Prefect of CDF reconfirms male only Sacrament of Holy Orders

In the 30 May number of the Italian, daily, L’Osservatore Romano you find a piece by soon-to-be-Cardinal Luis LadariaPrefect 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 degreeshe 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?


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  1. APX says:

    Why is this still even an issue?

  2. Suburbanbanshee says:

    St. Epiphanius’ Panarion (chapter 79) has some great quotes about this. “Never at any time has a woman been a priest — even though she had fallen into transgression, Eve herself still did not dare to undertake something so impious.” He also points out that none of the matriarchs were made priests, none of the female disciples, and not the Virgin Mary either.

    The older I get, the more I appreciate St. Epiphanius. He had seen it all.

  3. Sawyer says:

    Watch out! You might incur the wrath of Michael Sean Winters again for being so clear and adamant about a settled matter of Church doctrine.

  4. teomatteo says:

    “Why is this still even an issue?”
    Short answer: satan will never give up.

  5. Kevin says:

    Now that he has spoken publicly…will Pope Francis correct him like he has several others. i.e. his “correction” of Cardinal Sarah.

  6. ChrisP says:

    Hopefully heard soon on a plane near you:
    “Christ chose and ordained only men. Who am I to judge?”

  7. Joy65 says:

    The Priesthood is the way God intended. Any woman that feels she is being unfairly treated by the Catholic Church for not being abled to be ordained a deacon or a Priest needs to look directly at Our Blessed Mother. She was the CLOSEST woman to Our Lord all of His life and she NEVER EVER wanted the spotlight on Herself. She NEVER wanted to take His place, be above Him, be one of His Apostles. Everything Our Blessed Mother did pointed to Her Son. In the case of the Him changing the water into wine at the wedding feast of Cana, all she did was tell the waiters to “do whatever He tells you”. As She tells us all today. Jesus had MANY women among His followers and He could have named any one of them an Apostle but He didn’t. He gave to Peter the Keys to the Kingdom and He KNEW then as He knows now that it will always be a male Priesthood in the Catholic church. That is the way He intended it to be.
    Woman are NOT 2nd class “citizens” in the Catholic Church. We are respected, appreciated, needed and wanted. No need for women to be Deacons or Priests.

  8. jhayes says:

    In 2009, Benedict revised the Code of Canon Law to clarify the difference between the effect of ordination on bishops and priests as opposed to deacons. That difference could be the basis for a decision by the Theological Commission that the Ordinatio sacerdotalis limitation of “priestly ordination” to men does not necessarily apply to deacons (since deacons are not ordained to act “in the person of Christ the Head”

    Can.  1008 By divine institution, some of the Christian faithful are marked with an indelible character and constituted as sacred ministers by the sacrament of holy orders. They are thus consecrated and deputed so that, each according to his own grade, they may serve the People of God by a new and specific title

    Can.  1009 §1. The orders are the episcopate, the presbyterate, and the diaconate.

    §2. They are conferred by the imposition of hands and the consecratory prayer which the liturgical books prescribe for the individual grades.

    §3. Those who are constituted in the order of the episcopate or the presbyterate receive the mission and capacity to act in the person of Christ the Head, whereas deacons are empowered to serve the People of God in the ministries of the liturgy, the word and charity.

    [Not strong enough. There is still one sacrament of orders, not two or three.]

  9. G1j says:

    Can’t wait to see this in the headlines of MSM…crickets:-)

  10. Lynn Diane says:

    At the Human Life International convention in 1995, Alice von Hildebrand said, “The situation of women, from the spiritual point of view, is so privileged that I thank God men have the priesthood. You know, there must be SOME sort of justice!”

