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May 26, 2005


David Nowaczewski

Thanks for your work as always. Solid stuff.


I somehow get this feeling down in my gut that there are some who want "women cannot be priests" raised to the status of dogma and the Church does not want to go there (at least yet). When one runs down that list of dogma that was linked into yesterday's commentary, for example...

1. God, our Creator and Lord, can be known with certainty, by the natural light of reason from created things.
11. There is only One God. *
173. The Body and Blood of Christ together with His Soul and His Divinity and therefore the Whole Christ are truly present in the Eucharist.
238. Christ, on his second coming, will judge all men. *

I can't really see adding...
239. Women cannot be priests.
onto that list.

While I assent (and agree with) to the fact that the Church cannot ordain women to the priesthood, I don't think one's salvation should necessarily be conditioned in believing this to be true.

Jordan Potter

It just doesn't need to be elevated to the status of "dogma" since it is already infallible, irreformable doctrine that is binding on all Catholics everywhere, and always will be.

Anyway, Jimmy's case is as clear as day. This is an open-and-shut case: OS is NOT an ex cathedra statement, so I retract my earlier remark.


So the teaching that women can't be priests is infallible, but John Paul II's declaration of the teaching isn't.

Gary Z


Awesome job... Thanks for your insight. I just wish I could remember this logic when I need to explain it to someone!


Sorry Jimmy, I have no option to but to still disagree. I don't think there is a difference between "define" or "declare" --- especially when the other 4 points for papal infallibility are met. He could have avoided all this confusion by dropping out the 4 points, but he didn't; and I think, respectfully, this is word-gaming.

Now I know this puts me in a position with disagreeing with the future (now current) pope, but that is my liberty even if his opinion carries heavy weight. The Pope must obviously reaffirm a constant teaching of the ordinary magisterium when making an extraordinary teaching. I cannot think of any extaordinary teaching that didn't reach into the past to show that it was first ordinarily taught, and OS sufficently does that.

I think it is manifestly evident -- but, in all honesty, the problem of being "manifestly evident" is that this comes down to one's interior vision of what is evident. :) For the time being, I find it evident.

Although you state the reason that the Pope did not explain "why [the teaching] is to be definitively held", this is adding a non-essential requirement to papal infallibiltiy. The teaching is clear enough through past popes, and OS itself, that popes does not have to issue a 22 page encyclical for every dogmatic definition. Personally, for my own benefit, I would like to see where you derive this extra requirement, because I never heard of it.


Sorry, Jimmy but you are missing the real point. It is this statement of yours that caused the problem:

That means that he could be wrong about it since he didn't say it under the protection of inallibility. I don't think that he was wrong. I think he was right and that it has been definitively (and thus infallibly) settled by the ordinary Magisterium,

How can you say that he could be wrong and simultaneously have it be an infallible teaching?

Your explanation applies such a rigid construction of the Pope's infallibility that it would be virtually impossible to ever remove doubt even though his point on this topic was specifically to remove ALL DOUBT. How can you suggest that the formula for papal infallibility resides solely in an overly-stringent interpretation of the Vatican I text.

Here is the logical error in your reasoning: The Vatican I statement gives us POSITIVE ASSURANCE that when the pope uses that formula then he is speaking infallibly. It DOES NOT LOGICALLY FLOW though that absent that formula he has not spoken infallibly. It does NOT say, "UNLESS THE POPE USES THESE WORDS...HE DOES NOT POSSESS THE INFALLIBILITY..." So while the Vatican I text is excellent for reference to illustrate when something is infallibly taught, it should never be used as evidence that something is NOT infallibly taught since that was not its intent.

