The Question of Admitting Women to the Ministerial Priesthood

Author: Louis Ligier, S.J.


Louis Ligier, S.J.
Consultor of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith


For two years at least, particularly since Women's Year, which concluded at the beginning of 1976, the problem of the access of women to the priesthood has become one of the most burning ecclesiological questions. The recent Declaration Inter Insigniores,made public on 27 January 1977 (1), has solved it with a firm, though measured statement of the Magisterium. The document meets a twofold purpose: to reaffirm the normative discipline of the Church and explain it "in the present circumstances", pro praesentibus adiunctis,having recourse to theological reflection. It would be a mistake, therefore, to apply to the decision a purely transitory value owing to this formula, since it is seen from the context that the pro praesentibus adiunctis applies only to the second part, that is, to the theological explanation, required, in fact, by the present circumstances. It seems obvious that the decision, being presented as "normative", is valid not only for today, as it was in the past, but is also binding on the future of the Church.

The event of the Declaration is so close that it is no longer permissible to deal today with the subject of the access of women to the priesthood, as was done previously (2). And it is not yet possible to contemplate the document as a text issued years ago, as a result of which the tenor of the discussion is now clear. We are still involved in the event. The only way that remains open to our reflection is, keeping to the Declaration and to its unofficial Comment, to review the questions it has touched upon and clarified.

We are at once struck by the fact that arguments of a psychological and sociological nature about woman's capacity of full self-control and her ability to command and guide others have been left aside. Only reasons of a biblical and theological nature are adopted. Some are to be set on the border between theology and Holy Scripture. Others are centred on the practice of the Church, regarding its sources and its criteria: they concern sections 3 and 4 of the Declaration. Others, on the contrary, clearly theological, belong to anthropology and, above all, to the sacramental symbolism of the priesthood (cf. the last sections, that is, 5 and 6). We will follow these three steps in our treatment,

1. Scripture, Revelation and Theology

The border-problems between Holy Scripture and theology are, in our subject, three in number: 1) the practice of Jesus in the choice of his Apostles; 2) the Pauline doctrine on the theological relationship between man and woman; 3) the alleged opposition, finally, between the Declaration issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the International Biblical Commission at its session in April 1976.

1. An alleged opposition between the Roman authorities

Let us begin with the last-mentioned difficulty, focused on the very morning of the press-conference on 27 January in Corriere della Sera, with its announcement of a Roman document allegedly contrary to the opinion expressed by the Pontifical International Biblical Commission. In fact, in the three points drawn up by this Commission—which leaked out and were made public in the United States—a certain disagreement was seen to exist among the exegetes. Some admitted the presence of "sufficient indications" to exclude the access of women to the priesthood, in connection with the sacraments of the Holy Eucharist and of Reconciliation. Others, on the contrary, without affirming anything, however, asked if the Church, to which the economy of the sacraments was entrusted, could not entrust also to women, according to circumstances, these two ministries of the Eucharist and of Reconciliation. They all agreed, however, in saying that there is no "evidence" properly speaking on the matter in the New Testament (3).

Actually there was no opposition between the Biblical Commission and the Declaration—nor could it be otherwise—owing to the fact that the two points on which the exegetes diverged were not fully opposed to each other. In the first place their respective stylistic tone was different. One group affirmed the existence of "sufficient indications". The other group did not put forward an affirmation, but raised a question; they asked, that is, if the hierarchical Church had not the faculty to entrust those ministries to women. Furthermore, while the first affirmation was purely exegetical, the other abandoned this field for a theological question: whether the hierarchical Church, to which the economy of the sacraments has been entrusted, did not also have the power of entrusting the Eucharist and Reconciliation to women. In short, the "disagreement" between the exegetes was the following: some affirm, others ask; some remain in the exegetical field, others pose a question of theological hermeneutics. It is obvious that there could not result from this context a real opposition between the two authorities, between the Biblical Commission and the Declaration, since there was no clash of opinion between them.

a) On the lack of "evidence" properly speaking, in fact, all the exegetes agree. Well, this fact is also admitted by the Declaration, when it writes in the last paragraph of section 2: "Such ascertainments, it is true, do not supply direct evidence..." (4). This is the first point of agreement.

b) Some exegetes admit the existence of "sufficient indications" not to admit women to the ministry of the Eucharist and of Reconciliation. This point is also confirmed by the Declaration when it says: "It must be recognized, however, that there is here a set of converging indications, which stress the important fact that Jesus did not entrust to women the office of the Twelve" (5). The second point of agreement!

c) As for the last point, it was not an assertion on the part of the exegetes, but only a question: "some wonder whether the hierarchical Church...". Well, it is to this question that the Declaration intends to reply right from the beginning when it concludes its introduction saying: "The Church does not consider herself authorized to admit women to priestly Ordination" (6). It then goes on to give the reasons drawn from Tradition; and it adds that the powers of the hierarchical Church, though wide, do not extend to the substance of the sacraments. There is, therefore, no opposition, but an answer to the question raised by the Bible Commission.

But if the three conclusions of the Bible Commission were not able to invalidate in any way affirmations of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, they are however, an interesting testimony of the trend of hermeneutics today. At present the exegete refuses to limit himself to finding the meaning of the Bible texts as it was when they were written; he also claims to pass judgment on their significance for modern man. This is a sign of his intention of faith. But this rightful claim requires of him who makes it, exegete or theologian, not to pass over the centuries between Christ and today, but to be careful to take Tradition into account, to listen to the Magisterium to which the interpretation of Holy Scripture is entrusted, with the assistance of the Holy Spirit. Therefore the last proposal of the exegetes of the Biblical Commission, with their appeal to the hierarchical Church, mistress of the economy of the sacraments, could not be interpreted as opposition to the Magisterium, but as an appeal made to it. The Magisterium alone, in fact, is able to evaluate the powers it has received from the Lord.

2. The choice of the Apostles

Now we arrive at the second of the border-points, that is, the Way in which the Lord Jesus chose his Apostles, not calling any woman to belong to the Twelve (7), and to the fact, pointed out by the three Synoptics, that only the Twelve, the Apostles, were present at the Last Supper (8). To these remarks it can be objected that they are mere facts, and that, not being accompanied by explicit words, they cannot find a certain explanation. It is also added that in attributing to every act of the Lord's a specific intention for the future, one would be making a "positivist" exegesis (9), arriving at a now outdated conception of the awareness of Jesus (10).

