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Excommunicable offence under previous popes, women priests now open for discussion

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VATICAN, February 9, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) -- Arguments for the ordination of women are being presented in the oldest Jesuit Journal of Italy; a journal which is reviewed by the Vatican prior to publication.

Though in the recent past the “belief in” and “public support for” female ordination, as in the case of Fr. Roy Bourgeois, led to a clear reproach from the Vatican in the form of “canonical warning” and the threat of excommunication, today one of the highest ranking Catholic journals lists “arguments” for it in an article by a priest.

“Civiltà Cattolica,” which takes pride in printing with “beneplacito,” – consent – of the Holy See, has published an article by Fr. Giancarlo Pani SJ suggesting that the admission to the priesthood of women should undergo re-examination. The author lays out arguments in his article in issue 3999, as Vatican specialist  Sandro Magister reports.

Pani maintains that the exclusion of women from holy orders does not take into consideration the “developments in the 21st century, the presence of woman in the family and in society.” For him these “developments” – which he leaves unqualified and unexplained – need to be increasingly reflected by the inclusion of women in clerical undertakings as a matter of “ecclesial dignity, responsibility, and participation.”

LifeSiteNews spoke with Prof. Dr. Thomas Stark, professor of philosophical anthropology at the Benedict XVI Institute of Philosophy and Theology at Heiligenkreuz, in Austria about Fr. Pani's views on February 8. “Sacraments were instituted by Christ in a very exact, concrete way and must therefore be administered in the same exact concrete way in which they were given," said Prof. Stark. "Therefore the bread in the Eucharist cannot be exchanged with meat of a lamb with the argument that this matter better symbolizes that Christ is the Lamb of God.”

“Christ chose twelve apostles. If He had wanted women to be ordained, then He would have instituted a mixed college of apostles.”

Last November statements by Pope Francis seemed to indicate that the possibility of women priests was closed. "On the ordination of women in the Catholic Church, the last word is clear," Pope Francis said at the time. "It was given by St. John Paul II and this remains."

Nevertheless, in 2016 Pope Francis set up a commission to study the role of female deacons in the early church after his exchange with some 900 members of the International Union of Superiors General, a global umbrella group representing about 500,000 women religious in about 80 countries. At least one of the women on the commission was a proponent of ordination of women deacons who has spoken at conferences held by women priest advocates.

Fr. Pani argues that the common faithful do not have “belief” in the restriction as reason for its negation. Fr. Pani entertains the thought that “it remains true that a doctrine proposed by the Church needs to be understood by the believing intelligence.” In the case of woman’s ordination, he says, that is not the case. “Today there is unease among those who fail to understand how the exclusion of women from the Church’s ministry can coexist with the affirmation and appreciation of her equal dignity,” Pani adds.

According to Stark, the argument that a Church doctrine needs to be believed by those who call themselves Catholic in order to be held true does not fit. “The consensus fidelium cannot be identified with the consensus that reigns in society at any given time. The consensus fidelium in the second century was for example in no way identical with the consent of society of the believers surrounding Roman-Hellenistic society and culture.”

“Is it not true today that the reigning opinion is in essential points contrary to the consensus fidelium and threatening to the faith of many Christians? It is the consent of the faithful and not the consent of those who pay church tax or those church tax funded functionaries of the Church,” Stark added.

Stark sees Pani’s argument as rooted in something else: “For a few years now the illuminist and vulgar-Hegelian way of thinking has gained influence in the Church. According to this way of thinking, the development of culture is a constant movement upwards, to ever more illuminated heights of the spirit, along with the conviction that every later development must be correct when compared with an older one. Did anyone in the recent past ever consider that there are also cultural processes of degeneration and spiritual decline?”

“I find it relatively laughable that La Civiltà Cattolica puts the ‘great developments’ of the 21st century – which are barely 16 years old – against the rest of the history of mankind and cultures,” he said.

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