For two years at least, particularly since Women's Year, which
concluded at the beginning of 1976, the problem of the access of women
to the priesthood has become one of the most burning ecclesiological
questions. The recent Declaration Inter
Insigniores, made public on 27 January 1977 (1), has
solved it with a firm, though measured statement of the Magisterium. The
document meets a twofold purpose: to reaffirm the normative discipline
of the Church and explain it "in the present circumstances", pro
praesentibus adiunctis, having recourse to theological
reflection. It would be a mistake, therefore, to apply to the decision a
purely transitory value owing to this formula, since it is seen from the
context that the pro praesentibus adiunctis applies only to the
second part, that is, to the theological explanation, required, in fact,
by the present circumstances. It seems obvious that the decision, being
presented as "normative", is valid not only for today, as it
was in the past, but is also binding on the future of the Church.
The event of the Declaration is so close that it is no longer
permissible to deal today with the subject of the access of women to the
priesthood, as was done previously (2). And it is not yet possible to
contemplate the document as a text issued years ago, as a result of
which the tenor of the discussion is now clear. We are still involved in
the event. The only way that remains open to our reflection is, keeping
to the Declaration and to its unofficial Comment, to review the
questions it has touched upon and clarified.
We are at once struck by the fact that arguments of a psychological
and sociological nature about woman's capacity of full self-control and
her ability to command and guide others have been left aside. Only
reasons of a biblical and theological nature are adopted. Some are to be
set on the border between theology and Holy Scripture. Others are
centred on the practice of the Church, regarding its sources and its
criteria: they concern sections 3 and 4 of the Declaration. Others, on
the contrary, clearly theological, belong to anthropology and, above
all, to the sacramental symbolism of the priesthood (cf. the last
sections, that is, 5 and 6). We will follow these three steps in our
1. Scripture, Revelation and Theology
The border-problems between Holy Scripture and theology are, in our
subject, three in number: 1) the practice of Jesus in the choice of his
Apostles; 2) the Pauline doctrine on the theological relationship
between man and woman; 3) the alleged opposition, finally, between the
Declaration issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and
the International Biblical Commission at its session in April
1. An alleged opposition between the Roman authorities
Let us begin with the last-mentioned difficulty, focused on the very
morning of the press-conference on 27 January in Corriere della Sera,
with its announcement of a Roman document allegedly contrary to the
opinion expressed by the Pontifical International Biblical Commission.
In fact, in the three points drawn up by this Commission—which
leaked out and were made public in the United States—a
certain disagreement was seen to exist among the exegetes. Some admitted
the presence of "sufficient indications" to exclude the access
of women to the priesthood, in connection with the sacraments of the
Holy Eucharist and of Reconciliation. Others, on the contrary, without
affirming anything, however, asked if the Church, to which the economy
of the sacraments was entrusted, could not entrust also to women,
according to circumstances, these two ministries of the Eucharist and of
Reconciliation. They all agreed, however, in saying that there is no
"evidence" properly speaking on the matter in the New
Actually there was no opposition between the Biblical Commission and
the Declaration—nor could it be
otherwise—owing to the fact that
the two points on which the exegetes diverged were not fully opposed to
each other. In the first place their respective stylistic tone was
different. One group affirmed the existence of "sufficient
indications". The other group did not put forward an affirmation,
but raised a question; they asked, that is, if the hierarchical Church
had not the faculty to entrust those ministries to women. Furthermore,
while the first affirmation was purely exegetical, the other abandoned
this field for a theological question: whether the hierarchical Church,
to which the economy of the sacraments has been entrusted, did not also
have the power of entrusting the Eucharist and Reconciliation to women.
In short, the "disagreement" between the exegetes was the
following: some affirm, others ask; some remain in the exegetical field,
others pose a question of theological hermeneutics. It is obvious that
there could not result from this context a real opposition between the
two authorities, between the Biblical Commission and the Declaration,
since there was no clash of opinion between them.
a) On the lack of "evidence" properly speaking, in fact,
all the exegetes agree. Well, this fact is also admitted by the
Declaration, when it writes in the last paragraph of section 2:
"Such ascertainments, it is true, do not supply direct
evidence..." (4). This is the first point of agreement.
b) Some exegetes admit the existence of "sufficient
indications" not to admit women to the ministry of the Eucharist
and of Reconciliation. This point is also confirmed by the Declaration
when it says: "It must be recognized, however, that there is here a
set of converging indications, which stress the important fact that
Jesus did not entrust to women the office of the Twelve" (5). The
second point of agreement!
c) As for the last point, it was not an assertion on the part of the
exegetes, but only a question: "some wonder whether the
hierarchical Church...". Well, it is to this question that the
Declaration intends to reply right from the beginning when it concludes
its introduction saying: "The Church does not consider herself
authorized to admit women to priestly Ordination" (6). It then goes
on to give the reasons drawn from Tradition; and it adds that the powers
of the hierarchical Church, though wide, do not extend to the substance
of the sacraments. There is, therefore, no opposition, but an answer to
the question raised by the Bible Commission.
But if the three conclusions of the Bible Commission were not able to
invalidate in any way affirmations of the Congregation for the Doctrine
of the Faith, they are however, an interesting testimony of the trend of
hermeneutics today. At present the exegete refuses to limit himself to
finding the meaning of the Bible texts as it was when they were written;
he also claims to pass judgment on their significance for modern man.
This is a sign of his intention of faith. But this rightful claim
requires of him who makes it, exegete or theologian, not to pass over
the centuries between Christ and today, but to be careful to take
Tradition into account, to listen to the Magisterium to which the
interpretation of Holy Scripture is entrusted, with the assistance of
the Holy Spirit. Therefore the last proposal of the exegetes of the
Biblical Commission, with their appeal to the hierarchical Church,
mistress of the economy of the sacraments, could not be interpreted as
opposition to the Magisterium, but as an appeal made to it. The
Magisterium alone, in fact, is able to evaluate the powers it has
received from the Lord.
2. The choice of the Apostles
Now we arrive at the second of the border-points, that is, the Way in
which the Lord Jesus chose his Apostles, not calling any woman to belong
to the Twelve (7), and to the fact, pointed out by the three Synoptics,
that only the Twelve, the Apostles, were present at the Last Supper (8).
To these remarks it can be objected that they are mere facts, and that,
not being accompanied by explicit words, they cannot find a certain
explanation. It is also added that in attributing to every act of the
Lord's a specific intention for the future, one would be making a
"positivist" exegesis (9), arriving at a now outdated
conception of the awareness of Jesus (10).
