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Nicholas Lash on papal claim

Confusion over infallibility

Letter in the Tablet 16 June 2012, p .14

See Incredible Infallibility Claim for background information to this letter.

Assuming Robert Mickens' translation of Pope Benedict's letter to Cardinal Re to be accurate ("Dear Holy Father... Yours devotedly, 9 June), the most shocking feature of the leaked documents is the Pope's assertion that John Paul II "decided in an infallible and irrevocable way that the Church does not have the right to ordain women to the priesthood". To see why this assertion is far more doctrinally questionable than any opinion attributed to Bishop Morris of Toowoomba (whom the Pope removed from office for having "insufficient doctrinal formation"), one has only to ask: on what evidence was the decision based?

So far as I know, the question of the ordination of women to the presbyterate or episcopate has never, in the history of the Church, been subjected to serious and detailed examination - and certainly never in the context of an assumed social equality of men and women (I mention that last point because, on the few occasions on which the question has come up at all, it seems to have been assumed that women should not be ordained because running things is a man's job!). It is not, therefore, a question on which the Church can be known to have made up its mind.

How did John Paul learn that the Church lacks the authority to ordain women? One has only to ask the question to see that the matter is not one that is, at present, capable of being decided "in an infallible way". That a theologian as experienced as the present Pope appears not to appreciate this is deeply disturbing.
(Professor) Nicholas Lash Cambridge


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