Evangelical churches have their ministers and Roman Catholicism has its priests. But aren’t they the same thing, just with different titles?
Evangelical ministers are called to preach the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone and to “equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” – Ephesians 4:12. Evangelical pastors are to preach and teach God’s Word and to shepherd the Lord’s flock and be examples of the Lord’s love and faithfulness. Scripture says we’re to respect and submit to our pastors in the Lord but we’re certainly not to put them up on pedestals in the place of Jesus Christ. They’re just sinners saved by grace just like the other believers in the congregation.
Catholic priests on the other hand are ordained by the church hierarchy to administer the sacraments that Catholics believe are required for salvation. The Catholic sacerdotal system is an anti-biblical continuation of the Old Testament, Levitical priesthood. Catholicism teaches its priests change bread wafers and wine into the literal body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ to be offered up as a sacrifice for the sins of those who attend mass. Priests forgive sins in confession and administer the last rites to the dying, which Catholics believe absolves the individual of all mortal sin. Priests have the power to bless living and inanimate objects. Catholic parishioners bring their rosaries, statues, scapulars, and other objects to priests for their blessing. It’s believed an object blessed by a priest has powers to ward off evil and effect desirable benefits. The priesthood is central to the Catholic system. There would be no Catholicism without its priests and their powers.
In previous generations, priests were highly revered by the Catholic faithful. It wasn’t unusual for members of the Catholic laity to kiss the hands that changed bread and wine into Jesus. Catholics venerated their priests because they were the gateway to their salvation. Catholicism boldly claims its priests are “alter Christus,” another Christ. The Catholic clergy’s absolute control over the means to salvation was not achieved by happenstance. As the early church became increasingly institutionalized, it devolved from the preaching of saving faith in Jesus Christ into religious ritual, legalism, and the acquisition of worldly wealth, power, and control.
“St. Francis of Assisi used to say, “If I saw an Angel and a priest, I would bend my knee first to the priest and then to the Angel.” Besides, the power of the priest surpasses that of the Blessed Virgin Mary; for, although this Divine Mother can pray for us, and by her prayers obtain whatever she wishes, yet she cannot absolve a Christian from even the smallest sin.” – from “The Dignity and Duties of the Priest” by St. Alphonsus Liguori
Some of the luster has faded from the Catholic priesthood beginning in the 1960s and especially after the pedophile scandals over the last twenty years. The church’s celibacy rule for its clergy often attracted the socially awkward and even psychologically ill. Many Catholics now see their priests as fallible, struggling souls just like them rather than someone to be placed on a pedestal. The majority of Catholics ignore their priests’ commands to attend mass every Sunday and confession at least yearly. Recent surveys show only 50% of Catholics are even aware that their church teaches its priests turn bread and wine into the actual body and blood of Christ.
The Catholic mass is largely about the consecration of the bread and wine, not about preaching and teaching. The sermon portion of the mass, known as the “homily” (Greek for “speaking with”) is generally very short, usually around seven or eight minutes according to Catholic sources, and is often given by a man who is not inclined to speak before crowds. Even so, the message he preaches is not the Good News of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ. The priest’s message admonishes mass-goers to be faithful to church teaching, participate in the sacraments, and to keep trying to obey the Ten Commandments to merit salvation. That’s an empty message without hope, for no one can possibly obey the Ten Commandments. Disaffected Catholics often complain they “don’t get anything out of the mass” and they would be right. The Catholic system, completely dependent upon its priests, is facing a looming crisis with religious vocations plummeting. In 1975, there were 59,000 priests in the United States but today there’s only around 40,000.
There is no need for a sacrificial priesthood. Jesus Christ is the only Mediator between God and mankind. The New Testament makes it explicitly clear that the priestly sacrificial system was completely fulfilled by Jesus Christ and was done away with. Repent of your sins and accept Jesus Christ as your Savior by faith. Ask the Lord to help you find an evangelical church in your area that preaches and teaches God’s Word without compromise.
“For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” – 1 Timothy 2:5
“This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them,” then He adds, “Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” Now where there is remission of these, there is no longer an offering for sin.” – Hebrews 10:16-18.
The Scandal of the Catholic Priesthood
A sermon from John MacArthur