Adam Nolte

Paul, in EV 62, Pope John Paul II stated that:

"Given such unanimity in the doctrinal and disciplinary tradition of the Church, Paul VI was able to declare that this tradition is unchanged and unchangeable. Therefore, by the authority which Christ conferred upon Peter and his Successors, in communion with the Bishops-who on various occasions have condemned abortion and who in the aforementioned consultation, albeit dispersed throughout the world, have shown unanimous agreement concerning this doctrine-I declare that direct abortion, that is, abortion willed as an end or as a means, always constitutes a grave moral disorder, since it is the deliberate killing of an innocent human being. This doctrine is based upon the natural law and upon the written Word of God, is transmitted by the Church's Tradition and taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium."

Here JPII states that Pope Paul VI declared that the Church's stance against procured abortion was unchangeable. He then himself declares the same. His declaration is then followed by the statement that "this doctrine... is taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium."

It seems to me that JPII here intends to address abortion in the same way as he does Women's Ordination with the word "declare"-- to declare that the teaching is infallible by the ordinary Magisterium. His statement takes very much the same form as in OS, but he himself points to the correct interpretation of his statement by saying that the doctrine is taught by the "ordinary and universal Magisterium."

Just because something is not manifestly so doesn't mean it isn't so. The canon doesn't say that if something is not manifestly infallible it is not infallible. It merely says that if something is not manfiestly infallible that it is not to be understood as infallible (for this or that purpose). Just because something is not to be understood as being so doesn't mean that it isn't so. For example, it wouldn't be right to understand someone as blaspheming who is speaking in a foreign language since one would have no way of knowing whether he was blaspheming; however that wouldn't mean that he wasn't blaspheming.



>>His declaration is then followed by the statement that "this doctrine... is taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium."

Agreed, but I see you implying a false dichotomy. Is the pope declaring ordinarily or extraordinaly? It can be together and both. As I stated in my previous point, to bring up the fact that doctrine was taught by the "ordinary and universal Magisterim" does NOT preclude the pope from declaring it dogma within the same breath. Popes constantly appeal to the past to backup extraordinary teachings. That is what he is doing here with OS as well with abortion in EV.

I never heard any theologian or lay-person ever pick on the word "declare" or "define" before until yesterday. There are no magical words for papal infallibility.

Because my conscience forces me to accept truth, my stance on the infalliblity of OS is weakened -- however, I am not that all convinced yet that OS an ordinary teaching.

I think it is a very weak argument to point out how Pope John Paul II intentionally made all 4 points of papal infallibility and then quibble over the word "define" or "declare" as if they have substantial differences apart from the 4 points.


I think it is a very weak argument to point out how Pope John Paul II intentionally made all 4 points of papal infallibility and then quibble over the word "define" or "declare" as if they have substantial differences apart from the 4 points.

Amen to that Paul! And then to turn around and say, "Oh, but yeah the teaching is infallible it's just not infallible BECAUSE he said so."

It's parsing the doctrine of infallibility so finely that it loses any real meaning.


In Weigel's biography of JPII, he reviews the events surrounding OS, and his view supports the position that JPII did not intend OS to be understood as an ex cathedra statement along the lines of the papal definition of the Immaculate Conception of Mary.

On the other hand, he is clearly not just offering his opinion that the male priesthood is infallibly taught by the ordinary magisterium. He is speaking in the name of his office *and* in the name of the Episcopal College. I understand that in the Latin text the plural "we" is used, not the singular "I." (Someone correct me if I am wrong.)

Thus OS is clearly an authoritative, magisterial confirmation of a teaching of the ordinary magisterium. Might it be that JPII broke new ground here in some way?

Clearly JPII is telling us that dissent on this issue is no longer permitted. By his office as pastor of the Church universal and in the name of the Episcopal College, he formally closed formal debate on women's ordination. By any body's book, this qualifies as an authoritative, dogmatic act that demands our definitive assent--however the canon lawyers want to classify it. If a doctrine demands our definitive assent, then it cannot be disputed as if it could possible be in error. Right?

It seems to me that the real choices are either (1) the issue is now closed and the teaching demands the definitive assent of all Catholics, or (2) the Pope overstepped his authority and abused his office.