It is not for the theologian to solve the totality of the problem raised here. However, since Holy Scripture belongs to the theologian to the same extent as to the exegete, let us be allowed to use it. It is seen, in fact, from the New Testament texts that the choice of the Twelve was not made casually: according to St Luke, it took place after a whole night of prayer (11); according to St Mark's text, Jesus "called to him those whom he desired" (12), not to have them near him with a mere symbolical significance but to send them to preach and to cure (13).

In the theological field two remarks are worth adding. The first, taken from Dei Verbum, reminds us that divine revelation consists not only of explicit words, but also of facts, "gestis verbisque" (14).This is extremely important in connection with everything that concerns the institution of the sacraments and early discipline. As for the present-day conception of the awareness of Jesus, which is opposed to the preceding one so as to exclude that Christ's acts had intentions in view of the future, it takes its inspiration from "ascendent" Christology. But "descendent" Christology, opposed by the foregoing, is far from being merely tardy and dogmatic; it is represented right from the New Testament: it is actually derived from the Gospel of St John and from the letters of St Paul. It deserves, therefore, to be considered valid, not just out of respect for the Magisterium, but in the first place out of faithfulness to the New Testament.

3. The Pauline doctrine of the man-woman relationship

A last border-point is constituted by Pauline theology on the relations between man and woman. According to the first letter to the Corinthians, the man is the woman's head, as Christ is man's head (15). This doctrine is taken up again by the letter to the Ephesians (16) to motivate the woman's submission to her husband: "Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord"... On its side the Declaration disregards these passages and is content to refer us to the above-mentioned text of Genesis: "God created man in his own image; male and female he created them". Instead of appealing to St Paul's verses to point out man's superiority over woman, the new document mentions several times Gal 3, 28, which on the contrary shows their equality. Perhaps it is more opportune for the present-day situation. It seems to us, however, that it would be wrong to interpret the above-mentioned Pauline doctrine as deprived of theological meaning. Two theologians, in fact, Louis Bouyer and Hans Urs von Balthasar, one a few weeks before the Declaration (17) and the other shortly afterwards (18), have proposed precious observations, thanks to which a deeper study of the teaching of the Apostle in conformity with the requirements of present-day culture, may be made.

II The practice of the Church and its normative value

But, being theological, our reflection must be addressed above all to the practice of the Church and to the "normative" value that the Declaration recognizes it as having. The subject is of fundamental importance, because, after all, the doctrinal conclusion of the document draws support and firmness just from this, as we see at the end of section 4,deliberatedly dedicated to evaluating the permanent value of the attitude of Jesus and of the Apostles".

It is obvious, as Balthasar writes in his above-mentioned article, that "the mere fact of a hitherto uninterrupted custom of the Church cannot constitute a sufficient argument to prevent this custom from being changed on the basis of new conceptions or of changed cultural circumstances". "Everything depends", the same theologian adds, "on whether the aspect in question belongs or not to the essence of the structure of the Church as it is instituted" (19). The argumentation must be based "on reasons belonging to the specific mystery" of the Church. We would say, in our way, that in the early centuries the opposition of the Church to the access of women to the priesthood was connected with its opposition to heretical sects and was derived from its will to follow the inspiration of Christ. To realize this, it is enough to refer to the two main groups of documents in this connection.

1. The practice of the ancient Church and its testimonies

From the first group, constituted by the history of early heresies, it is seen that the eucharistic celebrations in which women took part, in which, in fact, their access to the priesthood was permitted were those of heretical sects, both Gnostic and Montanist or Colliridian; it was a question, therefore, of aberrant affirmations. In the Adversus Haereses of St Irenaeus, the practice is seen united with Valentinian gnosis (20). Elsewhere it is united with the corrupted eschatology and pneumatology of Montanism (21). It is met with furthermore in the corrupted Marian cult of the Colliridians, who admitted the offering or prosfora of bread in Mary's name (22). Such a heretical milieu was in itself, and still remains for us today, a sign of considerable alienation from the genuine Christian tradition.

It is necessary, moreover, to take into account eastern liturgico-canonical collections, both Egyptian and Antiochene. A specific feature of these, with their claim to be apostolic structures and owing to their influence on Eastern discipline, is their condemnation of the access of women to ordination as contrary to the apostolic practice established by the early hierarchy and, behind it, the will of Christ (23). Similarly, the "Apostolic Ordinance" (24). While adding various unexpected particulars and even retaining (attributing it also to Peter) Paul's order to women not to raise their voice at the assembly, all its versions coincide in saying that "when the Master asked for bread and the cup and blessed it with the words 'This is my body and my blood', he did not allow them (that is, women) to be with us" (25). From this is derived the conviction in the Eastern Churches that Christ reserved the eucharistic sacrifice for men. The Greek text of the Apostolic Constitutions, which belongs to the 4th century, says so clearly: "If, in conformity with what was said previously, we do not allow them (that is women) to teach, how could we ever allow them, contrary to nature, to exercise the priesthood (hierateuien)? It was, in fact, the impious ignorance of the Greeks that led them to ordain priestesses for the female divinities: but this is not the legislation of Christ" (26). It is true that some authors of the patristic age invoke in addition the law of Genesis (27); similarly, in the West, the Ambrosiaster recalls "that man is God's image, not woman" (28).

But more decisive than this theological argument was the persuasion testified in the documents of the Didascalia Apostolorum, the Apostolic Constitutions and the ApostolicOrdinance—that is,the same documents that inform us about the hierarchical structure (Episcopate, presbyterate and diaconate and their respective ordinations)—that in the exclusion of women it is a question of Christ's will, handed down by the apostles and applied by them. To ordain women for the priesthood and for the episcopate would be contrary to this apostolic tradition.

2. The Powers of the Church in the field of the Sacraments

In this way the bond between the practice and the faith of the Church has been clarified and also the relationship between this ecclesiastical practice and the mystery of Christ. The above-mentioned connection, in fact, is seen to be not only extrinsic, but also intrinsic, because it comes from the sacramental mystery of the Church, the beloved Bride of the Lord Jesus. In liturgical and sacramental action by means of which "God is glorified and men are sanctified, Christ always associates the Church with himself" (29). To her, in fact, he entrusted, before returning to the Father, the administration of the sacraments, in which the efficacy of Redemption is realized and his Presence becomes living. Not without reason, therefore, the faculties derived for the Church in our favour are invoked.

