The triple office of all the baptized and, in particular, their priesthood, possesses a certain priority over the participation in Christ’s triple office shared by those in the ordained ministry. During his public ministry, Jesus called the Twelve from an already existing community of disciples. In a similar, if not exactly parallel, way those to be ordained for ministry are called in and from the wider community. From the ranks of the faithful, they are chosen to be ordained, and to be missioned for their ministry. In this sense, all the baptized, who constitute the new people of God, enjoy a certain precedence in the dignity of their priestly, prophetic, and kingly office. No one can enter the ministry of the ordained without being previously baptized; no one should enter the ministry of the ordained without being recognized as a devoted disciple of Jesus. As Roman Catholics, we agree with what the Anglican–Roman Catholic International Commission wrote: the ministry of the ordained ‘is not an extension of the common Christian priesthood but belongs to another realm of the gifts of the Spirit’.3

3 ARCIC, The Final Report (London: SPCK, 1982), 36.

The Second Vatican Council had earlier described this distinction between the ministerial priesthood and the priesthood of all the faithful as one of kind and not merely one of degree, adding, ‘each in its own proper way shares in the one priesthood of Christ’ (LG 10). To this we might add: it is by precedence that the priesthood of all the faithful shares in the one priesthood of Christ, since baptism precedes any priestly ordination. No Christian community would ordain those who had not yet been baptized and so do not yet share in a primary way in the priesthood of Christ. It is always from among the members of the priestly faithful that those to be ordained are called. In their ordained ministry they are to serve the priestly faithful; they come from them and function for them. To adopt the language of 1 Peter, all the faithful are the ‘living stones’ that make up the new, spiritual Temple which is the whole Body of Christ; as priests in that Temple they offer themselves as spiritual sacrifices together with Christ the High Priest. There is only one priesthood, one sacrifice, and one Temple. In their own idiom the French School proposed something very similar: the whole Christian life and the life of all Christians form a priestly act, united with the priestly self-sacrifice of Christ himself. To talk this way is obviously to give a certain priority to the priesthood of all the faithful. Augustine does not expressly invoke the priesthood of all the faithful, but he speaks of their common sacrifice, as the one Body of Christ offered in ‘the sacrament of the altar’. ‘This’, he writes, ‘is the sacrifice of Christians: while many, they are one body in Christ. This is also celebrated by the Church in the sacrament of the altar, so well known to the faithful, wherein it is shown to the Church that she herself is offered in the thing which she offers (hoc est sacrificium Christianorum: multi unum corpus in Christo. Quod etiam, sacramento altaris fidelibus noto, frequentat ecclesia, ubi ei demonstratur, quod in ea re quam offert, ipsa offeratur)’ (The City of God, 10. 6). Without mentioning either the priesthood of the baptized or that of ordained priests who minister at the altar, Augustine prioritizes the common self-offering of the whole priestly Church when writing thus of the Eucharist. We might summarize the basic responsibility that the priesthood of the faithful entails. Through their sharing in the priesthood of Christ, all baptized Christians are called to offer themselves in the Holy Spirit as a living sacrifice to God and to intercede for the Church and the salvation of the whole world.