It was a matter of time: Cardinal now says women’s ordination not possible after all

Remember Cardinal Policarpo, the one who said just a bit ago that there is no theological obstacle to women’s ordination? Some of us wondered how long it would be before he “clarified” what he really meant. Not very long, it turns out.

He had never really thought about the question before, and he wasn’t aware of the magisterium’s statements on the question. Now he has, and is. On the impossibility of women’s ordination, he is in full communion with the Pope.



  1. O mais recente Magistério dos Papas interpreta esta tradição ininterrupta, que tem a sua origem em Cristo e no corpo apostólico, não apenas como uma maneira prática de proceder, podendo mudar ao ritmo da acção do Espírito Santo, mas como sendo expressão do próprio mistério da Igreja, que devemos acolher na fé. Cito o texto do Papa João Paulo II, na Carta Apostólica “Ordinatio Sacerdotalis”: “Embora a doutrina sobre a ordenação sacerdotal que deve reservar-se somente aos homens, se mantenha na Tradição constante e universal da Igreja e seja firmemente ensinada pelo Magistério nos documentos mais recentes, todavia actualmente em diversos lugares continua-se a retê-la como discutível, ou atribui-se um valor meramente disciplinar à decisão da Igreja de não admitir as mulheres à ordenação sacerdotal. Portanto, para que seja excluída qualquer dúvida em assunto da máxima importância, que pertence à própria constituição divina da Igreja, em virtude do meu ministério de confirmar os irmãos (cf. Lc. 22,32), declaro que a Igreja não tem absolutamente a faculdade de conferir a ordenação sacerdotal às mulheres e que esta sentença deve ser considerada como definitiva por todos os fiéis da Igreja”.

    Somos, assim, convidados a acatar o Magistério do Santo Padre, na humildade da nossa fé e continuarmos a aprofundar a relação do sacerdócio ministerial com a qualidade sacerdotal de todo o Povo de Deus e a descobrir a maneira feminina de construir a Igreja, no papel decisivo da missão das nossas irmãs mulheres.

    6. Neste ano em que celebro 50 anos da minha ordenação sacerdotal, grande manifestação da bondade de Deus para comigo, foi bom prestar este esclarecimento aos meus diocesanos. Seria para mim doloroso que as minhas palavras pudessem gerar confusão na nossa adesão à Igreja e à palavra do Santo Padre. Creio que vos tenho mostrado bem que a comunhão com…

  2. Google automatic translation:

    5. The Magisterium of the Popes later interprets this unbroken tradition which has its origin in Christ and the apostolic body, not just as a practical way to proceed, can change the pace of the action of the Holy Spirit, but as an expression of the mystery of Church, we must accept in faith. I quote the text of Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Letter “Ordinatio Sacerdotalis”: “Although the teaching that priestly ordination should be reserved only to men, remains the constant and universal Tradition of the Church and firmly taught by the Magisterium in more recent documents, but now in many places continues to hold it as moot, or is assigned a value only to the disciplinary decision of the Church does not admit women to priestly ordination. Therefore, to exclude any doubt that it is a matter of great importance, which belongs to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk. 22:32) I declare that the Church has absolutely right to confer priestly ordination on women and that this sentence is to be definitively held by all the faithful of the Church. ”

    We are thus invited to accept the Magisterium of the Holy Father, in the humility of our faith and continue to deepen the relationship with the ministerial priesthood priestly quality of the whole People of God and discover the feminine way of building the Church, the decisive role the mission of our sister women.

    6. This year they celebrate 50 years of my priestly ordination, great manifestation of God’s goodness to me, it was good to provide this clarification to my diocesan. It would be painful for me that my words could cause confusion in our adherence to the Church and to the word of the Holy Father. I think I have shown and that communion with the Holy Father is an absolute attitude in the exercise of my ministry.

  3. Irrespective of where the patriarch stood before or stands now, his about face could be illustrative of a fissure forming beneath the surface. Originally, Cardinal Policarpo might have felt there were other fellow cardinals also willing to go out on a limb and express a similar view.

    If so, he might be right. If the Vatican detected other cardinals sharing those thoughts, Policarpo had to be reigned in quickly to send a message to anyone else contemplating a similar public deviation from the party line.

  4. The previous interview says: «John Paul II – continued Polycarp – at one point seemed to settle the matter». Reference is in the Apostolic Letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis (1994), one of the shortest documents of John Paul II, with which the Pope, after the decision of the Anglican Communion to open to women priests, reaffirmed that the Catholic Church would never do so.