Actually the sacraments constitute a complex reality, involving as they do a Christological element and an ecclesiological tissue. That is, they involve a foundation substantially derived from the will of the Lord Jesus and expressed in the sources of Revelation, as also ritual and pastoral components required by the concrete life of the Church, both liturgical and pastoral. Hence a tension between the Christological element and the ecclesiological element, between the liturgical structure of the rite, on the one hand, and the substance of the sacrament, on the other hand; that is, between the necessary conditions required for the validity of the sacrament and a wide range of powers, both pastoral and liturgical.

Appeal is made, therefore, in the case of woman's access to the sacrament of Orders, to the powers left by Christ to the Church, his bride and minister. This was the argument contained in the third point of the Biblical Commission; it is also the reason put forward in the matter of marriage in view of a permissive position for the annulment of the sacramental bond in cases of failure of the union. Further, it is true that, to anyone who contemplates the historical evolution, the powers of the Church in sacramental matters are seen to be quite broad. Baptism, now celebrated with the simple formula, was for centuries conferred with the three questions taken from the Apostles Creed, accompanied by a triple and successive immersion (30). Confirmation, which in the Latin West has been separated from baptism for centuries, still follows it immediately in the East, as happened in the first four centuries (31). The anointing of the sick is conferred in the Greco-Byzantine Church by seven priests, while here one only is sufficient (32), These examples, which could easily be multiplied, bear witness to the broad powers of the Church in the sacramental field. St Thomas was aware of them (33). The present-day Church does not hesitate to use them. She knows that she is capable, as Sacramentum Ordinis said thirty years ago, of "repealing what she has established" in the matter of the sacraments (34).

But these competences and powers, based on the Christological and ecclesiastical complexity of the sacramental sign and corresponding to the divine and human structure of the Church, are not extended to the element specified by Christ, and by him alone, that is, to what constitutes the substantial core of the sacraments. The Church is competent in determining the sacramental sign in its essential liturgical structure, and in defining the pastoral conditions of access to the sacrament. But she cannot touch the basic element which, expressed in the revealed sources, is nothing but "what the Lord Christ, according to the testimony of the sources of revelation, wished to be maintained in the sacramental sign" (35). There are, therefore, immutable points. For example, to pagans the Church can give only one sacrament, baptism, the door to the others. She does not forgive the sins of the faithful with baptism, but with penance. These two sacraments cannot be confused. The anointing of the sick is conferred only on the sick, not on the healthy. Marriage can be given only to a man and a woman who are baptized and who intend to found a family. In this way it is seen that the specification of the subject, pagan or baptized, sick or healthy, man and woman, is, according to cases, part of the substantial elements of a given sacrament. On the occasion of doubt, it is up to the Church herself, as the Declaration says, to ensure in the various fields, "through the voice of her Magisterium... discernment between what can change and what must remain immutable" (36).

And this is just the case of the access of woman to the sacrament of Holy Orders. The very subject of the sacrament would be at stake with this innovation. Well, to make such a charge would be like changing the subject of baptism, of penance, of the anointing of the sick and also of marriage—the latter, in fact, is a sacrament of state of life like Holy Orders—that is, the substance of the sacrament would be touched. This argument, which is not evident a priori, is shown clearly, however, by the consistent practice of the apostolic Churches, both Eastern and Western.

These apostolic Churches are sometimes divided among themselves on the concept of the Primacy, the patriarchate, the celebration of the sacramental rites and discipline itself: for example, the separated Eastern Churches admit more cases for the dissolution of the marriage bond. They all agree, however, in excluding women from the priesthood. We have here a point of disciplinary concordance which cannot be neglected.

Therefore, as the document says, the practice of the Church takes on a "normative character" (37) in this case: a declaration which deserves to be pondered. In fact. when it is a question of the discipline of the sacraments, the normativeness of a practice is a prerogative which, while being based on an original fact, takes place only little by little, through the space of centuries and the multiplicity of the local Churches: that is, in the fact that it is ascertained as a constant, universal, obligatory rule, recognized as such by everyone. For in this fact are presupposed and recognized the presence of Christ and the guidance of the Holy Spirit in the life of the people of God. When the Church of today affirms this normative character, it is not merely identifying itself with its past, it is taking possession of its present in awareness of the principles that support it, and it is manifesting its responsibility before the future.

III Theological reflection in the framework of "analogia fidei"

As has been seen from the first reactions of the newspapers, some people would have preferred if the Church had been content to give an exclusively disciplinary and dogmatic answer, ending with the enunciation of the "normative character" of the practice of the Church, without adding further considerations. This was the opinion of several historians and sociologists. The position of the Swiss theologian already named was quite different. This could also be foreseen from a contribution of the French ecclesiologist, H.M. Legrand, O.P., when he wrote: "Some people who desire a straightforwardly dogmatic answer to the question raised..., excluding any anthropological, historical, psychological and sociological consideration, make a dangerous theological choice" (38). It is true that in the last two sections, 5 and 6, "The ministerial priesthood in the light of the mystery of Christ and in the mystery of the Church", the Declaration does not claim "to bring a demonstrative argumentation" (39), which is not "without risks", as the unofficial comment admits (40). But it may be hoped that, as usually happens, the second wave of the press, that of reviews and books, will be more positive. Understood, in fact, in the theological sense, "theological appropriateness" means, as Balthasar writes, "the internal harmony, such as an organism possesses in the equilibrium of its various organs" and he adds: "St Anselm did not hesitate to attribute a "necessity" to this internal harmony in God, in spite of all the liberties of divine disposition" (41).

1. The anthropological argument of man-woman relations

As has already been mentioned, the anthropological argument of the relations between man and woman was not dealt with in the Declaration. In fact the latter contents itself with hoping that its publication may help in the future "to study more deeply the respective mission of man and of woman". Recently, however, Fr. Bouyer (42), supported by Balthasar (43), made use of it in a new way, showing that representing is suitable for man only. On her side, on the contrary, woman "is", as virgin and mother. In the male, "fatherhood", being contingent, momentary, is "represented"; while, contemplated in the Holy Trinity, it is capable of defining the first Person in his property and eternal identity: he "is"' in the full sense of the word. The Father begets the Son eternally; and the latter, though distinct, has never detached himself from him, he is, in fact, fully united with him in the consubstantiality of the same nature. Therefore the human fatherhood of the male does not go beyond "representing"; it is, that is, a distant reflection of the perfect fatherhood of the Father, exquo omnis paternitas in coelis et in terra nominatur (44).All the more so in that, at the human level, the "vir" must turn to a woman to become a father. In this sense, too, it is seen that in his male being the "vir" "represents" more than he "is". The above anthropologico-theological reflection does not fail to bring some light. It leaves room, however, as von Balthasar admits, for questions. In fact, woman herself, to have a child, must turn to man, as the latter to woman. And if woman has the privilege of bearing her child nine months in her womb, the day comes, however, that of birth, when the child is separated from the mother. Therefore also in woman, maternity is contingent, transitory: it "is" not in the full sense of the word, even if it does not "represent" a divine model. It was opportune, therefore, that the Declaration did not set out along this way, which would have led to more questions than clarifications.

