In discussions about the priesthood, the thought is variously expressed that being a priest is, in fact, not a realistic vocation nowadays because the priest has no place in a world of specialization since it is impossible for anyone to specialize in the whole of life; therefore, people say, if the priesthood is to continue to be a vocation, then the priest, too, must be a specialist, a kind of specialist in theological questions, who serves the community in that capacity and can counsel them. I say no. The great and always necessary role of the priest consists in this: that, in a world fragmented by specialization and therefore sick and suffering and disintegrated, the priest continues to be someone who is there for everyone, who holds humanity together from within. For that is our real trouble, that humanity is no longer just human; that there are special categories for the aged, for these and for those, for the sick and for children, but there is no place for humanity as such. If there were no priests, someone would have to be found who, in the midst of all the specialization, would be a person sent by God for all persons, who would be there for the sick and the well, for children and adults, for weekdays and feastdays, and who would reintegrate the whole of humanity by God’s merciful love. This is the real beauty, the profoundly human and, at the same time, holy and sacramental aspect of the priesthood, that, despite all the training necessitated by his priesthood, he is, in the last analysis, not just one specialist among many, but a servant of all creatures, of all humans, who guides us over the rough places of life into God’s merciful love, into the unity of the body of Christ.
FromL Ordinariatskorrespondenz, no. 24, July 6, 1978