STATEMENT BY ARCHBISHOP REMBERT G. WEAKLAND
(The following is the text of a statement by Archbishop Rembert G.
Weakland, May 31, 1994, on the pope's apostolic letter, Ordinatio
In his apostolic letter to the bishops of the world dated May 22, 1994,
the Holy Father has declared that the question of the ordination of women
is no longer open to debate. In this he has certainly disagreed with my
position that the issue should be left open because of the unresolved
theological questions involved, and because of the pastoral problems which
would result from an untimely closing of the doors on the issue. I
certainly will be obedient to this command.
Yet, in a spirit of filial loyalty, I must also express my own inner
turmoil at this decision. I know that in the long run my obedience will
result in a deepening of my faith, but I state sincerely that it will not
be done without much sacrifice and inner searching.
As a a bishop I will have to ponder what the phrase, "this judgment is to
be held definitively," means in terms of its demands on the faithful.
This terminology is not traditional in the Catholic church.
I note that the Holy Father has avoided the word "infallible." Moreover,
it would seem that, in saying that this teaching must be held
"definitively," he is declaring that his judgment in this regard must be
adhered to with some degree of assent of faith. His intentions, however,
are clear: on this issue the debate is closed.
Yet, as a bishop I would not be loyal to the Holy Father if I did not
again point out the pastoral problems I now will face in my archdiocese.
These have to be the object of my concern because many will be confused
and troubled, discouraged and disillusioned.
For example, what effect will this declaration have on so many women and
men, especially younger women and vowed religious, who still see this
question as one of justice and equality, all protestations to the contrary
How, as a bishop, am I to deal with the anger and disillusionment which
will inevitably result? What can I do to instill hope in so many women
who are now living on the margins of the church?
What effects will this declaration have on theologians who are still
concerned about the theological underpinnings of the pope's teaching?
Will they be able to express honestly their concerns? Will adherence to
this judgment of the Holy Father be a requisite for teaching as a Catholic
What effects will this declaration have on those men and women for whom
the issue of the way in which the church exercises its authority is
already a problem? Many are still wrestling with Humanae Vitae, and thus
have difficulty accepting that a single person alone can decide what they
must in faith accept. Are they now to be put against the wall, as it
were, over this issue?
Lastly, what effects will this declaration have on ecumenical dialogue?
Since full communion among the churches ultimately must include the mutual
recognition of ministries, will this declaration mean that full communion
is ruled out with all except the Orthodox churches?
The Orthodox churches may agree with the pope on the question at hand, but
are usually shocked when the pope teaches the bishops but does not speak
in union with them.
The Holy Father has certainly thought of these consequences. Since this
document is more dogmatic in tone, his pastoral concern may not be
immediately obvious. We must trust that the Holy Father is sensitive to
the reactions this declaration will cause. We must also trust that, in
his pastoral concern, he will help us face the difficulties which this
declaration will pose for the faith of many.
His remarks that the presence and role of women in the life and mission of
the church are absolutely necessary and irreplaceable could lead to a
fresh and new look at the question of jurisdiction and ministry.
As we all move ahead to ponder and understand this teaching, I realize
that it will be a difficult moment for many here in the archdiocese. I
hope that those who find it so will let me accompany them on that journey,
as painful as it might be.
Uploaded by Robert P. Sheehan