It is not for the theologian to solve the totality of the problem
raised here. However, since Holy Scripture belongs to the theologian to
the same extent as to the exegete, let us be allowed to use it. It is
seen, in fact, from the New Testament texts that the choice of the
Twelve was not made casually: according to St Luke, it took place after
a whole night of prayer (11); according to St Mark's text, Jesus
"called to him those whom he desired" (12), not to have them
near him with a mere symbolical significance but to send them to preach
and to cure (13).
In the theological field two remarks are worth adding. The first,
taken from Dei Verbum, reminds us that divine revelation consists
not only of explicit words, but also of facts, "gestis verbisque"
(14). This is extremely important in connection with
everything that concerns the institution of the sacraments and early
discipline. As for the present-day conception of the awareness of Jesus,
which is opposed to the preceding one so as to exclude that Christ's
acts had intentions in view of the future, it takes its inspiration from
"ascendent" Christology. But "descendent"
Christology, opposed by the foregoing, is far from being merely tardy
and dogmatic; it is represented right from the New Testament: it is
actually derived from the Gospel of St John and from the letters of St
Paul. It deserves, therefore, to be considered valid, not just out of
respect for the Magisterium, but in the first place out of faithfulness
to the New Testament.
3. The Pauline doctrine of the man-woman relationship
A last border-point is constituted by Pauline theology on the
relations between man and woman. According to the first letter to the
Corinthians, the man is the woman's head, as Christ is man's head (15).
This doctrine is taken up again by the letter to the Ephesians (16) to
motivate the woman's submission to her husband: "Wives, be subject
to your husbands, as to the Lord"... On its side the Declaration
disregards these passages and is content to refer us to the
above-mentioned text of Genesis: "God created man in his own image;
male and female he created them". Instead of appealing to St Paul's
verses to point out man's superiority over woman, the new document
mentions several times Gal 3, 28, which on the contrary shows their
equality. Perhaps it is more opportune for the present-day situation. It
seems to us, however, that it would be wrong to interpret the
above-mentioned Pauline doctrine as deprived of theological meaning. Two
theologians, in fact, Louis Bouyer and Hans Urs von Balthasar, one a few
weeks before the Declaration (17) and the other shortly afterwards (18),
have proposed precious observations, thanks to which a deeper study of
the teaching of the Apostle in conformity with the requirements of
present-day culture, may be made.
II The practice of the Church and its normative value
But, being theological, our reflection must be addressed above all to
the practice of the Church and to the "normative" value that
the Declaration recognizes it as having. The subject is of fundamental
importance, because, after all, the doctrinal conclusion of the document
draws support and firmness just from this, as we see at the end of
section 4, deliberatedly dedicated to evaluating the permanent
value of the attitude of Jesus and of the Apostles".
It is obvious, as Balthasar writes in his above-mentioned article,
that "the mere fact of a hitherto uninterrupted custom of the
Church cannot constitute a sufficient argument to prevent this custom
from being changed on the basis of new conceptions or of changed
cultural circumstances". "Everything depends", the same
theologian adds, "on whether the aspect in question belongs or not
to the essence of the structure of the Church as it is instituted"
(19). The argumentation must be based "on reasons belonging to the
specific mystery" of the Church. We would say, in our way, that in
the early centuries the opposition of the Church to the access of women
to the priesthood was connected with its opposition to heretical sects
and was derived from its will to follow the inspiration of Christ. To
realize this, it is enough to refer to the two main groups of documents
in this connection.
1. The practice of the ancient Church and its testimonies
From the first group, constituted by the history of early heresies,
it is seen that the eucharistic celebrations in which women took part,
in which, in fact, their access to the priesthood was permitted were
those of heretical sects, both Gnostic and Montanist or Colliridian; it
was a question, therefore, of aberrant affirmations. In the Adversus
Haereses of St Irenaeus, the practice is seen united with
Valentinian gnosis (20). Elsewhere it is united with the corrupted
eschatology and pneumatology of Montanism (21). It is met with
furthermore in the corrupted Marian cult of the Colliridians, who
admitted the offering or prosfora of bread in Mary's name (22).
Such a heretical milieu was in itself, and still remains for us today, a
sign of considerable alienation from the genuine Christian tradition.
It is necessary, moreover, to take into account eastern liturgico-canonical
collections, both Egyptian and Antiochene. A specific feature of these,
with their claim to be apostolic structures and owing to their influence
on Eastern discipline, is their condemnation of the access of women to
ordination as contrary to the apostolic practice established by the
early hierarchy and, behind it, the will of Christ (23). Similarly, the
"Apostolic Ordinance" (24). While adding various unexpected
particulars and even retaining (attributing it also to Peter) Paul's
order to women not to raise their voice at the assembly, all its
versions coincide in saying that "when the Master asked for bread
and the cup and blessed it with the words 'This is my body and my
blood', he did not allow them (that is, women) to be with us" (25).
From this is derived the conviction in the Eastern Churches that Christ
reserved the eucharistic sacrifice for men. The Greek text of the Apostolic
Constitutions, which belongs to the 4th century, says so clearly:
"If, in conformity with what was said previously, we do not allow
them (that is women) to teach, how could we ever allow them, contrary to
nature, to exercise the priesthood (hierateuien)? It was, in
fact, the impious ignorance of the Greeks that led them to ordain
priestesses for the female divinities: but this is not the legislation
of Christ" (26). It is true that some authors of the patristic age
invoke in addition the law of Genesis (27); similarly, in the West, the
Ambrosiaster recalls "that man is God's image, not woman"
But more decisive than this theological argument was the persuasion
testified in the documents of the Didascalia Apostolorum, the Apostolic
Constitutions and the Apostolic Ordinance—that
is, the same documents that inform us about the hierarchical
structure (Episcopate, presbyterate and diaconate and their respective
ordinations)—that in the exclusion
of women it is a question of Christ's will, handed down by the apostles
and applied by them. To ordain women for the priesthood and for the
episcopate would be contrary to this apostolic tradition.
2. The Powers of the Church in the field of the Sacraments
In this way the bond between the practice and the faith of the Church
has been clarified and also the relationship between this ecclesiastical
practice and the mystery of Christ. The above-mentioned connection, in
fact, is seen to be not only extrinsic, but also intrinsic, because it
comes from the sacramental mystery of the Church, the beloved Bride of
the Lord Jesus. In liturgical and sacramental action by means of which
"God is glorified and men are sanctified, Christ always associates
the Church with himself" (29). To her, in fact, he entrusted,
before returning to the Father, the administration of the sacraments, in
which the efficacy of Redemption is realized and his Presence becomes
living. Not without reason, therefore, the faculties derived for the
Church in our favour are invoked.
