Teaching on all-male priesthood is definitive, cardinal-designate says

Archbishop Luis Ladaria, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, speaks at a news conference to present the document, "Placuit Deo," at the Vatican March 1. Archbishop Ladaria was one of 14 new cardinals named by Pope Francis May 20. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

That only men can be validly ordained to the priesthood is a truth that is part of the Catholic faith and will not and cannot change, said Cardinal-designate Luis Ladaria, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

"It gives rise to serious concern to see that in some countries there still are voices that put in doubt the definitive nature of this doctrine," the cardinal-designate wrote May 29 in the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano.


St. John Paul II, confirming the constant teaching and practice of the church, formally declared in 1994 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."

Cardinal-designate Ladaria said some people continue to question the infallibility of St. John Paul's declaration in the document "Ordinatio Sacerdotalis" because "it was not defined 'ex cathedra'" or formally, solemnly proclaimed as infallible. The argument, the cardinal-designate wrote, is that "a later decision by a future pope or council could overturn it."

That only men can be validly ordained to the priesthood is a truth that is part of the Catholic faith and will not and cannot change, said Cardinal-designate Luis Ladaria, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

But "sowing these doubts creates serious confusion among the faithful not only about the sacrament of orders as part of the divine constitution of the church, but also about how the ordinary magisterium can teach Catholic doctrine in an infallible way," he wrote.

A teaching of the church is infallible not only when it is solemnly pronounced by a council or by a pope speaking "ex cathedra," he said. A teaching is recognized as infallible also when it is "the ordinary and universal teaching of bishops spread throughout the world when, in communion among themselves and with the pope, they propose Catholic doctrine that is to be held definitively."

That is what St. John Paul did, he said. "He did not declare new dogma, but with the authority conferred on him as successor of Peter, he formally confirmed and made explicit -- to remove any doubt -- that which the ordinary and universal magisterium had considered as belonging to the deposit of faith throughout the history of the church."

"Christ willed to confer this sacrament on the 12 apostles -- all men -- who, in turn, communicated it to other men," Cardinal-designate Ladaria wrote. "The church always has seen itself as bound to this decision of the Lord, which excludes that the ministerial priesthood can be conferred validly on women."

In response to questions, he said, the doctrinal congregation "has repeated that this is a truth belonging to the deposit of the faith."

That a candidate for the priesthood must be male, he said, belongs to the "substance of the sacrament" and cannot be changed because the sacrament was instituted by Christ.

In "The Joy of the Gospel" in 2013 Pope Francis wrote, "The reservation of the priesthood to males, as a sign of Christ the spouse who gives himself in the Eucharist, is not a question open to discussion,"

Just because women cannot be ordained, he said, does not imply "subordination, but a mutual enrichment."

The exalted role of Mary in the church, even though she was not one of the 12 apostles, shows the importance of both the feminine and masculine in the church, he said, which is a challenge to modern culture that "struggles to understand the meaning and goodness of the difference between man and woman."

Cardinal-designate Ladaria noted that Pope Francis also has reaffirmed the teaching on an all-male priesthood.

In "The Joy of the Gospel" in 2013 he wrote, "The reservation of the priesthood to males, as a sign of Christ the spouse who gives himself in the Eucharist, is not a question open to discussion."

And, responding to a reporter's question on a trip to Sweden in 2016, he said, "As for the ordination of women in the Catholic Church, the last, clear word was given by St. John Paul II, and this holds."

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Laurel Bowman
1 year 9 months ago

I'm sorry about this. As a Protestant, I find it incomprehensible.

Nora Bolcon
1 year 8 months ago

Don't apologize for being appropriately disgusted. I am and I am Roman Catholic. This cardinal is wrong because Jesus never ordained any priests at all and none of the 12 apostles ever claimed to have ordained any priests either and there were both male and female presbyters leading churches in their houses originally and no apostles ever admonished any of them for being the wrong gender while pastoring their flocks and presiding over Holy Eucharist. This is why many Catholics just blot out whatever these tyrannical cardinals say. My response to him is: "You are the sinner not me as Jesus commanded you, like me, to treat no one any differently than you wish to be treated yourself, and he never gave any bishop the right to refuse sacraments based on gender, race, ethnicity or any other kind of hatred and bias. To fulfill Passover Law which existed in Exodus and was directed to Moses, the whole family, male and female would have to have taken part in the Last Supper and none of our accepted four gospels claim that only the 12 were present. This cardinal is just a man who has hatred for his sisters - a very sad and unfortunate demon to keep inside. I will pray for him but he is not the decider of whether or not women can be ordained - God is alone and God never said they couldn't be priests, bishops, cardinals and Popes. Whenever any group is treated differently and more restricted than another based on how they are born and not on their capabilities they are being treated less human. So this cardinal will have to answer for his misogyny before Christ if he does not repent of it on earth and anyone who supports that misogyny will have to do the same. Jesus does not guarantee us heaven if we choose to cling to the hatred and the oppression of others.

Caterina Smith
1 year 8 months ago

They have painted themselves into a corner. Maybe they should invite some women theologians to help them extricate themselves. Otherwise, just as those within the church who molest children are now subject to civil law, at some point those who perpetrate unjust discrimination, may also be subject to civil law.

Nora Bolcon
1 year 8 months ago

Amen Caterina! Someday very soon, if we don't all demand equal sacraments for all baptized, when there are no people coming to the churches to see the minute amount of priests still left, they will finally have to face the hatred that they have perpetrated against their own Sisters in Christ for the grave sin it has always been. Shame on this cardinal and shame on all of us for following these obviously evil rules of bias and oppression for so long. There is nothing Christian in what this article states. Jesus taught us in every Gospel, those who love me, follow my teachings and commandments to Love God and each other and treat all others as you would wish to be treated.