Adam Nolte

Just to clarify, Paul-

Are you advancing that JPII invoked infallibility on purpose in OS, or that he invoked infallibility by his manner of putting forth the statement regardless of his intention to invoke infallibility?


I found this passage from "The Decree on Attempted Ordination of some Catholic Women," Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (2002):

In addition there is the doctrinal aspect, namely, that they formally and obstinately reject a doctrine which the Church has always taught and lived, and which was definitively proposed by Pope John Paul II, namely, "that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women" (Apostolic Letter Ordinatio sacerdotalis, n. 4). The denial of this doctrine is rightly considered the denial of a truth that pertains to the Catholic faith and therefore deserves a just penalty (cf. cann. 750 §2; 1372, n. 1 CIC; John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Motu Proprio Ad tuendam fidem, n. 4A).

Moreover, by denying this doctrine, the persons in question maintain that the Magisterium of the Roman Pontiff would be binding only if it were based on a decision of the College of Bishops, supported by the sensus fidelium and received by the major theologians. In such a way they are at odds with the doctrine on the Magisterium of the Successor of Peter, put forward by both the First and Second Vatican Councils, and they thereby fail to recognize that the teachings of the Supreme Pontiff on doctrines to be held definitively by all the faithful are irreformable.

(emphasis added)



Your question to Paul reveals the underlying problem. The Pope does not need to "invoke" infallibility as if it were some sort of incantation. He made a pronoucement as Pope on a matter of faith and morals which has been constantly upheld by the universal magisterium. That pronouncement is protected from error by his office ergo it is infallible.

Tim J.

What Jimmy has clarified so well is that it is not necessary to have an infallible statement in order to have an infallible doctrine. The ordinary and universal magisterium are enough.

I can see why JPII would choose not to "define" a doctrine that had already been defined. An infallible re-affirmation of an already infallible doctrine is simply not necessary.

Also, if JPII used the phrase "declare and define" in a hundred documents and then conspicuously omits the word "define" in a document, this MEANS something. It is not mere parsing.

Tim J.

Oh, and the Baltimore Catechism is not a Church Document. It is not itself infallible, is not understood to be and does not claim to be.

"Also, if JPII used the phrase "declare and define" in a hundred documents and then conspicuously omits the word "define" in a document, this MEANS something. It is not mere parsing."

Jimmy only cited canonizations. If JPII had used the word "define" in OS it would have significantly increased the negative reaction to OS in a way that using the word "define" in canonizations does not as that is done as a matter of course and not even worthy of note.

"Oh, and the Baltimore Catechism is not a Church Document."

The Baltimore Catechism most certainly is a Church document. Just because it's not infallible doesn't mean that it isn't a Church document. It also doesn't have to be authored by the Vatican to be a Church document.


Jimmy's logic is faulty. JPII has combined (Jimmy's) conditions 3 and 5 into one statement -Definitivly Held- and therefore it fullfils the requirements of Pastor Aeternus that this is an Ex-Cathedra definition and therefore a Dogma!

JPII's intention is that OS be definitivly held, that is, held as a definition.

I have heard this before that some theologians found in OS not just a clarification or decree but a new theological grade of certainty, ie: a new teaching somewhere between a doctrine and a dogma - A DEFINITIVE TEACHING!

I think that to hold onto the notion that a pope can not intend to define a teaching and then to have the definition simply pop out of the teaching on it's own is ridiculous.

It is absurd to think that the Holy Spirit could be toying with doctrines by causing the Holy Father to fullfil 4 conditions and then just happen to leave one out just to mess us up.

It is also equally absurd that a doctrine could climb it's way up this far on the theological ladder only to slide back down into error. And suppose it does get eventually defined according to Jimmy's formula? All this means is that the dogma was always believed to be revealed by God from the beginning.

