Based in part on answers to this question, this definition from the Merriam-Webster dictionary:

: religious belief emphasizing the powers of priests as essential mediators between God and humankind

and this definition from Wikipedia:

Sacerdotalism (from Latin sacerdos, "priest", literally "one who presents sacred offerings", sacer, "sacred", and dare, "to give")1 is the belief in some Christian churches that priests are meant to be mediators between God and humankind.

I would like to compile a list of those Churches or denominations which officially affirm Sacerdotalism where that affirmation is not only to the ministry of Priests as mediators but the essential nature of that mediation in the salvation of the faithful. The Wikipedia article names Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and some forms of Anglo-Catholic theology as sacerdotal. It also indicates some forms of Lutheranism as sacerdotal, at least as far as the handing down of the priestly work of the Apostles is concerned, but I wonder if that fulfills the 'essential to salvation' qualifier. I also think Latter-Day Saints hold a 'restored' priestly ministry which is theologically important but I wonder if 'essential to salvation' is accurate.

Which Christian Churches teach that the mediatorial ministration of their official priesthood is essential to the salvation act/process for individual humans?

I hesitate to ask after a denominational survey since that requires a daunting effort. Perhaps answers could come in the form of a 'community wiki' wherein each denomination adds to or edits in its own official support of sacerdotalism? If this is a legitimate method for answering, could someone with the correct amount of computer savvy please make it so?

2 Answers 2


The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints endorses this doctrine, however they do not call it sacerdotalism.

The Book of Mormon, regarded as canon among the church, makes the assertion (among many other LDS scriptures) that in order to be saved, one must be baptized.

23 And he commandeth all men that they must repent, and be baptized in his name, having perfect faith in the Holy One of Israel, or they cannot be saved in the kingdom of God. - 2 Nephi 9:23 (see also Ether 4:18 and 3 Nephi 11:33)

So if someone must be baptized to be saved, then there must be someone to perform that baptism as a mediator between God and man. There is no record of Jesus performing baptisms himself (that I am aware of), so the person performing the baptism becomes the mediator required for salvation.

The next natural question that may come up is if someone can baptize themselves and circumvent the need for a mediator. Once again, there is no record of self-baptism in the Bible (that I am aware of), but the manner by which baptism is performed in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is laid out in the Doctrine and Covenants, another book regarded as scripture among the church.

71 No one can be received into the church of Christ unless he has arrived unto the years of accountability before God, and is capable of repentance.

72 Baptism is to be administered in the following manner unto all those who repent—

73 The person who is called of God and has authority from Jesus Christ to baptize, shall go down into the water with the person who has presented himself or herself for baptism, and shall say, calling him or her by name: Having been commissioned of Jesus Christ, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

74 Then shall he immerse him or her in the water, and come forth again out of the water. - D&C 20:71-74

This passage shows that baptism must be performed by someone "called of God." In the LDS church this refers specific authority given to people called the priesthood, specifically the Aaronic Priesthood.

20 The power and authority of the lesser, or Aaronic Priesthood, is to hold the keys of the ministering of angels, and to administer in outward ordinances, the letter of the gospel, the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins, agreeable to the covenants and commandments. - D&C 107:20

Generally, the priesthood is only conferred on baptized members of the church with the exception of church founders Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdry (see D&C 13:1). Therefore, according to the doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, a human mediator is required for salvation.

The last argument to make to determine whether The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints meets the criteria for an answer to this question is whether or not the church is a Christian denomination. This is debatable and depends on the definition of Christianity. I am not going to attempt to make an argument here, but related arguments have been made here and here and here.

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    Thank you. This is just the type of answer I am hoping for. +1 I would ask you to consider making this answer a 'community wiki' but that would mean that upvotes would not accrue to anyone and, as you are a new contributor, that seems unfair. Commented Feb 13 at 18:02

Which Christian Churches or Denominations subscribe to sacerdotalism as essential?

The Catholic Church, the Orthodox Churches (both Eastern and Oriental), the Anglican Church and the Assyrian Church of the East, all profess that priests are essential mediators between God and man. Priests are essential in the sense that they help the faithful get closer to God through the sacraments. Also essential in the sense also that a priest can reconcile a soul with God when one commits a serious sin with the sacrament of reconciliation.

Here follows an overview of many Christian denominations on the subject:

Sacerdotalism is the belief that priests are essential mediators between God and man. The word sacerdotal comes from the Latin word for “priest” and literally means “to make sacred.” Catholic, Orthodox, and Anglican forms of worship are sacerdotal.

Sacerdotalism teaches that the priesthood is a special class of churchman and is a necessary part of worship. People cannot approach God on their own, but must come through a priest, whether it is for confessing sin, taking communion, or receiving grace. Any divine blessing conferred upon an individual comes through the Church; that is, through the Church’s ordained priesthood.

The Old Testament law placed the Jews under a sacerdotal system. Aaron and his sons were divinely selected to be the first priests to minister to Israel (Exodus 28:1). The priestly duties included offering sacrifices for the atonement of sin (Hebrews 5:1); representing the nation before God (Exodus 28:9-12); and teaching the people God’s Word (Ezekiel 44:23).

The Old Testament priesthood was a picture of the future ministry of Christ, who fulfills all that the Levitical priesthood anticipated. The book of Hebrews, especially chapters 5-10, presents Jesus Christ as the perfect High Priest and the fulfillment of the Old Testament law. In Christ, the entire legalistic system of sacrifice and ritual, including the priesthood, is made obsolete (Romans 10:4).

The New Testament does not support a sacerdotal system of worship. As Martin Luther points out in The Private Mass and Consecration of Priests, the Holy Spirit has “in the New Testament diligently prevented the name sacerdos, priest or cleric, from being given even to an apostle or to various other offices.” In other words, the Bible never uses the word priest in relation to church leadership; rather, the Bible teaches the universal priesthood of all believers.

When Jesus offered Himself as the ultimate sacrifice for sin, God tore the veil in the temple in two, indicating open access to His presence through the body of Christ (Hebrews 10:19-20). Jesus now occupies the office of eternal High Priest, making constant intercession for His people (Hebrews 7:24-25).

Sacerdotalism insulates people from God, erecting human barriers where the New Testament places none. The Scripture is clear that “there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5). Biblically speaking, every believer is a priest “offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5).

What is sacerdotalism?

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    It is an overview response and not Catholic.
    – Ken Graham
    Commented Feb 15 at 13:20
  • So, the four Churches you list at the beginning teach that the mediatorial ministration of their official priesthood is essential to the salvation act/process for individual humans? Commented Feb 15 at 13:26
  • In so far as a priest can pray for the faithful as one who mediate to God on behalf of the faithful
    – Ken Graham
    Commented Feb 15 at 13:31
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    Can pray or must pray? The heart of this question is whether a priest's ministration is essential not available. Is there anything that a priest does, in the Churches you have named, that is essential to a person's salvation? Commented Feb 15 at 13:48

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