Actually the sacraments constitute a complex reality, involving as
they do a Christological element and an ecclesiological tissue. That is,
they involve a foundation substantially derived from the will of the
Lord Jesus and expressed in the sources of Revelation, as also ritual
and pastoral components required by the concrete life of the Church,
both liturgical and pastoral. Hence a tension between the Christological
element and the ecclesiological element, between the liturgical
structure of the rite, on the one hand, and the substance of the
sacrament, on the other hand; that is, between the necessary conditions
required for the validity of the sacrament and a wide range of powers,
both pastoral and liturgical.
Appeal is made, therefore, in the case of woman's access to the
sacrament of Orders, to the powers left by Christ to the Church, his
bride and minister. This was the argument contained in the third point
of the Biblical Commission; it is also the reason put forward in the
matter of marriage in view of a permissive position for the annulment of
the sacramental bond in cases of failure of the union. Further, it is
true that, to anyone who contemplates the historical evolution, the
powers of the Church in sacramental matters are seen to be quite broad.
Baptism, now celebrated with the simple formula, was for centuries
conferred with the three questions taken from the Apostles Creed,
accompanied by a triple and successive immersion (30). Confirmation,
which in the Latin West has been separated from baptism for centuries,
still follows it immediately in the East, as happened in the first four
centuries (31). The anointing of the sick is conferred in the
Greco-Byzantine Church by seven priests, while here one only is
sufficient (32), These examples, which could easily be multiplied, bear
witness to the broad powers of the Church in the sacramental field. St
Thomas was aware of them (33). The present-day Church does not hesitate
to use them. She knows that she is capable, as Sacramentum Ordinis said
thirty years ago, of "repealing what she has established" in
the matter of the sacraments (34).
But these competences and powers, based on the Christological and
ecclesiastical complexity of the sacramental sign and corresponding to
the divine and human structure of the Church, are not extended to the
element specified by Christ, and by him alone, that is, to what
constitutes the substantial core of the sacraments. The Church is
competent in determining the sacramental sign in its essential
liturgical structure, and in defining the pastoral conditions of access
to the sacrament. But she cannot touch the basic element which,
expressed in the revealed sources, is nothing but "what the Lord
Christ, according to the testimony of the sources of revelation, wished
to be maintained in the sacramental sign" (35). There are,
therefore, immutable points. For example, to pagans the Church can give
only one sacrament, baptism, the door to the others. She does not
forgive the sins of the faithful with baptism, but with penance. These
two sacraments cannot be confused. The anointing of the sick is
conferred only on the sick, not on the healthy. Marriage can be given
only to a man and a woman who are baptized and who intend to found a
family. In this way it is seen that the specification of the subject,
pagan or baptized, sick or healthy, man and woman, is, according to
cases, part of the substantial elements of a given sacrament. On the
occasion of doubt, it is up to the Church herself, as the Declaration
says, to ensure in the various fields, "through the voice of her
Magisterium... discernment between what can change and what must remain
And this is just the case of the access of woman to the sacrament of
Holy Orders. The very subject of the sacrament would be at stake with
this innovation. Well, to make such a charge would be like changing the
subject of baptism, of penance, of the anointing of the sick and also of
marriage—the latter, in fact, is a
sacrament of state of life like Holy Orders—that
is, the substance of the sacrament would be touched. This argument,
which is not evident a priori, is shown clearly, however, by the
consistent practice of the apostolic Churches, both Eastern and Western.
These apostolic Churches are sometimes divided among themselves on
the concept of the Primacy, the patriarchate, the celebration of the
sacramental rites and discipline itself: for example, the separated
Eastern Churches admit more cases for the dissolution of the marriage
bond. They all agree, however, in excluding women from the priesthood.
We have here a point of disciplinary concordance which cannot be
Therefore, as the document says, the practice of the Church takes on
a "normative character" (37) in this case: a declaration which
deserves to be pondered. In fact. when it is a question of the
discipline of the sacraments, the normativeness of a practice is a
prerogative which, while being based on an original fact, takes place
only little by little, through the space of centuries and the
multiplicity of the local Churches: that is, in the fact that it is
ascertained as a constant, universal, obligatory rule, recognized as
such by everyone. For in this fact are presupposed and recognized the
presence of Christ and the guidance of the Holy Spirit in the life of
the people of God. When the Church of today affirms this normative
character, it is not merely identifying itself with its past, it is
taking possession of its present in awareness of the principles that
support it, and it is manifesting its responsibility before the future.
III Theological reflection in the framework of "analogia fidei"
As has been seen from the first reactions of the newspapers, some
people would have preferred if the Church had been content to give an
exclusively disciplinary and dogmatic answer, ending with the
enunciation of the "normative character" of the practice of
the Church, without adding further considerations. This was the opinion
of several historians and sociologists. The position of the Swiss
theologian already named was quite different. This could also be
foreseen from a contribution of the French ecclesiologist, H.M. Legrand,
O.P., when he wrote: "Some people who desire a straightforwardly
dogmatic answer to the question raised..., excluding any
anthropological, historical, psychological and sociological
consideration, make a dangerous theological choice" (38). It is
true that in the last two sections, 5 and 6, "The ministerial
priesthood in the light of the mystery of Christ and in the mystery of
the Church", the Declaration does not claim "to bring a
demonstrative argumentation" (39), which is not "without
risks", as the unofficial comment admits (40). But it may be hoped
that, as usually happens, the second wave of the press, that of reviews
and books, will be more positive. Understood, in fact, in the
theological sense, "theological appropriateness" means, as
Balthasar writes, "the internal harmony, such as an organism
possesses in the equilibrium of its various organs" and he adds:
"St Anselm did not hesitate to attribute a "necessity" to
this internal harmony in God, in spite of all the liberties of divine
1. The anthropological argument of man-woman relations
As has already been mentioned, the anthropological argument of the
relations between man and woman was not dealt with in the Declaration.
In fact the latter contents itself with hoping that its publication may
help in the future "to study more deeply the respective mission of
man and of woman". Recently, however, Fr. Bouyer (42), supported by
Balthasar (43), made use of it in a new way, showing that representing
is suitable for man only. On her side, on the contrary, woman
"is", as virgin and mother. In the male,
"fatherhood", being contingent, momentary, is
"represented"; while, contemplated in the Holy Trinity, it is
capable of defining the first Person in his property and eternal
identity: he "is"' in the full sense of the word. The Father
begets the Son eternally; and the latter, though distinct, has never
detached himself from him, he is, in fact, fully united with him in the
consubstantiality of the same nature. Therefore the human fatherhood of
the male does not go beyond "representing"; it is, that is, a
distant reflection of the perfect fatherhood of the Father, ex quo
omnis paternitas in coelis et in terra nominatur (44). All
the more so in that, at the human level, the "vir" must turn
to a woman to become a father. In this sense, too, it is seen that in
his male being the "vir" "represents" more than he
"is". The above anthropologico-theological reflection does not
fail to bring some light. It leaves room, however, as von Balthasar
admits, for questions. In fact, woman herself, to have a child, must
turn to man, as the latter to woman. And if woman has the privilege of
bearing her child nine months in her womb, the day comes, however, that
of birth, when the child is separated from the mother. Therefore also in
woman, maternity is contingent, transitory: it "is" not in the
full sense of the word, even if it does not "represent" a
divine model. It was opportune, therefore, that the Declaration did not
set out along this way, which would have led to more questions than
2. The nuptial biblical theme
More suitable, in fact necessary, is the argument developed in
section 5, on relations between God and his people, between Christ and
the Church, which take the privileged form of a nuptial mystery. Thus
one understands why the representation of Christ in his people was
entrusted to man. This biblical theme prepares the theological argument
of in persona Christi, which is the foundation of
the theological part of the Declaration.
