Papal Infallibility and the Ordination of Women

Was St. John Paul II infallible when he claimed women could not be ordained priests?

Did he also exercise infallibility if he claimed he was infallible when he held women cannot be ordained? If Pope Benedict XVI claimed St. John Paul II was infallible when he said women cannot be ordained, was he also infallible in this?

I was taught that infallibility was only exercised in recent years in the Assumption, the Immaculate Conception and in the teaching on infallibility in Vatican I. Is this correct?

I am not considering the ordination of women here but Papal Infallibility.

Please help!

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church
891The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful - who confirms his brethren in the faith he proclaims by a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals… the infallibility promised to the Church is** also** present in the body of bishops when, together with Peter’s successor, they exercise the supreme Magisterium,” above all in an Ecumenical Council. When the Church through its supreme Magisterium proposes a doctrine “for belief as being divinely revealed,” and as the teaching of Christ, the definitions “must be adhered to with the obedience of faith.” This infallibility extends as far as the deposit of divine Revelation itself.

892 Divine assistance is also given to the successors of the apostles, teaching in communion with the successor of Peter, and, in a particular way, to the bishop of Rome, pastor of the whole Church, when, without arriving at an infallible definition and without pronouncing in a “definitive manner,” they propose in the exercise of the ordinary Magisterium a teaching that leads to better understanding of Revelation in matters of faith and morals. To this ordinary teaching the faithful “are to adhere to it with religious assent” which, though distinct from the assent of faith, is nonetheless an extension of it.

vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/_P2A.HTM#17L

Unless you can find a reason to oppose an assertive statement from the Pope which in his words are “declarative” I’d say it was infallible, not only a matter of discipline but of a “matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution”

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.St. John Paul II, Ordinatio Sacerdotalis

w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/apost_letters/1994/documents/hf_jp-ii_apl_19940522_ordinatio-sacerdotalis.html

JoeT

There are three different ways for a teaching to be infallible:

  1. An Ex Cathedra declaration by the Pope (the teaching on female ordination was NOT this);
  2. A definitive teaching as promulgated by an ecumenical counsel i.e. Vatican I;
  3. A teaching universally declared and acclaimed by the college of bishops over time (this is what the teaching on female ordination is).

So . . .

Is the teaching on female ordination infallible: YES

Was the teaching on female ordination infallible because Pope St. JPII said so: NO

Was the teaching on female ordination infallible because Card. Ratizinger (later Pope Bennedict XVI) said so: NO

Yes, he exercised the charism of infallibility at that time. And even the 2 popes after him have said so.*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. (Pope John Paul II, speaking ex cathedra, Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, 1994)

Recently a group of priests from a European country issued a summons to disobedience, and at the same time gave concrete examples of the forms this disobedience might take, even to the point of disregarding definitive decisions of the Church’s Magisterium, such as the question of women’s ordination, for which Blessed Pope John Paul II stated irrevocably that the Church has received no authority from the Lord. (Pope Benedict XVI, April 5, 2012)

And, with reference to the ordination of women, the Church has spoken and she said : “No.” John Paul II said it, but with a definitive formulation. That is closed, that door is closed. (Pope Francis I, July 28, 2013)*

Don’t get hung up on the need to have an infallible statement to verify the previous infallible statement because you get into an infinite demand that can never be reached. Remember, infallibility is properly a quality of God’s. It is the Spirit speaking through the papal servant. God does not need to continually verify Himself indefinitely. A reasonable person can identify such a statement made only once. :o

Actually, he didn’t. But the teaching is nonetheless infallible, as a result of the “universal and ordinary” magisterium, but not as a result of an ex cathedra statement.

Here is a link to a document from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, confirming that the statement is an infallible statement under the “universal and ordinary” magisterium. Note it is signed by then Cardinal Ratzinger.

ourladyswarriors.org/teach/ordisace2.htm

See my post #4 above. This falls into category #3 - “universal and ordinary” magisterium.

Actually, what Pope John Paul II declared was that Jesus didn’t grant to the Church the authority to ordain women.

