and the father must raise his children well (1 Tim. 3:4). Every man must meet Paul’s standard of "managing his household well," even if his "household" is only himself. If anything, the chaste celibate man has another standard to set than the respectable family man.

Addressing priests as "Father"

Roman Catholics have a long custom--tradition--to address their priests as "father." Many Christians cite Biblical verse to show that this practice is in disagreement with the Word of God. For example, Mt 23:8-10 – “As for you, do not be called 'Rabbi.' You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers. Call no one on earth your father; you have but one Father in heaven. Do not be called 'Master'; you have but one master, the Messiah”.

If this passage was meant to be taken literally, then we all offend the Scripture. We all have used "father" to designate our birth father; and "teacher," our instructors at school. On the other hand, the meaning of the scripture is that no person should be given the respect and honor due ultimately to God the Father.

1 Cor 4:14-16
I am writing you this not to shame you, but to admonish you as my beloved children. Even if you should have countless guides to Christ, yet you do not have many fathers, for I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. Therefore, I urge you, be imitators of me.

1 Thess 2:11-12
As you know, we treated each one of you as a father treats his children, exhorting and encouraging you and insisting that you conduct yourselves as worthy of the God who calls you into his kingdom and glory.

More reference:

2 Tim 2:2
And what you heard from me through many witnesses entrust to faithful people who will have the ability to teach others as well.

1 Tim 3:1-2
This saying is trustworthy: whoever aspires to the office of bishop (episcopes) desires a noble task. Therefore, a bishop (episcopon) must be irreproachable, married only once, temperate, self-controlled, decent, hospitable, able to teach.

Tit 1:7,9
For a bishop (episcopon) as God's steward must be blameless...holding fast to the true message as taught so that he will be able both to exhort with sound doctrine and to refute opponents.

Tit 1:5-6
Appoint presbyters (presbyterois) in every town, as I directed you, on condition that a man be blameless, married only once, with believing children who are not accused of licentiousness or rebellious.

1 Tim 5:17
Presbyters who preside well deserve double honor, especially those who toil in preaching and teaching.

1 Tim 4:6,13,16
If you will give these instructions to the brothers, you will be a good minister (diakonos) of Christ Jesus, nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound teaching you have followed...Until I arrive, attend to the reading, exhortation, and teaching. Attend to yourself and to your teaching.

1 Tim 3:8-9
Similarly, deacons (diaconos) must be dignified, not deceitful, not addicted to drink, not greedy for sordid gain, holding fast to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience.

2 Tim 1:6
For this reason, I remind you to stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands.

1 Tim 4:14
Do not neglect the gift you have, which was conferred on you through the prophetic word with the imposition of hands of the presbyterate.

 
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