In our opinion, the originality of the Declaration does not consist,
then, in saying that "the elect people becomes in God's eyes an
ardently loved bride'', nor in bringing the testimony of Hosea (45),
Jeremiah (46), Ezekiel (47) and also the Song of Songs, nor in
considering that as belonging both to the Judaic tradition and to the
Christian tradition: these things are well known. The essential thing
lies in the fact, pointed out in the document, that the
"marriage" subject entered the New Testament. Invoking both
the Synoptics (48) and the gospel of John (49), the
Declaration stresses that Christ is presented as the Bridegroom and the
apostles as the friends of the bridegroom; that in the letters of St
Paul the Church is the virgin that Christ has made his Bride (50) and
for whom he sacrificed himself (51); that the last chapters of
Revelation, returning to the symbols of the Old Testament, describe the
new Jerusalem "prepared as a bride adorned for her husband"
(52). It could not be otherwise since in Isaiah the oracles of the new
Jerusalem announced the bridal meeting for eschatological times (53).
Decisive, then, is the transfer of the subject from the Old to the
New Testament. Not only because the latter prolongs the former and
carries out its oracles, but, above all, because it is the passing from
figures to the time of reality, which involves a concrete and
qualitative renewal. In fact, during the first economy, based on
figures, Israel was not only a bride, but also a vineyard, a kingdom and
a city. And before her, God, her Creator and Lord, presented himself
under the images of the king, the shepherd and the bridegroom. Their
relations were illustrated, therefore, by various and complementary
symbols. Well, these symbolic themes, passing into the new Covenant,
keep their significance of illustrating spiritual values. The Church
remains a people, kingdom, city, vineyard, temple, in the same way as a
bride. And Christ is a king, shepherd, temple, as well as a bridegroom.
And he really is a bridegroom or king, even if at the spiritual and
The incarnation takes place and with it the new fact. The Son of God
becomes man in the concrete, individual and historical way, not
figuratively; he has really a male condition which, though prefigured by
the image of the bridegroom, now takes on a very precise meaning. The
expression of the relations between God and mankind then emerges from
the circle of figures to enter the order of concrete realities. These
realities, referred to his individual humanity and to his historical
mission, take a sacramental sense which, though belonging to the
sphere of signs, also depends on nature and history. Christ, in fact,
now operates as a man, not only because he is the bridegroom of the
Church, but because he is God made man. For this reason his nuptial
relations with his people take on a sacramental value which goes beyond
that of the symbols of the first covenant.
3. The ministerial theology of "in persona Christi"
Acting as a man, Christ makes human as well as divine options. He
accepts disciples, he sets up sacraments, he chooses apostles, on whom
he founds the Church, sending them into the world to represent him:
"He who receives you, receives me" (54); "He who hears
you hears me" (55); "Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound
in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in
heaven" (56). The apostles, and they only, because invested with
his exusia, or full authority, supported by his indefectible
presence, speak, guide, celebrate his mysteries on his behalf and in
persona sua. From this there came the principle, taken up again in
the Declaration, according to which priests and bishops operate in
persona Christi (57).
And it is exact to affirm that this formula, with its Semitic
significance, had been prepared from the Old Testament: Moses was the
"mighty power" of God in the sight of Israel (58); the
prophets were "his mouth" (59), in fact his presence; "As
the Lord... lives, before whom I stand" (60). Therefore Cyril of
Jerusalem, speaking to his catechumens, was able to say to them that the
Psalmist and the Prophets spoke in persona Dei (61), in
persona Filii (62), in persona Christi (63). But, applied to
the priests of the New Testament, the formula takes on a doubly enriched
The original Semitic meaning of instrument—mouth,
hand—which acts in God's name,
with the help of his authority and presence, to bring his message and to
carry out his plans, is confirmed. It is a question, therefore, of a
functional representation, of a spiritual as well as a material
nature. But, while in the first Law this representation referred to the
invisible God, now it refers to Christ, to the Son of God made man, to
his historical mission and to his paschal mysteries, become the centre
of the ages. Bound to Christ, the minister is his apostle, his priest.
And, while in the Old Testament the prophetic mission was purely
charismatic, now after the incarnation the mission that constitutes the
priest as representative of Christ is based on a charism received in the
Church set up by him. The ministerial representation is defined in the
man who is a priest as an essentially spiritual character. But this
character consecrates him and shapes him to Christ, the God-Man, our
Priest in his humanity; and it is received with a rite conferred by his
Church. In this way, consecrated priest, the man becomes the sign, the
sacrament of Christ. His task is to make Christ present with his word,
his guidance and his mysteries.
There is another contribution to be stressed: the concrete element
of ministerial representation. In fact, as was mentioned previously, the
option of incarnation has brought him out of the circle of general
symbols, into that of natural and concrete realities, which have become
sacraments of Christ's person and acts. The sacraments are not only
instruments of a purely spiritual grace; they are also natural signs of
it, because they symbolize it in their natural structure: they belong to
the sphere of the world into which God has entered. He chose water and
bathing as the initiation rite, bread and wine of the banquet as signs
of participation in his Passover, because there exists a natural
symbolism between water and baptismal renewal, between the nourishment
of supper and communion in the paschal Mystery. Similarly, to make
himself sacramentally present in the midst of his people, in front of
his assembly, the Son of God made man chose the human model that he had
received from his mother. This was not to limit his presence, but to
give his spiritual representation a support that will make it
recognizable and credible just because it resembles his human figure. As
was said above, the sacraments of the new covenant are derived from the
evangelical innovation in its concreteness, not from the figures of the
first one, which can only illustrate it. On its side the sacrament of
Holy Orders is derived from the fact that the Son of God became
incarnate being born from the Virgin Mary; and, furthermore, from the
historical choice of the apostolic college constituted by men, like
These two elements, a natural resemblance imprinted in physical being
with a spiritual representation, and the effect of the mission received
with the character, integrate the complete concept of the sacramentality
peculiar to the priesthood (64). If we take them both into
consideration, we will not come up against difficulties on hearing in
the letters of St Paul that the minister of the New Testament, though
being a "vir", has an acute sense of his weakness (65). On the
contrary, such trembling is the sign of the authenticity of his function
as ambassador of Christ. In fact, human nature, the "flesh",
cannot but feel frail before the requirements of the mission received.