Of course, what this means in practical terms is that the Church can’t ordain women, even if she wanted to try. But it’s important to remember what was actually said.

The whole point of the footwashing episode at the Last Supper isn’t just serving each other.

When Moses made Aaron and his sons into priests, he had them wash their whole bodies, and then they had to have their feet washed.

Peter asked to have his whole body washed, and Jesus said he was already clean – which was referring to Peter’s Baptism. (This is part of why we say that all the Baptized are priests in the priesthood of the Baptized, and so we are a priestly people.)

But Jesus washed the feet of the Twelve to start them in His priesthood. He didn’t call in His mother, or any of the female disciples, even though they were probably right there in the house.

Early Christianity is very distinct among the religious movements of the Greco-Roman world in not making women priests, although giving them a high position in many other ways and getting insulted for it by pagan philosophers. Women could own the house that was turned into a church and have their names all over it, they could be deaconesses trusted with money or running orphanages and hospitals. They could have titles for being the mother or wife or a priest or bishop. They could be known for prophecy and miracles.

But if you saw an early Christian group ever claiming to have priestesses, you knew they were heretics and probably Gnostics. And pretty soon either you find out that the “female priests” were being used for sex and money purposes by the men in the group, or claiming to be the Holy Spirit incarnate. (Seriously, what is with all the women who claim to be the Holy Spirit? Tons of 'em in the Middle Ages, for some reason.)

Speaking as a woman who’s done a lot of church work, it’s probably just as well that there is at least one job in a parish that women aren’t expected to do!

But the real point is that being a priest isn’t a “job.”

Saying women need sexual equality by becoming priests is a lot like saying that in all fairness, men need to stop being deprived of the ability to be pregnant and have periods every month.

It wouldn’t be fair. It would be weird. I don’t want men to be imitation women. What I like and don’t mind would be wrong for them; and trying to be a priest would be wrong for me.

(Heck, it would be wrong for most men. It’s not a job that one picks.)

It would dishonor and twist around everybody equally, I guess, but is that what we want?

It is pretty simple to understand…

The pope is infallible. That means he cannot be in error when proclaiming or teaching about faith and morals.

Bishops are infallible when they are all in agreement about a teaching or revelation. That includes the pope, the Bishop of Rome.

The People of God (us) are infallible when we all believe in something. (God, redemption, Jesus Christ, etc)

Popes and Bishops are pretty careful about infallibility because they must rely on a special relationship with the Holy Spirit when considering dogma, doctrines and teaching about faith and morals.

Popes have been infallible for over 2000 years. We have had popes who were mad, popes with questionable pasts, popes with questionable morals, popes who murdered popes in order to become pope, and even a pope who ran away because he didn’t want to be pope. The interesting fact is that while some of these popes did some very bad things…no pope has ever made an infallible declaration or teaching that was wrong or detrimental to the Catholic Church.

The Infallibility under which this teaching is definitively true is that of the Ordinary and Universal Magisterium

Doctrine can be considered to be Infallible either in the Ordinary way ( part of the Sacred Deposit of Faith that has been handed to us from the Apostles). This is called the Ordinary and Universal Magisterium.

And in an ExtraOrdinary Way, which included Eccumenical Councils and Papal Infallibility

The teaching on the the Church’s lack of authority to ordain women requires no statement of Papal Infallibility, nor a Council to declare it.

It is infallible in the Ordinary way, in that it is an infallible teaching that was given to us by the Apostles. In this case, we can see that it is true, as the Apostles did not grant to their sucessors, the bishops, the abilty to ordain women.

In much the same way as it is infallibly true that the bishops do not have the authority to transmute the moon into green cheese.

Cardinal Ratzinger made that very plain in his actual text

ewtn.com/library/curia/cdfrespo.htm

This teaching requires definitive assent, since, founded on the written Word of God, and from the beginning constantly preserved and applied in the Tradition of the Church, it has been set forth infallibly by the ordinary and universal Magisterium

Pope John Paul II was simply repeated what was already an infallible Truth. It required no excercise of Papal infalliblity, as it was ALREADY infallible.

