In a statement permitting further study of the question of ordaining women to the sacramental priesthood, Pope Francis has insisted on the equal importance of the common priesthood of the faithful, the ‘priesthood of all believers’. He has also given a cautious ‘yes’ on the blessing of same-sex couples, provided that this ceremony of blessing is obviously not a Christian marriage, a term that can apply only to the union of a man and a woman.
The statement comes in response to the questions of five cardinals who have expressed ‘dubia’ or doubts on the clarity of church teaching in relation to such questions.
On whether women can be ordained priests, Pope Francis quoted the Second Vatican Council document Lumen Gentium: “The common priesthood of the faithful and the ministerial priesthood differ essentially.” However, It is not appropriate to support a difference in degree that implies considering the common priesthood of the faithful as something of ‘second category’ or of lesser value (‘a lower degree’) … both forms of priesthood illuminate and support one another”.
While the teaching of Pope John Paul II that ordination is applicable to men only is ‘definitive’ and “No one can publicly contradict it” … “yet it can be a subject of study, as with the case of the validity of ordinations in the Anglican Communion.”
The five cardinals are apparently not satisfied by these expansive answers and have reframed their ‘dubia’ in five questions, requesting ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers.
There is as yet no expansive church document that explains clearly how the common priesthood of those who are not ordained is to be understood and exercised. However, in 2019 the Association of Catholics in Ireland submitted documents on this to the Conference of Irish Bishops.
For a more detailed account of the papal statement in Crux click here.