Saturday, September 26, 2009

Who can be ordained?

There's been some discussion in the pages of the Cincinnati Enquirer about who can be ordained as bishop, priest or deacon by the Catholic Church. I wrote a letter which appeared online; I don't know if it appeared in print.

9 comments:

Lavinia Tai said...

I was baptized at the age of eleven. Even before I was baptized, I fell in love with Jesus. At the age of 9, I told some of my friends that I wanted to be a priest when I grow up. It never occurred to me then that there are no Roman Catholic women priests!

Anonymous said...

Excellent, Father. Thank you for your defense of the faith.

Anonymous said...

Are you sure the pope declared this to be infallible. I was under the impression he could only do that on matters of faith or morals. This issue does not appear to concern either of those.

Father Martin Fox said...

Anonymous:

a) It's a matter of faith.

b) the pope said he declared it infallibly, in the letter he published on the subject. I cannot recall the name of the document he published at this moment, but you could google it easily.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous:

The Apostolic Letter was issued in May, 1994, entitled "Ordinatio Sacerdotalis" You can access it on the Vatican's website (www.vatican.va).

@MSU

Anonymous said...

I fail to make the connection between faith, morals and male priests. How does one know when the pope speaks "ex cahthedra". I read Ordinatio Sacerdotalis which, apparently is just a letter.
I kind of thought that dogmas were the faith and morals issues. What am I missing?

Father Martin Fox said...

Anonymous:

When we talk about infallibility regarding the pope's teaching office, having to do with "faith and morals," "faith" pertains to everything the Church teaches about who Christ is, what Christ willed regarding salvation, the sacraments and the Church, among other things.

So the question of who can be ordained pertains to a question of "faith" because it has to do with fidelity to what Christ teaches about the Church, and the sacraments. In particular, it pertains to following Christ's wish regarding who can receive the sacrament of holy orders.

By the way, this applies similarly to each of the sacraments, how they are properly celebrated and what is the proper "form" and "matter" of a sacrament.

As far as how you know when the pope is teaching infallibly, the starting point is paragraph 2035 of the Catechism:

The supreme degree of participation in the authority of Christ is ensured by the charism of infallibility. This infallibility extends as far as does the deposit of divine Revelation; it also extends to all those elements of doctrine, including morals, without which the saving truths of the faith cannot be preserved, explained, or observed.

But...that's pretty dense. Note what it says: "extends as far as does the deposit of divine Revelation"--which means, all of Scripture, all that Jesus Christ taught, including in tradition as well as Scripture.

In addition, you may want to look at these remarks of Pope John Paul II at this site: http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/audiences/alpha/data/aud19930317en.html

Generally speaking, we generally know when the pope is doing this when he addresses subjects of faith and morals (i.e., not the weather, not science as such, or not current events), when he teaches the Church as a whole (i.e., not when he is simply speaking to a small group or privately), and when he uses a verbal formulation that expresses his consciousness of exercising that office. Thus, in his letter on ordination, he said the following, and please note the highlighted language:

Although the teaching that priestly ordination is to be reserved to men alone has been preserved by the constant and universal Tradition of the Church and firmly taught by the Magisterium in its more recent documents, at the present time in some places it is nonetheless considered still open to debate, or the Church's judgment that women are not to be admitted to ordination is considered to have a merely disciplinary force.

Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church's divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32) 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.

Anonymous said...

I do believe, Fr, that you are using a much too broad a brush to describe infallibility. I don't believe the opinion on this topic is infallible, just as I don't believe the opinion on birth control is infallible.
And I would caution your archbishop not to ask too many questions of his nuns, brothers, lay teachers or RCIA and CCD instructors. He may end up with far fewer teachers than he already has.
And don't ask too many priests their opinion of birth control. He may end up with a much larger problem of a shortage of priests.

Father Martin Fox said...

Anonymous:

While my own presentation of the faith is certainly not infallible, I owe it to you to say that I am doing my level best to give you, not my own opinion, but what the Church actually teaches.

I encourage you to investigate this further, and I think you will see that I am telling you correctly that, according to the Magisterium--i.e., the teaching office of the Church--this matter has been defined infallibly; and you will find that the infallibility of the Church, including that involving the pope's office of teaching and "confirming his brethren," is as broad as the subject of who can receive the sacrament of holy orders.