Last week, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith released an article in L’Osservatore Romano, Vatican City-State’s official newspaper, stating once again that the ordination to the ministerial priesthood is reserved to men. Cardinal-Elect Luis Ladaria, a Spanish Jesuit, and a professor-emeritus of dogmatic theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University, wrote: “Christ wanted to give this sacrament (of Holy Orders) to the twelve apostles, all men, who, in turn, transmitted it to other men” and said further “(T)he Church has always recognized herself bound by this decision of the Lord, which excludes that the ministerial priesthood can be validly conferred on women.”
This is not a revolutionary statement, nor should it come to those hoping for the ordination of women as a surprise. All that Cardinal-Elect Ladaria was doing was restating the clear and consistent teaching of the Church, a teaching that was clarified by St. John Paul II in his 1994 letter, “Ordinatio Sacerdotalis.”
The reservation of priestly (and thus episcopal) ordination to men has been the unchanging teaching of the Church and has been reaffirmed by Pope Francis, who stated on Nov. 1, 2016: “On the ordination of women in the Catholic Church, the last clear word was given by St. John Paul II, and this remains.”
Does this work of Cardinal-elect Ladaria truly limit the role of women in the Church? Not at all! He cites the Blessed Virgin Mary as the model and exemplar, describing her as the most “complete figure” in the Church’s history. He writes: “Precisely the fidelity to the design of Christ on the ministerial priesthood allows, then, to deepen and further promote the specific role of women in the Church, given that ‘in the Lord, neither man is without woman, nor woman is without man.’”
Let us use this opportunity to reflect on the very nature of the ministerial priesthood, praying for more young men to respond to the call of the Lord Jesus to serve Him in the Church as His priests, while at the same time pray for all of us to recognize the talents and unique perspectives that women, both in consecrated life and in secular life, can bring to the Church and the world in their apostolates.