Vatican Ban on Women Priest Is Infallible
by Paul Likoudis
Challenge Magazine January, 1996
Determined to put a stop to a three decades long campaign waged by
dissenting theologians and renegade religious to open the Catholic
priesthood to women, the Congregation for Doctrine of the Faith released
a statement November 18 saying the Church's traditional ban on women
priest "requires definitive assent...(and) has been set forth infallibly by
the ordinary and universal Magisterium."
The teaching that the Church possesses no authority to ordain women,
declared the letter, "is to be held always, everywhere, and by all, as
belonging to the deposit of faith."
The letter, signed by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect of the
Congregation, was accompanied by a cover letter insisting that bishops
"will do everything possible to ensure its distribution and favourable
reception, taking particular care that, above all on the part of theologians,
pastors of souls, and religious, ambiguous and contrary positions will not
again be proposed."
Invoking the word "infallible" in the letter, explained Father Augustine
DeNoia, a theological advisor to the US Bishops, means that "to teach the
contrary is equivalent to leading consciences into error."
For the ordinary Catholic, the so-called "person in the pew" who has to
read women's ordination agitprop in his parish bulletin, the young
student who is required to believe in women's ordination as a pre-
requisite for Confirmation, the seminarian who must agree women
should be ordained as a requirement for continuing his studies, this
Vatican letter will come as a great support.
For, now he can tell women's ordination advocates that they are not
Catholic. For, as those on both sides of the battle agree, the essence of this
recent statement is that those who will not accept Church teaching on
ordination are not Catholic.
The Pope is not only "aiming to shut the door on debate about women's
ordination" as Catholic New Service reporter John Thavis wrote from
Rome, but he has made it clear that dissenters on the issue are out of the
One of North America's most prominent dissenting theologians, Father
Richard McBrien of Notre Dame university realized this immediately, as
he told the New York Times: "If the pope wants us to believe that the
prohibition against the ordination of women is a matter of divine law
and divine faith such that the denial of this teaching is a heresy, then that
puts everyone who disagrees outside the Church. Is that what is being
Precisely, says Archbishop J. Francis Stafford of Denver. The issue of
women's ordination has been explored exhaustively, and now "it is time
to move on.
"The Church's teaching is definitive, and has been set forth infallibly by
formal declaration. It will not and cannot change. Therefore, for those
who see with the eyes of faith, the matter is resolved."
This is an opportunity for Catholics who dissent from Church teaching to
"go back and see where they made the wrong turn," commented Helen
Hull Hitchcock of Women for Faith and Family, "and to deepen their
understanding of Church teaching.
"It offers people a chance to jar themselves loose from the cause of women
priests, because the Church has finally used its highest authority to
proclaim the doctrine. Many people may actually come back to the
Church now that the Holy See has decaled that if you reject the Church's
teaching on the priesthood, you have put yourself out of the
mainstream...The full implication of this statement is that if we don't
accept the Church on priesthood, we aren't Catholic anymore."
While many theologians such as McBrien, Father Francis Sullivan at
Boston College and Monsignor William Shannon in Rochester, NY,
berated the Vatican and accused it of forcing good people out of the
Church, Dr. Joyce Little, a theologian at St. Thomas university in
Houston, said that those who encouraged women to believe they could
be ordained if only enough pressure were put on the Vatican have a lot to
In a spirited, week-long debate on CompuServe's Catholic On Line, Little
maintained there is no reason for anyone to be disappointed in the
Vatican ruling, since the Vatican has never given the slightest reason for
anyone to expect a change on its men-only policy.
"Rome has always been up front about this," she wrote. "Neither the Pope
nor Ratzinger nor anyone representing either of them ever gave anyone,
anywhere, any reason to expect anything other than what has happened.
In fact, anyone who read Ordination Sacerdotalis carefully already knew
that the Pope had declared this practice to be, at the very least,
irreformable. (What, after all, do people imagine definitively' means?)"
If expectations were cruelly raised, she added, they were raised, she
added, they were raised by dissenting bishops, priests, theologians and
professors who for a generation have taught successive waves of students
that the Church would ordain women-sometime in their lifetimes.
And when bishops and others speak of the grieving faithful, Little asked,
"Where were they when all of these American Catholics were being led
down the garden path on this one? It is all fine and dandy for bishop
(Anthony) Pilla, (the new president of the National Conference of
Catholic Bishops), to ask American Catholics reverently to accept this
teaching as definitive, but what were the bishops doing, both before and
especially after Ordination Sacerdotalis, to enable American Catholics to
"Where were the priests, the theologians, the catechist?...I think the
sowing of that confusion was in very many instances unconscionable and
the responsibility for that confusion and the ensuing grief is one for
which many will be held accountable, if not in this life, then in the next."
Copyright (c) 1996 EWTN