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November 18, 2020
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v2.1 Reference

Understanding the Religious Priesthood

History, Controversy, Theology

Most contemporary theologies of Holy Orders consider priesthood mainly in its diocesan context and most contemporary theologies of religious life do not consider how ordained ministry functions when it is internal rather than external to religious life. Understanding the Religious Priesthood provides a history and theology of religious priesthood that contributes to our understanding of this vocation's identity and mission. It uncovers what religious priesthood shares with diocesan priesthood and non-ordained religious life and what makes it different from both those other vocations.

Christian Raab begins by tracing the history of religious priesthood from its origins in the early Church to the eve of the Second Vatican Council. He demonstrates that religious priests often faced questions about how to reconcile their two callings, but that they also provided answers in their theologies and spiritualities of priesthood and religious life. Meanwhile, they made key contributions to the Church's life and mission. Raab then investigates the teachings of the Second Vatican Council on priesthood and religious life. Observing that the Council presented priesthood according to a diocesan typology and presented religious life without sacerdotal associations, he argues that the lack of imagery of religious priesthood contributed to a post-conciliar vocational identity crisis among religious priests. He then seeks to remedy this lacuna by appealing to the biblical images for religious priesthood Hans Urs von Balthasar offered in his theology of vocations. Raab argues that Balthasar's imagery is a promising way forward for understanding the identity and mission of religious priesthood. In a final part, Raab provides a substantial theological articulation of religious priesthood which illuminates its liturgical signification, ecclesial mediation and mission, and ministerial identity. Here he draws not only from Balthasar but also from Pope John Paul II, Yves Congar, Jean-Marie Tillard, Brian Daley, and Guy Mansini to construct his profile.

About the Author

Christian Raab, OSB, is an assistant professor of systematic theology at St. Meinrad Seminary. Brian E. Daley, SJ is Catherine F. Huisking Professor of Theology, University of Notre Dame.


"Understanding the Religious Priesthood makes a significant contribution to the understanding of the nature and mission of religious priesthood and how it differs from and complements diocesan priesthood and the non-ordained religious life."—Reverend Robert A. Pesarchick, Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary

"Much controversy has marked theological discussions of the religious priesthood in the past several decades. Benedictine Father Christian Raab offers an important proposal that articulates four characteristics of religious priesthood: signification, mediation, mission, and ministerial identity. I highly recommend his work."—Andrew Hofer, OP, Dominican House of Studies

"Raab receives the Second Vatican Council's inadvertent and misunderstood silence about religious priesthood into the wide history of its origins and deployment for the good of the church, and presents it to us again in the striking images Hans Urs von Balthasar offers in his theology of ecclesial vocations. This is a welcome achievement not just for religious but for the church as a whole."—Guy Mansini, OSB, Ave Maria University

"Benedictine Father Christian Raab has provided a valuable historical and theological panorama for understanding the inherent tension and the complimentarity involved in the double vocation of the religious priest. Declining to prioritize either the radical discipleship foundational to consecrated life or the apostolic office as exercised in ordained priesthood in the post-concilliar church, Raab finds promising biblical imagery in the theology of Hans Urs von Balthasar which allows for the fruitful integration of both components by the religious priest whether he is a monk, friar or member of a society of apostolic life."—Most Rev. John Stowe, OFM Conv,, Bishop of Lexington, KY

"The title indicates the enormity of the project, and Raab skillfully sets forth his argument for the validity of the vocation of the religious priest, employing a wide range of historical and theological sources in a convincing presentation of the pros and cons regarding the religious priesthood."—Thomist


9780813233239 : understanding-the-religious-priesthood-raab
Paperback / softback
352 Pages
$34.95 USD

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