The Implicit Message of Inequality in Catholicism?


Hello everyone.

I have been making my way toward the Church for a few months now, and I’ve finally conveyed my strong desire to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation to my Chi Alpha pastor. I was hesitant for a while because he’s been very pivotal in the development of my Christian faith, as have been all of my Chi Alphan friends, and I knew I would be departing from him on an unprecedented level in pursuing the Church. I highly respect and love my friends and especially my campus pastor.

Briefly, Chi Alpha Christian Fellowship is a non-denominational Christian organization that works primarily with college students in enriching the Christian faith; some of you have probably heard of it. Though it is non-denominational (one of my Catholic friends is part of my Chi Alpha chapter), in practice, it is very close to evangelical Protestantism.

Anyway, after talking to him for a while, he mentioned one of his major “friction points” with Catholicism that I wasn’t really sure how to respond to. It is the rejection of the egalitarian view of the Church priesthood (i.e. priesthood of all believers) by the Catholic Church that smacks of an implicit sense of Christian inequality to him.

To expound: that a Christian must go through a process to ‘become’ a priest (and thus receive the power to dispense the Sacraments) seems to implicitly convey that the priesthood is ‘more Christian’ or ‘closer to God’ than the layperson (he also sees the idea of the Church priesthood as ‘dispenser of the Sacraments’ as also inherently inequitable). He, of course, recognizes that the Church does not explicitly teach the idea that the priesthood is ‘better’ than lay Catholics.

At the time I couldn’t disagree with him in theory. I couldn’t see how the issue – that of priesthood vs. laity – could simply be swept under the rug, and one goes on calling everyone a Christian equal. So I ask all of you your thoughts. Does the Church actually promote in its teachings an inherent equality among all Catholic Christians, laity and priesthood? And if so, perhaps you could reconcile the implications I mentioned.

Also, please do not make this into a ‘bash Evangelicals’ discussion. I am not interested in the faults and shortcomings of Evangelical Protestantism (and I know of them, yes), but only how I may best respond to my pastor’s issues with real Catholic teaching.

Thanks everyone,


And Protestant pastors don’t under special training? Job training doesn’t make one better than someone without that training. It just makes one better at one’s job than someone without. Also note: Implicit in this pastor’s criticism of the priesthood is a denial of the effects of the Sacrament of Ordination.

No, the Church doesn’t. The higher one is in the Church’s hierarchy, the more people that one is to be the servant of.

His issue is one of confusing imply with infer. What’s more, I’m a bit confused as to why a Protestant minister needs to mollified regarding anyone being received into the Church.

– Mark L. Chance.


He’s selling you a bill of goods. Take a few minutes and go to this link and read the information there.

He’s tap dancing around trying to influence you into converting to his beliefs. Simple as that. He knows that once you have been “Confirmed”…there would be little chance of converting you.

If you want solid Catholic information to back up the Church’s position…its at that link above. Its the Catechism…the whole book is on that site.

Do not fall prey to the wolf in sheep’s clothing…

I think his approach was “cute” though…

t is the rejection of the egalitarian view of the Church priesthood (i.e. priesthood of all believers) by the Catholic Church that smacks of an implicit sense of Christian inequality to him.

Are the “ordained” better than the laity? Are the “ordained” closer to God? I don’t know… in my 57 years I’ve never heard that ever being asked or mentioned as an issue. Seems a “non-issue” to me…thats a question that only God can answer.

But on a personal level I do have a problem with the notion that “membership in a protestant church” makes one a “priest” or a “saint”. Seems a rather bold attempt to diminish and devalue the meaning and importance of the words and positions themselves.

The Bible is rather explicit where it calls for “Priests”…it makes no mention of one just showing up in church and rating the honorific. More to it than that. In fact there is a thread on this site dealing with the very issue…also the above mentioned link should provide the actual Scriptural sources… Yes it does.

See, I did that “nicely”…now RUN!!! :smiley: :smiley: :smiley:


There is the sacramental priesthood and the priesthood of believers. All are equal in Christ. The term “inequality” doesn’t fit here. We have spiritual fathers in the faith – as St. Paul was the father of his flock (he stated it as such). There are many scriptural passages that support Christ’s teaching on the sacerdotal priesthood. The epistle of St. Jude (1:11) speaks about the Christians who are in the line of those who “perished in the rebellion of Korah” – that is, those who set themselves up as priests against the anointed priests of God.

