Monday, May 4, 2009

Infallibility - - of the Church rather than of the Pope - Nov. 19, 1995 - The New York Times

Vatican Says the Ban on Women As Priests Is 'Infallible' Doctrine

Sunday, November 19, 1995

In a statement approved by Pope John Paul II, the Vatican announced yesterday that Roman Catholics must consider their church's doctrine that only men can be priests to be "infallibly" taught.

Invoking the word "infallible," which in Catholic theology is reserved for teaching considered irreversible, free from error and requiring full assent from the faithful, indicates the Pope's desire to rule out unequivocally the possibility of ordaining women.

…that is likely to spur a new round of disputes among theologians about the statement's degree of authority.

Behind those disputes will be agonizing reappraisals by many Catholics who are deeply committed to the ordination of women. A New York Times survey in September showed that 61 percent of American Catholics favor the ordination of women to the priesthood, and among many nuns and women holding key posts in the church this question is viewed as a measuring stick of its attitudes toward women's equality.

... several theologians and bishops said the new statement was as likely to lead to reappraisals of the teaching authority of the church and the Pope as to rejection of women's ordination.
"There are literally millions of Catholics in the U.S. alone who see no reason why women can't be ordained, and they're not going to decide they're not Catholics,"
said the Rev. Richard P. McBrien, a theology professor at the University of Notre Dame. "It is the Pope and the Vatican who will be seen as out of step." (Tony Blair and Benedict XVI 2009)

…Few theological concepts are subject to more confusion than infallibility. It is usually associated with papal infallibility. The exercise of papal infallibility, which requires solemn declarations by the Pope under carefully specified circumstances, is in fact very rare: In 1854 Pope Pius IX promulgated the dogma of Mary's Immaculate Conception; in 1950 Pius XII promulated the dogma of Mary's Assumption into heaven.

Because of controversies over papal infallibility in modern times, many Catholics have come to think that only teachings declared in this fashion are considered infallible. But a more general teaching -- an infallibility of the church rather than of the Pope -- holds that basic doctrines stemming from Jesus and Scripture and taught universally by the church's bishops are to be considered infallible.

…But other theologians found the congregation's statement puzzling.

"I am dumbfounded, frankly speaking," said the Rev. Francis A. Sullivan, who teaches at Boston College and specializes in questions of teaching authority. A year ago, Father Sullivan wrote that the Pope's 1994 declaration probably did not meet the conditions for ordinary infallibility since there was no evidence that bishops around the world had concurred with it, at least not since modern debates on the role of women in the church had begun.

"A greater authority than my own has come to a different conclusion," Father Sullivan said yesterday. "It's going to create a great problem for a lot of individual consciences."
"Catholics are obliged to do their honest best to conform their judgment with the official judgment of the church," he said. "If they cannot, I think one has to fall back on a fundamental principle of church law: 'No one is held to do the impossible.' "
Other theologians puzzled over the phrase in the congregation's statement that the Pope's position was "founded on the written Word of God." They said a commission appointed by  Pope Paul VI concluded in 1976 that nothing in Scripture prohibited ordaining women.

…"It is utterly irresponsible for the Vatican to say something that doesn't quite mean what it seems to mean," he said. "If the Pope wants us to believe that the prohibition against ordination of women is a matter of divine law and divine faith such that the denial of this teaching is a heresy, then that puts everyone who disagrees outside the church. Is that what is being said?"

FRIDAY, APRIL 10, 2009 home
Tony Blair said the Vatican should rethink "entrenched" attitudes towards homosexuality, claiming its views on gay rights were out of step with those of ordinary Roman Catholics.
In an interview with the gay magazine Attitude, the former prime minister disagreed with the pope's stance and argued that most Catholic congregations would have a more tolerant approach to homosexuality. Read more 
 Home   Tony Blair slams Vatican attitude toward gays

LONDON (AP) — Roman Catholic leaders are out of step with ordinary believers in their attitude toward homosexuals, former Prime Minister Tony Blair said in an interview published Wednesday. 

Blair, who formally converted to Catholicism in 2007, said he believes there is a big generational difference on the issue, and that ordinary Catholics are more liberal-minded than their leaders. Read more                                                                                                                                    Photo   

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