The Priesthood


The Council of Trent

Session XXIII: The True and Catholic Doctrine Concerning the Sacrament of Order

Chapter I: On the Institution of the Priesthood of the New Law.

Sacrifice and priesthood are, by the ordinance of God, in such wise conjoined, as that both have existed in every law. Whereas, therefore, in the New Testament, the Catholic Church has received, from the institution of Christ, the holy visible sacrifice of the Eucharist; it must needs also be confessed, that there is, in that Church, a new, visible, and external priesthood, into which the old has been translated. And the sacred Scriptures show, and the tradition of the Catholic Church has always taught, that this priesthood was instituted by the same Lord our Saviour, and that to the Apostles, and their successors in the priesthood, was the power delivered of consecrating, offering, and administering his body and blood, as also of forgiving and of retaining sins.

Chapter I: On the institution of the most holy Sacrifice of the Mass

He, therefore, our God and Lord, though he was about to offer himself once on the altar of the cross unto God the Father, by means of his death, there to operate an eternal redemption; nevertheless, because that his priesthood was not to be extinguished by his death, in the Last Supper, on the night in which he was betrayed,—that he might leave, to his own beloved Spouse the Church, a visible sacrifice, such as the nature of man requires, whereby that bloody sacrifice, once to be accomplished on the cross, might be represented, and the memory thereof remain even unto the end of the world, and its salutary virtue be applied to the remission of those sins which we daily commit,—declaring himself constituted a priest forever, according to the order of Melchisedech, he offered up to God the Father his own body and blood under the species of bread and wine; and, under the symbols of those same things, he delivered [his own body and blood] to be received by his apostles, whom he then constituted priests of the New Testament; and by those words, Do this in commemoration of me, he commanded them and their successors in the priesthood to offer [them]; even as the Catholic Church has always understood and taught.

Canon I. If any one saith, that there is not in the New Testament a visible and external priesthood; or, that there is not any power of consecrating and offering the true body and blood of the Lord, and of forgiving and retaining sins, but only an office and bare ministry of preaching the Gospel; or, that those who do not preach are not priests at all: let him be anathema.

Canon III. If any one saith, that order, or sacred ordination, is not truly and properly a sacrament instituted by Christ the Lord; or, that it is a kind of human figment devised by men unskilled in ecclesiastical matters; or, that it is only a kind of rite for choosing ministers of the Word of God and of the sacraments: let him be anathema.

Canon II (On the Sacrifice of the Mass). If any one saith, that by those words, Do this for the commemoration of me,(Luke xxii. 19), Christ did not institute the apostles priests; or, did not ordain that they and other priests should offer his own body and blood: let him be anathema (The Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent, in Philip Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1919 ed.), pp. 186-187, 191, 184).

Vatican II

Now, the same Lord has established certain ministers among the faithful in order to join them together in one body where “all the members have not the same function” (Rom. 12:4). These ministers in the society of the faithful would be able by the sacred power of their order to offer sacrifice and to remit sins.

They would perform their priestly office publicly for men in the name of Christ.

Priests are taken from among men and appointed for men in the things which pertain to God, in order to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins…By their vocation and ordination, priests of the New Testament are indeed set apart in a certain sense within the midst of God’s people.

Priests fulfil their chief duty in the mystery of the Eucharistic Sacrifice. In it the work of our redemption continues to be carried out.

The pivotal principle on which the Council’s teaching turns is that the priest is a man drawn from the ranks of the People of God to be made, in the very depths of his being, like to Christ, the Priest of mankind. He is consecrated by a special seal of the Holy Spirit. In virtue of this consecration, he acts in the person of Christ, and, as a minister of Christ, the Head, he is deputed to serve the People of God. Through him Christ continues and fulfills that mission which He received from the Father.

Therefore, while it indeed presupposes the sacraments of Christian initiation, the sacerdotal office of priests is conferred by that special sacrament through which priests, by the anointing of the Holy Spirit, are marked with a special character and are so configured to Christ the Priest that they can act in the person of Christ the Head (The Documents of Vatican II , Walter M. Abbott, S.J., General Editor. (Chicago: Follett, 1966), p. 534, 536, 560, 527, 535).

The Code of Canon Law

Canon 900: The only minister who, in the person of Christ, can bring into being the sacrament of the Eucharist, is a validly ordained priest.

Canon 1008: By divine institution some among Christ’s faithful are, through the sacrament of order, marked with an indelible character and are thus constituted sacred ministers; thereby they are consecrated and deputed so that, each according to his own grade, they fulfil, in the person of Christ the Head, the offices of teaching, sanctifying and ruling, and so they nourish the people of God (The Code of Canon Law (London: Collins, 1983).


Roman Catholicism teaches that Christ instituted a sacerdotal priesthood for the express purpose of perpetuating Christ’s sacrifice on earth through the Mass. However, scripture teaches that there is no longer a need for a sacerdotal priesthood because there is no more need for sacrifice for sin. Scripture teaches that Christ has fulfilled the office of priest and that such an office has been completely terminated (Heb. 7:11-25).