The early Church is clear on the various roles taken in the congregation. There are bishops, presbyters (priests) and deacons.

The radical egalitarianism that is found in non-denominational groups is not scriptural or apostolic in origin.

As for administering the sacraments, we have John 20:23 – “Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.”

This is the power given to the apostles and their successors.

The more you study and learn about Catholicism, the more you will find that some things are incompatible with Evangelical Protestantism. We do share a lot, but there are some dividing lines. Did Protestantism receive its teachings from Christ through the apostles? This is where history shows us clearly that the Reformers created entirely new beliefs that were not handed down to them.

At the same time, there is the equality of all believers in Christ. But your campus pastor is making a big mistake in proposing that Christianity does not have distinct roles of authority within the body of believers.


Thanks to all for your replies. I am only a novice in defending the Catholic faith currently. There’s a lot of mental reworking I shall have to do before I can effectively carry on a face-to-face discussion between my Protestant friends, but that’s why I’m on CAF. :wink:

I am a bit confused by his idea of what the Church really is. He has told me several times he believes that there is to be a ‘spiritual authority’ on Earth (i.e. he says he rejects the radical egalitarianism you mentioned, the idea of the autonomous individual interpreting Scripture and sticking only to that), but he’s never explained exactly what he meant by that or what that means in practical terms. I can’t really go on trying to paint a picture of his mind because I haven’t had much chance to dialogue with him recently (with school being out for summer and all). For what little I’ve gleaned from his mindset, he may be even closer to Catholicism than he realizes, despite his internal aversion to it.

All-in-all, he is very far from the Jack Chick anti-Catholic. He wouldn’t abandon me or anything if I were to receive Confirmation. In the end, he could only ask that I continue praying and meditating on my decisions and desires and don’t hesitate to join the Catholic Church if the Holy Spirit so leads me. Of course, I do feel that is the case. :stuck_out_tongue:


Welcome to Catholic Answers Chris.

Chi Alpha theology is contrary to Authentic Catholic teaching. Jesus Christ founded only one Church, that is The Catholic Church. Those who separated themselves from The Church which Jesus Christ founded have lost somethings. The Church follows the Teachings which Jesus delivered to the Apostles. The priests, bishops and deacons are the orders of clergy set up by the Apostles themselves. Anyone who thinks that they know more than those taught directly by the Apostles 2000 years ago is definately on the wrong track.


The Catholic priesthood is no more ‘inegalitarian’ or denying of the ‘priesthood of all’ (which is actually an Old Testament idea - the NT is quoting one of the Psalms there) than the priesthood of Israel was in OT times.

The OT priests performed an important function, sure, as did the prophets, the kings, the judges, but they’re never portrayed as being ‘better’ in any way than the other people of Israel among whom they served.

Same with our priests. Their office is a unique one, but then so is the office of President of the US, and we don’t consider Dubya anything other than our equal, do we?


Congratulations on your journey to the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church!

Catholics, through our baptism and confirmation, are called to be “priests, prophets, and kings.” This is not the ministerial priesthood, which differs by degree and essence with the baptismal priesthood. Priests partake in the sacrament of Holy Orders, through which they receive special sacramental grace.

Priests and laymen in the Catholic faith are not the same thing. To use the term “inequality” to describe the relationship between them is dishonest. Being 21st Century Americans, we believe in equality. Inequality conjures up images of the segregated South, Jim Crow, even slavery. Equality is revered in our culture, and many Protestant religions based in the US are founded and structured with the idea of equality at their center. All worshippers are equal. All churches are equal and independent. Each pastor is free to make up his own liturgy. Each worshipper is free to interpret the Bible as they see fit. Everyone has a personal relationship with Jesus. Your truth isn’t any better than my truth.

