Clarifying Vatican line on priestesses
Sir, The Vatican did not declare that "female priests are as sinful as child abuse" (report, July 16). That would be absurd. The papal press office direction, Father Lombardi, SJ, explained that they are completely different. The attempted ordination of a Roman Catholic woman raises different issues.
The priest presides at Holy Communion, the sacrament of our unity in the Church, and so an ordination that is productive of division would be a contradiction in terms. Many Catholics believe that women should not be excluded from ordination, but this will only be possible with the concensus of the communion of the Church. Excommunication is not a punishment, nor exclusion from the Church, but recognition that communion is seriously damaged and needs to be repaired. One might not think that this is the best way to do so, but it is a position that is perfectly comprehensible.
FATHER TIMOTHY RADCLIFFE OP
And today, the following letter appeared:
Female priestsFr Radcliffe does clarify that the Holy See did not equate the attempted ordination of women with the sexual abuse of minors. From then on, though, he does anything but clarify the position of the Holy See with regard to the ordination of women. The ecclesiology underlying Fr Radcliffe's second paragraph looks, not just decidedly Anglican, but decidedly that of a particular school of Anglicanism, a school that has been pretty much put to death by the recent decisions of the General Synod. Communion as social consensus seems to be Fr Radcliffe's notion of the theology of "Church as communion". There is a fudge of the Roman Catholic position, fudge in large quantity, too. What do "should not be excluded from ordination" and "consensus of the communion of the Church" mean? Let alone the infallible magisterium expressed by the "Many Catholics believe ..".
Sir, Father Timothy Radcliffe ("Clarifying Vatican line on priestesses", letter, July 17) rightly points out that the illicit ordination of a woman, being productive of division, would be a contradiction in terms. He then interestingly suggests that the ordination of women might be possible "with the concensus of the communion of the Church". Is he suggesting, perhaps, that women's ordination could be considered in those countries, possibly including England and Wales, where such a move would be largely accepted by Catholics? It would certainly be a means of easing relations with the Anglican Church.
It is certainly and unfortunately the case, however, that the Vatican's description of the ordination of a woman as "a grave delict" inevitably reduces its credibility when pronouncing on other matters.
Alan Pavelin takes up the implication that the position of the Holy See is that an ordination of a woman is limited to being illicit - it isn't so limited, being that such an attempted ordination would be invalid, it just wouldn't "happen" despite the words being said and the actions undertaken. He also reads the consensus ecclesiology in a localised context - which Fr Timothy Radcliffe and the Anglican school he reflects would certainly not do - though I am not at all convinced that the ordination of women would be "largely accepted by Catholics" in England and Wales.