The head of the Vatican’s doctrinal office said Tuesday that the church’s ban on women priests is permanent and irreformable because it is “bound by the Lord’s decision” to ordain only men.
Archbishop Luis Ladaria, the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), has published a statement in the semi-official Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, in which he said that the male-only priesthood is “a truth belonging to the deposit of faith.”
Ten days ago, Pope Francis announced he will elevate 14 bishops to the rank of cardinal next June 29, and among them is Archbishop Ladaria, who, like the pope himself, is a Jesuit.
“Christ wanted to confer this sacrament on the Twelve Apostles, all men, who, in turn, have communicated it to other men,” Ladaria wrote. “The Church has always seen herself as bound by this decision of the Lord, which excludes that the ministerial priesthood can be validly conferred on women.”
Ongoing debate regarding the ordination of women is harmful to the faithful because such debates cause confusion not only about the nature of the ministerial priesthood, but about the teaching authority of the church, he said.
In this light, “it causes serious concern that voices continue to be raised in certain countries questioning the finality of this doctrine,” he wrote. “To contend that it is not definitive, some argue that it has not been defined ex cathedra and that, therefore, a later decision of a future pope or council could overthrow it.”
Sowing such doubts “creates serious confusion among the faithful, not only regarding the sacrament of orders as part of the divine constitution of the Church, but also regarding the ordinary magisterium that can teach Catholic doctrine infallibly,” he added.
The church recognizes that the impossibility of ordaining women to the ministerial priesthood belongs to the “substance of the sacrament” of holy orders, he said. “The church has no power to change this substance, because it is precisely from the Sacraments, instituted by Christ, that it is generated as a church.”
This is “not only a disciplinary element, but a doctrinal one,” he wrote, “as it concerns the structure of the sacraments, which are the original place of encounter with Christ and the transmission of faith.”
The archbishop insisted that the difference in functions between man and woman “does not carry with it any subordination, but a mutual enrichment.”
“Remember that the perfect figure of the church is Mary, the mother of the Lord,” he added, “who did not receive the apostolic ministry.”
The “original language” of masculinity and femininity, that the Creator inscribed in the human body, are in this way “assumed into the work of our redemption,” he said.
The archbishop also warned that the church must remain faithful to Christ if she wishes to bear fruit.
It “is essential that she remain in Jesus, as branches in the vine,” he said.
“Only the acceptance of his wise design, which is incarnated in the sacraments, reinvigorates the roots of the church, so that it can bear fruit of eternal life,” he said.
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