The Catholic Church sees things differently. Jesus Christ founded a Church 2000 years ago:

"And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it.
I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."
Matthew 16:18-19

The bishops are the successors of the apostles. The Pope is the successor to St. Peter, the servant of the servants. The priests are ordained by the bishops to help them carry out their ministry. The Church, the Body of Christ, has many members, like the human body has arms, legs, etc. Christ is the Head of the Church. Would you compare a finger and a toe and complain that they aren’t equal? They are different, have different functions, but are both still important parts of the body. That’s how the Church (and St. Paul) see it:

For by the grace given to me I bid every one among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith which God has assigned him.
For as in one body we have many members, and all the members do not have the same function,
so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.
Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith;
if service, in our serving; he who teaches, in his teaching;
Romans 12:3-7

Your pastor also “sees the idea of the Church priesthood as ‘dispenser of the Sacraments’ as also inherently inequitable.” How would he then explain John 20:21-23:

Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven, and whose sins you retain are retained.”

Jesus commissioned the apostles, and the successors, by breathing on them and giving them the power to forgive sins. He didn’t go out and breathe on the crowds in Jerusalem, he breathed on these specific men. If you pastor has a problem with the idea of an ordained priesthood, he will have to take it up with Jesus Christ, because that’s where it came from.


St. Paul also compares the Church to a body composed of different organs in 1 Corinthians 12:4-31. Though some members seem to be less important or less honorable than others, they are in fact all indispensible.


The Church does not reject the priesthood of all believers. In fact, when we are baptized, we are anointed with chrism oil as “priest, prophet, and king.”

What your friend fails to understand is that the ministerial priesthood exists to serve everyone else.

No it doesn’t. It conveys that they have a *different *role, not a *better *role. The fact that your pastor *believes *it conveys some sort of superiority does not mean that it actually does.


Of course.

It’s all in his head.

He is equating *different *with unequal. Why, I don’t know.

This is the same argument used by feminists. They say that women are “unequal” to men. That’s why they need abortions and pills to neuter them and make them “equal”. It’s a bunch of BS.

I’d suggest ALL of Article 9 of the Catechism:


A priestly, prophetic, and royal people

783 Jesus Christ is the one whom the Father anointed with the Holy Spirit and established as priest, prophet, and king. The whole People of God participates in these three offices of Christ and bears the responsibilities for mission and service that flow from them.

784 On entering the People of God through faith and Baptism, one receives a share in this people’s unique, priestly vocation: “Christ the Lord, high priest taken from among men, has made this new people ‘a kingdom of priests to God, his Father.’ The baptized, by regeneration and the anointing of the Holy Spirit, are consecrated to be a spiritual house and a holy priesthood.”

785 “The holy People of God shares also in Christ’s prophetic office,” above all in the supernatural sense of faith that belongs to the whole People, lay and clergy, when it “unfailingly adheres to this faith . . . once for all delivered to the saints,” and when it deepens its understanding and becomes Christ’s witness in the midst of this world.

786 Finally, the People of God shares in the royal office of Christ. He exercises his kingship by drawing all men to himself through his death and Resurrection. Christ, King and Lord of the universe, made himself the servant of all, for he came “not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” For the Christian, “to reign is to serve him,” particularly when serving “the poor and the suffering, in whom the Church recognizes the image of her poor and suffering founder.” The People of God fulfills its royal dignity by a life in keeping with its vocation to serve with Christ.

The sign of the cross makes kings of all those reborn in Christ and the anointing of the Holy Spirit consecrates them as priests, so that, apart from the particular service of our ministry, all spiritual and rational Christians are recognized as members of this royal race and sharers in Christ’s priestly office. What, indeed, is as royal for a soul as to govern the body in obedience to God? And what is as priestly as to dedicate a pure conscience to the Lord and to offer the spotless offerings of devotion on the altar of the heart?


Why the ecclesial ministry?

874 Christ is himself the source of ministry in the Church. He instituted the Church. He gave her authority and mission, orientation and goal:

In order to shepherd the People of God and to increase its numbers without cease, Christ the Lord set up in his Church a variety of offices which aim at the good of the whole body. The holders of office, who are invested with a sacred power, are, in fact, dedicated to promoting the interests of their brethren, so that all who belong to the People of God . . . may attain to salvation.

