Pope Benedict and women priests


I have submitted this question to the Ask an Apologist forum but would like input…I have been helping to instruct the high school religious education class in my parish. On Vocation Sunday, we showed dvd’s to the group that presented vocations in the priesthood and the religious life. The question was asked, “If a woman feels called by God to be a priest, why does she have to look for another religion for that to happen?”. We discussed the deaconesses of the early church and their role in helping with female immersion baptisms, the Sacred Scripture and the Sacred Tradition of the Church that showed from the time of Christ only men were to be ordained and act as priests. We discussed the apostles (All men that were chosen by Christ to represent Him.) We read scripture referring to the many parts of the body and discussed different roles. The discussion ended with a statement that the women of the Church will need to hope that eventually this would change. This troubled me because it seemed to be in conflict with everything I had read. I did more research and came upon the statement by Pope John Paul II and the magisterium.

In 1994, Pope John Paul II declared, “Although the teaching that priestly ordination is to be reserved to men alone has been preserved by the constant and universal Tradition of the Church and firmly taught by the Magisterium in its more recent documents, at the present time in some places it is nonetheless considered still open to debate, or the Church’s judgment that women are not to be admitted to ordination is considered to have a merely disciplinary force. 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. Luke 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” (Ordinatio Sacerdotalis 4).

One year after this was written, the Church ruled that 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)” (Response of Oct. 25, 1995). For more on this, see cin.org/users/james/files/inter.htm and cin.org/users/james/files/w-ordination.htm (see This Rock catholic.com/thisrock/2002/0201sbs.asp

I read it to the class the following week. Our priest commented that the church does ordain women (I explained that we were focused on the priesthood) and that though Pope John Paul II did not allow debate on the subject, Pope Benedict had reopened discussion. Can anyone provide information to direct me to what the US Conference of Catholic Bishops discussed and women being ordained (hermits?)


Female hermits are not Ordained to Holy Orders. Pope Benedict did not reopen the discussion of Womens Ordination. The USCCB published a small pamphlet on the issue. A woman who feels called does not need to "look for another religion ", she has to continue to discern the call in light of Church teaching.


Besides, priests receive the calling to be priests of Christ in the Church, not just to become clerics here or there, in this or that religion.

Also, the Church teaches it’s not just wrong to ordain women - it’s impossible. So even if a woman convinced a bishop, that would still not do anything. Not even suspended from orders, nothing. No new characted imprinted.


You are correct. Your priest is wrong. Women are not ordained. Pope Benedict did not “reopen” the discussion-- nor *could *he do so snce JPII defined it definitively.

As to the student comment that women who “feel called” to be priests have to seek out ordination in another denomination… my reply:

No, women who “feel” called to ordination need to pray and snap out of their delusion. Since women cannot be priests, God **does not **authentically call them to be priests. If they are feeling such a “call” it is **not **from God. They need to seek God, turn away from this false “feeling”, and fully embrace the Catholic Faith and their role within it.



I am most grateful for the reassurance. I would love more information on the USCCB pamplet. Does anyone know the way to obtain it? Also, I was listening to the local Catholic radio and they described an installation of a female hermit, anyone familiar?


Agree with 1ke reply and love the way he signs off with “sheesh”.

Seems like the “calling” is to serve God and the universal church in the modes revealed and known to man since the beginning of the church. Presumably these women have been going to church for some time and understand their roles within it. Just because other churches/religions may ordain women doesn’t make it a possibility within the Catholic church if you understand and adhere to the tenets of the faith. There are many answers to the call and God Bless those women to whom it has been revealed and answered.


Ah, you beat me to saying it…


Publication 5-301



Excellent thread - could someone please tell me where it is written that Jesus said that women cannot be disciples (priests) of His Word. Or are we assuming that that is what was meant based on the fact that he called upon men ‘to follow’ - therefore, implied. And given the times, would it have been proper for Jesus to call upon women and say to them ‘follow’. I just hope this rule is not based on a belief but rather on biblical fact.