He didn’t claim women can’t be ordained, He Infallibly made the Papal Declaration that the constant teaching of The Church has, always and everywhere, been that The Church does Not have any Authority to ordain women.

I should also point out that this has always been counter cultural. All of the nations around the world, even back in the Old Testament and continuing into the New Testament had priestesses. One of the chief criticisms of The Hebrews and The Christians after them was the refusal to have priestesses. God has never authorized priestesses, this has been the constant practice of those opposed to The Church, both in the Old Testament and in the New.

For the Faithful, This is not open to discussion.

The infallibility of the ordinary magisterium does not prevent the Pope from formally making an infallible ex cathedra statement. It would even appear in your link above that infallibility was exercised by the ordinary magisterium, as well as the Pope as the statement says: "Thus, in the present circumstances, the Roman Pontiff, exercising his proper office of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32), has handed on this same teaching by a formal declaration, explicitly stating what is to be held always, everywhere, and by all, as belonging to the deposit of the faith. "

The last three clauses in that statement are the factors for papal infallibility as defined at Vatican I. (speaking from the Petrine office, for all the faithful, a matter of faith)

Hence, why the 2012 quote by Pope Benedict I cited above has him saying that Pope John Paul II closed the matter “irrevocably.” The full text of that homily can be read here.

Cardinal Ratzinger, as Prefect of the CDF, disagreed with you. See the statement from the CDF linked to earlier in this thread. St. John Paul did not invoke papal infallibility…he did invoke his teaching authority to bind the faithful to what was already an infallible teaching of the Ordinary Magisterium (the collective teaching of the popes and bishops down through the centuries). It is a subtle but important distinction.

The Pope’s own words in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis: definitive tenendum, mean precisely “requiring to be held definitively.”

Closely following Bishop Gasser’s explanation, Vatican II shows that it considers the words “define” and “proclaim” to be equivalent by using the word “definition” when it states: “Therefore his definitions are rightly called irreformable, etc.” Lumen Gentium, 25].

Fr Brain Harrison, O.S.:
“In the final analysis, therefore, the reason the Church has always rejected female service in the sanctuary is that such service is very closely related, both symbolically and often causally, to the ministerial priesthood itself. And this can never possibly be conferred upon women, as John Paul II declared on the Feast of Pentecost last year in what is clearly an infallible,* ex cathedra *definition. 10
Note:
“10. It stops short, however, of being a solemn dogmatic definition on a par with those of the Immaculate Conception and Assumption, which are defined as truths of faith, binding on pain of heresy. Cf. the present writer’s article, “Cardinal Ratzinger on Ordinatio Sacerdotalis,” The Priest (Journal of the Australian Confraternity of Catholic Clergy), Spring 1994 / Summer 1995, pp. 5-6.”
rtforum.org/lt/lt58.html

On Ordinatio Sacerdotalis
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
October 28, 1995

Dubium: Whether the teaching that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women, which is presented in the Apostolic Letter [Epistle] *Ordinatio Sacerdotalis *to be held definitively, is to be understood as belonging to the deposit of faith.
Responsum: In the affirmative.

“This teaching requires definitive assent, since, founded on the written Word of God, and from the beginning constantly preserved and applied in the Tradition of the Church, it has been set forth infallibly by the ordinary and universal Magisterium (cf. Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium] 25, 2). Thus, in the present circumstances, the Roman Pontiff, exercising his proper office of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32), has handed on this same teaching by a formal declaration, explicitly stating what is to be held always, everywhere, and by all, as belonging to the deposit of the faith.”