  11. frjim4321 says:

    I wish they would produce a theologically tenable rationalization for this hypothesis. As I understand it, the second person of the trinity is divine (not a “human person”), and gender is not an attribute of the divine person, Jesus the Christ, but rather of the man, Jesus of Nazareth. [Did you just separate “Jesus the Christ” (you sound like Walter Kasper) from the Second Person of the Trinity as if they were separate and distinct persons? Surely not, because that would be a serious Christological heresy. Since the Incarnation, the Second Person is Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ has two perfect natures, one divine and one human, in an inseparable bond. The Divine Person, Jesus, was a man – male – in His earthly life and is now and will be forever a man unto eternity, not just generic scifi human of indeterminate sex. This is Baltimore Catechism stuff. Right?] This fixation on the denial of all women’s incorporation into Jesus Christ by virtue of their baptism must seem absurd to anyone who completed Theology 101 with a passing grade. [First, that’s absurd, because Christ, as male, took a perfect human nature into a bond with His divinity. The human race was taken up in Him, the new Adam. All the baptized are incorporated into His Person. But your statement sounds rather grandiose: “I can see this if nobody else in charge has since the Last Supper! Ain’t I just the thing?”]

    Having been ordained long before this hypothesis [infallible teaching of the Church definitively confirmed by the Vicar of Christ] was advanced as “fact” by the two previous popes, I really don’t feel morally bound to acquiesce to it. [“Because I’m really something – and because I probably got some bad theology in seminary – I am grandfathering myself in! I don’t have to accept the determinations of the Church unless I feeeeeel like it.” Right. Were you ordained before 1950? You might not “feel” yourself bound to accept the Assumption. If you were ordained before 451 and Chalcedon, you wouldn’t “feel” yourself to be bound by its determinations about Jesus being “perfect both in deity and in humanness; this selfsame one is also actually God and actually man… the property of each nature being preserved… not divided into two persons, but one and the same Son”…. but, no, wait. Were you ordained before 451? Or maybe before 431 and Ephesus? Your Nestorian language above suggests so.] It’s like matriculating under a given catalog. You change it, it binds those who come after it, but not before. [That’s a REALLY BAD analogy. You didn’t join a club or a college. Or is that what they taught you “long before” these last two Popes. I’d give this some serious thought, rather than serious “feeling”.]

  12. Julia_Augusta says:

    I just finished reading “Story of a Soul”, the autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux. Toward the end of the book, St. Therese mentions several times how much she wanted to be a priest and that she imagined herself offering the holy sacrifice of the Mass because of her love for Our Lord. Unlike today’s arrogant crybabies, she did not demand that the Church change its doctrine to suit her desires. Despite her not being able to become a priest, St. Therese continues to lead many people to God, more than 100 years after her death.

    Our Lord did not consider women to be 2nd class citizens. On the contrary, in the gospels, women come out looking much better than men. Our Lord constantly rebukes the men for their laziness, cowardice and lack of faith. Who fell asleep in the garden of Gethsemane? Men! If Our Lord had asked Our Lady, Mary Magdalene and Martha to stand watch while He prayed, I am certain they would have done exactly that. Who risked their lives following Him up to Calvary as He carried His cross and who were with Him when He died? Women. There was one guy – St. John. Where were the rest of the men? Hiding. Who did He choose to appear to when He rose from the dead? A woman. Who did not believe her? His own apostles!

    So why didn’t He choose female apostles? Apart from the mystical/supernatural aspect of the priesthood (a male priest is alter Christus), men by their nature are so much more risk-taking than women, and they push the envelope of what’s possible (this is also the reason why most successful entrepreneurs are men – has nothing to do with “sexism”). Certainly when the apostles and their successors needed to spread the word of God across the world, what was required were males.

    What about today? There is this image of the priest as someone who just stands around in a church making gestures or hearing confessions, and people say that a woman can do that too. Well, actually you can train a monkey to mimic those gestures. But, the Church is not an institution, like the Supreme Court, created by men, so people are not free to do whatever they want with it. It was created by God. Furthermore, priests are warriors and it is exactly the risk-taking nature of men that is needed by the Church. There are so many other things that priests do and are required to do in addition to offering the holy sacrifice of the mass that require taking great risks.

  13. Imrahil says:

    Rev’d dear Fr Jim,

    I wish they would produce a theologically tenable rationalization for this hypothesis.

