A cardinal says he’s open to women’s ordination; a priest who did so remains suspended

One of the world’s most influential cardinals recently admitted that he is “open” to the idea of ordaining women to the Catholic priesthood.

Sep 26, 2020

VATICAN: One of the world’s most influential cardinals recently admitted that he is “open” to the idea of ordaining women to the Catholic priesthood.

“I am not saying that women have to become priests; I just don’t know. But I’m open to it,” said Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich SJ in an interview published Sept 13 on the website of KNA, the German Catholic news agency.

Hollerich is a high-profile cardinal with international stature due to his position as president of the Commission of the Episcopal Conferences of the European Union (COMECE). He’s also archbishop of his native Luxembourg.

So his views matter.

But just a few days after he commented on women priests, Tony Flannery – the Irish Redemptorist who was suspended from priestly ministry in 2012, primarily for his support of women’s ordination – revealed that the Vatican had sent him a series of doctrinal proposals in July (via his superior general) to which he would have to “submit” as a first step towards “a gradual readmission” to public ministry.

One wonders if the men at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the  Faith (CDF) are going to press Pope Francis to have Cardinal Hollerich recant and force him to sign a fidelity oath similar to the one placed before Father Flannery.

They’d better move quickly. In just a few weeks the 62-year-old Jesuit will mark the first anniversary of getting his red hat.

Or what about those German bishops who have also called for open discussion on ordaining women to the priesthood? There are several of them.

Some, like Bishop Gebhard Fürst of Rottenburg-Stuttgart, have long stated their support for women’s ordination. And recently more have  joined him, including the president of the German episcopal conference, Bishop Georg Bätzing of Limburg. Is the pope going to try to muzzle them, too? Would he suspend them?

Rethinking Church teaching on human sexuality

It’s important to remember that Tony Flannery’s case goes back to 2012 when Benedict XVI was still pope and the late Cardinal William Levada was the CDF prefect.

But, no matter who is sitting on Peter’s Chair, evidently there’s an ethos and set of protocols so ingrained in the people at the old Holy Office that they still see it as their mission to be inquisitors and doctri nal watchdogs.

Mind you, Flannery was not suspended solely because of his support for women’s ordination. He was also canned for questioning other Church teachings and disciplines over the years.

So in addition to submitting to the statement that “a baptized male alone receives sacred ordination validly”, as the price for returning to ministry, the CDF has also generously offered him the chance to submit to three other doctrinal formulae.

He is to affirm that “homosexual practices are contrary to the natural law”; that unions other than marriage between a man and a woman “do not correspond to God’s plan for marriage and family”; and that “gender theory is not accepted by Catholic teaching”.

He says he’s never expressed any views on so-called “gender theory” and is confused as to why that issue is in his CDF file. Who wouldn’t be?

It’s pretty ironic that Flannery was suspended because he raised questions about these issues in a popular column he used to write in a magazine called Reality. This was probably too much for churchmen who tend to see “reality” as a threat to  their pie-in-the-sky version of religion.

We should not forget to mention that Jesus never ordained anyone and he never said much about sex, certainly not about homosexuality. At least that’s what is recorded in the Gospel accounts.

Father Flannery is not the only Catholic, nor is he the only ordained presbyter to probe the Church’s teachings on these issues. There are even bishops and cardinals now who are doing the same.

Needless to say, the 73-yearold Redemptorist has no intention of signing the CDF fidelity oaths, which – quite frankly – seem like something from an era and type of practice we thought the Church was moving beyond with the election of Pope Francis and the publication of his vision for ecclesial renewal and reform, Evangelii gaudium.

Tony Flannery has a few more things to say on these topics and others.

You can find them in his new book, which will be on the bookshelves October 10th. It’s called, From the Outside: Rethinking Church Doctrine. ––LCI (https://international.la-croix.com/)

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