Since Vatican II in the 1960s, and particularly whenever there is a change of Church leadership, people will periodically revive the false hope that eventually the Catholic Church will permit the ordination of women to the priesthood. Perhaps they’re unfamiliar with the official position of the Church. 

In 1976 during the papacy of Pope Paul VI, the Church issued the document “Inter Insigniores - Declaration on the Admission of Women to the Ministerial Priesthood”. In it, familiar objections to the Church’s position were each addressed. The conclusion: it’s not going to change. In 1994 Pope John Paul II issued an Apostolic Letter entitled “Ordinatio Sacerdotalis”, on reserving priestly ordination to men alone. Reaching back to the start of the 13th century, Pope Innocent III noted, “Although the Blessed Virgin Mary surpassed in dignity and in excellence all the Apostles, nevertheless it was not to her but to them that the Lord entrusted the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven.” (Letter of December 11, 1210)

No person has some sort of inalienable right to be a priest. The priesthood is a calling, one reserved for select men only. One of the keys to understanding this is to realize that the priesthood involves more than just carrying out some functional duties. In the words of Pope Paul VI, “The Christian priesthood is therefore of a sacramental nature: the priest is a sign . . . which the faithful must be able to recognize with ease.” Many centuries earlier, Saint Thomas Aquinas indicated, “Sacramental signs represent what they signify by natural resemblance.” Like it or not, Jesus is a man with a (now glorified) body that will exist for all eternity. The sacramental ministers that act in His place are likewise to be men.

Pope John Paul II concluded his 1994 Apostolic Letter with these words: “Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance . . . 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.” Case closed. Peter has spoken.

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