    It’s not an hypothesis, but – for all practical matters – a dogma*, but I quite agree that a “theologically tenable rationalization” is certainly something called for.

    (A “rationalization of it”. Not a rationalization of the denial of it.)

    [* It is not strictly a dogma, which is why opponents aren’t excommunicated latae sententiae as heretics; but they should all be ferendae sententia interdicted as opponents of certain Catholic teaching, according to the procedure laid down in can. 1371.]

    This fixation on the denial of all women’s incorporation into Jesus Christ

    With all due respect, but: come on. Sorry if I sound condescending, but you’re more knowledgable than resorting to this untenable argument. The Church never denied “all [baptized Christian] women’s incorporation into Jesus Christ”, because this incorporation has actually taken place; and, as you know, this has nothing to do with the question of aptness for sacerdotal consecration and validity of the latter.

  14. Elizium23 says:

    Reverend Father, you make a compelling argument about the diaconate, but I must then point out how everyone who matters has been very careful to speak about sacerdotal ordination in regards to the lack of authority. Can we find even one example of someone mis-speaking or being so imprecise as to imply that the infallible impossibility applies to all three degrees of Orders? So then, why the meticulous precision? Why is everyone who matters unwilling to make the connection that is so clear to me and you? Must we evaluate the degrees one by one and rule out each one after the other? You would say no, that’s absurd.

    But that is how it is progressing on both sides of the aisle. Nobody, orthodox or Modernist, has closed the door on deaconesses, not with the resounding infallible crash we heard from Pope Saint John Paul the Great. No, this door is still creaking on its hinges. And I am reaching for my oil can.

  15. Sawyer says:

    Wow. The post by Fr. “4321” reeks of theological incompetence. To call it ignorant would be charitable. Theological instruction during seminary formation must have been really, really, really, really inept. I know of people instructed in RCIA classes who have a better understanding of the hypostatic union, the difference between the priesthood of all the baptized and the sacerdotal priesthood, and the religious submission will and intellect owed to all authentic Magisterial teaching than what 4321 wrote.

    Funny that I don’t recall 4321 saying he isn’t bound by Amoris Laetitia since its promulgation predates his ordination. To the contrary, he has welcomed the troubling aspects of the “pastoral accompaniment” development with open arms. Which means that he is “obedient” to the “magisterium” of his own will and has fashioned a golden calf in the image of himself.

  16. AndyMo says:

    ” I really don’t feel morally bound to acquiesce to it. ” – Fr. Jim

    “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.” – Pope Saint John Paul II

  17. Akita says:

    Thank you, Father Ladaria.

    Anticipate a lot of pickle-faced progressives when this news is disseminated.

    Now, let’s get back to getting all girls and women out of the sanctuary.

  18. Marius2k4 says:

    It’s so sad that one actually gets excited at seeing Rome simply be doctrinally cogent. It’s a sad day when getting a basic affirmation of millennial teaching counts as a victory. And Fr. Jim, you might want to take a basic course in logic, much less Christology, patristics, etc…

    Your emotionalism and disregard for authority reminds me of Luther’s “juvenile” (insert cymbal crash) “sic volo , sic jubeo, sit pro ratione voluntas”.

  19. VP says:

    What is it about priests named Jim who don’t “receive the teaching?”

  20. Atra Dicenda, Rubra Agenda says:

    Perhaps Paul VI’s suppression of the minor “orders” is a hidden blessing that will further safeguard the major orders from gender idealogue machinations.

  21. jhayes says:

    With regard to my earlier post regarding Benedict’s change to the Code of Canon Law, may I point out that Ordinatio Sacerdotalis speaks only to ordination to the priesthood and not to ordination as a deacon. [Everyone knows that. What’s your point?]

    I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination [ordinationem sacerdotalem] on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.


    We will have to wait to see what the Theological Commission decides on the ordination of women to the diaconate.

    [You might have the wrong idea about what the commission is to do. They are merely tasked to study the questions. They are not tasked to make a decision or even a recommendation. They will merely report what they found to the Pope – not to the Church. The Pope can decide to tell people what they said.]

