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Cardinal Parolin to German Church: Priesthood for Men Only; Teaching on Homosexuality Non-Negotiable

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Cardinal Parolin - La Stampa

“Tagespost" exclusive: Rome Opens the Parachute


Die Tagespost November 24, 2023

Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin informs the German bishops that the ordination of priests reserved for men and the Church's teaching on homosexuality are non-negotiable - a German special path is therefore


The German bishops have received a clear message from the Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin that the Vatican is not considering negotiating the letter "Ordinatio Sacerdotalis", in which Pope John Paul II confirmed the exclusion of women from ordination to the priesthood in 1994, or the Church's teaching on homosexuality in upcoming talks with a delegation of German bishops. In a letter addressed to the Secretary General of the German bishops, Beate Gilles, dated October 23, which was made available to this editorial team, Parolin specifies the procedure and content of a German-Roman dialog round on the Synodal Way.


In July, several dicastery heads met with representatives of the German bishops for the first time to discuss the Synodal Way. In October, the German participants in the global Synod - Bishop Georg Bätzing, Bishop Felix Genn, Bishop Bertram Meier, Bishop Stefan Oster, Bishop Franz-Josef Overbeck - and the Secretary General of the German Bishops' Conference, Beate Gilles, held a further meeting with several heads of dicasteries. These talks are to be continued in the coming year.

Meetings with representatives of the bishops in January, April, and June 2024


The heads of the dicasteries for the Doctrine of the Faith, for the Promotion of Christian Unity, for the Bishops, for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, and for Legislative Texts want to meet representatives of the German bishops in January, April, and June 2024, and discuss what is unchangeable in the doctrine and discipline of the Church and what can be changed.


The topics to be discussed include ecclesiology, anthropology, morality, and liturg,y as well as the relevant texts of the Synodal Way. We document below the note of October 23, which represents a proposal of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which the heads of the above-mentioned dicasteries have approved. The note is available to all German diocesan bishops and to this editorial team and forms the basis for the above-mentioned discussions in the Vatican. [Die Tagespost]


***


Note from the Secretariat of State dated October 23, 2023:


In view of the course of the German synodal journey so far, it must first be borne in mind that a universal synodal journey is currently taking place, convened by the Holy Father. It is therefore necessary to respect this path of the universal Church and to avoid the impression that parallel initiatives are underway that are indifferent to the endeavor to "journey together".


In this regard, it is worth taking up some of the Holy Father's words to the people of God in Germany: "Brothers and sisters, let us care for one another! Let us watch out for the temptation of the father of lies and division, the master of schism, who, in driving the search for an apparent good or an answer to a particular situation, ends up dismembering the body of the holy and faithful people of God". 1


With respect for the concerns of some members of the Church in Germany, we "widen the tent" to continue the dialogue that has already begun in the hope that it will be characterized by respect and fraternal affection, taking into account the issues presented in the documents that summarize the proposals.


However, it must be made clear from the outset that these issues are of varying relevance and cannot all be placed on the same level. Some of them have aspects that cannot be put up for discussion, but also aspects that can be subjected to joint in-depth discussion. With regard to others, however, there is no possibility of arriving at a different assessment, such as the following:


(a) Priestly ordination reserved to men:


"Although the doctrine of priestly ordination reserved to men only has been both preserved by the constant and comprehensive tradition of the Church and taught with consistency by the Magisterium in the documents of the recent past, it is nevertheless considered debatable in our time in various places, or the decision of the Church not to admit women to this ordination is ascribed merely disciplinary significance. So that all doubt may be removed concerning this important matter, which concerns the divine constitution of the Church itself, I declare, by virtue of my office of strengthening the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32), that the Church has no authority whatsoever to ordain women to the priesthood, and that all the faithful of the Church must definitively abide by this decision." 2

Pope Francis has explicitly reaffirmed St. John Paul II's statement several times. For example:


"With regard to the ordination of women to the priesthood, the Church has spoken, and she says: No - St. John Paul II said this, but in a definitive way. This door is closed" 3 "With regard to the ordination of women in the Catholic Church, St. John Paul II has spoken the last clear word, and that remains. That is valid." 4 "It is not a dogmatic definition, although it must be accepted by all. No one may publicly contradict it." 5

We are faced with a binding decision that is also subject to the jurisdictional power of the Pope, with precise disciplinary consequences, which are set out in the norms on offenses reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (October 11, 2021):


Art. 5. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith also reserves the more serious offense of the attempted consecration of a woman: 1° If the person who attempts to confer sacred ordination or the woman who attempts to receive sacred ordination are believers in Christ subject to the CIC, they are liable to excommunication as a penal offense, the lifting of which is reserved to the Apostolic See according to can. 1379 § 3 CIC is reserved to the Apostolic See. 2° If, however, the person who seeks to confer Holy Orders or the woman who seeks to receive Holy Orders are members of the Christian faithful subject to the CCEO, they are to be punished with a major excommunication, the lifting of which is reserved to the Apostolic See.

Although today this issue must be considered closed throughout the Church, the Holy Father Francis has formulated a reflection that helps to understand the meaning of this teaching and invites us to find other ways to favor greater participation of women:


"Claiming the legitimate rights of women on the basis of the firm conviction that men and women have equal dignity poses profound questions for the Church which challenge her and which cannot be avoided superficially. The priesthood reserved for men as a sign of Christ the Bridegroom, who gives himself in the Eucharist, is a question that is not open to discussion, but it can give rise to particular conflicts if sacramental authority is confused too much with power. "We must not forget that when we speak of priestly authority, we are 'at the level of function and not at the level of dignity and holiness'. "The ministerial priesthood is one of the means that Jesus uses to serve his people, but the great dignity comes from baptism, which is accessible to all. The assimilation of the priest to Christ the Head - that is, as the main source of grace - does not imply an elevation that places him at the head of all the rest. In the Church, functions do not establish 'the superiority of some over others'. In fact, one woman, Mary, is more important than all the bishops. Even if the function of the ministerial priesthood is understood as 'hierarchical', it must be borne in mind that it is 'entirely intended for the holiness of the members of Christ'. Its pivotal point is not its power understood as dominion, but its authority to administer the sacrament of the Eucharist; this is the basis of its authority, which is always a service to the people. This is a great challenge for pastors and theologians, who could help to better recognize what this entails with regard to the possible role of women in the various areas of the Church where important decisions are made." 6

b) Another issue on which a local Church has no possibility of taking a different view concerns homosexual acts. For even if one recognizes that from a subjective point of view there may be various factors that call us not to judge people, this in no way changes the evaluation of the objective morality of these acts.


The constant teaching of the Church emphasizes that "the objective moral evaluation of sexual relations between persons of the same sex is precisely and certainly established. Another question, which is not under discussion here, is the degree of subjective moral imputability of such relationships in each individual case." 7

From the Vatican, October 23, 2023

[Notes:]

1 Pope Francis, Letter to the Pilgrim People of God in Germany, June 29, 2019, no. 10. 2 St. John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Ordinatio sacerdotalis on the Ordination to the Priesthood Reserved for Men Only, May 22, 1994, no. 4.5 3 Pope Francis, From the press conference during the return flight after the World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro (July 28, 2013). 4 Pope Francis, From the Holy Father's answer to Anna Kristina Kappelin for Sveriges TV during the return flight from the Apostolic Journey to Sweden (November 1, 2016). 5 Pope Francis, "Answers" of the Holy Father "to the dubia of two cardinals" (July 1, 2023) 6 Pope Francis, Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium (November 24, 2013), 104. 7 Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Notification concerning certain writings of Fr. Marciano Vidal, C.Ss.R. (February 22, 2001).






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