It’s an article of faith among some Catholic traditionalists — and not a few journalists — that Pope Francis is a “liberal,” who in his heart of hearts endorses the full agenda of the Catholic left, from acceptance of gay relationships to an openness to ordaining women as priests.
That has always been a facile proposition, but it will be especially hard to maintain after a recent statement from the head of the Vatican’s doctrinal office.
In an article in L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, Cardinal-designate Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer, the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, wrote: “Christ wanted to give this sacrament [of holy orders] to the twelve apostles, all men, who, in turn, transmitted it to other men.”
Ladaria added that the Roman Catholic Church “has always recognized herself bound by this decision of the Lord, which excludes that the ministerial priesthood can be validly conferred on women.” He cited both a 1994 apostolic letter by Pope John Paul II and its reaffirmation by Popes Benedict XVI and Francis.
Ladaria, a Jesuit like the pope, was appointed to his position by Francis, replacing a prelate who was considered more conservative, German Cardinal Gerhard Mueller.
There was a time when it seemed conceivable that the Catholic Church might admit women to the priesthood, as the Anglican churches have done.
My first byline in The New York Times was on a 1975 piece (you can read it here) explaining how two statements issued by a joint Roman Catholic-Anglican theological commission defined the ordained ministry and the sacrament of the Eucharist in a way that seemed to finesse traditional Catholic objections to ordaining women as priests.
But developments since then — especially John Paul II’s 1994 pronouncement, which Pope Francis has called “the last word” on the subject and one that “remains” — suggest that the door is closed.
The Vatican might still see its way clear to ordaining women as deacons, a subject that is being studied by a papal commission. Because deacons don’t celebrate Mass (in which the priest is considered a representation of Christ), some argue that there is no theological argument that they must be men. Others, including Mueller, disagree, and an earlier advisory committee found in 2002 that there was no historical or theological basis for the ordination of women as deacons.
As for female priests, Rome — in the person of the “liberal” Francis — has spoken, and the answer is no./ Jun. 6, 2018, 8:04 a.m. / LATIMES.