John Henry

I think the bottom line is that the doctrine is infallible. It can never be changed. I tend to agree with Jimmy that it is a result of the ordinary and universal magisterium. But if it's from an official ex-cathedra definition, great. I don't care, so long as Sister Joan's crew's views are smacked down.



I have always held, by the manifestly evident wording of the definition, that OS was intended to be an ex cathedra statement. However in light of the clear opinions of Pope John Paul II's close friends (Ratzinger and Weigel), I am forced to reconsider my position.

Now the question of intention is an interesting one. I don't know how to answer it. I see two questions which may answer this by analogy:

1) If a priest speaks the words of consecration but has no intention to actually consecrate, does he confect the Eucharist? The answer here is "no" because he is not doing what the Church intends.

2) If a Fundamental Protestant has no intention of regenerating a person with Baptism but performs the Baptism with the correct form and words, is the Baptism valid? The answer here is "yes" because he is intending what the Church intends.

So the question needs to be answered: Can the pope not intend to give an ex cathedra statement, but by intentionally invoking the four classical points of infalliblity, make an ex cathedra statement? Sounds like a contradiction to me. I would say "yes" because the intention is manifest by his wording.

I do not recognize Jimmy's additional fifth point (#3), which is the "define/declare" debate which I never heard before.

I think invoking the four classical points of infalliblity is manifest evidence of the pope's intention. And so this leads me with two problems:

A) According to my own perspicuity, do I accept that Pope John Paul II's intentions was to invoke papal infalliblity with OS, because of the manifestly evident wording of the definition?

B) Am I willing to accept the exterior evidence of two very strong opinions (Ratzinger and Weigel) that the intenton was simply to restate an infallible teaching without using the gift of infalliblity?

While I am strongly inclined to A because it is "evident", I do not have absolute assurance because of the doubt that B presents.

Hopefully, this is fair and balanced :)


Correction in previous post...
2) If a Fundamental Protestant has no intention of regenerating a person with Baptism but performs the Baptism with the correct form and words, is the Baptism valid? The answer here is "yes" because he is *doing* what the Church intends.


Still no reconciliation of my question above:

Jimmy: "That means that he could be wrong about it since he didn't say it under the protection of inallibility. I don't think that he was wrong. I think he was right and that it has been definitively (and thus infallibly) settled by the ordinary Magisterium..."

How can you say that he could be wrong and simultaneously have it be an infallible teaching?

We have been assured that the pope is protected by the Holy Spirit from teaching error. This protection is called infallibility. It is unfathomable that faithful catholics would resort to this level of parsing to say that the teaching is infallible but the document which confirms it is not infallible because of an obscure technicality in language.

Leaving aside the document and it's "failure" to exactly meet the protocols of Vatican I infallibility, how could the document be fallible yet the doctrine infallible? How could he "be wrong", as Jimmy suggests he could be, in confirming an infallible doctrine?

It is nothing short of scandal and it plays right into the hands of those who think that the teaching is not infallible.



I think Jimmy is saying that the ban on women's ordination is infallible but OS did not invoke the gift of papal infallibility to reassure the ordinary teaching of the Magisterium.

I can understand this. Perhaps there are fringe elements within the teachings of OS that are wrong (could be) or it could be perfect -- but there is not an assuarance that every detail is correct.

That's why extraordinary statements (ex cathedra) are always high level and not detailed. I see that with the concluding definition in OS with all the proper circumstances met, and I call that section an act of papal infalliblity.

Gene Branaman

I went back & re-read the whole passage, Chris2-4. Seems to me, Jimmy was attempting to re-phrase the writer's incomplete sentence into a complete point so he could better address it & the sentence you're quoting is the last part of that re-phrasing. I took it that Jimmy's saying that just because the document didn't meet his 5 criteria for an ex cathedra statement (explained in the current post), doesn't mean that OS doesn't accurately describe a previously defined & declared, infallible teaching.