2. The nuptial biblical theme

More suitable, in fact necessary, is the argument developed in section 5, on relations between God and his people, between Christ and the Church, which take the privileged form of a nuptial mystery. Thus one understands why the representation of Christ in his people was entrusted to man. This biblical theme prepares the theological argument of inpersona Christi,which is the foundation of the theological part of the Declaration.

In our opinion, the originality of the Declaration does not consist, then, in saying that "the elect people becomes in God's eyes an ardently loved bride'', nor in bringing the testimony of Hosea (45), Jeremiah (46),Ezekiel (47) and also the Song of Songs, nor in considering that as belonging both to the Judaic tradition and to the Christian tradition: these things are well known. The essential thing lies in the fact, pointed out in the document, that the "marriage" subject entered the New Testament. Invoking both the Synoptics (48)and the gospel of John (49),the Declaration stresses that Christ is presented as the Bridegroom and the apostles as the friends of the bridegroom; that in the letters of St Paul the Church is the virgin that Christ has made his Bride (50) and for whom he sacrificed himself (51); that the last chapters of Revelation, returning to the symbols of the Old Testament, describe the new Jerusalem "prepared as a bride adorned for her husband" (52). It could not be otherwise since in Isaiah the oracles of the new Jerusalem announced the bridal meeting for eschatological times (53).

Decisive, then, is the transfer of the subject from the Old to the New Testament. Not only because the latter prolongs the former and carries out its oracles, but, above all, because it is the passing from figures to the time of reality, which involves a concrete and qualitative renewal. In fact, during the first economy, based on figures, Israel was not only a bride, but also a vineyard, a kingdom and a city. And before her, God, her Creator and Lord, presented himself under the images of the king, the shepherd and the bridegroom. Their relations were illustrated, therefore, by various and complementary symbols. Well, these symbolic themes, passing into the new Covenant, keep their significance of illustrating spiritual values. The Church remains a people, kingdom, city, vineyard, temple, in the same way as a bride. And Christ is a king, shepherd, temple, as well as a bridegroom. And he really is a bridegroom or king, even if at the spiritual and supernatural level.

The incarnation takes place and with it the new fact. The Son of God becomes man in the concrete, individual and historical way, not figuratively; he has really a male condition which, though prefigured by the image of the bridegroom, now takes on a very precise meaning. The expression of the relations between God and mankind then emerges from the circle of figures to enter the order of concrete realities. These realities, referred to his individual humanity and to his historical mission, take a sacramental sense which, though belonging to the sphere of signs, also depends on nature and history. Christ, in fact, now operates as a man, not only because he is the bridegroom of the Church, but because he is God made man. For this reason his nuptial relations with his people take on a sacramental value which goes beyond that of the symbols of the first covenant.

3. The ministerial theology of "in persona Christi"

Acting as a man, Christ makes human as well as divine options. He accepts disciples, he sets up sacraments, he chooses apostles, on whom he founds the Church, sending them into the world to represent him: "He who receives you, receives me" (54); "He who hears you hears me" (55); "Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (56). The apostles, and they only, because invested with his exusia, or full authority, supported by his indefectible presence, speak, guide, celebrate his mysteries on his behalf and in persona sua. From this there came the principle, taken up again in the Declaration, according to which priests and bishops operate in persona Christi (57).

And it is exact to affirm that this formula, with its Semitic significance, had been prepared from the Old Testament: Moses was the "mighty power" of God in the sight of Israel (58); the prophets were "his mouth" (59), in fact his presence; "As the Lord... lives, before whom I stand" (60). Therefore Cyril of Jerusalem, speaking to his catechumens, was able to say to them that the Psalmist and the Prophets spoke in persona Dei (61), in persona Filii (62), in persona Christi (63). But, applied to the priests of the New Testament, the formula takes on a doubly enriched meaning.

The original Semitic meaning of instrument—mouth, hand—which acts in God's name, with the help of his authority and presence, to bring his message and to carry out his plans, is confirmed. It is a question, therefore, of a functional representation, of a spiritual as well as a material nature. But, while in the first Law this representation referred to the invisible God, now it refers to Christ, to the Son of God made man, to his historical mission and to his paschal mysteries, become the centre of the ages. Bound to Christ, the minister is his apostle, his priest. And, while in the Old Testament the prophetic mission was purely charismatic, now after the incarnation the mission that constitutes the priest as representative of Christ is based on a charism received in the Church set up by him. The ministerial representation is defined in the man who is a priest as an essentially spiritual character. But this character consecrates him and shapes him to Christ, the God-Man, our Priest in his humanity; and it is received with a rite conferred by his Church. In this way, consecrated priest, the man becomes the sign, the sacrament of Christ. His task is to make Christ present with his word, his guidance and his mysteries.

There is another contribution to be stressed: the concrete element of ministerial representation. In fact, as was mentioned previously, the option of incarnation has brought him out of the circle of general symbols, into that of natural and concrete realities, which have become sacraments of Christ's person and acts. The sacraments are not only instruments of a purely spiritual grace; they are also natural signs of it, because they symbolize it in their natural structure: they belong to the sphere of the world into which God has entered. He chose water and bathing as the initiation rite, bread and wine of the banquet as signs of participation in his Passover, because there exists a natural symbolism between water and baptismal renewal, between the nourishment of supper and communion in the paschal Mystery. Similarly, to make himself sacramentally present in the midst of his people, in front of his assembly, the Son of God made man chose the human model that he had received from his mother. This was not to limit his presence, but to give his spiritual representation a support that will make it recognizable and credible just because it resembles his human figure. As was said above, the sacraments of the new covenant are derived from the evangelical innovation in its concreteness, not from the figures of the first one, which can only illustrate it. On its side the sacrament of Holy Orders is derived from the fact that the Son of God became incarnate being born from the Virgin Mary; and, furthermore, from the historical choice of the apostolic college constituted by men, like himself.

