Religious orders, associations refuse to accept 'definitive' Papal teaching

Religious orders, associations refuse to accept 'definitive' Papal teaching

In his Apostolic Letter of 22 May, Pope John Paul II declared 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 faithful."

Using different verbal formulas, but nevertheless making their respective meanings clear, three official Catholic organisations have publicly refused to accept the Pope's solemn teaching as final and definitive.

They were of religious, theologians and biblical scholars. As far as 'AD2000' is aware, such a combined refusal has not been expressed in any other country.

'AD2000' publishes the three official statements in full.

The Religious

We write as members of the National Executive of the Australian Conference of Leaders of Religious Institutes. There are almost 12,000 male and female religious in Australia and approximately 170 religious congregations of sisters, priests and brothers. The Australian Conference comprises the leaders of all these Congregations.

We write to express our dismay and disappointment at the recent Apostolic Letter of the Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, specifically in so far as it prohibits further discussion of the ordination of women.

We can appreciate the Holy Father's reluctance presently to authorise the ordination of women. We are dismayed, however, that, without advancing any arguments other than those espoused in the previous Instructions, Inter Insigniores (1976) and Mulieris Dignitatem (1988), he has seen fit to embargo any further discussion within the Roman Catholic Church of this very important and evolving issue.

Both these previous Instructions were subjected to intense discussion. The International Biblical Commission reported that there was no conclusive scriptural evidence either supporting or interdicting the ordination of women. Further, while we acknowledge that, at least within the Roman Catholic communion, it has been the virtually universal tradition not to ordain women, we do not consider it to be a sufficient response in the present context merely to reassert that this has always been the tradition. Indeed, may we suggest that this response merely begs the question.

In the absence of any further arguments, therefore, we stand like St Paul at the First Ecumenical Council of the Church at the Council of Jerusalem in the middle of the first century. You will recall that in the face of the opposition of the first Pope, St Peter, and the more reactionary elements in the early Church, St Paul requested that Gentile and pagan, and not just Jewish, converts should be admitted to the ranks of Christians.

Nineteen centuries later we join with many other Christians in requesting that the question whether women, as well as men, should be admitted to the ranks of the ordained ministry should continue to be considered as a suitable topic for further theological and scriptural research and discussion within the Roman Catholic community.

We would respectfully request, then, that you do all in your power to intercede with the appropriate ecclesiastical authorities to reopen the dialogue.

Signed: Angela Ryan CSB, for and on behalf of the National Executive of ACLRI: Barbara Arnott PBVM, Helen Clarke RSC, Gerry Faulkner CFC, Leonie Mayne RSJ, Kathleen Tynan PBVM, Kaye Bolwell RSM, Patrick Corbett CSsR, lan Geason RSM, Julian McDonald CFC, William Uren SJ, Paul Cahill 0 Carm, Mary Cresp RSJ, Christine Keain RSM, Alexis Turton FMS, Stancea Vichie MSS.


The Australian Catholic Theological Association (ACTA) at its recent conference in Melbourne considered the challenges posed by the Pope's recent letter on the ordination of women. The letter itself recognised the disappointment which it would cause many in the Church, and the need to demonstrate the irreplaceable part that women have in the Church. The letter also has sharpened two continuing discussions in the Church: the first about the proper response to authoritative statements, and the second about the future shape of Church life. We now recognise that many communities within the Church will be deprived of the Eucharist because of the lack of ordained ministers.

The meeting decided to respond positively to these challenges. It established two committees. The first will study the precise authority of the document and its implications for theology. The second committee will examine the arguments which have been made for and against women's ordination. It will ask whether they are persuasive and are consistent with the dignity of women.

The work of both committees will prepare for next year's conference, which will focus on church and ministry in the aftermath of the Pope's letter. The meeting will be held at Manly Seminary in Sydney.

ACTA re-elected Fr Tony Kelly its President. Fr Gerard Gleeson and Sr Marie Farrell, both on the staff at the Catholic Institute of Sydney, were elected the Vice-President and Secretary/Treasurer respectively.

For further comment contact: Fr Andrew Hamilton SJ or Fr Tony Kelly CSsR<

Biblical Scholars (Press Release)

The Catholic Biblical Association of Australia met for its Annual Meeting (July 1-4) at Corpus Christi College, Clayton, Victoria. Amongst other matters, the recent Apostolic Letter of Pope John Paul lI, "On Reserving Priestly Ordination to Men Alone", was discussed. While acknowledging the authority of the Letter, the members of the Association expressed disquiet, as biblical scholars, at the way Scripture is used in this document. It was recommended, therefore, that further studies be undertaken to build on the significant biblical research already available in relation to ministry in the New Testament, especially women's ministry. The 1995 Meeting of this Association intends to take up this matter.

Authorised by Fr A. Corcoran SM, President, (and Marist Superior, Provincial House, Hunter's Hill, N.S.W.)

Be the first to comment

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.