WASHINGTON--The National Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Doctrine has issued a "pastoral response" on the "reservation of priestly ordination to men."
Approved for publication at the September 15-16 meeting of the Conference's Administrative Committee, the document takes the form of replies to "ten frequently asked questions" about the teaching.
For example, Question 8 asks, "Since the Church teaches that men and women are equal in dignity, is it just to exclude women from priestly ordination?"
The document answers, in part, "... No one has a right by baptism to ordination, for this sacrament is not essential for any person in his response to the call to holiness. The Church has clearly affirmed the equal dignity of women and men, and the equality of baptized women with baptized men. Ordination to the ministerial priesthood, however, is a distinct gift. It is not essential for salvation, and is given not for one's own salvation but for the service of God and of the Church...."
According to the Committee's chairman, Cincinnati Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk, the idea for the document arose after the Committee had made "a doctrinal and theological response to the paper on ordination of the Catholic Theological Society of America" which had raised questions about the authority of the teaching in a report sent to the Bishops' Conference in 1996.
The purpose of this new document, he said, is to offer "a more properly pastoral reflection by the Committee" to aid the Catholic public in understanding the teaching.
Archbishop Pilarczyk said that Pope John Paul II's remarks last May to a group of U.S. bishops visiting Rome had strengthened the Committee's conviction about writing the document. On that occasion, Pope John Paul encouraged bishops "to explain to the faithful why the Church does not have the authority to ordain women to the ministerial priesthood (L'Osservatore Romano, English Edition, May 21-28, 1998, p. 6).
Archbishop Pilarczyk said that the question/answer format was chosen to facilitate the documents's use by its readers. However, he pointed out that the Committee did not attempt to answer every possible question but only those "that the Committee found were the most common ones."
The document titled, "Ten Frequently Asked Questions about the Reservation of Priestly Ordination to Men: A Pastoral Response by the Committee on Doctrine of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops," is attached.
The document is available to news media, October 13-31, on the World Wide Web at www.nccbuscc.org/comm/archives/98-210a.shtml. Printed copies also are available to the media upon request. Copies also may be purchased from the Office for Publishing and Promotion Services, 800-235-8722.