875 “How are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher? And how can men preach unless they are sent?” No one - no individual and no community - can proclaim the Gospel to himself: “Faith comes from what is heard.” No one can give himself the mandate and the mission to proclaim the Gospel. The one sent by the Lord does not speak and act on his own authority, but by virtue of Christ’s authority; not as a member of the community, but speaking to it in the name of Christ. No one can bestow grace on himself; it must be given and offered. This fact presupposes ministers of grace, authorized and empowered by Christ. From him, bishops and priests receive the mission and faculty (“the sacred power”) to act in persona Christi Capitis; deacons receive the strength to serve the people of God in the diaconia of the liturgy, word and charity, in communion with the bishop and his presbyterate. The ministry in which Christ’s emissaries do and give by God’s grace what they cannot do and give by their own powers, is called a “sacrament” by the Church’s tradition. Indeed, the ministry of the Church is conferred by a special sacrament.

876 Intrinsically linked to the sacramental nature of ecclesial ministry is its character as service. Entirely dependent on Christ who gives mission and authority, ministers are truly “slaves of Christ,” in the image of him who freely took “the form of a slave” for us. Because the word and grace of which they are ministers are not their own, but are given to them by Christ for the sake of others, they must freely become the slaves of all.

877 Likewise, it belongs to the sacramental nature of ecclesial ministry that it have a collegial character. In fact, from the beginning of his ministry, the Lord Jesus instituted the Twelve as “the seeds of the new Israel and the beginning of the sacred hierarchy.” Chosen together, they were also sent out together, and their fraternal unity would be at the service of the fraternal communion of all the faithful: they would reflect and witness to the communion of the divine persons. For this reason every bishop exercises his ministry from within the episcopal college, in communion with the bishop of Rome, the successor of St. Peter and head of the college. So also priests exercise their ministry from within the presbyterium of the diocese, under the direction of their bishop.

878 Finally, it belongs to the sacramental nature of ecclesial ministry that it have a personal character. Although Christ’s ministers act in communion with one another, they also always act in a personal way. Each one is called personally: “You, follow me” in order to be a personal witness within the common mission, to bear personal responsibility before him who gives the mission, acting “in his person” and for other persons: “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit …”; “I absolve you…”

879 Sacramental ministry in the Church, then, is a service exercised in the name of Christ. It has a personal character and a collegial form. This is evidenced by the bonds between the episcopal college and its head, the successor of St. Peter, and in the relationship between the bishop’s pastoral responsibility for his particular church and the common solicitude of the episcopal college for the universal Church.


Interesting. His response really was vague and not really a hard-hitting criticism of Catholicism. That really may be an indicator that he is closer to the Church than he realizes, as you say.


Well (assuming he believes this, as most evangelical Protestants do), just consider how inegalitarian it is that only Christians can get to heaven. :slight_smile:

And consider how inegalitarian God’s chosen people were, and they were guided by prophets from God. So his argument is with God, not the Catholic Church.

He seems to be confusing the things of this world (democracy, radical egalitarianism) with the things of God. Let’s not forget that Jesus is not an elected President or Prime Minister, he is King of Kings.

My signature would seem to summarize the pastor’s problem to a T.


Also, think of Moses and his role in Exodus.

Exodus 18 tells of the great multitude who came to Moses to present their cases and consult with God. When Moses became overwhelmed by the number of cases, he appointed “God fearing men” to step in for him, to judge the lesser cases, and to help lighten his load.

Remember that Moses is a type of Christ, and Matthew portrays Jesus as the “New Moses.”

With that in mind we see that just as Moses appointed men (the judges) to carry out his work, Christ appointed men (the Apostles) to carry out his. The bishops and priests in the Church today are the heirs to the Apostles.

There were those who rebelled against authority in Moses time (Numbers 16), and look what happened to them.


Also, you can make a comparison to the inequality of any particular profession or trade.

Take medicine, for example. Why do those doctors think they are so special? Why can they get paid big bucks to treat physical maladies and the average Joe Blow off the street cannot? It’s very unfair, isn’t it?


I’ve never gotten that explanation from anyone. And when I point out that the Reformers acknowledged that Christ established a Church government with the authority to determine controversies of faith and ask them to tell me what denomination that authority is vested in, they either ignore the question or mock me for asking it.


