But is the inability to ordain women to the sacred priesthood really a definitive Church teaching? In his apostolic letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, issued on May 29, 1994, Blessed Pope John Paul II confirmed the teaching of Inter Insigniores, and, indeed, went beyond it, when making the following declaration:
In order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s 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 confirm priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be held definitively by all the Church’s faithful.
“No authority whatsoever…to be held definitively…” It would be hard to think of stronger language by which the mind of the Church could be made more clear, yet opposition to the Church’s teaching as well as arguments in favor of female ordination continued on then and continue on now. More than a year after Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, on October 28, 1995, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, over the signature of Cardinal Ratzinger, issued a Responsum ad dubium specifying 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 forthinfallibly by the ordinary and universal Magisterium” (emphasis added).
That’s “infallibly.” The teaching will not and cannot be changed. Women cannot be ordained. Yet none of this prevented the NCR from launching its campaign anyway, claiming all the while that its position represented the sensus fidelium. Such are the times.
It is ironic that the NCR issued its claim to represent the sensus fidelium on December 3, 2012. For on December 7, 2012, four days later, Pope Benedict XVI, in an address to the International Theological Commission, in effect issued an “answer” to the NCR editorial (although the pope could well have been entirely unaware of it). The pope said:
Today…it is particularly important to clarify the criteria used to distinguish the authentic sensus fidelium from its counterfeits. In fact, it is not some kind of public opinion of the Church, and it is unthinkable to mention it in order to challenge the teachings of the Magisterium, this because the sensus fidei cannot grow authentically in the believer except to the extent in which he or she fully participates in the life of the Church, and this requires a responsible adherence to her Magisterium.