These two elements, a natural resemblance imprinted in physical being with a spiritual representation, and the effect of the mission received with the character, integrate the complete concept of the sacramentality peculiar to the priesthood (64). If we take them both into consideration, we will not come up against difficulties on hearing in the letters of St Paul that the minister of the New Testament, though being a "vir", has an acute sense of his weakness (65). On the contrary, such trembling is the sign of the authenticity of his function as ambassador of Christ. In fact, human nature, the "flesh", cannot but feel frail before the requirements of the mission received. This awareness keeps it in the seriousness of its apostolic function: "cum infirmor tunc potens sum" (66). The priest has the sense of his infirmity and frailty, just because be is conscious of representing the Lord Jesus.

Two objections can be put forward, however, to this theology of "inpersona Christi": one theological and the other taken from Holy Scripture.

4. The objection of "in persona Ecclesiae"

It is recalled by theology, not without reason, that the priest, in any field—evangelization, pastoral care, sacramental ministry—acts in persona Ecclesiae no less than in persona Christi Capitis.And it is understood that, if the representation of Christ leads to reserving the priesthood for men only, the representation of the Church would call for the admission of women also. It is exact that, for example, if in the Eucharist the celebrant consecrates using the Lord's own words, he does so in the framework of a prayer of supplication which has the attitude of humility and thanks characteristic of the Bride of Christ.

It must be considered, it is true, that the priest acts in persona Christi asalso in persona Ecclesiae.But in the two cases the significance of the representation is very different. Christ, in fact, is a man not only because heis the bridegroom of the Church, but also because the Word of God became flesh really and concretely. The Church, on the contrary, is not a woman in the proper and concrete sense, but in the purely symbolic sense, since she is treated by the Lord Jesus as his Bride. Therefore, the representation derived from in persona Christi prevails over the other owing to all the weight of reality and all the difference that distinguishes the Testaments.

Then, too, when the argument is put forward based on the humility of the priest who supplicates on behalf of the Church, it should be pointed out that this modesty and submission of his do not reflect the femininity of the Church, but his condition as a creature. In fact, like the Church, also the priest, however great his ministry may be, must remember his human condition. All the more so in that Christ himself, whom he represents, is the Word become flesh, a Priest in his humanity, recapitulating in his theandric being the condition of a creature which he has assumed and the divine condition which is specifically his: a Man born of the Virgin, Christ, like us "shares in flesh and blood" that is, in our weakness (67). Therefore, the priest, while he acts ministerially in persona Christi,represents both his humanity, with its natural limits, and his divinity with its own transcendence. Nor can it be forgotten that the Lord Jesus, the Head of the Church, our Sovereign Priest, acted in persona Ecclesiae as much as in persona propria. Thus also the priest, his representative (68).

5. Equality of the baptized

There still remains the last difficulty, amore obvious one, more often put forward today. It is this: if the doctrine of in persona Christi reserves for men only the representation of Christ the priest, that would seem to contradict fundamental affirmations of Holy Scripture. According to the first chapter of Genesis, the man created in the image of God is not only the male but also the female: "ad imaginem Dei creavitillum, masculum et feminam creavit eos"(69). And if sin caused this likeness to be lost, baptism restores it. In fact, St Paul writes forcefully to the Galatians:

"There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there isneither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus (70). This is the argument exploited today by the most enlightened feminists: any Christian, by virtue of baptism, is the image of Christ; therefore everyone, female as well as male, is capable of representing him in the people of God (71).

It is not possible, unfortunately, to give an exhaustive answer to these difficulties in the limits of a mere lecture. It is sufficient to give some clarifications, distinguishing the double function of Christ in his Mystical Body, contemplated from the standpoint of the sacraments of Baptism and of Holy Orders. The same Christ is, in fact, by virtue of baptism, the mediator of the grace common to all and, consequently, the principle of identity among Christians. Furthermore, with the institution of the priesthood, he is also the author of "mission", and therefore the principle of the difference coming from the fact that one is sent to others on behalf of the Head of the Mystical Body.

6. Christ the mediator of grace common to all

In the first place, by virtue of baptism, Christ, the mediator of grace, lavishly gives the gift of divine life without discrimination. Everyone can become, through created grace, sharers in this divine nature, which the only-begotten Son has in common with the Father and with the Holy Spirit. In this connection, as there isno difference between the divine Persons, but perfect consubstantiality—to such an extent that they possess the same divine nature in unity—similarly, though analogically, there is no difference among men in participation in divine grace; there is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, neither, man nor woman (72). In this sense Christians all resemble Christ and resemble one another. But this likeness, though real and ontological, is a spiritual reality, therefore concealed, invisible and eschatological: it will be revealed at the end of time, "when he appears we shall be like him"... (73). It cannot, therefore, during the time of the Church, have in its turn a sacramental function. Deriving from a first sacrament, of which it is the res,it cannot be the principle, that is the sacramentum tantum,of another. The spiritual effects procured by the sacraments require some characteristic sign, natural and perceptible, the function of which is to signify and cause this spiritual grace.

The sacraments are not piled up on top of one another: the res of one cannot act as sacramentum tantum of the following one. And, to differentiate the new sacrament, it is not enough to invoke in our case the intervention of the rite peculiar to ordinations. Because, in sacraments concerning the state of life, such as marriage and Holy Orders, the sacramentality is not reduced to the sphere ofthe rite—which is, however, a sine qua non condition, in fact a primary cause—but is extended also to the subject of the sacrament. As each of the spouses becomes for the other the sign and instrument of grace, in the same way the priest, marked with his ordination by the priestly character and grace, becomes the sign and instrument of grace for the baptized. Therefore the divine likeness, generated by baptism, cannot act as a sacramental sign of the grace conferred by the priesthood. A natural sign is the prerequisite: for marriage, the man-woman duality, representative of the Christ-Church relationship; for Holy Orders, man alone, the image of Christ, Head and Leader of his Mystical Body.

7. Christ, head of the Mystical Body

Christ, then, in addition to his function as Mediator of common grace, also acts as Head of the Body. This function raises him above all and constitutes him the principle of the priestly and hierarchical structure of the Church. Well, being structural, this function requires to be extended, prolonged and signified until the end of time by an ecclesial representation. This is, as was pointed out by Vatican II (74), the representation handed down to bishops and priests and set up by the Lord Jesus with the choice and consecration of his apostles.