    «I think – said Cardinal Polycarp – that the matter cannot be resolved like this. Theologically there is no fundamental obstacle (to women priests, ed.), let’s just say that there’s this tradition: it has never been done otherwise».

    So he has clearly changed his mind. One week, the matter cannot be resolved “like this” (i.e., with a letter from John Paul II). The next week, talking about the very same text, “we are thus invited to accept the Magisterium of the Holy Father, in the humility of our faith” and he reaffirms that “communion with the Holy Father is an absolute”.

    If that’s not a change, then I don’t know what change is.

  5. Did Vox Clara use Google automatic translation for the Missal? As I read the admittedly imprecise translation of the text, it appears Card. Policarpo is affirming that the ban on ordaining women is legally binding due to papal fiat. His initial claim that there is no theological obstacle is not addressed or refuted.

  6. No, I read the Portugese as saying: yes, the Holy Father has said that it’s a matter of doctrine and I do not want to sow dissent against the Holy Father. We are invited to continue to deepen the relation of the ministerial priesthood to the priestly qualities of the people of God and to discover the female manner of building the Church, the decisive mission of women.

  7. My favorite cartoon is that of the pope(s) getting to heaven and finding that Godde is a woman. Any time I see news like the one above, I remember the cartoon and all is well…
    It would be just amusing if the papal interdiction did not go against the call of many women. Some day, the Pope(s) will have to answer to the pain these women must feel… For a call is a call.

  8. A Mountain of Crumbs: by Elena Gorokhova. A recent interview on radio with her comes to mind.
    USSR leaders in a great deception, knowing they were deceiving the people, the people knew they were being deceived, the leaders knew that the people knew, the people knew that the leaders knew that they knew etc etc but all continued to play the game. Eventually of course the house of cards came down.
    I worry for our church when I see the same kind of ‘game’ in action by authorities in Rome, whether it is to do with contraception, missals, or the proper role of woman – Don’t mention it and all will be well and we can continue on as before. We all know we cannot.

  9. Cardinals who think women could or should be ordained ought to keep their mouths shut on the matter. We need them as Popes, not as exiles.

    1. Yeah, we’d see schism, popes and antipopes, and general chaos. Abbots would take their monasteries out-of-communion with the antipope who supported ow in favor of the real pope who held to orthodoxy. Ecumenicism with the eastern Church and the antipope who favored ow would be non-existent. Millions would be left with only simulated sacraments since we know that the Church does not have the authority to ordain women (OS).

      1. I’d caution anyone about being too fundamentalist or cocksure about OS since it is so highly disputed among reputable Catholic theologians, and has been questions by several bishops. That doesn’t prove anything, but it does at least suggest the possibilities that it will be revisited and revised in the future – as so many other Catholic teachings have changed in the course of history.

  10. Cardinal Polycarp has been mentioned for some time as being papabili because of his ability to bring European and Latin American interests together. What he had to say was more likely for his fellow cardinals than for his people.

    Despite the media hype, I suspect he basically said and believes simply that the ordination of women is not a settled issue (although he clearly does not think it will happen soon or maybe ever); there are probably many other cardinals who think the same way in private.

    He knew well that B16 and his supporters are maintaining that it is a settled issue. I suspect he knew well that he would be forced to say that he does not disagree with the Pope (and still mumble “but it is not a settled issue”).

    Then why did he say it? It could be something simple and personal, like he wants the curia to get a successor for his position as early as possible in the next two years (the story broke at the same time his term was extended by two years). A neat way to get B16 to put pressure on the bureaucracy?

    However, Cardinal Schönborn, another papabili has also made noises that he might do things differently than B16. So perhaps the campaign for B16’s successor is underway. Maybe Cardinal Polycarp wants to remind people he is available.

    1. Cardinal Polycarp has been mentioned for some time as being papabili because of his ability to bring European and Latin American interests together.

      I think that may no longer be the case.

    2. Neither is papabile at this point. I do not think it is possible that the Cardinals would vote for someone who was still that confused about the impossibility of ordaining women. Schonborn has repeatedly done some very erratic things and does not seem to have the virtue of prudence to the degree needed for the Pope.

  11. “For the Cardinal one of the causes for women’s claim to ordination is “the loss of awareness by all members of the Church of the dignity of the priesthood, thereby reducing the priestly expression to ordained priesthood.”

    So we are left to conclude — what?
    That women are inherently inferior in dignity?

  12. Lisbon is a very comfortable town, no doubt more comfortable than any place in Algeria or the Australian outback.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *