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Definitive Doctrine? In recent years Rome has heightened the importance attached to its ban on women priests. It has consistently proposed it as 'a doctrine to be held definitively'. It is clear that, in the eyes of the Holy Father and of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, this should preclude any further discussion.

Definitive Doctrine?

In recent years Rome has heightened the importance attached to its ban on women priests. It has consistently proposed it as a doctrine to be held definitively. It is clear that, in the eyes of the Holy Father and of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, this should preclude any further discussion.

" 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 in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, May 22 1994.

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: In the affirmative.

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger in official Dubium, October 28, 1995. Read also the accompanying Letter by Cardinal Ratzinger, October 28, 1995.

Rome itself has not declared its own interventions declarations of an infallible doctrine. Cardinal Ratzinger speaks of "an act of the ordinary Papal Magisterium, in itself not infallible". He also states: "It should be emphasized that the definitive and infallible nature of this teaching of the Church did not arise with the publication of the Letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis". Letter 28 October 1995.

However, as part of the reason for declaring it to be held definitively, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith claims that the ban of women priests is taught by the infallible universal Magisterium.

"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)."

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger in official Dubium, October 28, 1995.

"It is a matter of full definitive assent, that is to say, irrevocable, to a doctrine taught infallibly by the Church. In fact, as the Reply explains, the definitive nature of this assent derives from the truth of the doctrine itself, since, founded on the written Word of God, and constantly held and applied in the Tradition of the Church, it has been set forth infallibly by the ordinary universal Magisterium (cf. Lumen Gentium, 25). Thus, the Reply specifies that this doctrine belongs to the deposit of the faith of the Church. It should be emphasized that the definitive and infallible nature of this teaching of the Church did not arise with the publication of the Letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis. . . . In this case, an act of the ordinary Papal Magisterium, in itself not infallible, witnesses to the infallibility of the teaching of a doctrine already possessed by the Church."

Letter by Cardinal Ratzinger, October 28, 1995.


Wijngaards Institute for Catholic ResearchThis website is maintained by the Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research.

The Institute is known for issuing academic reports and statements on relevant issues in the Church. These have included scholars' declarations on the need of collegiality in the exercise of church authority, on the ethics of using contraceptives in marriage and the urgency of re-instating the sacramental diaconate of women.

Visit also our websites:Women Deacons, The Body is Sacred and Mystery and Beyond.

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