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Tuesday, July 11, 2006
Should women be Ordained as Priests?
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The answer of course is "no" for theological reasons. I planned to write a post defending the Church's position, but I realize that John Paul ll already did this in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis. This apostolic letter forever closes the issue on the ordination of women:


Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,

1. Priestly ordination, which hands on the office entrusted by Christ to his Apostles of teaching, sanctifying and governing the faithful, has in the Catholic Church from the beginning always been reserved to men alone. This tradition has also been faithfully maintained by the Oriental Churches.

When the question of the ordination of women arose in the Anglican Communion, Pope Paul VI, out of fidelity to his office of safeguarding the Apostolic Tradition, and also with a view to removing a new obstacle placed in the way of Christian unity, reminded Anglicans of the position of the Catholic Church: "She holds that it is not admissible to ordain women to the priesthood, for very fundamental reasons. These reasons include: the example recorded in the Sacred Scriptures of Christ choosing his Apostles only from among men; the constant practice of the Church, which has imitated Christ in choosing only men; and her living teaching authority which has consistently held that the exclusion of women from the priesthood is in accordance with God's plan for his Church."(1)

But since the question had also become the subject of debate among theologians and in certain Catholic circles, Paul VI directed the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to set forth and expound the teaching of the Church on this matter. This was done through the Declaration Inter Insigniores, which the Supreme Pontiff approved and ordered to be published.(2)

2. The Declaration recalls and explains the fundamental reasons for this teaching, reasons expounded by Paul VI, and concludes that the Church "does not consider herself authorized to admit women to priestly ordination."(3) To these fundamental reasons the document adds other theological reasons which illustrate the appropriateness of the divine provision, and it also shows clearly that Christ's way of acting did not proceed from sociological or cultural motives peculiar to his time. As Paul VI later explained: "The real reason is that, in giving the Church her fundamental constitution, her theological anthropology-thereafter always followed by the Church's Tradition- Christ established things in this way."(4)

In the Apostolic Letter Mulieris Dignitatem, I myself wrote in this regard: "In calling only men as his Apostles, Christ acted in a completely free and sovereign manner. In doing so, he exercised the same freedom with which, in all his behavior, he emphasized the dignity and the vocation of women, without conforming to the prevailing customs and to the traditions sanctioned by the legislation of the time."(5)

In fact the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles attest that this call was made in accordance with God's eternal plan; Christ chose those whom he willed (cf. Mk 3:13-14; Jn 6:70), and he did so in union with the Father, "through the Holy Spirit" (Acts 1:2), after having spent the night in prayer (cf. Lk 6:12). Therefore, in granting admission to the ministerial priesthood,(6) the Church has always acknowledged as a perennial norm her Lord's way of acting in choosing the twelve men whom he made the foundation of his Church (cf. Rv 21:14). These men did not in fact receive only a function which could thereafter be exercised by any member of the Church; rather they were specifically and intimately associated in the mission of the Incarnate Word himself (cf. Mt 10:1, 7-8; 28:16-20; Mk 3:13-16; 16:14-15). The Apostles did the same when they chose fellow workers(7) who would succeed them in their ministry.(8) Also included in this choice were those who, throughout the time of the Church, would carry on the Apostles' mission of representing Christ the Lord and Redeemer.(9)

3. Furthermore, the fact that the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God and Mother of the Church, received neither the mission proper to the Apostles nor the ministerial priesthood clearly shows that the non-admission of women to priestly ordination cannot mean that women are of lesser dignity, nor can it be construed as discrimination against them. Rather, it is to be seen as the faithful observance of a plan to be ascribed to the wisdom of the Lord of the universe.

The presence and the role of women in the life and mission of the Church, although not linked to the ministerial priesthood, remain absolutely necessary and irreplaceable. As the Declaration Inter Insigniores points out, "the Church desires that Christian women should become fully aware of the greatness of their mission: today their role is of capital importance both for the renewal and humanization of society and for the rediscovery by believers of the true face of the Church."(10)

The New Testament and the whole history of the Church give ample evidence of the presence in the Church of women, true disciples, witnesses to Christ in the family and in society, as well as in total consecration to the service of God and of the Gospel. "By defending the dignity of women and their vocation, the Church has shown honor and gratitude for those women who-faithful to the Gospel-have shared in every age in the apostolic mission of the whole People of God. They are the holy martyrs, virgins and mothers of families, who bravely bore witness to their faith and passed on the Church's faith and tradition by bringing up their children in the spirit of the Gospel."(11)

Moreover, it is to the holiness of the faithful that the hierarchical structure of the Church is totally ordered. For this reason, the Declaration Inter Insigniores recalls: "the only better gift, which can and must be desired, is love (cf. 1 Cor 12 and 13). The greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven are not the ministers but the saints."(12)

4. Although the teaching that priestly ordination is to be reserved to men alone has been preserved by the constant and universal Tradition of the Church and firmly taught by the Magisterium in its more recent documents, at the present time in some places it is nonetheless considered still open to debate, or the Church's judgment that women are not to be admitted to ordination is considered to have a merely disciplinary force.

Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church's divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church's faithful.

Invoking an abundance of divine assistance upon you, venerable brothers, and upon all the faithful, I impart my apostolic blessing.

From the Vatican, on May 22, the Solemnity of Pentecost, in the year 1994, the sixteenth of my Pontificate.


