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WASHINGTON—Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl of Washington, Chairman of the Committee on Doctrine of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), responded to a clarification from the Vatican that raised the attempted ordination of a women to a “more grave delict,” or a Church crime that is always referred to the Holy See, in a July 15 statement.
The archbishop’s full statement follows:
The Vatican’s clarification today of the seriousness with which it holds offenses against the Sacrament of Holy Orders is a welcome statement.
The seven sacraments are an integral and identifying part of the Catholic Church and the faith life of each Catholic. To feign any sacrament would be egregious. The Catholic Church through its long and constant teaching holds that ordination has been, from the beginning, reserved to men, a fact which cannot be changed despite changing times.
All Catholics are called to Christian service. Women have responded with extraordinary generosity. Historically, women have had an essential role in the life of the Church. This is true especially through their volunteer work in parishes, their professional service and their membership in religious communities, lay movements and other organizations, where they serve in a range of areas such as health care and education.
Today women serve in Church leadership positions at all levels. Women hold nearly half of diocesan administrative and professional positions—a fact that compares favorably to the U.S. workforce as a whole. Women also hold about one-quarter of the top diocesan positions, such as chancellor, school superintendent or chief financial officer. About 80 percent of lay parish ministers are women.
The Church’s gratitude to women cannot be stated strongly enough. Women offer unique insight, creative abilities and unstinting generosity at the very heart of the Catholic Church. Their activity and determinative participation explains much of what makes the Catholic Church the powerful force for goodness and holiness that it is.
Background: Pope John Paul II reaffirmed the teaching that the Catholic Church has no authority to ordain women in the 1994 apostolic letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis: www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/apost_letters/documents/hf_jp-ii_apl_22051994_ordinatio-sacerdotalis_en.html
The U.S. Bishops offered a pastoral response to the issue of women’s ordination in 1998: www.usccb.org/comm/archives/1998/98-210a.shtml
Keywords: women’s ordination, excommunication, Church crimes, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Holy See, Vatican, Doctrine, Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl
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