Greenbelt Interfaith News
    U.S. News

    September 30, 1997

    Catholic Bishops "Overcome Doubts" on Women's Ordination
    National Conference of Catholic Bishops/United States Catholic Conference

    A report prepared for the Bishops' Committee on Doctrine has concluded that the Church's teaching on the ordination of women has "as much of a claim to definitiveness as one might reasonably expect."

    "It may be hoped that this recognition would aid in overcoming doubts where they persist and in fostering the sincere internal assent that the truths of faith demand" of all Catholics, the report said. The report, prepared by staff of the Committee on Doctrine, was based on a review of the scriptural, traditional and magisterial basis for the Church's teaching.

    Entitled "Some Observations on the Catholic Theological Society of America Report on Tradition and the Ordination of Women," the report was developed as a response to that CTSA document. It has been made public with the authorization of the Doctrine Committee.

    The CTSA report, "Tradition and the Ordination of Women," was received by the CTSA in June, 1996, and its conclusion was endorsed by vote of members present at the business meeting of the society's convention in Minneapolis in June, 1997.

    The conclusion of the CTSA report noted what were termed "serious doubts regarding the nature of the authority" and the "grounds in Tradition" of the teaching of the Catholic Church concerning the reservation of Holy Orders to men. The president and board of the CTSA sent the report to the National Conference of Catholic Bishops in June, 1997.

    The CTSA had sent its report to the U.S. Bishops' Conference and to the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops in keeping with the Vatican's Instruction on the Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian which encourages theologians to make known to magisterial authorities difficulties concerning Church teaching that persist after official pronouncements have been issued.

    In response to the CTSA initiative, the Doctrine Committee wanted to assist in resolving those difficulties, according to Father J. Augustine Di Noia, O.P., executive director of the doctrinal secretariat, who oversaw the development of the observations sent to the CTSA and the Bishops.

    The CTSA said its report had not argued for or against the ordination of women, but had questioned "whether the reasons given by the Congregation [for the Doctrine of the Faith] justify the assertion that the definitive assent of the faithful must be given to the teaching that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women."

    The scope of the report prepared for the Doctrine Committee is also limited to the scriptural basis for the Church's teaching, the place of tradition, and the authority with which the teaching is proposed.

    Father Di Noia said the Doctrine Committee recommended that the observations be sent to the U.S. Bishops "to assist them in responding to the difficulties raised by the CTSA report which received a lot of attention in June 1997 and continues to influence people's thinking about the Church's teaching on ordination."

    The observations sent to the Bishops stress that, "given the absolutely vital place of valid episcopal and priestly orders" for the sacramental and liturgical life of the Church, it would be "unthinkable as well as pastorally irresponsible" for the Church to depart from the example of Christ and the Apostles in reserving sacramental ordination to men.

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