From a conversation between selected authors and documents from the Roman
Catholic Magisterium, this thesis suggests that the presbyter is one who is given
by God to be an assurance of faith to the church.
In the first part of the thesis, under the headings of 'Assurance', 'Authenticity'
and 'Authority', the author reflects on the image of the ordained priest as leader
of the community and considers the questions raised in the recent debate as to the
identity of the ordained as acting in the person of Christ and in the person of the
church. Also considered is the identity of the ordained as emerging from the
teaching of the Roman Catholic Church especially in relation to the document
'Pastores Dabo Vobis' of John Paul II. The definition of the office of presbyter as
distinct from that of bishop is also explored in relationship to the parish and the
local bishop. In the second part of the thesis, under the title of 'Gift and Return',
the author examines some recent theology which underlines the sacraments as
encounters between God and humanity, and show how they are participations in
the life of God. Recent theological work concerning the postmodern challenge to
an understanding of how God and the human are mutually present to one another
is also reviewed. The third and final part of the thesis draws the first two parts
together, with reference to assurance, authenticity, and authority but this time in
connection with the three offices of priest, prophet, and pastor.
The conclusion of this thesis is that the presbyter's identity is founded in his
being the gift of assurance in the realm of the ordinary. This is a preferred model
to other images used to describe the presbyter, such as shepherd and steward.