In the 30 May number of the Italian, daily, L’Osservatore Romano you find a piece by soon-to-be-Cardinal Luis Ladaria, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, about the “Definitive Character of the Doctrine of ‘Ordinatio sacerdotalis‘.
Ordinatio sacerdotalis is John Paul II’s 1994 document that ended – should have ended – the debate about the ordination of women to the priesthood.
John Paul taught definitively (i.e., we must accept and believe) that the Church has no authority to ordain women. That is to say that, in addition to the ontological aspect of the question (Christ chose only males because He is male and a priest must be alter Christus and the spouse of the Church, etc.) there is the example and authority question (Christ chose only males and they in turn chose only males etc., and that must have meaning. It is part of the Apostolic Tradition. Hence, we can’t take it upon ourselves do otherwise).
Then the CDF under Card. Ratzinger issued a reply to a dubium – those were the days – and an explanatory document about the reply about OS, affirming that this teaching in OS is not just definitive but also – and already – the infallible teaching of the Church.
Now, because there are those who continue to push for the ordination of women, or who claim that we don’t have to accept the Church’s infallible teaching, Ladaria reminds us that infallible teaching does not come only through the means of an explicit ex cathedra pronouncements by the Roman Pontiff.
“[John Paul] 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.”
Some say that because John Paul II didn’t use the word “infallible” therefore the teaching is not infallible. FAIL!
The fact is that it was infallible before John Paul taught it in a definitive way so as to remove all doubt and to explain that the faithful must accept it. This is something that CDF explained after OS was released. While OS itself was not infallible, it witnessed to the already infallible teaching. Yes, I repeat myself – as the Church does on this point – because repetita iuvant.
More Ladaria in L’Osservatore (my trans.). Some won’t like this:
In primo luogo, per quel che riguarda il sacerdozio ministeriale, la Chiesa riconosce che l’impossibilità di ordinare delle donne apartiene all “sostanza del sacramento” dell’ordine (cfr. Denzinger-Hünermann, 1728). La Chiesa non ha capacità di cambiare questa sostanza, perché è precisamente a partire dai sacramenti, instituiti da Cristo, che essa è generata come Chiesa.
In the first place, as far as the ministerial priesthood is concerned, the Church recognizes that the impossibility of ordaining women belongs to the “substance of the sacrament” of orders (cfr. Denzinger-Hünermann, 1728). The Church does not have the capability to change this substance, because it is precisely from the sacraments, instituted by Christ, that she is generated as Church.
Ladaria goes beyond the the bare bones of the authority argument (e.g., Christ and the Apostles didn’t ordain women, so we can’t either).
That DS(H) 1728 reference is to the Council of Trent, which explains that, while the Church can change the rites of celebration of sacraments, she cannot change the substance (matter and form) of sacraments. The rites are created by the Church, but the sacraments are divinely instituted by Christ. What we celebrate cannot be changed, but we can change how we celebrate (e.g., change whether or not the ordaining bishop wears pontifical gloves, sits or stands when laying on hands, alter some wording in prayers, hands over symbolic instruments of ministry, etc.).
An interesting aspect of this is the appeal the substance of the sacrament of orders.
All sacraments have, by divine institution, both matter and form.
The matter of the sacrament of orders is the laying on of hands (on a male human being, it turns out), and the form is the core of the consecratory prayer that closely indicates the matter by the indication of the effects of the sacrament (e.g., reception of the Holy Spirit, etc. – cf. Ott). You hear in the consecratory prayer words like “accipe… receive”, along with what they are to receive. This is why, through history, the words of that consecratory prayer can be and have been shifted around, and why Pius XII identified the essential form within the older long prayer, different form what they were before! This is also why the older, traditional form of the sacrament, in force in 1962, is valid today even though there is a newer, post-Conciliar, Novus Ordo, rite of ordination which altered that prayer.
Going on. the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches:
1536 Holy Orders is the sacrament through which the mission entrusted by Christ to his apostles continues to be exercised in the Church until the end of time: thus it is the sacrament of apostolic ministry. It includes three degrees: episcopate, presbyterate, and diaconate.
The Second Vatican Council also taught that the sacrament of order is in three degrees.
What applies to one degree, concerning the substance of the sacrament, applies to all three.
Moreover, if the matter and form of the sacrament for ordaining bishops and priests requires a male recipient, then so does the matter and form for ordaining deacons. And again, if the Church doesn’t have the authority to ordain women to one degree, she doesn’t have the authority to ordain women to any of the three degrees.
Orders can only be received by males.
Ladaria also notes that Pope Francis, on more than one occasion, has confirmed what Paul VI, John Paul II and the CDF taught. In Evangelii gaudium he wrote that priesthood is reserved to men. During an airplane presser – surely infallible! – he said that John Paul II had had the last word, and that it was clear and it remains.
Finally, I note that Card.-elect Ladaria is the chairman of the authority-lacking study group about deaconesses in the early Church. I believe we can discern something of his thought about that question from this commentary in L’Osservatore Romano. Absolutely clear about that? Not quite. But pretty clear nonetheless. But that study group is surely wrapped up or wrapping it up.
It seems to me that the Holy Father, grounded in Ignatian spirituality – which has a strong does of reality, the hic et nunc – would say to someone in an off-the-cuff (and therefore infallible) remark to a person who was upset, not to long to be something that it is literally impossible to be. Instead, he would probably suggest that God made her a certain way and loves her that way. I may be wrong. It is hard to guess at what the Pope is thinking. However, he certainly is against “ideological colonization”.
To suggest that you can change your sex or that a man can be a mother or a women can be ordained is a bitter fruit of “ideological colonization”.
No? Am I wrong?