This awareness keeps it in the seriousness of its apostolic function:
"cum infirmor tunc potens sum" (66). The priest has the sense
of his infirmity and frailty, just because be is conscious of
representing the Lord Jesus.
Two objections can be put forward, however, to this theology of
"in persona Christi": one theological and the
other taken from Holy Scripture.
4. The objection of "in persona Ecclesiae"
It is recalled by theology, not without reason, that the priest, in
any field—evangelization, pastoral
care, sacramental ministry—acts in
persona Ecclesiae no less than in persona Christi Capitis.
And it is understood that, if the representation of Christ leads to
reserving the priesthood for men only, the representation of the Church
would call for the admission of women also. It is exact that, for
example, if in the Eucharist the celebrant consecrates using the Lord's
own words, he does so in the framework of a prayer of supplication which
has the attitude of humility and thanks characteristic of the Bride of
It must be considered, it is true, that the priest acts in persona
Christi as also in persona Ecclesiae. But in
the two cases the significance of the representation is very different.
Christ, in fact, is a man not only because he is the bridegroom
of the Church, but also because the Word of God became flesh really and
concretely. The Church, on the contrary, is not a woman in the proper
and concrete sense, but in the purely symbolic sense, since she is
treated by the Lord Jesus as his Bride. Therefore, the representation
derived from in persona Christi prevails over the other owing to
all the weight of reality and all the difference that distinguishes the
Then, too, when the argument is put forward based on the humility of
the priest who supplicates on behalf of the Church, it should be pointed
out that this modesty and submission of his do not reflect the
femininity of the Church, but his condition as a creature. In fact, like
the Church, also the priest, however great his ministry may be, must
remember his human condition. All the more so in that Christ himself,
whom he represents, is the Word become flesh, a Priest in his humanity,
recapitulating in his theandric being the condition of a creature which
he has assumed and the divine condition which is specifically his: a Man
born of the Virgin, Christ, like us "shares in flesh and
blood" that is, in our weakness (67). Therefore, the priest, while
he acts ministerially in persona Christi, represents both
his humanity, with its natural limits, and his divinity with its own
transcendence. Nor can it be forgotten that the Lord Jesus, the Head of
the Church, our Sovereign Priest, acted in persona Ecclesiae as
much as in persona propria. Thus also the priest, his
5. Equality of the baptized
There still remains the last difficulty, amore obvious one, more
often put forward today. It is this: if the doctrine of in persona
Christi reserves for men only the representation of Christ the
priest, that would seem to contradict fundamental affirmations of Holy
Scripture. According to the first chapter of Genesis, the man created in
the image of God is not only the male but also the female: "ad
imaginem Dei creavit illum, masculum et feminam creavit eos"(69).
And if sin caused this likeness to be lost, baptism restores it. In
fact, St Paul writes forcefully to the Galatians:
"There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor
free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in
Christ Jesus (70). This is the argument exploited today by the most
enlightened feminists: any Christian, by virtue of baptism, is the image
of Christ; therefore everyone, female as well as male, is capable of
representing him in the people of God (71).
It is not possible, unfortunately, to give an exhaustive answer to
these difficulties in the limits of a mere lecture. It is sufficient to
give some clarifications, distinguishing the double function of Christ
in his Mystical Body, contemplated from the standpoint of the sacraments
of Baptism and of Holy Orders. The same Christ is, in fact, by virtue of
baptism, the mediator of the grace common to all and, consequently, the
principle of identity among Christians. Furthermore, with the
institution of the priesthood, he is also the author of
"mission", and therefore the principle of the difference
coming from the fact that one is sent to others on behalf of the Head of
the Mystical Body.
6. Christ the mediator of grace common to all
In the first place, by virtue of baptism, Christ, the mediator of
grace, lavishly gives the gift of divine life without discrimination.
Everyone can become, through created grace, sharers in this divine
nature, which the only-begotten Son has in common with the Father and
with the Holy Spirit. In this connection, as there is no
difference between the divine Persons, but perfect consubstantiality—to
such an extent that they possess the same divine nature in unity—similarly,
though analogically, there is no difference among men in participation
in divine grace; there is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free,
neither, man nor woman (72). In this sense Christians all resemble
Christ and resemble one another. But this likeness, though real and
ontological, is a spiritual reality, therefore concealed, invisible and
eschatological: it will be revealed at the end of time, "when he
appears we shall be like him"... (73). It cannot, therefore, during
the time of the Church, have in its turn a sacramental function.
Deriving from a first sacrament, of which it is the res, it
cannot be the principle, that is the sacramentum tantum, of
another. The spiritual effects procured by the sacraments require some
characteristic sign, natural and perceptible, the function of which is
to signify and cause this spiritual grace.
The sacraments are not piled up on top of one another: the res of
one cannot act as sacramentum tantum of the following one. And,
to differentiate the new sacrament, it is not enough to invoke in our
case the intervention of the rite peculiar to ordinations. Because, in
sacraments concerning the state of life, such as marriage and Holy
Orders, the sacramentality is not reduced to the sphere of the
rite—which is, however, a sine
qua non condition, in fact a primary cause—but
is extended also to the subject of the sacrament. As each of the spouses
becomes for the other the sign and instrument of grace, in the same way
the priest, marked with his ordination by the priestly character and
grace, becomes the sign and instrument of grace for the baptized.
Therefore the divine likeness, generated by baptism, cannot act as a
sacramental sign of the grace conferred by the priesthood. A natural
sign is the prerequisite: for marriage, the man-woman duality,
representative of the Christ-Church relationship; for Holy Orders, man
alone, the image of Christ, Head and Leader of his Mystical Body.
7. Christ, head of the Mystical Body
Christ, then, in addition to his function as Mediator of common
grace, also acts as Head of the Body. This function raises him above all
and constitutes him the principle of the priestly and hierarchical
structure of the Church. Well, being structural, this function requires
to be extended, prolonged and signified until the end of time by an
ecclesial representation. This is, as was pointed out by Vatican II
(74), the representation handed down to bishops and priests and set up
by the Lord Jesus with the choice and consecration of his apostles.
