NCRep: ‘No’ to women priests is definitive, Vatican consultor says

Here is an interesting piece from the ultra-lefty NCReporter

The original piece is in L’Avvenire, the daily of the Italian Bishops Conference (CEI)

My emphases and the questions are also in bold:

‘No’ to women priests is definitive, Vatican consultor says
Posted on Jul 11, 2008 09:54am CST.

NOTE: The issue of women’s ordination is again generating headlines, in part due to a recent decision of the Anglican synod in England to open the door to female bishops, in part due to a disciplinary action in St. Louis against a religious sister who attended a women’s ordination ceremony. The July 11 issue of L’Avvenire, the official newspaper of the Italian bishops’ conference, featured an interview on the issue with Monsignor Antonio Miralles, a consultor to the Vatican’s doctrinal office. The interview was conducted by Italian journalist Gianni Cardinale. The full text appears below in an NCR translation.


The decision of the Anglican Synod of England to open the door to the nomination of female bishops has generated ample media coverage. On the subject of why the Catholic church admits only men to the priesthood, Avvenire put certain questions to Monsignor Antonio Miralles, of the clergy of Opus Dei, and an ordinary professor of sacramental theology at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross. A Spaniard from Salamanca who has spent 47 years in Rome, Miralles is a consultor of the Congregation for the Clergy and, since 1990, of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Monsignor Miralles, why does the Catholic church not admit women to the priesthood?

In 1975, the Archbishop of Canterbury at the time, Donald Coggan, informed Pope Paul VI that the Anglicans were on the verge of admitting women to the priesthood, which they later did. Pope Montini wrote him a letter to explain that the Catholic church does not feel authorized to do the same, because it is constrained by the choice made by Jesus, the Lord, to choose only men as his apostles. In that context, the pope asked the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to prepare a document that provided the reasons for this position, which was how the declaration Inter insigniores, published in 1976, was born. In it, the argument given by Paul VI is explained more fully. In May 1994, this position was confirmed in a definitive way with the apostolic letter of Pope John Paul II, Ordinatio sacredotalis.

But some object that the choice of Jesus may have been determined by the historical context, the mentality of the epoch.

It’s an objection that does not have any foundation. Jesus demonstrated that he felt free from the conditioning of the society in which he was born. He demonstrated this freedom, to take just one example, when he opposed the custom of Jewish society of his day, as well as of Greco-Roman society, permitting men to repudiate their wives … in other words, divorce. Certainly, women were among the most faithful followers of Jesus, beginning with his mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary – at the foot of the Cross there were several women, but only one disciple! Nevertheless, Jesus deliberately and freely chose only men as his apostles. This choice cannot be anything but binding for the community that wants to be his church.

Why did Jesus make this choice?

Theologians try to answer this question, which is their duty. But all the explanations that can be given in response to this question always remain secondary with respect to the choice itself made by Jesus, which the church must follow. The church can’t change that choice to suit its own tastes, or on the basis of the desires of sectors of public opinion, however large they may be.

Isn’t the exclusion of women from the priesthood an offense against their dignity?

The dignity of women in the church certainly does not depend upon access to the priesthood. The history of the church, from the Blessed Virgin Mary to so many saints and beatified women, makes the point.

Why did the magisterium wait until 1975 to solemnly proclaim that women cannot be admitted to the priesthood?

Simply because prior to that moment, the fact that the priesthood is reserved to men was an uninterrupted praxis that had not been placed into discussion for almost 2,000 years, not even when the church began to expand in cultural and religious contexts where there were already forms of female ‘priesthood’ (I’m thinking, for example, about the Greco-Roman world), and not even in the face of vocational scarcity or a shortage of clergy. The magisterium normally does not intervene to resolve a dispute when a given truth is peacefully accepted and not under discussion.

Is it possible that in the future the Catholic magisterium, having reflected more on the question, could arrive at a different conclusion and thereby open the door to women’s ordination?

