Among the most challenging observations of Cardinal Óscar Rodríguez in his address to the UD Ministry Conference were his comments on the priesthood as understood by Vatican II. Listed first among the things the Council recognized as in need of change was that “the Church is not [only] the hierarchy but [also] God’s people.”
Continuing on this theme he added that “the hierarchy has no reason to be in itself or for itself, but in reference (to) and in service to the community,” and that “the function of the hierarchy is redefined with relation to Jesus, suffering servant and not as ‘Pantocrator’ (lord and emperor of this world).” The Cardinal then added that, “the hierarchy is a ministry (diakonia= service) that demands to reduce oneself to the condition of servant. To occupy that place (weakness and poverty) fitting, truly proper of it.”
Again referring to the work of the Council, he went on to explain that “there is not a double rank of Christians among the people: lay people and clergy, essentially different. The Church as a ‘society of unequals’ disappears: consequently, there is not in Christ and the Church any inequalities’” (Lumen Gentium, 12).
Cardinal Rodríguez further stressed that, “not a single ministry can be placed above this common dignity. The clergy are not the ‘mankind of God,’ nor the lay people ‘the mankind of the world.’ That dichotomy is false. We are talking correctly, instead of clergy and lay people, we talk about community and ministries.”
Citing the Epistle to the Hebrews he noted that “in Christ there has been a change of priesthood” (Heb. 7, 12). In effect, the first characteristic of the priesthood of Jesus is that “he becomes similar in every way to mankind.”
Cardinal Rodríguez’ comments take on special significance since he is the chairman of Pope Francis’ Council of Cardinal Advisers and only recently returned from the meeting of the Cardinal advisers with the Pope in October.