Now this function of Head is peculiar to Christ, that is, to the Son
incarnate, consecrated and sent by the Father (75): it does not belong
either to the Father, who is not sent, or to the Holy Spirit, whose
mission is different, though complementary. And it is distinctive of the
Son because, in short, it rests, like any mission ad extra, on
his procession ad intra, the generation that distinguishes him
from the Father and from the Holy Spirit. The "mission" is the
principle of differentiation in the Church, because the
"procession" is the cause of distinction of the Persons in the
unity of their common nature. Therefore, since this function of Head is
necessary for the life of the Church, and since it is completely
peculiar to Christ, it is up to him and to him alone to determine to
whom and in what way to entrust its representation. He did so with the
choice and the mission of his apostles and with their consecration for
their future ministry (76). The principle of priestly ordination is
entirely here. It confers the character with which a baptized man is
configured with Christ Head of the Church (77). With this the priest is
qualified to make him present before the Church in the attitude of a
Head. Such a sacrament is not in itself destined for everyone, but
reserved for those who, bearing a human resemblance to him, have been
called and chosen according to his free disposition as Head.
It is necessary therefore to distinguish a double resemblance with
Christ: the common one, the effect of baptism, which consists in a
mysterious and invisible reality, incapable, therefore, of serving as a
visible sign for another sacrament; and the resemblance communicated by
the character of ordination which is the source of priestly
representation. Although it, too, is invisible, it is based, however, on
a natural likeness, and conferred by a sacramental rite which makes it
public before the faithful.
Wishing to conclude, it seems to us opportune to clarify another
difficulty that arises just from this theological reflection. The
question is raised here and there whether the Declaration, with its
intervention in the midst of the ecumenical dialogue, does not run the
risk of compromising it, and perhaps blocking it. This conclusion would
not be, in our opinion, either justified or authorized by the
Declaration, which, right from the beginning, is aware of its ecumenical
opportuneness. In fact, after recalling the early position of the
Churches that emerged from the Protestant Reformation in the 16th
century and the present attitude of some of them, the Declaration points
out expressly that it is a question here of "an ecumenical problem,
on which the Catholic Church must make her own thought known" (78).
It does not aim, therefore, at stopping the dialogue, but at permitting
it and, if necessary, at clarifying its terms more adequately.
First and foremost the Declaration intends to make it clear that Rome
wants this dialogue. In its text, in fact, it seeks only to safeguard
the conditions required for its successful outcome. Cautioning the other
Churches, in fact, not to introduce into their discipline the innovation
of the feminine ministry, the Catholic Church is observing the
well-known principle in ecumenical matters that, while a process of
reunion is going on, it is not opportune for a Church to introduce
customs which will make the planned rapprochement impossible for the
other Churches. And in declaring the non-elegibility of women for the
priesthood, Rome is not creating a new discipline: it is merely
confirming, in the light of changes admitted by other Churches which
emerged from the 16th century Reformation, that it remains faithful to
its attitude prior to the beginning of the dialogue. The obstacles to
union, if they exist, come from those who introduce new features. Rome,
therefore, expresses again its desire to respect the conditions
necessary for a positive result of the meetings.
The same Declaration has, moreover, the merit of proposing to the
ecumenical dialogue on ministries the central key, that of the sacramentality
of the ministerial priesthood. With the stress it lays on the
sacramental quality of the priesthood and of the episcopate, both signs
of Christ, Head of the Church, the document does not bring a new
principle. It merely renews the attachment of Rome to the subjects of
the Second Vatican Council, at which Lumen Gentium affirmed that
the Bishops "in a resplendent and visible manner, take the place of
Christ himself, teacher, shepherd and priest, and act as his
representatives (in eius persona)" (79).
Thus it became clear that the episcopate is sacramental both in its
exercise and in its liturgical conferment. The priest is constituted a
living sacrament of Christ in his triple magisterial, pastoral and
cultural function. Returning to this principle, the Declaration reveals
that today's obstacle to ecumenical dialogue does not lie in the
existence or not of the ministry or pastoral office, nor even in the
existence or not of the rite of the imposition of the hands of prayer
for the conferring of the office: these rites exist, in fact, in nearly
all Churches. The difficulty lies in recognizing the truly sacramental
value, based on the institution of Christ, of the ministry and its rite
of conferment. It is therefore important today, at a moment when the
ecumenical discussion has reached the argument of the so-called
reconciliation of ministries, that the Roman Catholic Church should
confirm the same dogmatic position formulated during the last Council.
By making this clarification, Rome, far from closing the dialogue, keeps
it at its doctrinal level and, on the contrary, points out to it its
Allow us to add a last word addressed to Sisters and women, as the
Declaration did when it said to them: "It is sometimes said and it
is written in books or reviews that some women feel a priestly
vocation". Several echoed this word, pointing out that St Teresa of
Lisieux had herself expressed this attraction. In fact in the letter
addressed to her sister, Sister Mary of the Sacred Heart, for the
anniversary of her profession, on 8 September 1896, she had declared:
"I feel within me the vocation of a PRIEST; with what
love, oh Jesus, I would bring you in my hands when, at my voice, you
would descend from Heaven... With what love I would give you to souls!
... But alas! while desiring to be a Priest, I admire and
envy the humility of St Francis of Assisi and I feel the vocation of
imitating him, refusing the sublime dignity of the Priesthood...
I would like to enlighten men like the Prophets, the Doctors,
I have the vocation to be an Apostle... I would
like to travel all over the earth, to preach your name and plant your
glorious Cross on infidel soil, but, oh my Beloved, a single
mission would not be enough for me, I would like at the same time to
proclaim the Gospel in the five parts of the world and even in the most
distant islands... I would like to be a missionary not only for some
years, but I would like to have been one since the creation of the world
and to be one until the end of time... At prayer, as my desires were
making me suffer a real martyrdom, I opened the letters of St Paul in
order to look for some answer. Chapters XII and XIII of the first
epistle to the Corinthians fell under my eyes... I read, in the first
one, that not all can be apostles, prophets, doctors, etc... that
the Church is composed of different members and that the eye cannot be at
the same time the hand... The answer was clear but did not satisfy
my desires, it did not give me peace... Without losing heart, I
continued to read and the following sentence brought me relief:
"Earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still
more excellent way". And the Apostle explains how the most
perfect gifts are nothing without LOVE... that Charity is the
excellent way which certainly leads to God. At last I had found
rest... Charity gave me the key to my vocation... I understood
that love contained all vocations, that love was everything, that it
embraced all times and all places... in a word, that it is eternal!...
Then, in the excess of my delirious joy, I exclaimed: Oh Jesus, my
Love... I have at last found my vocation, my vocation is love!...
Yes, I have found my place in the Church and it is you, oh my God, who
have given me this place... in the Heart of the Church, my Mother, I
will be Love... in this way I will be everything... in this way
my dream will be fulfilled!!!..." (St Teresa of the Child Jesus. Manuscrits
autobiographiques, Carmel de Lisieux 1957, pp. 226-229).