Adam Nolte


Your analysis is interesting, but I'm not sure there exists such an analogy between Sacraments and Papal Infallibility. It seems God, in wanting to give us abundant grace through the Sacraments, has designed things in such a way to make them as easy as possible to provide while retaining certain essential elements. This is fitting, as God wants to make the Sacraments available abundantly-- he doesn't hold things like the validity of consecrations or baptisms contingent upon some lack of perfection, even grave, on the part of the priest, say, or the recipient of Baptism-- He only requires, as you say, proper matter and form (which are common things like bread, wine, water, etc.-- again, universal and readily available), and an intention to "do what the Church intends".

Papal Infallibility seems to me the opposite situation. Obviously we accept it from God as a gift, but it seems to be very carefully structured and contingent on a number of factors, as Jimmy has pointed out, and meant to be used in extraordinary, and not ordinary circumstances, for which we have the ordinary Magisterium. Thus I would argue for a strict view of what is required to call a statement an infallible definition.

Regardless, it is obvious the Pope meant for there to be no doubt about the issue of Women's Ordination. It seems obvious to me, too, in light of Ratzinger's and Weigel's observations, that the Pope did not intend this to be an act of Papal Infallibility.

My gut feeling is that the Pope, in desiring a return of theologians and laity to greater respect and submission of will to the Bishops of the Church (esp. the Pope) in matters of Faith and Morals, used stronger language than previous Pontiffs to drive home the point that Catholics must submit to the teaching of the ordinary Magisterium and not hold to some ridiculous "it's not infallible, so I'm not going to worry about it" mentality. Thus, he used similar language to what a Pope might use to make an ex cathedra definition, without actually intending to invoke that extraordinary Magisterial power. I see in his actions a respect for the ordinary Magisterium-- the collective mind of the Bishops throughout the world on topics of Faith and Morals, and a call for everyone to step into line and hold that same respect and submission of will.



You are absolutely right, and I've been having this same debate for weeks over at my blog.

It is important to state from the start that a doctrine can be true, but not yet known infallibly. For example, I think Mary is properly called co-redemptrix, but this is not yet an infallible dogma.

The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception finds mature expression in the middle ages rooted in even earlier teachings on the sinlessness of Mary, but was not solemnly defined until the nineteenth century - and thus, Aquinas could oppose it in his day without being classified a heretic.

So, in saying a teaching is not infallible, we are not necessarily saying it is not true.

Ordinatio Sacerdotalis is not itself an exercise of papal ex cathedra infallibility making a solemn definition.

Examine the difference in language between OS and two other defintions that all Catholics (even liberals) consider infallible:

For which reason, after we have poured forth prayers of supplication again and again to God, and have invoked the light of the Spirit of Truth, for the glory of Almighty God who has lavished his special affection upon the Virgin Mary, for the honor of her Son, the immortal King of the Ages and the Victor over sin and death, for the increase of the glory of that same august Mother, and for the joy and exultation of the entire Church; by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own authority, we pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma: that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.
(Apostolic Constitution addressed to the world: Munificentissimus Deus by Pius XII, Nov 1, 1950)
Accordingly, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, for the honor of the Holy and undivided Trinity, for the glory and adornment of the Virgin Mother of God, for the exaltation of the Catholic Faith, and for the furtherance of the Catholic religion, by the authority of Jesus Christ our Lord, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own: We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful.
(Apostolic Constitution addressed to the world: Ineffablisis Deus, by Pius IX, Dec 8, 1854)
Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church's divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church's faithful.
(Apostolic Letter addressed to the bishops: Ordinatio Sacerdotalis by John Paul II, May 24, 1994)
Bear in mind that not only is there a difference in linguistic formulation between Ordinatio Sacerdotalis and the other definitions, but an Apostolic Letter is a far less authoritative form of address than an Apostolic Constitution, which is the highest authority a pope can use.

If this teaching is to be considered infallible, it rest on the infallible authority of ordinary and universal magisterium, as described in LG 25.2.