  22. LarryW2LJ says:

    The only question I have is why do some people feel the need to constantly tweak what Perfection Itself divinely instituted?

    That sin of pride again – that somehow we can improve on something that God Himself designed and put in place.

  23. JamesA says:

    That popping sound, as if many hundreds of champagne bottles were being opened, is from numerous liturgical and theological liberals’ eyeballs shooting forth from their skulls. Too bad, so sad.
    Great line, Father : “During an airline presser- surely infallible-” ? What is that in the sacred tongue, ex aerea ?!?

  24. Simon_GNR says:

    Many thanks to Fr Z for his demolition of FrJim4321’s nonsense. Well done.

  25. richiedel says:

    Wow…I know Fr Jim has already gotten some blow back, but, oh man…to imply Ladaria (or Pope Francis, for that matter) is less apt at theology than than one who merely received a passing grade in Theology 101…come on.

    The sacramental theology espoused to describing this teaching as belonging to the substance of the sacrament, along with to deposit of faith is theologically tenable. If people were so adept with theology themselves, wouldn’t it be nice if they engaged the merits of such points by trying to show, for example, how such sacramental theology would not apply to this teaching instead of the “Yeah, but…” then regurgitating the bad analogies, etc.

  26. robtbrown says:

    frjim4321 says:

    I wish they would produce a theologically tenable rationalization for this hypothesis. As I understand it, the second person of the trinity is divine (not a “human person”), and gender is not an attribute of the divine person, Jesus the Christ, but rather of the man, Jesus of Nazareth. 

    That’s an implicit denial of Mary’s title as Mother of God.

    More later.

  27. robtbrown says:

    Christ is a Divine person and so has a Divine Nature, but He also has a human nature.

    The two natures are always distinct, but they are not only morally united (as in Divine and human particular acts)–cf Nestorianism. Rather, they are ontologically united in one subsisting person–the Hypostatic Union.

    Therefore, any attribute of Divine nature can be attributed to Christ. Ditto human nature. But no attribute of Divine nature can be attributed to His human nature. The same is true for not attributing to Divine Nature what is of human nature. Therefore, it is correct to say that Christ was a man not a woman.

    St Thomas, who took the Hypostatic Union seriously, said that Christ’s Human Nature is the instrumentum coniunctum (conjoined instrument) of the Divine Nature. This conjoining elevates the Human Nature, so that human instrument effects the Redemption–both as Priest and Victim.

    Consider the Sacraments in light of St Thomas’ thought. Also the Anima Christi.

  28. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Words have genders. People have sexes.

    God has qualities that He has granted or revealed to human males, which we call things like masculinity, fatherhood, and sonship. He granted similar qualities (the roots of which He has in some ways, but not enough to ask us to use a She) to human females, like femininity, motherhood, and daughterhood.

    The fact that He would grant women such qualities without the same level of modeling is a sign of trust in the creative and social powers He granted to our sex.

    But He did not make us priests, anymore than He made men mothers. Our relationship with blood and sacrifice is primarily internal.

  29. piusnotprius says:

    Because Holy Mother Church doesn’t provide clear instructions anymore. Too much extraneous blather without clarity. The return of Anathema Sit would actually convert those who are interested with a good heart. Sheep and obedient children respect discipline. We are too consumed with pleasing the disinterested nowadays.

  30. jhayes says:

    The preparatory document for the Synod of the Amazon raises the issue of an “official ministry that can be conferred on women” (deacons?)

    One priority is to specify the contents, methods, and attitudes necessary for an inculturated pastoral ministry capable of responding to the territory’s vast challenges. Another is to propose new ministries and services for the different pastoral agents, ones which correspond to activities and responsibilities within the community. Along these lines, it is necessary to identify the type of official ministry that can be conferred on women, taking into account the central role which women play today in the Amazonian Church. It is also necessary to foster indigenous and local-born clergy, affirming their own cultural identity and values. Finally, new ways should be considered for the People of God to have better and more frequent access to the Eucharist, the center of Christian life

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