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Questions raised on ordination of women

ROME (SE): A recent article in the Italian Jesuit journal, Civilta Cattolica, raises questions about the teaching of Pope John Paul II that women can never be ordained to the priesthood.

The publication of the article is significant, because the contents of the journal are approved by the Vatican before going to print.

The editor, Father Antonio Spadaro SJ, is also a key adviser to Pope Francis. The author of the article is the deputy editor, Father Giancarlo Pani SJ.

Although the article does not directly advance the argument that women could be ordained, the author questions whether the statement by Pope John Paul in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis (Priestly Ordination) is an authoritative and binding statement of Church magisterium.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith answered that question in 1995, stating plainly that the papal teaching was definitive and should be “considered as belonging to the deposit of the faith.” Nevertheless Father Pani reopens that question.

Citing tensions between the Church teaching and the work of theologians, Father Pani says that the 1995 statement from the congregation “does not take into account the developments that the presence of woman in the family and in society has undergone in the 21st century.”

He describes an “unease among those who fail to understand how the exclusion of women from the Church’s ministry can coexist with the affirmation and appreciation of her equal dignity.”

The article argues, “One cannot always resort to the past.” It goes on to call for a new approach to the issue.

Father Pani closes with the observation that Pope Francis has shown that he will not limit himself to what is already known.” 

Pope Francis himself has said that the teaching of Pope John Paul on the impossibility of ordaining women is “the last clear word... and this holds.”

In a meeting with the editorial staff of Civilta Cattolica to mark its 4,000th issue, Pope Francis praised the publication for its direct service to the Apostolic See.

He remarked that Civilta Cattolica “continues courageously to navigate in open waters.”

The pope went on to say that Catholics should “never be afraid of open waters and must never seek the shelter of safe harbours.”

Addressing the staff of the journal on February 8, he said, “You above all, as Jesuits: avoid clinging to certainties and security.”

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