Winter 1990

Biblical Foundations of Priesthood

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger

Preface: Contemporary questions


Subsequent to the Second Vatican Council, the Catholic image of priesthood, which had been defined by the Council of Trent and given fresh vigor as a result of renewed attention to the witness of Sacred Scripture at Vatican II, passed into a state of crisis. The large number of those who turned away from the priesthood and the great decrease in priestly vocations in many countries certainly cannot be explained solely on theological grounds. However, causes having their origin outside the Church would not have had such an impact unless the theological foundations of priestly ministry had reached a critical point for many priests and young people. In the new cultural situation which developed after the Council, the old arguments of the Reformation of the sixteenth century, together with new ones of modern biblical exegesis—still nourished by the presuppositions of the Reformation—acquired a certain persuasiveness; Catholic theology was unable to counter these with adequate responses.

 

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