Pope Benedict reaffirms ban on women priests, assails Austrian “call to disobedience”

April 6, 2012

(Pope Benedict XVI looks on as he leads the Chrismal mass in Saint Peter's Basilica at the Vatican April 5, 2012. REUTERS/Max Rossi )

Pope Benedict has restated the Roman Catholic Church’s ban on women priests and warned that he would not tolerate disobedience by clerics on fundamental teachings. Benedict, who for decades before his 2005 election was the Vatican’s chief doctrinal enforcer, delivered an unusually direct denunciation of disobedient priests in a sermon at a morning Mass on Holy Thursday, when the Church commemorates the day Christ instituted the priesthood.

The pope responded specifically to a call to disobedience by a group of Austrian priests and laity, who last year boldly and openly challenged Church teaching on taboo topics such as priestly celibacy and women’s ordination. “Is disobedience a path of renewal for the Church?,” he asked rhetorically in the sermon of a solemn Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica on the day Catholic priests around the world renew their vows.

In his response to the Austrian group, his first in public, Benedict noted that, in its “call to disobedience”, it had challenged “definitive decisions of the Church’s magisterium (teaching authority) such as the question of women’s ordination …”

The Austrian group that has demanded sweeping changes is led by the Reverend Helmut Schueller, a former deputy to Vienna archbishop Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn. The group, which says it represents about 10 percent of the Austrian clergy, has broad public backing in opinion polls and has said it will break Church rules by giving communion to Protestants and divorced Catholics who remarry.

Schueller told Reuters on Thursday he remained hopeful for reform despite the pope’s views. “We believe Church teaching can change. It has changed time and again over the centuries. It is our hope that that can happen again in future,” he said.

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This Holy Thursday, Pope Benedict XVI, in another heavy-handed move, denounced all priests who have questioned church teachings on celibacy and the ordination of women but he surely cannot denounce the millions of Catholics who no longer believe that such practices are what Jesus would want. The Catholic people through the sensus fidelium have already accepted women priests. We in this prophetic movement continue to experience the support of Catholics throughout the world who are in favor of a married priesthood and of women who are answering their call from God to be their priests. For the pontiff to so boldly speak against the men and women who have taken the risk to question these teachings is simply a misused tactic and exercise of the sin of arrogance and sexism. His unwillingness to even participate in a dialogue with the so called “dissidents” is nothing but a punitive, radical, authoritarian attempt to squelch any freedom of conscience and so-called disobedience. We call on all Catholic women to speak out for their equality and justice. Our Church must continue to evolve and be renewed in the signs of the times. Let us not forget that there were married men and women participating in the events of Holy Week- holy women that Jesus knew and loved and trusted with priestly ministry.

Posted by patsand | Report as abusive

I am a Catholic woman – a wife, a mother and a grandmother who has always spoken out for women’s equality and justice. I am a college graduate and a business professional. There are aspects of your comments I disagree with. The Catholic church has evolved and if you are a practicing Catholic you must have noticed the church has changed to an all-embracing community of church with all men and women in their parishes, much different, more compassionate and embracing than the church was 40 or 50 years ago. Women are prevalent in its ministries. The Pope, as head of the church, leads his flock – in the traditions we all have known – as a leading shepherd and not arrogant or radical (have you ever read his writings? – they are loving and spiritual). Although I take issue myself with some of the traditions of our church, it is the very fact that the Pope is bold and authoritative in preserving the church in the manner of St. Peter, the first pope and the Apostle on which Jesus built His church. This pope should NOT change the Catholic church to evolve to signs of the times. The Vatican prays on these subjects and seeks counsel from the Holy Spirit, who is part of Jesus and the Father. I think their authority is more important than changing ‘with the times’. Should we bring homosexuality into our church and same-sex marriages? Aren’t these issues clamoring for attention in these times? Should we allow abortions because the government is leaning that way – in these evolving times? Would Jesus approve of abortions and homosexuality and same-sex marriages? No Catholic would think so.

Not all priests want to marry. We know some who had been married in other denominations and became Catholic priests and agree priests should not marry, because the responsibilities of priests are so great, it is difficult to have relationships or families. Should we evolve to allowing priest to divorce if their marriages are strained? Divorce is a sign of the times.

Jesus openly loved and respected women and surrounded himself around them – they were truly his disciples, too. He chose 12 men to be his disciples to spread the Good News. The church follows his example. When the Catholic church changes its edicts to listen to evolving patterns in society, then millions of Catholics may fall fall away just like other denominations have experienced. How many millions of Catholics are you talking about know ‘what Jesus wants?’ Is it in scripture? Prophetic? By whom? And where did you get your figures? Were these people told by the Holy Spirit ~ who is Jesus’ Communicator to us ~ has the Spirit told these millions what Jesus really wants? Or do these millions want to change the world to what the world wants? I’d rather follow the pope to instill the values that Jesus himself practiced. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday as He is today and will be tomorrow. This woman would rather listen to Jesus than to what the world wants. And the Pope represents Jesus’ church.

Posted by Expertistas | Report as abusive

Well, there are things to discuss and there are things which cannot be discussed, simply because of their nature.

Women who claim to be priests fall to the latter. Let us try, for a while, to think about “what Jesus wanted”. Where we can find an answer? The Gospel, of course. Now, do we find female disciples there? No. Before you start talking about “the nature of the society 2000 years ago” stop for a second. Our Lord did shatter quite a few dogmas, didn`t he? If He wanted to have female disciples, He would have surely chosen them. So, what do you want to discus here?

Regarding celibacy, that is another thing, so to mix these two, is rather unfair. Yes, we read in the Gospel about Peter`s mother-in-law being healed by Jesus. We also know that the orthodox church allows its clergy to get married. But first things first. Before catholic priests can start to marry again, their role would have to be changed, which is possible, but certainly not easy. With the current model, if they get married, it would mean that they would not be able to fully perform both their duties. When you take a protestant pastor and compare his position and duties to that of a catholic priest, you see that clearly.

So, to sum up: there can be a discussion about celibacy, perhaps also about other things, but not about female “priests”. And secondly, which is what the Pope said, is a call to disobedience really a good start? An assault, actually?

I don`t think so.

Posted by Cornelius74 | Report as abusive