Now this function of Head is peculiar to Christ, that is, to the Son incarnate, consecrated and sent by the Father (75): it does not belong either to the Father, who is not sent, or to the Holy Spirit, whose mission is different, though complementary. And it is distinctive of the Son because, in short, it rests, like any mission ad extra,on his procession ad intra, the generation that distinguishes him from the Father and from the Holy Spirit. The "mission" is the principle of differentiation in the Church, because the "procession" is the cause of distinction of the Persons in the unity of their common nature. Therefore, since this function of Head is necessary for the life of the Church, and since it is completely peculiar to Christ, it is up to him and to him alone to determine to whom and in what way to entrust its representation. He did so with the choice and the mission of his apostles and with their consecration for their future ministry (76). The principle of priestly ordination is entirely here. It confers the character with which a baptized man is configured with Christ Head of the Church (77). With this the priest is qualified to make him present before the Church in the attitude of a Head. Such a sacrament is not in itself destined for everyone, but reserved for those who, bearing a human resemblance to him, have been called and chosen according to his free disposition as Head.

It is necessary therefore to distinguish a double resemblance with Christ: the common one, the effect of baptism, which consists in a mysterious and invisible reality, incapable, therefore, of serving as a visible sign for another sacrament; and the resemblance communicated by the character of ordination which is the source of priestly representation. Although it, too, is invisible, it is based, however, on a natural likeness, and conferred by a sacramental rite which makes it public before the faithful.


Wishing to conclude, it seems to us opportune to clarify another difficulty that arises just from this theological reflection. The question is raised here and there whether the Declaration, with its intervention in the midst of the ecumenical dialogue, does not run the risk of compromising it, and perhaps blocking it. This conclusion would not be, in our opinion, either justified or authorized by the Declaration, which, right from the beginning, is aware of its ecumenical opportuneness. In fact, after recalling the early position of the Churches that emerged from the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century and the present attitude of some of them, the Declaration points out expressly that it is a question here of "an ecumenical problem, on which the Catholic Church must make her own thought known" (78). It does not aim, therefore, at stopping the dialogue, but at permitting it and, if necessary, at clarifying its terms more adequately.

First and foremost the Declaration intends to make it clear that Rome wants this dialogue. In its text, in fact, it seeks only to safeguard the conditions required for its successful outcome. Cautioning the other Churches, in fact, not to introduce into their discipline the innovation of the feminine ministry, the Catholic Church is observing the well-known principle in ecumenical matters that, while a process of reunion is going on, it is not opportune for a Church to introduce customs which will make the planned rapprochement impossible for the other Churches. And in declaring the non-elegibility of women for the priesthood, Rome is not creating a new discipline: it is merely confirming, in the light of changes admitted by other Churches which emerged from the 16th century Reformation, that it remains faithful to its attitude prior to the beginning of the dialogue. The obstacles to union, if they exist, come from those who introduce new features. Rome, therefore, expresses again its desire to respect the conditions necessary for a positive result of the meetings.

The same Declaration has, moreover, the merit of proposing to the ecumenical dialogue on ministries the central key, that of the sacramentality of the ministerial priesthood. With the stress it lays on the sacramental quality of the priesthood and of the episcopate, both signs of Christ, Head of the Church, the document does not bring a new principle. It merely renews the attachment of Rome to the subjects of the Second Vatican Council, at which Lumen Gentium affirmed that the Bishops "in a resplendent and visible manner, take the place of Christ himself, teacher, shepherd and priest, and act as his representatives (in eius persona)" (79).

Thus it became clear that the episcopate is sacramental both in its exercise and in its liturgical conferment. The priest is constituted a living sacrament of Christ in his triple magisterial, pastoral and cultural function. Returning to this principle, the Declaration reveals that today's obstacle to ecumenical dialogue does not lie in the existence or not of the ministry or pastoral office, nor even in the existence or not of the rite of the imposition of the hands of prayer for the conferring of the office: these rites exist, in fact, in nearly all Churches. The difficulty lies in recognizing the truly sacramental value, based on the institution of Christ, of the ministry and its rite of conferment. It is therefore important today, at a moment when the ecumenical discussion has reached the argument of the so-called reconciliation of ministries, that the Roman Catholic Church should confirm the same dogmatic position formulated during the last Council. By making this clarification, Rome, far from closing the dialogue, keeps it at its doctrinal level and, on the contrary, points out to it its legitimate goal.

Allow us to add a last word addressed to Sisters and women, as the Declaration did when it said to them: "It is sometimes said and it is written in books or reviews that some women feel a priestly vocation". Several echoed this word, pointing out that St Teresa of Lisieux had herself expressed this attraction. In fact in the letter addressed to her sister, Sister Mary of the Sacred Heart, for the anniversary of her profession, on 8 September 1896, she had declared: "I feel within me the vocation of a PRIEST;with what love, oh Jesus, I would bring you in my hands when, at my voice, you would descend from Heaven... With what love I would give you to souls! ... But alas! while desiring to be a Priest, Iadmire and envy the humility of St Francis of Assisi and I feel the vocation ofimitating him, refusing the sublime dignity of the Priesthood... Iwould like to enlighten men like the Prophets, the Doctors, Ihave the vocation to be an Apostle... Iwould like to travel all over the earth, to preach your name and plant your glorious Cross on infidel soil, but, oh my Beloved, a single mission would not be enough for me, I would like at the same time to proclaim the Gospel in the five parts of the world and even in the most distant islands... I would like to be a missionary not only for some years, but I would like to have been one since the creation of the world and to be one until the end of time... At prayer, as my desires were making me suffer a real martyrdom, I opened the letters of St Paul in order to look for some answer. Chapters XII and XIII of the first epistle to the Corinthians fell under my eyes... I read, in the first one, that not all can be apostles, prophets, doctors, etc... that the Church is composed of different members and that the eye cannot be at the same time the hand... The answer was clear but did not satisfy my desires, it did not give me peace... Without losing heart, I continued to read and the following sentence brought me relief: "Earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way". And the Apostle explains how the most perfect gifts are nothing without LOVE... that Charity is the excellent way which certainly leads to God. At last I had found rest... Charity gave me the key to my vocation... I understood that love contained all vocations, that love was everything, that it embraced all times and all places... in a word, that it is eternal!... Then, in the excess of my delirious joy, I exclaimed: Oh Jesus, my Love... I have at last found my vocation, my vocation is love!... Yes, I have found my place in the Church and it is you, oh my God, who have given me this place... in the Heart of the Church, my Mother, I will be Love... in this way I will be everything... in this way my dream will be fulfilled!!!..." (St Teresa of the Child Jesus. Manuscrits autobiographiques, Carmel de Lisieux 1957, pp. 226-229).

