Vatican Reaffirms: Women's Ordination Invalid

Decree Says Offense Incurs Automatic Excommunication

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VATICAN CITY, MAY 30, 2008 (Zenit.org).- The Vatican's doctrinal congregation has decisively decreed that the ordination of women is invalid.

The general decree "On the Delict of Attempted Sacred Ordination of a Woman" was published today on the front page of L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper. It states that the decree "comes into force immediately."

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith states in the brief text that it is acting to protect "the nature and validity of the sacrament of holy orders."

The texts affirms that "he who shall have attempted to confer holy orders on a woman, as well as the woman who may have attempted to receive Holy Orders, incurs in a 'latae sententiae' excommunication," that is, an automatic excommunication.

The decree is signed by the dicastery's prefect, Cardinal William Levada, and the secretary of the Vatican congregation, Archbishop Angelo Amato.

In an interview with Vatican Radio, Archbishop Amato said the reason for the text is the existence of instances of so-called ordinations of women in some regions of the world. In addition, it constitutes "an instrument of help for bishops, in order to ensure a uniform answer in the whole Church."

He added that the decree underlines that the ordination of a woman to the priesthood is invalid or null, and that "only baptized men can by ordained validly."

The Church reaffirms this exclusivity for a "unique fundamental reason," the archbishop explained. "The Church does not feel authorized to change the will of its founder, Jesus Christ."

The decree, which also mentions the same penalty applies to the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, said that "The ancient Eastern Churches and the Orthodox Churches observe the same discipline of the Catholic Church."

Medicine

In regard to the automatic excommunication, the prelate clarified that the excommunicated person is barred "from taking part in any way as minister in the celebration of the sacrifice of the Eucharist or in any other ceremony of public worship," from "celebrating sacraments or sacramentals and from receiving the sacraments," as well as from "exercising functions in offices or ministries or ecclesiastical endeavors no matter what they are" or from "acts of governance."

He added that the "excommunication is a medicinal punishment," as "it calls to repentance, conversion and reparation for the sin."

Excommunication "is lifted when the persons concerned show sincere repentance and commit themselves to follow the correct doctrine and discipline of the Church," concluded archbishop Amato.

In 1994 Pope John Paul II issued the apostolic letter "On Reserving Priestly Ordination to Men Alone," in which he stated that the priesthood "has in the Catholic Church from the beginning always been reserved to men alone. This tradition has also been faithfully maintained by the Oriental Churches."

He added, "I declare 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 Church's faithful."