Further, while Jimmy isn't saying this, I would hold that canon 749.3 would demand that even the claim that this is known infallibly through ordinary and universal magisterium as described in LG 25.2 should be "manifestly demonstrated".

The late Holy Father's affirmation meets one of the criteria for this, but the other is that it must be demonstrated that the college bishops has deliberately and consciously held this as a definitve matter of faith and morals.

This can be demonstrated in two ways: diachronically and synchronically, meaning through the ages, and universally in a given point in time (such as through an ecumenical council, as indicated in LG 25.2).

The question is whether the diachronic principle can stand alone with papal affirmation to demonstrate that ordinary and universal magisterium holds a doctrine definitively.

Pope Benedict, acting as Prefect for the CDF indicated that it could, but the CDF is not an infallible authority.

Many theologians and even a couple of bishops who are not under any sort of censure from the Vatican have publicly questioned whether this theory of "manifest demonstration" of ordinary and universal magisterium can hold weight in light of past changes in Church doctrine and practice.

Examples of massive apparent changes in doctrine and practice are salvation outside of the boundaries of the institutional church, slavery, usury, the imposition of the celibacy discipline on priests, the sole use of languages known during the age of the Apostles, etc...

Those, those who still hold that there is wiggle room on this believe that both the diachronic and the synchronic principles (as well as papal affirmation) need to be demonstrated before we can claim ordinary and universal magisteriumn holds a doctrine definitively (this is my own position).

It's not that I deny ordinary and universal magisterium is infallible. I believe it is. It is that I hold a doctrine to a very high bar before I am willing to claim such a thing is infallible.

In the case of abortion or Mary as mediatrix of grace, we have doctrines that meet the diachronic and synchronic criteria since the teachings are old and affirmed at Vatican II and subsequently affirmed by the Popes. These teachings are not solemnly defined, but seem certainly to be infallible.

On the other hand, with women's ordination, we have no manifest demonstration of the synchronic principle. This principle does not absolutely need to be met through an ecumenical council. The bishops could make their definitive judgment known through a poll. But their conscious and deliberate collegial decision must be manifest in a single point in time.

In saying this, I am not in full agreement with what Pope Benedict claimed as Prefect for the CDF, but he and John Paul did not excommunicate those who raised this issue, such as Orsy.

Is it true that the Church is not authorized to ordain women, even if it is not yet infallible?

I don't think it is, but that really is the subject of another discussion. Two people who accept the doctrine as true can still debate whether it is infallible or not. The arguments that it is not are fairly strong.



But their conscious and deliberate collegial decision must be manifest in a single point in time.

Perhaps JPII's formal declaration in OS was a collegial decision.

We'd agree that he addressed OS specifically "to the bishops of the Catholic Church" and invoked the Petrine ministry of "confirming the brethren".

That seems to be what Fr. Brian Mullady's suggesting, anyway.



The teaching is infallible. The document is not.

Read Jimmy's post closely.


Perhaps a question should be put to the CDF:

Is it the intention of the Holy See to prohibit catechists from teaching that Ordinatio Sacerdotalis is a teaching Ex-Cathedra?

My take is that catechists and theologians who deny this teaching have been critisized and those who affirm this teaching are not.

There are some who are openly teaching this right now for example Brother Ansgar Santogrossi, O.S.B., is associate professor of philosophy at Mt. Angel Abbey and Seminary in St. Benedict, Oregon. Within the past year his doctoral dissertation was finished and accepted and he was granted a Ph.D. degree.

You can read his paper in Homiletic and Pastoral Review. Here is a copy from Catholic Culture.



