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. This was done through the Declaration Inter Insigniores, which the Supreme Pontiff approved and ordered to be published.

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Nicholas V authorised Christian conquerors to enslave native peoples. Innocent VIII endorsed the torture and execution of witches. Benedict XIV condemned taking interest on capital loans as a mortal sin. Pius IX declared non-Christians could not obtain eternal salvation. John Paul II taught that priesthood is reserved only to men. All defended errors based on a mixture of misread scripture and ill-informed prejudice. She cannot change this substance. Take note: the archbishop asserts that the exclusion of women is not just a practical custom going back to Jesus.

A fundamental obstacle is at stake, a trait that makes every woman an intrinsic mismatch to the eucharistic priesthood of Christ. What is he talking about? The site features introductory materials in 26 languages. Disqualified by birth? Jesus only chose 12 men in the original band of apostles. This was a symbolic act. He wanted these leaders of the new Israel to match the 12 tribal patriarchs of old.

But he never created the 12 as a permanent institution. Nor did he want to establish a permanent norm of male leadership. The intention of instituting a male-only priesthood was only ascribed to Jesus by later generations who projected onto him their own conviction of female inferiority.

Some women presided at the Eucharist in early Christian communities. But the Hellenistic-Roman context in which the church grew up soon strangled such "anomalies. Women were considered mentally and physically inferior.

Roman law deprived them of public office. As Augustine succinctly remarked: "Women rank below men by nature and law. No one explained this as fully as Thomas Aquinas, heralded by the church as the champion of orthodoxy. Why not? Like his contemporaries, Aquinas believed that the whole future child is contained in the male sperm. In procreation, a woman only contributes her womb — which is like a ploughed field in which a grain of seed has been sown ST II, 18, 1.

Every woman is flawed. Aquinas held that at birth the "female offspring is deficient and caused by accident. For the active power of the semen always seeks to produce a thing completely like itself, something male. So if a female is produced, this must be because the semen is weak or because the material [in the womb] is unsuitable, or because of the action of some external factor such as the winds from the south which make the air humid … " ST, I, 92, 1, ad.

But women cannot use their brain fully because God "ordered men not women for intellectual activity" ST, I, 92, 1. To use a metaphor, a woman may look like a luxury car, but she lacks a proper engine. So is this why Jesus excluded women from his priesthood? Were they simply not fully human?

Advertisement Advertisement Not in the driving seat? By using this language, revelation shows why the incarnation took place according to the male gender. It makes it impossible to ignore this historical reality. The symbol of the Bridegroom is masculine," he writes. John Paul II then goes on to explain that we may "legitimately conclude" that this was the reason why Jesus disqualified women from priestly service.

He wanted to link the Eucharist to male priests who could represent him in his masculine bridegroom role. He cannot claim real support in tradition. On the contrary, as numerous theologians have pointed out, his view contradicts the overwhelming evidence for the incarnation embracing both men and women.

The word flesh does not have a gender. As theologian Sr. Elizabeth Johnson points out, if the incarnation was restricted to the male, the female would not be redeemed since the ancient principle applies here quod non assumitur, non redimitur — "what is not taken up [in the incarnation], has not been redeemed.

Attempts through the ages to conjure up intrinsic reasons for linking maleness and priesthood have failed the test. And history delivers the knockout blow. Women have been verified compatible. Enter women deacons. During the first millennium, tens of thousands of women were ordained deacons. Their rite of ordination has been preserved.

It proves that women were ordained like the men, that is, sacramentally, to use the classic term. In other words, they qualified for holy orders. For the diaconate belongs to Orders. As the Council of Trent instructed, "If anyone says that in the Catholic Church there is not a hierarchy constituted by divine ordination, consisting of bishops, priests, and deacons: let him be anathema" Session IV, Canon 6.

So where does that leave the prefect of the doctrinal congregation? Learn more here Enter your email address to receive free newsletters from NCR.

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From "Inter Insigniores" to "Ordinatio Sacerdotalis" : documents and commentaries

One has only to think of the foundresses of the great religious families, such as Saint Clare and Saint Teresa of Avila. The latter, moreover, and Saint Catherine of Siena, have left writings so rich in spiritual doctrine that Pope Paul VI has included them among the Doctors of the Church. Nor could one forget the great number of women who have consecrated themselves to the Lord for the exercise of charity or for the missions, and the Christian wives who have had a profound influence on their families, particularly for the passing on of the faith to their children. But as Pope Paul VI also remarked,5 a very large number of Christian communities are already benefiting from the apostolic commitment of women. Some of these women are called to take part in councils set up for pastoral reflection, at the diocesan or parish level; and the Apostolic See has brought women into some of its working bodies. For some years now various Christian communities stemming from the sixteenth-century Reformation or of later origin have been admitting women to the pastoral office on a par with men.


Inter Insigniores

A few heretical sects in the first centuries, especially Gnostic ones, entrusted the exercise of the priestly ministry to women: This innovation was immediately noted and condemned by the Fathers, who considered it as unacceptable in the Church. It is true that in the writings of the Fathers, one will find the undeniable influence of prejudices unfavourable to woman, but nevertheless, it should be noted that these prejudices had hardly any influences on their pastoral activity, and still less on their spiritual direction. But over and above these considerations inspired by the spirit of the times, one finds expressed -- especially in the canonical documents of the Antiochan and Egyptian traditions -- this essential reason, namely, that by calling only men to the priestly Order and ministry in its true sense, the Church intends to remain faithful to the type of ordained ministry willed by the Lord Jesus Christ and carefully maintained by the Apostles. The same conviction animates medieval theology, even if the Scholastic doctors, in their desire to clarify by reason the data of faith, often present arguments on this point that modern thought would have difficulty in admitting, or would even rightly reject. Since that period and up till our own time, it can be said that the question has not been raised again for the practice has enjoyed peaceful and universal acceptance. The same tradition has been faithfully safeguarded by the Churches of the East.


Priestly Ordination Reserved For Men

Often, these disagreements come from within the institution itself. The Roman Catholic Church is no different in this respect. I am a person who likes to investigate all aspects of an issue before deciding where I stand on it; I try not to believe in things blindly. Though traditionally women have not been allowed to serve as priests in the Catholic Church, I feel, after investigating both sides of the argument, that women should be allowed to be ordained as priests due to recent societal developments.


Are women 'substantially' incompatible for the priesthood?


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