Joseph Card. Ratzinger
Prefect
ewtn.com/library/curia/cdfrespo.htm

The meaning of the word ‘define’ was explained to the Fathers of Vatican I, before they promulgated the dogma of papal infallibility, as follows: “the pope is said to ‘define’ a doctrine when he passes judgment directly and finally, ‘in such a way that each and every Catholic can be certain as to the mind of the Apostolic See and of the Roman Pontiff.’ ”

Answer by David Gregson of EWTN on Nov-22-2002:
“You are correct in stating that the Pope exercises his charism of infallibility not only in dogmatic definitions issued, ex cathedra, as divinely revealed (of which there have been only two), but also in doctrines definitively proposed by him, also ex cathedra, which would include canonizations (that they are in fact Saints, enjoying the Beatific Vision in heaven), moral teachings (such as contained in Humanae vitae), and other doctrines he has taught as necessarily connected with truths divinely revealed, such as that priestly ordination is reserved to men. Further details on levels of certainty with which the teachings of the Magisterium (either the Pope alone, or in company with his Bishops) may be found in Summary of Categories of Belief.”

The three levels of teaching from *Ad Tuendam Fidem *are:
1) Dogma – infallible (Canon #750.1) to be believed with the assent of divine and Catholic faith.
2) Doctrine – infallible (Canon #750.2) requires the assent of ecclesial faith, to be “firmly embraced and held”.
3) Doctrine – non-definitive (non-infallible) and requires intellectual assent (“loyal submission of the will and intellect”, Vatican II, *Lumen Gentium 25), not an assent of faith. See the Explanatory Note on ATF by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at ewtn.com/library/CURIA/CDFADTU.HTM

I got into a bit of a dustup with Forum Member steveb about this topic. He claimed that, at least in a post-V1 world, that when Popes intend to act ex Cathedra, they use the word “define.” I mocked this idea of a “code word” but later (after extensive further research) recanted my objection, admitted my error, and conceded the point. How many times do you see here that anyone says, “you were right and I was wrong.” I was wrong about that.

St. John Paul the Great issued Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, and he did not use “code word” define, but declare:

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.

Apparently, the use of “declare” over “define” caused enough confusion that Josef Card. Ratzinger (before he became Pope Benedict-16, while yet Prefect of CCD) had an audience with the Holy Father and clarified the matter beyond any possible doubt:

Dubium: Whether the teaching that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women, which is presented in the Apostolic Letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis to be held definitively, is to be understood as belonging to the deposit of faith.

Responsum: Affirmative.

This teaching requires definitive assent, since, founded on the written Word of God, and from the beginning constantly preserved and applied in the Tradition of the Church, it has been set forth infallibly by the ordinary and universal Magisterium (cf. Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium 25, 2). Thus, in the present circumstances, the Roman Pontiff, exercising his proper office of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32), has handed on this same teaching by a formal declaration, explicitly stating what is to be held always, everywhere, and by all, as belonging to the deposit of the faith.

Read this carefully. The Pope was merely “handing on” this “same teaching” which had been “set forth infallibly by the ordinary and universal Magisterium.” Just in case anyone is wondering, the "ordinary and universal Magisterium are the Bishops throughout the world teaching in union with the Roman Pontiff. This is the ordinary teaching. An ex Cathedra teaching is an exercise of the extraordinary (ie, not ordinary) Magisterium.

Exactly. Those on this thread who state that the Pope exercised the charisma of infallibility are correctly only in a very general sense…in that the Pope, using his authority as the Universal Pastor of the Church, solemnly declared a teaching that had already been infallibility defined by the Ordinary Magisterium (the pope and bishops down through the centuries…). He did not invoke “papal infallibility” in the extraordinary sense as defined by Vatican I. I think part of the problem is the fact that many Catholics seem to confuse papal infallibility and infallibility in general. The Church is infallible. The infallibility of the Church can be exercised in three distinct ways - only one of which is the Pope exercising it in a personal manner:

  1. Extraordinary Magisterium - Papal infallibility - ex cathedra statements…
  2. Extraordinary Magisterium - Ecumenical Councils - dogmatic definitions
  3. Ordinary Magisterium - what the Popes and bishops around the world have always taught

#2 and #3 are by far the most common exercises of the Church’s infallibility. #1, the Pope personally exercising the charisma of infallibility, is exceedingly rare. (I leave aside the issue of the canonization of saints, which is debated by theologians…I’m thinking more in terms of dogmatic and doctrinal definitions).

