(Bishop Martin Amos issued the following statement May 25:)
It has come to my attention that the issue of the “ordination” of women to Holy Orders has been raised in the Diocese of Davenport. With the following statement it is hoped that the position of the Roman Catholic Church is made clear.
The role of women has been held in high regard by the Church for centuries. As one example, the late Holy Father, John Paul II wrote in his 1988 apostolic letter to women entitled, “The Dignity and the Vocation of Women” (Mulieris Dignitatem): “the Church desires to give thanks to the Most Holy Trinity for the ‘mystery of woman’ and for every woman — for all that constitutes the eternal measure of her feminine dignity, for the ‘great works of God,’ which throughout human history have been accomplished in and through her” (No. 31, www.vatican.va). The absolutely vital role of women in the Church extends to all women through the example of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of Jesus Christ.
The need for the Church to respond to the “ordination” of women was addressed in an apostolic letter from Pope John Paul II dated May 22, 1994, “On Ordination to the Priesthood” (Ordinatio Sacerdotalis). Quoting Pope John Paul: “[4.] Although the teaching that priestly ordination is to be reserved to men alone has been preserved by the constant and universal Tradition of the Church and firmly taught by the Magisterium in its more recent documents, at the present time in some places it is nonetheless considered still open to debate, or the Church’s judgment that women are not to be admitted to ordination is considered to have a merely disciplinary force. Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Gospel of Luke 22:32) 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.” (www.vatican.va)
The current decree regarding the “ordination” of women
On May 29, 2008, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, a department of the Vatican, published a decree in order to protect true doctrine, to safeguard the communion and unity of the Church and to guide the consciences of the faithful regarding the “ordination” of women. The decree stated that those who attempt to confer Holy Orders on women are excommunicated, as are the women who attempt to receive Holy Orders. This includes the attempted “ordination” for a deacon, priest or bishop.
“The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in virtue of the special faculty granted to it by the Supreme Authority of the Church (cf. Can. 30, Code of Canon Law; www.vatican.va), in order to safeguard the nature and validity of the sacrament of Holy Orders, decreed, in the Ordinary Session of Dec. 19, 2007:
In accordance with what is disposed by Can. 1378 of the Code of Canon Law, (www.vatican.va) 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 a latae sententiae excommunication, reserved to the Apostolic See.”
The phrase, “latae sententiae excommunication” means excommunication is incurred as soon as the offence is committed and by reason of the offence itself.
Purpose of Excommunication
The purpose of excommunication is always to bring the person back into communion with the Church. It is hoped that, “sustained by the grace of the Holy Spirit, those who are excommunicated discover the path to conversion and return to the unity of faith and to communion with the Church, a communion broken by their action.”
By their choice to be excommunicated, that is, to be separated from the Roman Catholic Church, they are forbidden to celebrate sacraments or sacramentals, to receive the sacraments and to exercise any function in an ecclesiastical (church) office, ministry or assignment (cf. can. 1331 §1 CIC)
How does someone who is excommunicated return to the Church?
In this case, the Holy Father reserves to himself the ability to return the person who is excommunicated back to communion with the Church.
I ask that all the people of the Diocese of Davenport prayerfully reconsider any participation in the process or advocacy of ordaining women to Holy Orders. Such participation does not foster unity in the Church and jeopardizes the communion of the faithful with each other and with God. On my part, I will continue to pray for unity throughout the Church and for those people who struggle with this issue.