Sacerdotalism is the belief that propitiatory sacrifices for sin require the intervention of a priest. That is, it is the belief that a special, segregated order of men, called the priesthood, are the only ones who can commune directly with God or the gods. This system of the priesthood is exemplified by the priests in the Old Testament.[1]

The term sacerdotalism comes from the Latin sacerdos, priest, literally one who presents sacred offerings (from sacer, sacred), and dare, to give. The related Latin term Sacerdotium refers to the earthly hierarchy (of priests, bishops, etc.) whose primary goal is the salvation of the soul.

Roman Catholic belief

According to Roman Catholics, sacerdotalism, in the documents of Second Vatican Council, is the teaching that "through the ministry of priests, the spiritual sacrifice of the faithful is made perfect in union with the [eternal] sacrifice of Christ, the sole Mediator. Through the hands of the priests and in the name of the whole Church, the Lord's sacrifice is offered in the Eucharist in an unbloody and sacramental manner until He Himself returns." Thus, priests "exercise within the Church a function of the apostles. They are empowered to perform the ministry of the Word, by which men are formed into the People of God. They catch up and draw into the Eucharistic Sacrifice the spiritual sacrifice of the common priesthood of the faithful".[2]

St. Thomas Aquinas puts it this way: "Although Christ's passion and death are not to be repeated, yet the power of that Victim Jesus endures forever, is eternal, for, as it is written, (Hebrews 10:14), 'by one oblation He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.'" Then he notes that the priest participates in that one eternal "redemptive act" (ongoing offering) sacramentally. His thinking runs like this: Jesus is both human/temporal and God/eternal. His offering on the cross was both eternal and human. In virtue of Jesus and his actions being eternal, his act of giving/offering on the cross has no beginning and no end. (There is no beginning or end in the eternal.) It is an ongoing offering and advocacy in eternity or heaven. In virtue of being part of the body of Christ (through baptism) the people of God, through a designated minister (priest), participate in this ongoing offering, advocacy, or sacrifice of Jesus sacramentally.[3][4]

Lutheran opposition

Lutherans reject sacerdotalism. They hold that the New Testament presents only one atoning sacrifice, the Body of Christ offered once for all on the cross by Christ himself, who is both the sinless offering and the sinless priest. The Eucharistic sacrifices of prayer, praise, and thanksgiving are offered by all believers as spiritual priests. The Body of Christ in the Holy Supper is not offered by the ministry to God as a means of sheltering the communicants from the divine wrath, but it is offered by God through the ministry as representatives of the congregation, to individuals, as an assurance of his gracious will to forgive them their sins.[1]

According to Lutherans, the office of the ministry in Christianity is not part of the priestly system of the Old Testament. It is not a self-perpetuating group that can be passed on to successors through ordination. Instead, Lutherans hold that the divinely instituted ministry continues the work of Christ by exercising on behalf of the laity the means of grace, which Christ gave to all Christian believers.[6]

Related links


  • Template:1911
  • Augsburg Confession, Article XXIII: Of the Marriage of Priests.
  • The Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article XXIV Of the Mass.
  • Sckmalkald Articles, Article II: Of the Mass.


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