The Catholic church does recognize the priesthood of all believers, but it recognizes some different functions between the ministerial priesthood(administering Sacraments) and the domestic priesthood. I’m not sure off the top of my head if I have the terms “ministerial” and “domestic” correctly applied, but the concept is assuredly correct: there is a priesthood that all believers are called to participate in and there is a separate priesthood that only some are called to participate in.
This is no great secret nor is it anything to justify opposition to the Church over - its a nuance of what the vast majority of non-Catholics would describe as “non-essential”.


I’m sure he would explain it by saying that applies to all followers of Christ, not just the few that Jesus was with at the time. He would point out that Jesus never said that annointing was restricted to those people, and if it was, Jesus never said they could pass it on to anyone else. Therefore it’s all or none.

Protestant theology doesn’t pay much attention to who things were said to at the time. It’s enough that if it made it into the Bible, it must be for everyone.


You all have done a good job explaining that a priest is not superior to a layman as if the individual priest was
more human
more Catholic
more pleasing to God
more likely to go to heaven
than a particular layman.

What needs to be remembered also is that the office of priest is a higher office than that of the laity. So the priest is superior to the layman in office.

The indelible 3th mark imprinted on the priestly soul seals him tighter to God than does having only 2 of the marks seal the layman to God.

The priestly ‘mark’ gives the priest more spiritual power than the layman.
The priestly ‘mark’ means the priest is meant to live a nobler kind of life than the layman.
The priest ‘mark’ more explicitly and radically consecrates the priest here on earth to God than the layman without the ‘mark’.

"And if anyone should assert that all Christians without distinction are priests of the New Testament, or that they are all inter se endowed with an equal spiritual power, he seems to do nothing else than derange the eccclesiastical hierarchy, which is an army set in arrray…(Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent, 23rd Session, Sacrament of Order)

Hypothetically, if the priest really lives up to all the additional graces he gets through all the Sacraments including the additional Sacrament of Order–If he does so, then, having more access to more grace and rising up to meet that more; he ends up being more holy than a layman responding just as fully to all the graces that layman has received through the Sacraments.

On the other hand, having received more, more is expected of the priest. The layman is right to expect his priest to be holier than he is. If the priest is not holy, he will be punished more than if a layman is not holy.

It is a perilous calling–and when a priest responds to it, he makes himself vulnerable not only to greater damnation but also to greater reward.

Indeed, were the rewards not potentially so great, men would not accept the great risk and become priests at all. The reward–of being enabled to be significantly closer to God on earth through bringing holiness to His people–is great. The reward is infinitely magnified in heaven for the fully successful priest, because on earth he has expanded his own capacity to bond with God, which greater capacity is filled with joy in heaven forever.


If you feel comfortable enough, you could try this: Tell him you have a friend who’s a good Christian and really has some good spiritual knowledge to share. Ask your pastor to let your friend preach and teach in the group for a month. Will he do it? I seriously doubt it. Why not, if all Christians are equal? Wouldn’t he be setting himself up as “more Christian” or “closer to God” than your friend by saying your friend wasn’t worthy to teach the group. but he was?

Maybe he would say he needs to review the person’s character, doctrine, and what he’d be teaching first to make sure it was all good and correct. Understandable, but that just proves the point: he’s putting himself in a position to judge the friend, which again, implies that he is the “more Christian” of the two, doesn’t it? If there was a difference in doctrine, how likely is your pastor to change his mind?

Now of course your pastor would probably start getting offended around this point. (That’s why I said, “if you feel comfortable enough”.) But it’s the same situation. He’s been through special training to become your pastor, and dispense teaching (the closest things Protestants have to sacraments). No difference with what the Catholic Church does, except his training didn’t have a sacramental aspect to it (which really IS a big difference, but not one he’s likely to appreciate).

Make sense?


Sorry to sidetrack a bit, but Chi Alpha is non-denominational? Really?

When I was of high-school/college age, I attended an Assembly of God church. The young people’s organization was called Christ’s Ambassadors, and the college group was called, to stay with the C.A. initials but give it a college flair, Chi Alpha.

So I know Chi Alpha as being a strictly A/G organization, quite denominational in affiliation. I’m sure they accept as members people from all denominations, but at it’s core, it was A/G and under A/G authority.

Has it split off as a separate group in the intervening (many!) years, or is this a different Chi Alpha with the same name but unrelated, or are they just being mum about the affiliation?

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