This possibility is excluded. That’s because the all-male priesthood is a truth considered part of the inviolable deposit of faith – in other words, it belongs to Tradition with a capital “T”. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith underscored the point in a formal way with its document ‘Response to a doubt concerning the doctrine of the Apostolic Letter Ordinatio sacerdotalis’ published in October 1995, with the approval and at the request of Pope John Paul II. Some Catholic authors have insinuated that the ‘no’ to women’s ordination should be considered provisional and open to future reconsideration, but in fact that’s not how things are.

Monsignor Miralles, will the decision of the Anglican Synod to admit women to the episcopacy further distance it from the Catholic church??

Relatively. The dramatic rupture occurred with the Anglican decision to admit women to the priesthood. The choice to admit them also to the episcopacy is, in itself, a secondary consequence, which cannot help but worsen a situation that has already deteriorated.

A final ‘secondary’ question. What’s the status quaestionis on the issue of the ordination of women to the diaconate?

On this issue, there has not yet been a pronouncement from the magisterium as there has been on women priests. The current norms, however, and ecclesiastical practice restrict the diaconate to men. It’s true that in the early centuries of Christianity there were references to ‘deaconesses,’ but it would seem that they were not simply a female equivalent of male ‘deacons.’ For now, the permanent diaconate is restricted to men, but the question is still under study.



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  1. Mark S. says:

    How often does the Church, or one of its representatives, have to say “No” to women being admitted to Holy Orders, before this is finally accepted as definitive?

  2. Alessandro says:

    A final ‘secondary’ question. What’s the status quaestionis on the issue of the ordination of women to the diaconate?
    On this issue, there has not yet been a pronouncement from the magisterium as there has been on women priests. … For now, the permanent diaconate is restricted to men, but the question is still under study.

    But, as you all can recall, since May 30th 2008 there is excommunication
    latae sententiae for all the women who attempt to receive holy orders, even diaconate, and for those bishops ordaining them. So they have to decide and declare if that excommunication is for breaking an ecclesiastical rule or a divine one, as far as diaconate is concerned.
    I hope this will not be settled in a rush, because for some orthodox churces the ordination of women as deacons is not to be rejected.

  3. Fr. BJ says:

    These people want what they want, and they would still want it even if God Himself were to appear to them and tell them otherwise.

  4. Nick says:

    Deaconesses in the Eastern Church were not the equivalent of deacons. They did, however, serve a very important purpose of teaching and guiding of women wishing to enter the Church which at that time could take up to three years — for obvious reasons not a job for male deacons.

    We also have the requirements and words used by the Church to create a deaconess. It is the physical requirements that would probably not appeal to a modern women: they needed to be widowed or never married, and they had to be ‘over the hill’, and of no interest whatsoever to any man….[line forms on the right, ladies…]

  5. Steve K. says:

    The WO proponents will never accept no, and they will go on trying every trick they can think of to confuse the rest of the Church and sow doubt as regards the teaching of the Church. For them, the ends truly justify the means. But none of this is new -this has always been their method, going all the way back to the Garden and “did God really say?”

  6. Oliver says:

    Well, there are now so many women acting as proxy priests to question the seriousness of Rome’s current position. We have these ‘eucharistic ministers’ dishing out communion and unbiquitous lectors stumbling over sacred text. Women in official roles display the authority of kindergarten mistresses and is a sure route to emptying the churches of manly men. But no doubt Rome will experiment with ways to get around the historic precedent and will of course continue to dialogue with Anglican prelates whether male or female.

  7. Steve K. says:

    I am not sure where you are coming from blaming Rome for all of this Oliver, it is not Rome’s fault but that of rebellion out in certain national churches, or at least parts of those churches. Much like what was actual called for in Vatican II to what was done in its name by Modernist partisans under the guidance of “the Spirit of Vatican II,” these abuses regarding the role of women in the church are largely the result of activity in bad faith at the diocesan and parish level, of people within the Church twisting what Rome says to suit their ends.

