Thursday, February 21, 2013

Open Letter by Basque Priests' Forum on Women's Ordination

The Foro de Curas de Bizkaia ("Forum of Priests from Biscay") have posted an open letter on their blog to Msgr. Gerhard Ludwig Müller, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, regarding women in the priesthood. It reads:

Given the recent measures taken by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith against supporters of women's ordination, we, the Assembly of the Foro de Curas de Bizkaia, wish to express the following:

1. We regret that over recent decades the proactive line opened by John XXIII when he argued at the opening of Vatican II that the Church "meets the needs of the present day by demonstrating the validity of her teaching rather than by condemnations" (10/11/1962), has been forgotten.

2. Following the criterion proposed by Pope Roncalli, we want to express to you our disagreement (because they are inconsistent) with the arguments put forward in the Apostolic Letter "Ordenatio sacerdotalis" (1964) through which priestly ministry is reserved exclusively for men:

2.1. While it is true that "Christ chose his apostles only among men," it is also true that through his behavior and preaching, he lay the basis for the recognition of women's equality, including the possibility of access to the ordained ministry. The Pontifical Biblical Commission has already argued in its day that through the testimony of the New Testament alone, it cannot be inferred that a possible ordination of women would harm Jesus' plan on apostolic ministry. (1976)

2.2. The history of the Church shows -- as is argued in the Apostolic Letter “Ordinatio sacerdotalis” -- that "priestly ordination" has been reserved "exclusively for men." But also that it hasn't been a decision that has been peacefully taken -- as witnessed by the repeated condemnations for ordaining women and the repeated posture taking by the Catholic hierarchy in that respect. In any case, it is difficult to challenge the existence in the early days of home fellowships with host couples in charge of leading them. It has not been noted that women didn't preside, if necessary, at the shared table.

2.3. Allow us to doubt, at least methodologically, that "the exclusion of women from the priesthood is in harmony with God's plan for His Church." Such a doubt does not lead us to deny the unquestionable importance of the Magisterium in the life of the Christian community, but rather to demand its harmonization (more urgent each day) with the “sensus fidelium” and with theological research as has happened, for example, with the sacrament of reconciliation. Only then will we have a Magisterium that, besides being legitimately authoritative, would be welcomed and respected for its theological quality, ecclesial harmony and for being clear that the only absolute imposed on it is to care properly for its mission.

3. We wish and hope that the Catholic hierarchy would regain -- as was proposed at Vatican II -- not only greater episcopal collegiality and baptismal co-responsibility for this and other matters, but also a conception and praxis of the Living Tradition, and that, through it, it would pay more attention to the need to update to the present what Jesus said and did so that it might be a foretaste of the full fraternity that awaits us. It happens through clearly joining DV 10 ("the teaching office is not above the word of God, but serves it") and DV 9 ("it is not from Sacred Scripture alone that the Church draws her certainty about everything which has been revealed"), by listening to the diverse ecclesial advice already existing on this and other matters, and not quelling the views of the baptized and the Christian communities in an authoritarian manner.

4. Finally, we propose that the ability of women to access the priestly ministry be something that is decided at an ecumenical council and that, meanwhile, ecclesial discernment and theological research be left open so that no one is condemned again for it, and that those who have been punished be returned to their responsibilities and state.

Bilbao, February 11, 2013


  1. Which of the apostles were priests?
    Teresa Mee

  2. "Which of the apostles were priests?"

    The 12 ordained by Christ told to "do this in memory of me."

  3. Christ gave many instructions to many people throughout his public ministry, depending on who was with him at the time. This does not equal ordination. Veritas, why are you assuming that his command was intended only for the 12 who were sitting at the table with him? Jesus doesn't add any "but"s like "but you women who are serving the Last Supper don't need to do this because you're women", does he? Many of us prefer to think that Jesus' commands were for all his followers, regardless of the gender of those he was specifically physically addressing at the time. Otherwise, you really can't defend the universality of the gospel across time and place.