The three offices of all the faithful will often be in tension and sometimes in conflict, but should always be set towards resolution and harmony. We recalled a particular insight offered by John Henry Newman about tensions that could emerge through the Church sharing in the threefold office of Christ. In particular, he wrote about the ‘conflicting interests’ and ‘difficulties’ he detected in the exercise of the priestly, prophetic, and kingly offices during the later years of the pontificate of Blessed Pius IX. In 1 Corinthians 12 Paul wrote about the variety of spiritual gifts enjoyed by the Christian community in Corinth and about tensions that could arise through the exercise of these different charisms. The gifts should all serve the common good; diversity should not be at the expense of unity. One might understand Newman to have transposed into the key of the triple office the possible and actual tensions that Paul detected in the exercise of various charisms. Many readers, without lapsing into harsh judgements, should be able to remember situations where tensions arose between Christians who embodied different emphases in exercising the threefold dignity received through faith and baptism. The more prophetic bent of some can lead to conflict with others of a more priestly or kingly/ pastoral bent. Or the priestly aptitude of some can create issues with others of more pastoral/kingly instinct. Whatever the diversity, it should be harmonized for the good of all.


The priesthood of all the faithful, along with their prophetic and kingly/ pastoral office, involves not only being tried and tested but also becoming vulnerable to persecution and lethal hostility. This thesis, which matches our sixth thesis about vulnerability and suffering characterizing the exercise of Christ’s own triple office, rests on abundant New Testament witness. Jesus himself warned of persecution that his followers would undergo (e.g. Matt. 10: 17, 23). 1 Peter, which calls the faithful a ‘royal’ and ‘holy’ priesthood (1 Pet. 2: 5, 9), was written to encourage them in their sufferings. The Book of Revelation, which represents Christians in royal and priestly terms, engages right from the start with the trials and afflictions they must undergo (e.g. Rev. 2: 2–3, 9–10). The Letter to the Hebrews, before applying sacrificial, priestly language to Christian existence (Heb. 12: 28: 13: 15–16), gathers example after example of the suffering and even death that the life of faith entails (11: 1–12: 2). Baptism is the central expression of what it is to become a Christian and so share in the priesthood of Christ. The Eucharist is the central expression of what it is to be a Christian and exercise that priesthood.4