That is why, after being canonized by Pope Pius XI, Sister Teresa of the Child Jesus was also proclaimed by him patroness of the Work of St Peter Apostle for the native Clergy, then, in 1927, patroness of the Missions alongside St Francis Xavier. May her testimony be, for all men and all women, a comment on the Declaration which says: "The greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven, are not the ministers, but the saints".


1) Published, on Thursday 27 January 1977 in L'Osservatore Romano, accompanied by a comment of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Declaration bears the signature of the Pope of the date 15 October 1976, feast of St Teresa of Avila. We will quote it according to the booklet published the same day by the Vatican Printing Press, in the Italian translation.

2) The main bibliographical elements are given in the following volumes: Have van der Meer, Priestertum der Frau? Eine theologiegeschichtliche Untersuchung, "Quaestiones disputatae", n. 42, Herder, Freiburg-i-Br., 1969 (the Italian translation—Morcelliana, Brescia 1971—does not give the bibliography); R. Gryson, Le ministere des femmes dans I'Eglise ancienne,Gembloux 1972; Ruth T. Barnhouse, etc., The Ordination of Women to the Priesthood: an Annotated Bibliography,in: Anglican Theological Review, Suppl. Series, n. 6, June 1976, pp. 81-106; Corrado Marucci, S.J., La donna e i ministeri nella Bibbia e nella tradizione,in: Rassegna di teologia 17 (1976) pp. 273-296; Valutazione teologica degli argomenti sul controverso sacerdozio femminile, ibid.,pp. 384-403. Let us also point out: E. Gibson, When the minister is a woman, New York, Holt, 1970 (Fr. trans., Tournai, Castermann 1971, with pref. by Y. Cougar, O.P.); Jean Galot, S.J., La donna e i ministeri nella Chiesa, Assisi, Cittadella 1973; Philippe Delhaye, Rétrospective et prospective des ministères féminins dans L'Eglise, Revue théol. de Louvain 3 (1972) 55-75; Ch. Lefèvre, Sur le problème du presbytérat féminin, ib., pp. 200-204; Ida Raming, Der Ausschluss der Frau vom priesterlichen Amt: GottgewolIte Tradition oder Diskriminierung? Eine rechtshistorischdogmatische Untersuchung, Köln-Wien 1973; J. M. Aubert, La femme, antiféminisme et christianisme, Paris 1975; Th. Hopko, On the male character of Christian priesthood, in: St Vladimir's Theological Quarterly 19 (1975) pp. 147-173; H.M. Legrand, O.P., L'ordination des femmes au ministère presbytéral: réflexions théologiques du point de vue catholique, in Bulletin du Secrétariat de la Conf. épisc. fran.,n. 7, April 1976, 1-16; B. Lembert, O.P., L'Eglise catholique peut-elle admettre des femmes àl'ordination sacerdotale? Doc. Cath. 73 (1976) pp. 773-780; Louis Bouyer, Mystère et ministères de la femme, "Présence et penseé ", Aubier, Paris 1976: Jean Galot, S.J., Sacerdozio e promozione della donna nel documento della Sacra Congregazione per la Dottrina della Fede,in: La Civiltà Cattolica, 5 February 1977, pp. 218-235.

3) Biblical Commission Report: CanWomen be Priests? in: Origins, vol.6, n. 1, July 1 1976, pp. 92-96 (especially p. 96).

4) Declaration, Italian text quoted in note 1, p. 7.

5) Ibid.

6) Ibid., p. 5. Here is the Latin text: "Ecclesiam, quae Domini exemplo fidelis manere intendit, auctoritatem sibi non agnoscere admittenti mulieres ad sacerdotalem ordinationem".

7) "Jesus Christ did not call any woman to belong to the Twelve" (Declar., p. 6): cf. Mk 3, 13-19; Mt 10, 1-4; Lk 6, 12-16.

8) "with the Twelve" (Mk 14, 17);"with the twelve disciples" (Mt 26, 20); "and the apostles with him" (Lk 22, 14).

9) "… a hermeneutical mentality, which we would call positivistic, according to which a universal and determining value, valid for all times, is given to Jesus' concrete choices" (C. Marucci, l.c., p. 390, n. 14).

10) This concept is allegedly surpassed by "ascendent" Christology.

11) "In these days he (Jesus) went out into the hills to pray; and all night he continued in prayer to God. And when it was day, he called his disciples, and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles..." (Lk 6, 12-13).

12) Mk 3, 13.

13) "... He appointed twelve, to be with him, and to be sent out to preach and have authority to cast out demons" (Mk 3, 14).

14) Dei Verbum,n. 2.

15) "I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a woman is her husband, and the head of Christ is God" (1 Cor 11, 3).

16) 5, 22-23.

17) Louis Bouyer, Le mystère et ministères de la femme, Paris 1976.

18) Hans Urs von Balthasar, L'ininterrotta Tradizione, L'Osservatore Rom., 3 Feb. 1977, pp. 1-2.

19) Ibid., p. 1.

20) Adversus Haereses, I, 13, 2, Patr. Gr. 7, 580-581; the Greek text is preserved in Panarion by Epiphanes (Holl, GCS 31, p. 6 ff.).

21) See: Tertullian, De praescriptione haereticorum 41, 5 (Patr. Lat. 2, 56B; CCL 1, 221, 13-15); the letter from Firmilianus of Cesarea of Cappadocia to Cyprian of Carthage (Inter. Epist. Cypr. 75, CSEL 3, 2, 816-818), Epiphanes, Panarion, 49, 2-3 (GCS 31, pp, 243-244). Read Galot, l.e. pp. 70-80,

22) Epiphanes, Panarion, 79; 2-4 (GCS 37, pp, 477-479; Patr. Gr., 42, 740-741). Read Galot, l.e., pp. 83-86.

23) When the Didascalia degli Apostoli forbids women to preach, it also recalls that "the Lord God, Jesus Christ, our Master, sent us, us the Twelve, to teach the people and the nations. There were with us the women disciples Mary of Magdala, Mary the daughter of James and the other Mary: and he did not tell them to teach the people with us" (III, 6, 2, Funk I, p. 190; F. Nau Paris 1912, p. 124; Connolly, pp, 133 and 142).

24) In its versions: Latin, Saidic, Arabic, Ethiopian, Greek and Syriac (J M. Hanssens, La liturgie d'Hippolyte. Documents et études, Rome 1970, pp. 62-63).

25) Hanssens, l.e., pp. 63-64 (Syriac version).