  8. LCB says:

    “It’s an objection that does not have any foundation…

    The church can’t change that choice to suit its own tastes, or on the basis of the desires of sectors of public opinion…

    This possibility is excluded. That’s because the all-male priesthood is a truth considered part of the inviolable deposit of faith – in other words, it belongs to Tradition with a capital “T””

    Oh, would that my theology professors had been so clear, charitable, and orthodox! I want to find this Msgr and give him a big bear hug!

  9. Fr. Angel says:

    Steve K:

    The sentiments which Oliver expresses about Roman complicity in the crisis of the Church have some foundation, although like you I find it unfair to project all blame on Rome. Let me explain. One thing which is without dispute is the power and influence which the diocesan bishop has over his diocese. Although there are numerous actors in the general disobedience to doctrinal and liturgical guidance provided by the Church, why must bishops drag their feet?

    More to the point, who has appointed these bishops for the last 40 years? The Holy See has that sole prerogative. By not exercising caution and making numerous appointments that continued the status quo of the crisis of authority, the Holy See helped to mushroom instead of control this crisis. If we had been putting “Archbishop Burkes” in control even for the last 20 years, the life of the Church would be very different now. That perhaps is some of the reason that Oliver sees things the way he sees them.

  10. PNP, OP says:

    “Ordinatio sacredotalis” settles the question for most of us. However, there are too many out there who dispute the infallibility of OS. Any chance the Holy Father would pronounce on this issue using unambiguously infallible language; I mean, language that even the likes of Richard Gaillardetz could not dispute?

  11. Scott W. says:

    How often does the Church, or one of its representatives, have to say “No” to women being admitted to Holy Orders, before this is finally accepted as definitive?

    There is no such thing as a Church pronouncement so air-tight that it will make dissidents shut up and go away. It is a problem of obstinate wills, not an intellectual one. Case in point: I read some guy who said sure, the Church teaching on male-only priest is true and even wonderful. But the Church hasn’t authoritatively defined what “male”, or “maleness” is, so it is still an open question. This is how the dissident mind works.

  12. Alessandro says:

    Dear friends, nowadays one cannot be sure of what will be going on in the church tomorrow. An example?
    From Notitiae journal, n.5 may 1965, some answers of the “liberal” Consilium ad exequendam about doubts on the interpretation of the Instructions for the execution of the liturgical constitution. Question number 16:

    16. Utrum in Missa cum participatione mulierum tantum (e.g. in domibus religiosarum), mulier, rite edocta, munus lectoris possit assumere?
    Resp.: NEGATIVE. Munus lectoris est munus liturgicum, quod solis viris committitur, Proinde epistola legatur a celebrante.

    Women, even nuns, were banned from reading the epistle, let alone giving communion…and it was 1965….but some years later you what’s happened (and what is still happening)….

  13. This debate makes me laugh, (the women’s ordnation ordeal).

    As a physicist, On my blog, I made reference to the Newton’s second Law of Motion ΣF = ma, how the equation says that matheatically both are the same, but physically, they ae not. acceleraion does NOT cause force to exist, but there being sum of forces will always mean mass and acceleration exist.

    Similarly just because man woman are human doesn’t mean that you can plug both in and get the same thing.

    that is to say: M + W = 1, but if you replace W with M, it becomes M + M = 2M = AIEOG (Amomination in the eyes of God)

  14. Jeff Pinyan says:

    Nice to see John Allen injecting NCR with another healthy dose of sound Catholic teaching.