"Declare and define" is, indeed, the form traditionally used in the canonization of Saints. Yet the use of the word "define" has never been considered necessary: if one consults Dom Butler's The Vatican Council: 1869-1870, he will see that theologians traditionally held that several documents, such as Exsurge Domine of Leo X and Cum Occasione of Innocent X, contained proper ex cathedra definitions, despite their form lacking the word "define". The Tome of Leo is often considered ex cathedra, even though it lacks any such formulary at all. Apostolicae Curae of Leo XIII is considered ex cathedra (although not dogmatic) even in the CDF "Doctrinal Commentary on the Professio Fidei", despite its lack of "define":

"Wherefore, strictly adhering, in this matter, to the decrees of the pontiffs, our predecessors, and confirming them most fully, and, as it were, renewing them by our authority, of our own initiative and certain knowledge, we pronounce and declare that ordinations carried out according to the Anglican rite have been, and are, absolutely null and utterly void."

It is obvious from the many exceptions that this word is an obstacle for many of the reverend fathers; hence, in their exceptions, they have completely eliminated this word or have substituted another word, viz., decree, or something similar, in its place, or have said, simultaneously, defines and decrees, etc. Now I shall explain in a very few words how this word defines is to be understood according to the Deputation de fide. Indeed, the Deputation de fide is not of the mind that this word should be understood in a juridical sense (Lat. in sensu forensi) so that it only signifies putting an end to controversy which has arisen in respect to heresy and doctrine which is properly speaking de fide. Rather, the word defines signifies that the Pope directly and conclusively pronounces his sentence about a doctrine which concerns matters of faith or morals and does so in such a way that each one of the faithful can be certain of the mind of the Apostolic See, of the mind of the Roman Pontiff; in such a way, indeed, that he or she knows for certain that such and such a doctrine is held to be heretical, proximate to heresy, certain or erroneous, etc., by the Roman Pontiff. Such, therefore, is the meaning of the word defines. (James T. O'Connor, The Gift of Infallibility: The Official Relatio on Infallibility of Bishop Vincent Gasser at Vatican Council I. (Boston: St. Paul Editions, 1986), p. 73, qtd. in Harrison, "The Ex Cathedra Status of Humanae Vitae")

I cannot see how "Ordinatio Sacerdotalis" can be argued to not fall under that definition. On a side note, Archbishop Bertone, the secretary of the CDF, although he follows Cardinal Ratzinger in stating that "Ordinatio Sacerdotalis" is not properly speaking a definition, does state:
In the light of these considerations, it seems a pseudo-problem to wonder whether this papal act of confirming a teaching of the ordinary, universal Magisterium is infallible or not. In fact, although it is not per se a dogmatic definition (like the Trinitarian dogma of Nicaea, the Christological dogma of Chalcedon or the Marian dogmas), a papal pronouncement of confirmation enjoys the same infallibility as the teaching of the ordinary, universal Magisterium, which includes the Pope not as a mere Bishop but as the Head of the Episcopal College. In this regard, it is important to make clear that when the Responsum ad dubium of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on the doctrine taught in the Apostolic Letter Ordinatio sacerdotalis mentions the infallible character of this doctrine which is already possessed by the Church, it simply meant to recall that the doctrine is not infallibly proposed only on the basis of this pontifical document, but that it confirms what has been held everywhere, always and by everyone as belonging to the deposit of faith. (L'Osservatore Romano, 29 January 1997)

It seems clear, therefore, that Cardinal Ratzinger's statement that Ordinatio Sacerdotalis is not infallible is not a result of any special knowledge, but simply his own opinion with which the no. 2 man at the CDF disagreed (i.e., he didn't get it from JP II himself). The official response of the CDF does not decide either way on the infallibility of OS, and the "Doctrinal Commentary" is not meant as a binding teaching: "doctrinal czar Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, writing in the Irish journal Céide [May/June 1999, pp. 28-34], said that this list of examples was not itself infallible, and that 'no one need feel an authoritarian imposition or restriction by these texts'" (John Allen, NCR, Word from Rome, Jan. 10, 2003). Nothing therefore stands in the way of considering OS to be manifestly infallible.

Jimmy Akin


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