Question 136:

What is your opinion on the ordination of women in the Protestant Church? Is a female pope also possible in future?


Answer: The Catholic Churchs answer to the ordination of women is in the Apostolic Letter by John Paul II On Reserving Priestly Ordination To Men Alone from 22 May 1994. The pope writes here:


1. Priestly Ordination, which hands on the office entrusted by Christ to his Apostles of teaching, sanctifying, and governing the faithful, has in the Catholic Church from the beginning always been reserved to men alone. This tradition has also been faithfully maintained by the Oriental Churches….But since the question [of ordaining women] had also become the subject of debate among theologians and in certain Catholic circles, Paul VI directed the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to set forth and expound the teaching of the Church on this matter….


2. The [resulting] Declaration Inter Insigniores [from 15 Oct. 1976] recalls and explains the fundamental reasons for this teaching, reasons expounded by Paul VI, and concludes that the Church does not consider herself authorized to admit women to priestly ordination. …. In the Apostolic Letter Mulieris Dignitatem, [from 15 August 1988] I myself, (says John Paul II), wrote in this regard: In calling only men as his Apostles, Christ acted in a completely free and sovereign manner. In doing so, he exercised the same freedom with which, in all his behaviour, he emphasized the dignity and the vocation of women, without conforming to the prevailing customs and to the traditions sanctioned by the legislation of the time.


In fact, the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles attest that this call was made in accordance with Gods eternal plan: Christ chose those whom he willed (cf. Mk 3:13-14; Jn 6:70), and he did so in union with the Father, through the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:2), after having spent the night in prayer (cf. Lk 6:12)


. Therefore, in granting admission to the ministerial priesthood, the Church has always acknowledged as a perennial norm her Lords way of acting in choosing twelve men whom he made the foundation of his Church (cf. Rev 21:14). These men did not in fact receive only a function which could thereafter be exercised by any member of the Church; rather they were specifically and intimately associated in the mission of the Incarnate Word himself (cf. Mt 10:1, 7-8; 28:16-20; Mk 3:13- 16; 16:14-15). The Apostles did the same when they chose fellow workers who would succeed them in their ministry. Also included in this choice were those who, throughout the time of the Church, would carry on the Apostles mission of representing Christ the Lord and Redeemer.


3. Furthermore, the fact that the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God and Mother of the Church, received neither the mission proper to the Apostles nor the ministerial priesthood clearly shows that the non-admission of women to priestly ordination cannot mean that women are of lesser dignity, nor can it be construed as discrimination against them. Rather, it is to be seen as the faithful observance of a plan to be ascribed to the wisdom of the Lord of the universe.


The presence and the role of women in the life and mission of the Church, although not linked to the ministerial priesthood, remain absolutely necessary and irreplaceable. As the Declaration Inter Insigniores points out, the Church desires that Christian women should become fully aware of the greatness of their mission; today their role is of capital importance both for the renewal and humanization of society and for the rediscovery by believers of the true face of the Church. The New Testament and the whole history of the Church give ample evidence of the presence in the Church of women, true disciples, witnesses to Christ in the family and in society, as well as to total consecration to the service of God and of the Gospel….


Moreover, it is to the holiness of the faithful that the hierarchical structure of the Church is totally ordered. For this reason, the Declaration Inter Insigniores recalls: the only better gift, which can and must be desired, is love (cf. 1 Cor 12 and 13). The greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven are not the ministers but the saints.


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