Nora Bolcon
1 year 8 months ago

A teaching is recognized as infallible also when it is "the ordinary and universal teaching of bishops spread throughout the world when, in communion among themselves and with the pope, they propose Catholic doctrine that is to be held definitively."

This condition has not been met because all the bishops have not agreed, in any age, that women cannot be ordained priests. So this is not an infallible doctrine.

The agreement of bishops cannot be coerced, by any Pope, in order to show communion and mutual consent of bishops. No bishops can be made to feel threatened, in any way, to keep silent in their disagreement on the ordination of women if communion is to be evidenced among all bishops. Forced complicity via threats of punishment towards bishops who believe women should be ordained equally to men and therefore disagree with the Pope, cannot constitute agreement or communion of bishops on this subject or any other. The communion or agreement of bishops must be voluntary.

In fact, the only way to prove there is agreement of all bishops, regarding women's ordination, even existing today, would be to take a vote of all bishops around the world, after having Pope Francis inform them that they can choose freely to vote that women can and should have all equal access to all sacraments immediately, and no repercussion will be put upon any bishops for voting to this end. Our church has never had such vote of Bishops on this subject.

I would definitely support a vote being put forth to all of our bishops immediately on this issue because there are many current bishops who have been pushing for women's equal ordination despite warnings of punishment if they do so.

Pope Francis and the hierarchy won't make this vote to see if they can get agreement against women from all bishops because they know they can't get it. They won't put forth such a vote to all bishops unless they can punish the bishops who vote to have women ordained because they know they don't have agreement now and if they can't prove they have this agreement then their misogyny would stand out even more blatantly than it already does, once they don't get the votes they need and still don't ordain women priests immediately.

Only one vote, from any living bishop, approving women's ordination to priesthood, invalidates the premise to have this ban considered dogma or infallible in the future, as the evidence would be clear there is no communion or agreement of bishops without coercion.

So any pope in the future, or currently, can overturn JP II's order banning women. Firstly, because JP II had no basis to make the order to begin with, in scripture, and he was told that, at the time, which is why he did not call this ban infallible, at the time. Secondly, because we are to view Gospel commands of Christ as automatic high dogma and Christ's commandment demands we treat all with love and the same as we wish to be treated always. To treat women differently than men for work they are equally qualified to do is sin. According to the Gospel of John such biased treatment is proof of a lack of love towards another believer which is equally proof of a lack of love for Christ and God the Father. Not even a pope can turn a grave action of sin into an act of righteousness by proclamation.

It is acceptable to discriminate based on physical deficit of ability but not merely on the difference between flesh of believers alone. For example, it is acceptable for Christ to discriminate against Gentile Men and All Women when picking the original 12 apostles because they were not called to be priests but judges of the 12 tribes of Israel. This was to fulfill a promise by God to Abraham and King David. The 12 had to represent the ongoing lineage of Abraham, and therefor had to literally contain his bloodline, and they had to be a symbol of lineage meaning someone who can pass down the lineage so they had to be male. Women do not pass down blood lineage even though they can represent tribe in the present they can't symbolize continued lineage, or blood inheritance, as the promise to Abraham required. Obviously, gentiles, male or female, are even less appropriate choices for Christ to pick as original apostles because they have the wrong blood. After Christ rises, and the 12 have fulfilled the required symbolism of founding the church in Abraham's blood, no longer does lineage or blood or flesh matter. This is why gentile men and all women can be equally priests in Christ's Church. That is why our first Pope Peter tells us we are all included in the Royal Priesthood and never does he mention any other kind of priesthood in the church beyond that of this royal priesthood. Peter speaks of presbyters and refers to himself as a presbyter in Acts, or a pastor who leads churches and celebrates Eucharist and likely hears confessions to help reconcile parishioners to God, but women were presbyters during the time of Acts too and the apostles supported their good works.

So there is simply nothing to support this bias against women other than misogyny. Catholic Priests are not chosen by God through their lineage and therefore patriarchy's only purpose left within our church, is that of the oppression and the subjugation of women to men sacramentally and authoritatively. This is sin, and one Christ will hold us all accountable for supporting, if we do not all demand immediate change. We must also fight any version of worsened attack against women's human dignity, in any form, such as allowing married male priests, and therefore instituting complete gender segregation and complete and total domination of all females by all males in our church.

Women are not helped by being made permanent deacons since deacons have no authority in our church and cannot promote to priesthood. Married men are no less sexist than celibate men and often are more sexist, as the Orthodox Churches make obvious, so we have no reason to ordain married men to priesthood who chose marriage as their preferred vocation before we ordain women priests. The way to give women back same human dignity as men in our church is by directly doing so and now! By repenting of our past sins and injury against all of our women's human dignity and to immediately demand complete equality in the form of equal sacraments for all baptized members to be restored to women, as appeared to be the case in the beginning of the church. It is time to simply demand Pope Francis and our leaders just do the right thing! and do it now! Stop the Hate so we can all begin to heal finally.

Lisa Weber
1 year 8 months ago

It would be nice if Cardinal-designate Ladaria would quit rubbing salt in an open wound. I don't necessarily disagree with reserving the priesthood to men - for reasons too complex to explain here - but I still wish he could live without rubbing it in. My sense of the men who are most adamant about a men-only priesthood is that they are unsure whether they could keep up with women if women were ordained. Women need to be deacons so that they can preach at Mass and I wish the church would move forward with that.

I am also tired of hearing about the exalted place of Mother Mary in the church. She is the ideal woman from the standpoint of a misogynist. She is ever-virgin and said almost nothing. The church categorically silences women in its principal liturgy - that is misogyny.

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