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NOTES

1. Paul VI, Response to the Letter of His Grace the Most Reverend Dr. F.D. Coggan, Archbishop of Canterbury, concerning the Ordination of Women to the Priesthood (November 30, 1975); AAS 68 (1976), 599.

2. Cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration Inter Insigniores on the question of the Admission of Women to the Ministerial Priesthood (October 15, 1976): AAS 69 (1977), 98-116.

3. Ibid., 100.

4. Paul VI, Address on the Role of Women in the Plan of Salvation (January 30, 1977): Insegnamenti, XV (1977), 111. Cf. Also John Paul II Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles laici (December 30, 1988), n. 51: AAS 81 (1989), 393-521; Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1577.
5. Apsotolic Letter Mulieris Dignnitatem (August 15, 1988), n. 26: AAS 80 (1988), 1715.

6. Cf. Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, n. 28 Decree Presbyterorum Ordinis, n. 2b.

7. Cf. 1 Tm 3:1-13; 2 Tm 1:6; Ti 1:5-9.

8. Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1577.

9. Cf. Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, nn. 20,21.

10. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration Inter Insigniores, n. 6: AAS 69 (1977), 115-116.

11. Apostolic Letter Mulieris Dignitatem, n. 27: AAS 80 (1988), 1719.

12. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration Inter Insigniores n. 6: AAS 69 (1977), 115.

Copyright © Libreria Editrice Vaticana

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith further stated that this teaching must be believed by all Catholics:

October 28, 1995

Dubium: Whether the teaching that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women, which is presented in the Apostolic Letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis to be held definitively, is to be understood as belonging to the deposit of faith.

Responsum: In the affirmative.

This teaching requires definitive assent, since, founded on the written Word of God, and from the beginning constantly preserved and applied in the Tradition of the Church, it has been set forth infallibly by the ordinary and universal Magisterium (cf. Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium 25, 2). Thus, in the present circumstances, the Roman Pontiff, exercising his proper office of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32), has handed on this same teaching by a formal declaration, explicitly stating what is to be held always, everywhere, and by all, as belonging to the deposit of the faith.

The Sovereign Pontiff John Paul II, at the Audience granted to the undersigned Cardinal Prefect, approved this Reply, adopted in the ordinary session of this Congregation, and ordered it to be published.

Rome, from the offices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, on the Feast of the Apostles SS. Simon and Jude, October 28, 1995.

Joseph Card. Ratzinger
Prefect

Tarcisio Bertone
Archbishop Emeritus of Vercelli

9 comments:

del_button July 11, 2006 at 10:59 AM
Sharon said...

Thank you for posting this.
It's an argument I often hear- women should be allowed to become priests.
Shamefully, I am never able to well debate in defense of the teachings.
If you don't mind, I would like to reference to this on my blog.

del_button July 11, 2006 at 12:02 PM
Jeff Miller said...

One thing to remember though is that the Apostolic Letter itself was not itself a use of an ex-cathredra statement but an affirmation on the constant teaching of the Church.

Then-Cardinal Ratzinger in a dubium replied that "This teaching requires definitive assent" and that "it has been set forth infallibly by the ordinary and universal Magisterium"
http://www.ewtn.com/library/curia/cdfrespo.htm

The irony is that liberals who always talk about Vatican II will ignore Lunem Gentium when is comes to their obedience when somethng required definitive assent.

del_button July 11, 2006 at 12:54 PM
Moneybags said...

Sharon, please do reference to this. We need to get this out for others to see and understand.

Jeff, I'm very thankful you pointed that out. While it is not an ex-cathedra statement, it does require definitive assent.

del_button July 11, 2006 at 6:44 PM
Sharon said...

Thank you! :)
I have posted the link on my blog. I hope everyone that stops by reads it.

del_button June 9, 2007 at 4:18 PM
Anonymous said...

So glad to find another site that posts such things. I always love to find little treasures like these in my online excursions.

Thank-you

del_button October 10, 2007 at 10:24 PM
Anonymous said...

Please read this question as a real and serious question posed not to doubt Holy Mother Church's teachings, but to allow a fuller and deeper understanding and to perfect my reason in its assent to the Truth.

In discussing the inability to ordain women to the priesthood of Jesus Christ the point was raised that the argument only men can stand 'in persona Christi' because Jesus is a man is faulty because both men and women are the Church which is the "bride of Christ" and feminine. That is as succinct as I can phrase this question, but I think it is intelligible. Any thoughts are welcome.

del_button May 6, 2008 at 12:13 AM
Anonymous said...

yeh go shakira

del_button April 23, 2010 at 1:10 AM
Anonymous said...

I don't think God would have allowed women to be treated they way they have been for so many years. I think men have manipulated the Bible and have twisted the words to their own benefit so that they can be in control. We have learned about God based on writings that we don't even know if they are completely true. If it really doesn't matter anymore whether a man has to pure to be a priest because in some Churches it is allowed for priest to be married so why it okay for them to change that and not for a woman to be a priest. It is just wrong. People don't know what God is thinking so why speak for him and make assumptions that you have not actually heard him say.

del_button December 16, 2012 at 3:32 PM
Anonymous said...

"Unacceptable comments:
2. Denying the existence of God
7. Linking to a video, article, webpage, etc. that I deem anti-Catholic"

Do these rules really allow for discourse or for just a one-sided argument? It seems like you wish to stifle opposition instead of replying to it in a mature manner that would actually turn dissenters to your cause.

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