That is why, after being canonized by Pope Pius XI, Sister Teresa of
the Child Jesus was also proclaimed by him patroness of the Work of St
Peter Apostle for the native Clergy, then, in 1927, patroness of the
Missions alongside St Francis Xavier. May her testimony be, for all men
and all women, a comment on the Declaration which says: "The
greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven, are not the ministers, but the
1) Published, on Thursday 27 January 1977 in L'Osservatore Romano,
accompanied by a comment of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine
of the Faith, the Declaration bears the signature of the Pope of the
date 15 October 1976, feast of St Teresa of Avila. We will quote it
according to the booklet published the same day by the Vatican Printing
Press, in the Italian translation.
2) The main bibliographical elements are given in the following
volumes: Have van der Meer, Priestertum der Frau? Eine
theologiegeschichtliche Untersuchung, "Quaestiones disputatae",
n. 42, Herder, Freiburg-i-Br., 1969 (the Italian translation—Morcelliana,
Brescia 1971—does not give the
bibliography); R. Gryson, Le ministere des femmes dans I'Eglise
ancienne, Gembloux 1972; Ruth T. Barnhouse, etc., The
Ordination of Women to the Priesthood: an Annotated Bibliography,
in: Anglican Theological Review, Suppl. Series, n. 6, June
1976, pp. 81-106; Corrado Marucci, S.J., La donna e i ministeri nella
Bibbia e nella tradizione, in: Rassegna di teologia 17
(1976) pp. 273-296; Valutazione teologica degli argomenti sul
controverso sacerdozio femminile, ibid., pp. 384-403. Let us
also point out: E. Gibson, When the minister is a woman, New
York, Holt, 1970 (Fr. trans., Tournai, Castermann 1971, with pref. by Y.
Cougar, O.P.); Jean Galot, S.J., La donna e i ministeri nella Chiesa,
Assisi, Cittadella 1973; Philippe Delhaye, Rétrospective et
prospective des ministères féminins dans L'Eglise, Revue théol.
de Louvain 3 (1972) 55-75; Ch. Lefèvre, Sur le problème du
presbytérat féminin, ib., pp. 200-204; Ida Raming, Der
Ausschluss der Frau vom priesterlichen Amt: GottgewolIte Tradition oder
Diskriminierung? Eine rechtshistorischdogmatische Untersuchung, Köln-Wien
1973; J. M. Aubert, La femme, antiféminisme et christianisme, Paris
1975; Th. Hopko, On the male character of Christian priesthood, in:
St Vladimir's Theological Quarterly 19 (1975) pp. 147-173; H.M.
Legrand, O.P., L'ordination des femmes au ministère presbytéral:
réflexions théologiques du point de vue catholique, in Bulletin
du Secrétariat de la Conf. épisc. fran., n. 7, April 1976,
1-16; B. Lembert, O.P., L'Eglise catholique peut-elle admettre des
femmes à l'ordination sacerdotale? Doc. Cath. 73 (1976) pp.
773-780; Louis Bouyer, Mystère et ministères de la femme, "Présence
et penseé ", Aubier, Paris 1976: Jean Galot, S.J.,
Sacerdozio e promozione della donna nel documento della Sacra
Congregazione per la Dottrina della Fede, in: La Civiltà
Cattolica, 5 February 1977, pp. 218-235.
3) Biblical Commission Report: Can Women be Priests? in:
Origins, vol. 6, n. 1, July 1 1976, pp. 92-96 (especially
4) Declaration, Italian text quoted in note 1, p. 7.
6) Ibid., p. 5. Here is the Latin text: "Ecclesiam, quae
Domini exemplo fidelis manere intendit, auctoritatem sibi non agnoscere
admittenti mulieres ad sacerdotalem ordinationem".
7) "Jesus Christ did not call any woman to belong to the
Twelve" (Declar., p. 6): cf. Mk 3, 13-19; Mt 10, 1-4; Lk 6, 12-16.
8) "with the Twelve" (Mk 14, 17); "with the
twelve disciples" (Mt 26, 20); "and the apostles with
him" (Lk 22, 14).
9) "… a hermeneutical mentality, which we would call
positivistic, according to which a universal and determining value,
valid for all times, is given to Jesus' concrete choices" (C.
Marucci, l.c., p. 390, n. 14).
10) This concept is allegedly surpassed by "ascendent"
11) "In these days he (Jesus) went out into the hills to pray;
and all night he continued in prayer to God. And when it was day, he
called his disciples, and chose from them twelve, whom he named
apostles..." (Lk 6, 12-13).
12) Mk 3, 13.
13) "... He appointed twelve, to be with him, and to be sent out
to preach and have authority to cast out demons" (Mk 3, 14).
14) Dei Verbum, n. 2.
15) "I want you to understand that the head of every man is
Christ, the head of a woman is her husband, and the head of Christ is
God" (1 Cor 11, 3).
16) 5, 22-23.
17) Louis Bouyer, Le mystère et ministères de la femme, Paris
18) Hans Urs von Balthasar, L'ininterrotta Tradizione,
L'Osservatore Rom., 3 Feb. 1977, pp. 1-2.
19) Ibid., p. 1.
20) Adversus Haereses, I, 13, 2, Patr. Gr. 7, 580-581;
the Greek text is preserved in Panarion by Epiphanes (Holl, GCS
31, p. 6 ff.).
21) See: Tertullian, De praescriptione haereticorum 41, 5 (Patr.
Lat. 2, 56B; CCL 1, 221, 13-15); the letter from Firmilianus of
Cesarea of Cappadocia to Cyprian of Carthage (Inter. Epist. Cypr.
75, CSEL 3, 2, 816-818), Epiphanes, Panarion, 49, 2-3 (GCS 31,
pp, 243-244). Read Galot, l.e. pp. 70-80,
22) Epiphanes, Panarion, 79; 2-4 (GCS 37, pp, 477-479; Patr.
Gr., 42, 740-741). Read Galot, l.e., pp. 83-86.
23) When the Didascalia degli Apostoli forbids women to
preach, it also recalls that "the Lord God, Jesus Christ, our
Master, sent us, us the Twelve, to teach the people and the nations.
There were with us the women disciples Mary of Magdala, Mary the
daughter of James and the other Mary: and he did not tell them to teach
the people with us" (III, 6, 2, Funk I, p. 190; F. Nau
Paris 1912, p. 124; Connolly, pp, 133 and 142).
24) In its versions: Latin, Saidic, Arabic, Ethiopian, Greek and
Syriac (J M. Hanssens, La liturgie d'Hippolyte. Documents et
études, Rome 1970, pp. 62-63).