This is not meant as a attack on the Catholic Church - I’m part of this wonderful religion and agree to their stand on all aspects of God and Church but I’m just curious how the practice of ‘not ordaining women’ began and why.


Hi Joe. There is a lot of misunderstanding out there over why the Church teaches that women cannot receive priestly ordination. You aren’t the only one who is confused. With a certain amount of trepidation, I’ll try to explain why the Church teaches what it does in this regard.

could someone please tell me where it is written that Jesus said that women cannot be disciples (priests) of His Word.

This is a common question for people to start the discussion with, but it is largely an irrelevant question in trying to understand the Church’s theological conclusion on the issue. We first have to go about understanding how the Church reached it’s conclusion. In other words, the relevant question is: how did the Church reach it’s conclusion that it cannot ordain women as priests?

To answer this question, we need some background information on what sources of authority the Church looks to when coming to any doctrinal conclusion. The Church has two sources. First, the Scriptures. Second, Church Tradition - much of which can be found in early Church councils and the writings of the early Church Fathers. Keep in mind that the Church holds that all of it’s dogma is contained at least implicitly in the Scriptures, whether it came from explicit Church Traditions or not. With this background, we can take a look at the official position of the Church.

To do that, you must read JPII’s ORDINATIO SACERDOTALIS: vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/apost_letters/documents/hf_jp-ii_apl_22051994_ordinatio-sacerdotalis_en.html
There is no other way to understand the reasons for the Church’s conclusion.

Notice that JPII cites to both sources of authority that the Church has at it’s disposal. Scripture and Church Tradition. JPII finds that there is no indication - implicit or otherwise - in either that could lead to the conclusion that Church has the power to ordain women to the priesthood. In fact, his analysis suggests that if anything, the implication is the exact opposite. He goes even further and finds that the teaching office of the Church has never implied that it has this kind of power. Thus, he reaches his conclusion and declares:

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.

Now some will object that it is an invalid argument to conclude that a thing does not exist simply because there is no indication (or even some contrary indication) in the authorities available to us that it exists. But I believe this argument is valid when we are trying to determine whether an institution like the Church has the power and authority to act. It is God that confers the power to the Church to ordain priests. The way the Church knows that it has this power is through God’s revelation found in Scripture and Tradition. There is no indication that there is any power to confer priestly ordination upon women. Since revelation closed at the death of the last apostle, there never will be any indication that the Church has the power to ordain women to the priesthood. This is why the Church concludes that it does not have this power.

There is a lot more going on in ORDINATIO SACERDOTALIS, but I think this is the jist of it.


CCC 1577 “Only a baptized man (vir) validly receives sacred ordination.” The Lord Jesus chose men (viri) to form the college of the twelve apostles, and the apostles did the same when they chose collaborators to succeed them in their ministry. The college of bishops, with whom the priests are united in the priesthood, makes the college of the twelve an ever-present and ever-active reality until Christ’s return. The Church recognizes herself to be bound by this choice made by the Lord himself. For this reason the ordination of women is not possible.


Actually I believe it was then Cardinal Ratzinger who was behind declaring as infallible Pope John Paul II’s declaration that women cannot be ordained to the priesthood. Can anybody back me up here or am I wrong?


The term “ordained” or “ordination” must be understood as being ordained to something. Unless the objective is mentioned we ordinarily assume it is to the priesthood or the orders of deacons. Some of the Easter Churches did “ordain” deaconesses, but it was not the same as ordination to the male diaconate. The deaconess essentially filled the roles that we find uncloisterd nuns filling in more modern times. So one needs to specify ordination to what.We no longer apply that term to the good sisters today and in Western Society may never have done so.


I want to address the “feels called to” argument. What if I feel called to say Mass without being ordained? What if I feel called to hear confessions without being ordained? What if I feel called to celebrate the Catholic sacrament of marriage with another man, or with two women? The list could go on and on.

I guess I’d have to find another religion for all of those too.


:thumbsup: Thank you all again for better and more informed ways to speak to the youth of my parish. I feel validated and hope to approach my parish priest to discover how he answers all this great insight. Please keep me and my parish in your prayers, we are struggling with a few problems.:frowning:


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