Dating a former priest
It is this name presbyter (elder) which has passed into the Christian speech to signify the minister of Divine service, the priest.
In the exercise of these functions, however, he is subject to the authority of the bishop to whom he has promised canonical obedience; in certain cases even he requires not only authorization, but real jurisdiction, particularly to forgive sins and to take care of souls.Omitting further discussion of the general idea of the priesthood, and neglecting all reference to pagan worship, we may call attention to the organization among the people of God of a Divine service with ministers properly so-called: the priests, the inferior clergy, the Levites, and at their head the high-priest.We know the detailed regulations contained in Leviticus as to the different sacrifices offered to God in the Temple at Jerusalem, and the character and duty of the priests and Levites.Consequently, it is not easy to say in a way applicable to all cases what are the duties and rights of a priest; both vary considerably in individual cases.By his ordination a priest is invested with powers rather than with rights, the exercise of these powers (to celebrate Mass, remit sins, preach, administer the sacraments, direct and minister to the Christian people) being regulated by the common laws of the church, the jurisdiction of the bishop, and the office or charge of each priest. Except in the matter of the care of souls the sacerdotal functions are likewise obligatory in the case of priests having any benefice or office in a church (e.g.Originally, however, the presbyteri were the members of the high council which, under the presidency of the bishop, administered the affairs of the local church.
Doubtless in general these members entered the presbyterate only by the imposition of hands which made them priests; however, that there could be, and actually were presbyteri who were not priests, is seen from canons 43-47 of Hippolytus (cf.
But, amid all these accidental differences, one fundamental idea is common to all religions : the priest is the person authoritatively appointed to do homage to God in the name of society, even the primitive society of the family (cf.
Job 1:5 ), and to offer Him sacrifice (in the broad, but especially in the strict sense of the word).
The exercise of the sacerdotal powers is both a duty and a right for priests having the care of souls, either in their own name (e.g. canons); otherwise they are optional, and their exercise depends upon the favour of the bishop (e.g.
the permission to hear confessions or to preach granted to simple priests or to priests from outside the diocese ). 313) and to the administration of the sacraments in case of necessity, in addition to fulfilling certain other obligations not strictly sacerdotal (e.g. But canonical writers, not considering such a condition regular, hold that the bishop is obliged in this case to attach such a priest to a church and impose some duty on him, even if it be only an obligatory attendance at solemn functions and processions ( Innocent XIII, Constitution "Apostolici ministerii", 23 March, 1723; Benedict XIII, Const. As to the material situation of the priest, his rights are clearly laid down by canon law, which varies considerably with the actual condition of the Church in different countries.
Sacerdotal powers are conferred on priests by priestly ordination, and it is this ordination which puts them in the highest rank of the hierarchy after the bishop.