There is a big difference between the classical definition of a priest and the more recent (within the 500 years) purpose of a minister to lead a congregation in prayer and to spread as well as explain the “scriptures” of a particular protestant denomination (definition for priest see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Priest). This is not to minimize the importance of a minister; they are the equivalent of priests in most protestant Christian denomination. The main difference, which protestant denominations evidently think is no longer necessary in the modern world, is the fact that a priest offers sacrifice for the purpose of propitiation. Propitiation is defined as atonement when searched on google or appeasement to a god. There is a need for appeasement or atonement because adherents have sinned, offended a god or in the case of Catholics/Christians and other mono-theistic religions, the God – the one unique only perfect all knowing all powerful being that always existed who is responsible for creating the universe out of nothing. Sin is going against the universal moral order God has established, as correct conduct toward men and toward God Himself. You have only to read C.S. Lewis’ book Mere Christianity, where he helps men see, that there is a deep seated, in the consciousness of man, order of what is absolute right and wrong. This is across all cultures and some are strongly in some with some things desensitize and therefore not followed (i.e. exceptions exist but are few and not universal and probably if these cultures were questioned they would reveal that they were not comfortable with those certain things others delineate as wrong but follow it because of strong cultural “habits”) but which are more or less uniform between cultures.
Assuming we accept that there is moral right and wrong and committing moral wrong offends God and that if we wish to live with God in eternity, we must reconcile with him and that to do that some sort of atonement is necessary then it is not an outrageous assumption that He might want or require some sort of sacrifice to atone for our sins. But because of God’s infinite dignity and the fact that He created us from nothing it would take a sacrifice of infinite worth to atone for any offense against Him. This is exactly what Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the cross did. But at the last supper Jesus Christ asked us to basically offer the Holy Sacrifice of the mass in remembrance of Him proclaiming his death until he comes (see 1 Corinthians 11). But why not just to remember Him or to feed His “flock” with the food from heaven. That is because in the catholic mass is the unbloodied-one-in-the same-co-enactment of the bloody sacrifice offered on Calvary where, Jesus Christ, God, actually returns truly body, blood soul and divinity to guide and strengthen His people with the “Bread of heaven,” as discussed in my last blog. This is because just as many protestants emphasize, the source of our redemption is Christ’s death on the cross. But, so it will help us focus and to personally help his people, He comes back (in body, blood, soul and divinity) in the Eucharists consecrated each mass, because He almighty God and has decided from all eternity to give us the access to Him and His help through out time, until we are at last completely with Him, body and soul, after the end of this universe, in that special way, when we “know” Him (and indeed the trinity) directly, not through our senses in the Beatific Vision.
The reason there are priest is that, though his death on the cross opened the door to heaven, we still cannot enter unless we are perfect (Matthew 5:48). But we all know ourselves, very few of us think we can be perfect, but that is why we must pray for help always (Luke 18:1), so God can provide us help since as Jesus said in Mark 10:27 “with men it is impossible; but not with God: for all things are possible with God.” Many protestants think that since the door is open it means that we can just ask God directly and we can be forgiven our sins and for venial sins this is possible though we may need to spend time in purgatory. Unfortunately, this is not true for intentional mortal sins (1 John 5:17 relates that there are different seriousness of sin, some that lead to spiritual death) like adultery or murder. Just like Jesus Christ left the “bread of heaven,” a sacrament to strengthen us, He left the sacrament of penance to heal and with mortal sin to resurrect our souls when he said in John 20:21-23: “ . . . As the Father hath sent me, I also send you. When he hath said this he breathed on them; and he said to them: Receive ye the Holy Ghost. Whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retained they are retained.”
