Vatican City, May 30, 2018 / 10:06 am
This week Archbishop Luis Ladaria, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, issued (another) definitive statement on the reservation of priestly ordination to men alone. In doing so he rightly noted that continued speculation about the possibility of women priests in some quarters was "of serious concern" and "creates serious confusion among the faithful."
The ongoing discussion of, or agitation for, women's ordination seems to be an exercise in never taking no for an answer, even when that answer is the unbroken practice of the Church for millennia and is definitively reaffirmed by the popes, including St. John Paul II and Francis.
Even as Archbishop Ladaria patiently underscored that as a "tenenda" teaching – one which is to be held by all the faithful – a male-only priesthood was simply not up for discussion, now or ever, one could detect soft rejection in how it was reported. Some media outlets, even ostensibly Catholic ones, insist that the teaching was "called definitive" rather than "is definitive." It is a subtle qualification, but one which seeks to relativize the empirical; what is called definitive today might be called something else tomorrow.
The question/non-question of women's ordination feels like it has been around forever, and refuses to go away. In reality it is a very modern issue. For almost two thousand years an all male priesthood was a given. It went undisputed even after the Reformation, which saw whole swathes of Christendom depart from basic sacramental truth and practice. Why then has it become such a fixture on the ecclesiastical landscape?