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Next Up: Women Priests?

by Christopher A. Ferrara
February 8, 2017

The pontificate of Pope Francis continues to barrel ahead like a runaway express train, smashing every obstacle in its path, including the teaching of his two immediate predecessors affirming the bimillennial prohibition of Holy Communion for public adulterers, and the centuries-old sovereignty of the Knights of Malta.

But one would think certain obstacles are simply immovable, such as John Paul II’s declaration against the ordination of women as priests in his Apostolic Letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis:

“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.”

This statement has all the earmarks of an infallible definition of Catholic doctrine: the Pope invokes his full apostolic authority, declares an end to all debate on the matter, and commands the faithful to hold definitively that women may not be ordained. This, mind you, is not merely because John Paul II said so, but rather because the Church herself has always held this inasmuch as she has “no authority whatsoever” — that is, no authority from Christ — to ordain women as priests.

But that was then, and this is Francis, who does not appear to consider himself bound by any teaching of his predecessors at odds with his personal “vision” of the Church, including his “dream” of “a missionary impulse capable of transforming everything, so that the Church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channeled for the evangelization of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation.” (Note the astonishing opposition Francis sets up between his dream, on the one hand, and the Church’s self-preservation on the other.)

As incredible as it may seem, then, it now appears that Francis is floating trial balloons on the impossible ordination of women.  This development is discussed by the renowned Catholic journalist and Vatican observer Sandro Magister. Magister, who is not given to extravagant claims, has just posted an article provocatively entitled “Latest From Santa Marta. Open Doors For Women Priests.”

Magister begins by noting that Francis seemed to uphold the Church’s irreformable teaching when, during one of the always explosion-prone airborne news conferences he insists on conducting, he said that “For the ordination of women in the Catholic Church, the last clear word was given by Saint John Paul II, and this holds.”  But now there has appeared in “La Civiltà Cattolica,” the Jesuit magazine vetted by the Holy See and edited by Pope Bergoglio’s fellow Jesuit “mouthpiece,” the Modernist Antonio Spadaro, a piece that provides a very disturbing indication that Francis does not think “the last clear word” on women’s ordination is the same as simply “the last word.”

In the article, deputy editor Giancarlo Pani, another Modernist Jesuit like his boss Spadaro, slights not only John Paul II’s infallible definition but also a later statement from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that answered in the affirmative the question whether the definition can be “considered as belonging to ‘the deposit of the faith’” — meaning that “it must be held always, everywhere, and by all the faithful.”  That is, it is a Catholic dogma.

Pani argues that “[d]ifficulties with the answer’s reception have created ‘tensions’ in relations between magisterium and theology over the connected problems.” Yes, and so what? Those “difficulties” and “tensions” are utterly irrelevant. The matter is closed.

But not closed for Pani or Spadaro. Pani quibbles that the CDF’s affirmative answer was only the first time the Congregation had appealed to the Second Vatican Council’s document Lumen Gentium on the binding authority of papal teaching.  Another so what, as the infallibility of a given papal pronouncement hardly depends on Lumen Gentium. The dogma of papal infallibility, including its precise requirements for given papal pronouncements — which requirements John Paul II observed in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis — was defined by the First Vatican Council.

Soon Pani veers directly into heresy: “The historical fact of the exclusion of woman from the priesthood because of the ‘impedimentum sexus’ is undeniable. Nevertheless, already in 1948, and therefore well ahead of the disputes of the 1960’s, Fr. Congar pointed out that ‘the absence of a fact is not a decisive criterion for concluding prudently in every case that the Church cannot do it and will never do it.’” 

And who is Father Congar?  Nobody but another Modernist who infamously declared that at Vatican II “the Church had its October Revolution.” The late Congar’s opinion is worthless, and in any case it is utterly foreclosed by Ordinatio Sacerdotalis.

But it gets even worse as Pani continues:

“Moreover, another theologian adds, the ‘consensus fidelium’ of many centuries has been called into question in the 20th century above all on account of the profound sociocultural changes concerning woman. It would not make sense to maintain that the Church must change only because the times have changed, but it remains true that a doctrine proposed by the Church needs to be understood by the believing intelligence.

“The dispute over women priests could be set in parallel with other moments of Church history; in any case, today in the question of female priesthood the ‘auctoritates,’ or official positions of the magisterium, are clear, but many Catholics have a hard time understanding the ‘rationes’ of decisions that, more than expressions of authority, appear to signify authoritarianism.

“Today there is unease among those who fail to understand how the exclusion of woman from the Church’s ministry can coexist with the affirmation and appreciation of her equal dignity….”  [paragraph breaks added]

Lots of Modernist verbiage here, but it all reduces to one conclusion: times have changed, so the dogma on the impossibility of women’s ordination should change. Notice that in the very process of denying that “the Church must change only because the times have changed,” Pani affirms precisely that the Church must change because times have changed.  The Modernist is always denying what he affirms or affirming what he denies. 

And here Pani affirms the single greatest Modernist heresy, condemned by Pope Saint Pius X in his landmark anti-Modernist encyclical Pascendi: that Catholic dogmas can evolve over time.  In his Oath Against Modernism Saint Pius X required that all “clergy, pastors, confessors, preachers, religious superiors, and professors in philosophical-theological seminaries” affirm the following proposition among others: “Therefore, I entirely reject the heretical misrepresentation that dogmas evolve and change from one meaning to another different from the one which the Church held previously.”  But the Oath was abandoned after Vatican II as part of the same “October Revolution” that Congar hailed. 

Hence Pani’s heretical conclusion that an irreformable teaching of the Church must be reformed in view of “modern times”:

“In the judgment of ‘La Civiltà Cattolica,’ therefore, not only should the infallibility and definitiveness of John Paul II’s ‘no’ to women priests be brought into doubt, but more important than this ‘no’ are the ‘developments that the presence of woman in the family and society has undergone in the 21st century….

“‘One cannot always resort to the past, as if only in the past are there indications of the Spirit. Today as well the Spirit is guiding the Church and suggesting the courageous assumption of new perspectives.’”

Is this Francis’ conclusion as well? Magister notes that Pani’s article ends by declaring that Francis does not “limit himself to what is already known, but wants to delve into a complex and relevant field, so that it may be the Spirit who guides the Church.” So, if Pani is correct, Francis thinks “the Spirit” might issue a bulletin changing dogmas of the Faith based on recent social developments.

When will this madness end?  May God help us. And may Our Lady of Fatima intercede for us.