That’s what I said. :wink:

Thanks Deacon. Yes I saw your post but noticed additional posts contradicting you after… once a member of the clergy has posted on a thread any contradictory posts should at least respectfully address the content of the clergy member’s post…

Twf #17
I think part of the problem is the fact that many Catholics seem to confuse papal infallibility and infallibility in general. The Church is infallible.

The Pope is personally infallible as explained in post #15.

Fr G.H. Duggan SM, wrote in acknowledging the Holy Father’s personal infallibility in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis:
“I am afraid Father Crothers is mistaken in holding that when Pope John Paul II in his Apostolic Epistle *Ordinatio Sacerdotalis *declared that the Church has not the power to confer the Christian priesthood on any woman, he was not exercising his prerogative of personal infallibility.

“When the First Vatican Council defined the dogma of papal infallibility, it stated that for a papal statement to considered as infallible it must fulfill four conditions. It must concern: a matter of faith or morals; it must be definitive; it must be issued by the Pope as successor of St Peter as Head of the Church and its Supreme Teacher; it must be addressed to the whole Church, not just any part of it.

**“It will be noted that these do not include an explicit statement by the Holy Father that he is exercising his prerogative of personal infallibility.” **

FR G.H. DUGGAN SM
Upper Hutt, New Zealand
AD2000 Vol 16 No 5 (June 2003), p. 14

Fr Duggan is a renowned theologian, and the clarity of the dogma is once again acknowledged as encompassing the personal papal *ex cathedra *doctrine in O.S. explained in the simple requirements given in the dogma.

The Dogmatic Constitution from Vatican I Pastor Aeternus Session 4 : 18 July 1870
Chapter 1
On the institution of the apostolic primacy in blessed Peter

3. And it was to Peter alone that Jesus, after his resurrection, confided the jurisdiction of Supreme Pastor and ruler of his whole fold, saying: Feed my lambs, feed my sheep [44].

4. To this absolutely manifest teaching of the Sacred Scriptures, as it has always been understood by the Catholic Church, are clearly opposed the distorted opinions of those who misrepresent the form of government which Christ the lord established in his Church and deny that Peter, in preference to the rest of the apostles, taken singly or collectively, was endowed by Christ with a true and proper primacy of jurisdiction.
5. The same may be said of those who assert that this primacy was not conferred immediately and directly on blessed Peter himself, but rather on the Church, and that it was through the Church that it was transmitted to him in his capacity as her minister.

DOCTRINAL COMMENTARY ON THE CONCLUDING FORMULA OF THE PROFESSIO FIDEI
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

This commentary was issued coincident with the promulgation of “Ad tuendam fidem” by Pope John Paul II, modifying the Oriental and Latin codes of canon law.]
“11……regarding the doctrine that priestly ordination is reserved only to men. The Supreme Pontiff, while not wishing to proceed to a dogmatic definition, intended to reaffirm that this doctrine is to be held definitively,32 since, founded on the written Word of God, constantly preserved and applied in the Tradition of the Church, it has been set forth infallibly by the ordinary and universal Magisterium.33 As the prior example illustrates, this does not foreclose the possibility that, in the future, the consciousness of the Church might progress to the point where this teaching could be defined as a doctrine to be believed as divinely revealed.
Notes:
32 Cf. John Paul II, Apostolic Letter [Epistle] Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, 4: AAS 86 (1994), 548.
33 Cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Response to a Dubium concerning the teaching contained in the Apostolic Letter [Epistle] “Ordinatio Sacerdotalis”: AAS 87 (1995), 1114.”
[My emphasis].

Thus, as
**2) Doctrine – infallible (Canon #750.2) requires the assent of ecclesial faith, to be “firmly embraced and held”. **

In fact, the 1983 revision of Canon Law had replaced in #749.3 “dogmatically declared or defined” with “infallibly defined”, thus NOT expressing a limitation of infallibility to dogmas. ATF better enables Canon Law to apply to the understanding of infallibility with the Profession of Faith covering the two categories – infallible dogma and infallible doctrine.

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