  15. Ioannes Andreades says:

    It seems more or less clear that Jesus Christ chose twelve men as his apostles to be the new patriarchs of a new Israel. The twelve apostles are juxtaposed to the twelve patriarchs in Revelation. That the men that Jesus chose were also Jewish seems undisputed as well. Is there a tradition of teaching why the practice of a male priesthood was maintained but not a Jewish priesthood? At what point did the Church decide that it could have non-Jewish bishops? For that matter, is there a tradition in Catholic teaching about WHY Jesus only called male apostles? The Church has never believed it has the authority to ordain women to Orders, but is there any tradition, patristic or otherwise, that explains what edification we should derive from this action? Normally, we derive some insight or lesson from Christ’s actions, either about Himself or our relationship to Him. Am not sure what to make of this one.

  16. Dear Fr. Zuhlsdorf,

    The influence of religion in creating gender stereotypes and excluding women from roles of religious authority is seldom discussed but, in my opinion, it is critical for human development.

    The fact is that most religions still convey images of God which are phallagocentric,
    thereby associating divinity with masculinity. This is the case, in particular, in the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) which influence the religious mindset of 4+ billion human beings currently alive on this planet.

    A few Christian churches are beginning to overcome this phallagocentric mindset. These are mostly Protestant churches such as the Anglican communion, the Methodist church, etc. The Old Catholic Church in Europe, and many independent Catholic churches worldwide, have started the transition. But old habits die hard, and these churches are paying the price in terms of internal tensions due to continuing agitation by those who are not open to the signs of the times and the fact that God transcends gender.

    Some strands of Judaism have also started the transition, and a few already have women Rabbis. My own church (Roman Catholic, 1.1 billion people) still refuses to even discuss the issue and has elevated the practice of ordaining only males to the rank of a theologically baseless doctrine (baseless, because it fails to recognize that women fully share in human nature, the same human nature assumed by Christ), adding to it smoke
    screens of infallibility for good measure, and using Christ as a scapegoat for not giving his “authorization”. What is then the meaning of the power of the keys? (Acts 15)

    When did Christ gave authorization to baptize Gentiles? To forbid polygamy? To forbid slavery? To molest altar boys?

    The negative social effect of male-only God images is by now well established in the literature of social psychology, theological anthropology, and other disciplines. This means that God cannot possibly be against the ordination of women, since God always desires what is good for humanity.

    I have been doing independent research on this theme for a number of years, and in May 2005 started publishing a series of articles. The root cause of the problem is not with religion or spirituality, but with resistance to change; a phenomenon common to all large institutions, including religious institutions. If you care to take a look at my work, the link is provided below, under my signature.

    Your feedback would be appreciated.


    Luis T. Gutierrez, Ph.D., Editor,
    “Solidarity, Sustainability, and Nonviolence”

  17. Conchúr says:

    Do not feed the troll.

  18. LCB says:

    1) The ultimate good for all humanity is going to heaven, each individual spending eternal relationship with God;
    2) For this reason, God established the Church, so that all may be saved (though all won’t be saved due to their own choices) through the Sacraments which are the ordinary means of salvation. This Church has a teaching authority and the Church is protected from ever entering into error;
    3) Sacred Scripture is clear about the masculinity of God.

    With these things in mind, your position becomes entirely untenable:
    I. Everything we know about Jesus, the Christian God, and Sacred Scripture comes from the Church
    II. (According to you) The Church is in error– her teachings and positions are not reliable nor believable.
    III. Therefore (according to the logical extension of your view), we can not actually trust anything we know about Jesus, the Christian God, and Sacred Scripture.

    You are claiming to build your views on information passed to us by the Church, yet your views also claim that such information can not be trusted. One then must conclude:
    IV. Your views can not be trusted, since their foundation can not be trusted.

    If we can’t trust the Church, how can we actually know anything about Jesus, the Christian God, and Sacred Scripture? We can make no claims to Divine Revelation unless we are assured of a source of Divine Revelation. You have displayed a fine example of magical thinking: Faced with a conflict between your views and the views of the Church, you suggest that the Church, every Pope, all the Saints, all the great Theologians, Scripture, Tradition, and every basic understanding of Revelation are all in error.

    Either the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church is wrong or you are. Which is more likely?

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