But you ask why can’t you ask God directly as some proport you can do? Because if you have committed a mortal sin, sanctifying grace, the life of God, heavenly spiritual life which you first receive at baptism is gone, and as we have seen in all the scriptures and stories concerning the saints no man can raise him or her self from the dead only Jesus Christ could raise himself from the dead (though his apostles – see Acts 9:36-42/Acts 20:7-12, as well as some saints had that power through Jesus Christ did raise the dead) in that he was God. This is why one must go to confession when He or She has committed a mortal sin to have his spiritual life restored by one of Jesus Christ’s priests who were given the power to forgive sins through the power of offering Holy Sacrifice of the mass for the propitiation of sins. Through Christ the satisfaction for a man’s sins are obtained but only though his priests can you have that effect brought onto you again if you lose the sanctifying grace you received at baptism. This makes sense because though we cannot make satisfaction to God in any way, Christ has given His priest the power to grant forgiveness through Him from the power derived from his death on the cross which is participated in by the mass offered by the priest, because that is how Jesus Christ wanted it. Many say saying a prayer (as is sometimes given by a priest as penance in confession) can’t really atone for some sins, but if a person commits a murder as part of his penance he may be asked to confess to the police. But just as governments and judges in New York and San Francisco last year – 2021, have been given the power to let criminals off easy, cannot almighty God, the source of all authority (John 19:11) just as easily and with more authority than any human power, leave it to the discretion of his selected “judges” what the penance/punishment should be for offenses against Him?
The priest is God’s selected representative with authority given him through apostolic succession to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the mass, forgive sins, the authority to drive out demons (Mark 3:15) as well as the authority to preach. Ministers can preach but unless they are ordained Catholic priest, they are not given that authority from God through apostolic succession. Martin Luther started Protestantism because he wanted to worship God the way he, Martin Luther, thought God should be worshiped and wanted to build his church the way Martin Luther thought a church and religion should be structured. But I guess it was the same with Jesus Christ, He told us how He thought God should be worshiped and constructed church and religion based on that. The only difference is Jesus Christ is actually God and should know what He wants. We should remember that the fact that Jesus Christ is God (and therefore knows what the one, true, living God actually wants) is why people who believe in the Christian philosophy in general and people who are Catholics in particular are confident in what Jesus Christ says.
It is my opinion that God has put nothing in the holy scripture of the Bible that is superfluous. When the Sadducees and Pharisees, acknowledged experts in Jewish law (The Difference Between Pharisees and Sadducees (learnreligions.com), though not priests, came to John to be baptized he scolded them saying: “and think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham for our father. For I tell you that God is able of these stones to raise up children to Abraham.” But priests in the Jewish religion were descendants of Aaron. It is my belief that this was to accentuate the method of future selection of priest. So that the best could be selected by God the New Testament progenitor of all priest was Jesus Christ and the priesthood would henceforth not be propagated through blood like it once was, but to be able to enable even gentiles to become priest, selection was to be by apostolic succession. In other words, the apostles would select their future successors, priests and “high priest,” with the help of the Holy Ghost. In other words, through the men created by God the father, God the son selected His 12 apostles (I see Jesus as selecting Paul after Judases suicide), and their selection of successors supported by God the Holy Ghost, in this way all three persons of the blessed Trinity would be involved in the selection of future deacons, priests, bishops and popes. If selection of ministers are only supported by the Holy Ghost then the influence and Power of Jesus Christ is missing in the special way priests are selection with regard to apostolic succession. Is sacrifice old fashioned? Maybe, but Jesus Christ fundamentally changed what was sacrificed. He sacrificed himself for the world and we as part of his mystical body and as adopted children of almighty God, He wills that we share in His saving mission by being His hands in this world to continue not only His soul saving mission but in making things materially better for people in this world as He helped the blind to see, the lame to walk, the sick to get better (for this Catholics built hospitals), the ignorant to knowledge (through His preaching and through the church building the university system) and feeding the hungry (through charitable organizations like St. Vincent de Paul’s). We are called to sacrifice our lives, not by giving ourselves over to be killed like in the Aztec religion or by committing suicide as in some present-day doomsday cults, but by devoting our lives to our fellow man, devoting our lives to our families or by devoting our lives as priests or religious to the well being of the many catholic families and religious so that we may bring forth the happiness, coherence, security and joy of the reign of Christ the King (The Reign of Christ the King – Catholicism Has the Answer). Animals and people no longer have to participate in non-effective ceremonies to obtain forgiveness for sins but participate in the holy sacrifice of the mass linking our will with that of the celebrating priest to have sins forgiven and working to make the world better for our fellow man physically and emotionally as well as spiritually.