Is the Pope wrong about the priesthood?

In this article from the National Catholic Reporter, titled “Don’t Tell the Pope” and that is part of a series of articles by young Catholics, the writer Nicole Sotelo states:

Pope Benedict has declared June 19 as the beginning of the Year of the Priest. He has proclaimed that “without priestly ministry, there would be no Eucharist, no mission and even no church.” I hate to be the one to inform him, but Eucharist, mission and church existed long before the rise of priesthood.

According to the Gospels, Jesus was not a priest, nor were his disciples. We do see reference to Jesus as a priest in the Letter to the Hebrews. The author uses the word to refer to Jesus as the new and last “High Priest,” ending a long line of Jewish leaders. The author claims that priests are no longer necessary because no more sacrifices are needed. Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice and is our final high priest.

Perhaps the pope has forgotten that Jesus was not focused on priesthood. He was focused on ministry. He called people to minister alongside him, regardless of their status in society. He called out to fishermen and tax collectors and the woman with seven demons. Everyone was responsible for engendering the kingdom of God (source).

The tone of the article bugged me, but I can’t put my finger on why. Could you comment?

Perhaps what is bothering you is that there is an incredible arrogance for a young Catholic to lecture the Pope on the history of the priesthood and the Church. Joseph Ratzinger, even before he was elected pope, has been reputed to have one of the finest theological minds of his generation and to have forgotten more about the history and theology of the Church than most of us combined will ever know. Whatever the merits of the argument Ms. Sotelo makes, it is undermined by the enormous presumption with which she presents her argument.

As for the merits of her argument, I am unconvinced that there are any. She does not distinguish between the ministerial priesthood and the universal priesthood. She confuses the Christian ministerial priesthood with Christian service. She demonstrates a quasi-Protestant understanding of early Church history. She does not indicate any familiarity with Catholic sacramental theology. Rather than lecture the Pope, I would recommend to her that she consider studying what the Church teaches on these issues.

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