25) Hanssens, l.e., pp. 63-64 (Syriac version).
26) Apostolic Constitutions, III, 9, 3, Funk I, p. 201,
27) All the more so in that the argument was brought by St Paul
himself (1 Cor 11, 8-9); John Chrysostom, In Epist. I ad Cor.
homil XXVI, 4, Patr. Gr. 61, 217-218.
28) In 1 Cor 14. 54, CSEL 81-82, 164, 18.
29) Sacrosanctum Concilium, n. 7,
30) Things were done in this way at the beginning of the 3rd century,
accordmg to The Apostolic Tradition (J.M. Hanssens, La
liturgie d'Hippolyte: ses documents, son titulaire, ses origines et son
caractère, Rome 1959, pp. 461-462; B. Botte, La tradition
apostolique de saint Hippolyte, Münster 1963, pp. 48-51).
31) L. Ligier, La Confirmation: sens et conjoncture oecuménique
hier et aujourd'hui, Paris 1973, pp. 51-95.
32) Mikron Euchologion è Hagiasmatarion. Athens, 1936, pp.
33) "... ea quae per Ecclesiam statuuntur, ab ipso
Christo ordinantur" (Summa Theol. III, q. 83, sed contra).
34) "... omnes norunt Ecclesiam quod statuit etiam mutare
et abrogare valere" (Denz Sch n. 3858, at the end).
35) "... Ecclesiae nulla competat potestas in 'substantiam
Sacramentorum', id est in ea quae, testibus divinae revelationis
fontibus, ipse Christus Dominus in signo sacramentali servanda statuit"
(ib., n. 3857).
36) Declaration, p. 11: "His in rebus, act extremum est
Ecclesiae, per suum Magisterium pronuntiantis, decernere quaenam partes
sint immutabiles, quae vero partes mutationi sint obnoxiae",
37) Declaration, p. 12: "Ecclesiae ergo praxis vim normae
38) L'ordination des femmes au ministère presbytéral, in Bull.
Secr. Conf. épisc. Fran., n. 7, April 1976, p. 9.
39) Declaration, p. 12, in the first paragraph of section 5.
40) Comment of the Sacred Congregation, in the section entitled
"The ministerial priesthood in the light of Christ's mystery"
(L'Osservalore Rom. of 27 January) in the first paragraph (on p.
9 of the roneoed edition).
41) Balthasar, L'Osservatore Romano of 15 Feb., p. 1.
42) Le mystère et les ministères de la femme, pp. 47 ff.
43) Balthasar, l.c., p. 2,
44) Eph 3, 15.
45) Declaration, p. 14; Hos 1-3.
46) Jer 2.
47) Ezek 16.
48) Declaration, p. 14: Mk 2, 19; Mt 22, 1-14.
49) Jn 3, 29.
50) 2 Cor 11, 2.
51) Eph 5, 22-23.
52) Rev 21, 2; 19, 7 and 9.
53) Is 61, 10; 62, 4-5.
54) Mt 10, 40.
55) Lk 10, 16.
56) Mt 18, 18; cf. 16, 19.
57) Declaration, pp. 15-16, section 5; and already on p. 13,
on which texts of Vat. II, of the 1971 Synod of Bishops and of Mysterium
Ecclesiae of the year 1973, are quoted. The study of the formula and
of its meaning in the work of St Thomas is still to be made, using above
all the Index Thomisticus of Fr. Roberto Busa, S.J. In fact the
essay of Fr. B.D. Marliangeas, O.P. ("In persona Christi"
"in persona Ecclesiae". Note sur les origines et le
dévelopment de l'usage de ces expressions dans la théologie latine,
in: Vatican II. La Liturgie après Vatican II, "Unam
Sanctam" n. 66, Paris 1968, pp. 283-288) does not succeed in
grasping the whole complexity and all the niceties of the meaning of the
58) Dt 34, 12.
59) Is 1, 20; 30, 2; 40, 5; 58, 14; Mic 4, 4; cf. Dt 18, 18-19; Jer
60) 1 Kings 17, 1; 18, 15; 2 Kings 3, 14; 5, 16.
61) Catechesis 16, 29, Patr. Gr., 33, 960A.
62) Cat. 10, 2, ibid. 661B.
63) Cat. 13, 13, ibid. 189 C; 14, 6, ibid., 829
C; cf. "in persona Jesu", Cat. 12, 26, ibid. 760
64) The Declaration draws attention to them (section 5, last. par. p.
65) 1 Cor 2, 3; 2 Cor 12, 9-10; Ida Raming sees in this sense of
weakness a contradiction of the traditional doctrine (l.c., pp.
217-218). Von Balthasar, on the contrary, considers this tension between
the weakness and the strength of the apostle "an irrepressible
dualism, which is inherent in priestly representation" (L'Osservatore
Romano, 5 Feb. p. 2).
66) Phil 4, 13; cf. 2 Cor 12, 10: 2 Tim 4. 17.
67) Heb 2, 14.
68) The Declaration sets forth the same doctrine in other terms:
"It is true that the priest represents the Church, which is the
Body of Christ. But if he does so, it is precisely because, in the first
place, he represents Christ himself who is the Head and the Pastor of
the Church: a formula which is used by Vatican II" (sect. 5, p.
15). Before Lumen Gentium it is set forth by the Encyclical Mediator
Dei Of Pius XII (AAS 39 (1947) p. 556).
69) Gen 1, 26.
70) Gal 3, 28.
71) R.A. Norris, Jr., The Ordination of Women and the
"Maleness" of Christ, in: Anglican Theological Rev.,
Supp. Ser. n. 6, June 1976, pp. 69-80; already, but in another way, by
Edward J. Kilmartin, S.J., Apostolic Office: Sacrament of Christ,
in: Theol. Stud. 36 (1975), pp, 243-264.
72) Gal 3, 28.
73) 1 Jn 3, 2.
74) Lumen Gentium n. 21; towards the end.
75) "Quem Pater sanctificavit et misit in mundum" (Jn 10,
36), a formula to which reference is made at the beginning of Lumen
Gentium n. 28, of Presbyterorum Ordinis n. 2, also mentioned
by Ad Gentes n. 3b.
76) Jn 17, 17-19.
77) Presbyterorum Ordinis, nn. 2 and 12; Optatam Totius,
n. 6; Synodus Episcoporum 1971, in part I, n. 5, on p. 15 (cf.,
also sect. 6 of Mysterium Ecclesiae).
78) Declaration, p. 4 (in the Introduction): "Huius ergo negotii
oecumenicum momentum patet, de quo Ecclesia catholica suam mentem
79) Lumen Gentium, n. 21, towards the end.