26) Apostolic Constitutions, III, 9, 3, Funk I, p. 201, 7-11,

27) All the more so in that the argument was brought by St Paul himself (1 Cor 11, 8-9); John Chrysostom, In Epist. I ad Cor. homil XXVI, 4, Patr. Gr. 61, 217-218.

28) In 1 Cor 14. 54, CSEL 81-82, 164, 18.

29) Sacrosanctum Concilium, n. 7,

30) Things were done in this way at the beginning of the 3rd century, accordmg to The Apostolic Tradition (J.M. Hanssens, La liturgie d'Hippolyte: ses documents, son titulaire, ses origines et son caractère, Rome 1959, pp. 461-462; B. Botte, La tradition apostolique de saint Hippolyte, Münster 1963, pp. 48-51).

31) L. Ligier, La Confirmation: sens et conjoncture oecuménique hier et aujourd'hui, Paris 1973, pp. 51-95.

32) Mikron Euchologion è Hagiasmatarion. Athens, 1936, pp. 139-182.

33) "... ea quaeper Ecclesiam statuuntur, ab ipso Christo ordinantur" (Summa Theol. III, q. 83, sed contra).

34) "... omnesnorunt Ecclesiam quod statuit etiam mutare et abrogare valere" (Denz Sch n. 3858, at the end).

35) "... Ecclesiae nulla competat potestas in 'substantiam Sacramentorum', id est in ea quae, testibus divinae revelationis fontibus, ipse Christus Dominus in signo sacramentali servanda statuit" (ib., n. 3857).

36) Declaration, p. 11: "His in rebus, act extremum est Ecclesiae, per suum Magisterium pronuntiantis, decernere quaenam partes sint immutabiles, quae vero partes mutationi sint obnoxiae",

37) Declaration, p. 12: "Ecclesiae ergo praxis vim normae habet".

38) L'ordination des femmes au ministère presbytéral, in Bull. Secr. Conf. épisc. Fran., n. 7, April 1976, p. 9.

39) Declaration, p. 12, in the first paragraph of section 5.

40) Comment of the Sacred Congregation, in the section entitled "The ministerial priesthood in the light of Christ's mystery" (L'Osservalore Rom. of 27 January) in the first paragraph (on p. 9 of the roneoed edition).

41) Balthasar, L'Osservatore Romano of 15 Feb., p. 1.

42) Le mystère et les ministères de la femme, pp. 47 ff.

43) Balthasar, l.c., p. 2,

44) Eph 3, 15.

45) Declaration, p. 14; Hos 1-3.

46) Jer 2.

47) Ezek 16.

48) Declaration, p. 14: Mk 2, 19; Mt 22, 1-14.

49) Jn 3, 29.

50) 2 Cor 11, 2.

51) Eph 5, 22-23.

52) Rev 21, 2; 19, 7 and 9.

53) Is 61, 10; 62, 4-5.

54) Mt 10, 40.

55) Lk 10, 16.

56) Mt 18, 18; cf. 16, 19.

57) Declaration, pp. 15-16, section 5; and already on p. 13, on which texts of Vat. II, of the 1971 Synod of Bishops and of Mysterium Ecclesiae of the year 1973, are quoted. The study of the formula and of its meaning in the work of St Thomas is still to be made, using above all the Index Thomisticus of Fr. Roberto Busa, S.J. In fact the essay of Fr. B.D. Marliangeas, O.P. ("In persona Christi" "in persona Ecclesiae". Note sur les origines et le dévelopment de l'usage de ces expressions dans la théologie latine, in: Vatican II. La Liturgie après Vatican II, "Unam Sanctam" n. 66, Paris 1968, pp. 283-288) does not succeed in grasping the whole complexity and all the niceties of the meaning of the formula.

58) Dt 34, 12.

59) Is 1, 20; 30, 2; 40, 5; 58, 14; Mic 4, 4; cf. Dt 18, 18-19; Jer 1, 9.

60) 1 Kings 17, 1; 18, 15; 2 Kings 3, 14; 5, 16.

61) Catechesis 16, 29, Patr. Gr., 33, 960A.

62) Cat. 10, 2, ibid. 661B.

63) Cat. 13, 13, ibid. 189 C; 14, 6, ibid., 829 C; cf. "in persona Jesu", Cat. 12, 26, ibid. 760 A.

64) The Declaration draws attention to them (section 5, last. par. p. 16).

65) 1 Cor 2, 3; 2 Cor 12, 9-10; Ida Raming sees in this sense of weakness a contradiction of the traditional doctrine (l.c., pp. 217-218). Von Balthasar, on the contrary, considers this tension between the weakness and the strength of the apostle "an irrepressible dualism, which is inherent in priestly representation" (L'Osservatore Romano, 5 Feb. p. 2).

66) Phil 4, 13; cf. 2 Cor 12, 10: 2 Tim 4. 17.

67) Heb 2, 14.

68) The Declaration sets forth the same doctrine in other terms: "It is true that the priest represents the Church, which is the Body of Christ. But if he does so, it is precisely because, in the first place, he represents Christ himself who is the Head and the Pastor of the Church: a formula which is used by Vatican II" (sect. 5, p. 15). Before Lumen Gentium it is set forth by the Encyclical Mediator Dei Of Pius XII (AAS 39 (1947) p. 556).

69) Gen 1, 26.

70) Gal 3, 28.

71) R.A. Norris, Jr., The Ordination of Women and the "Maleness" of Christ, in: Anglican Theological Rev., Supp. Ser. n. 6, June 1976, pp. 69-80; already, but in another way, by Edward J. Kilmartin, S.J., Apostolic Office: Sacrament of Christ, in: Theol. Stud. 36 (1975), pp, 243-264.

72) Gal 3, 28.

73) 1 Jn 3, 2.

74) Lumen Gentium n. 21; towards the end.

75) "Quem Pater sanctificavit et misit in mundum" (Jn 10, 36), a formula to which reference is made at the beginning of Lumen Gentium n. 28, of Presbyterorum Ordinis n. 2, also mentioned by Ad Gentes n. 3b.

76) Jn 17, 17-19.

77) Presbyterorum Ordinis, nn. 2 and 12; Optatam Totius, n. 6; Synodus Episcoporum 1971, in part I, n. 5, on p. 15 (cf., also sect. 6 of Mysterium Ecclesiae).

78) Declaration, p. 4 (in the Introduction): "Huius ergo negotii oecumenicum momentum patet, de quo Ecclesia catholica suam mentem aperire debet".

79) Lumen Gentium, n. 21, towards the end.  

Taken from:
L'Osservatore Romano
Weekly Edition in English
2 March 1978, page 5

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