As the old saying has it: What part of “no” don’t you understand?

Compare and comment:

Genesis 3:1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?” 2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.’ ” 4 But the serpent said to he woman, “You will not die; 5 for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves….

National Catholic Reporter editorial, May 23rd 2011 (

At issue fundamentally is whether John Paul, in his 1994 apostolic letter, Ordinatio Sacerdotalis (“Priestly Ordination”), intended to (or actually did) lay out an infallible teaching when he said, “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.”

John Paul did not formally pronounce the teaching ex cathedra (speaking from the chair of Peter) or say he was teaching infallibly in his declaration.
It is also notable that he said only that it was a “judgment” that is “to be definitively held” — not a matter of “divine faith” that must be “believed.”

About Schütz

I am a PhD candidate & sessional academic at Australian Catholic University in Melbourne, Australia. After almost 10 years in ministry as a Lutheran pastor, I was received into the Catholic Church in 2003. I worked for the Archdiocese of Melbourne for 18 years in Ecumenism and Interfaith Relations. I have been editor of Gesher for the Council of Christians & Jews and am guest editor of the historical journal “Footprints”. I have a passion for pilgrimage and pioneered the MacKillop Woods Way.
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19 Responses to As the old saying has it: What part of “no” don’t you understand?

  1. mike cliffson says:

    National Catholic Reporter editorial, May 23rd 2011 :
    Now why does this remind me of defence pleadings of not guilty in flagrant rape cases?

  2. Joshua says:

    And if Pope Benedict issued an ex cathedra pronouncement on this subject, the NCR et al. would run articles about why Papal infallibility is false.

    I know, because way back in the nineties, while I was at university in Hobart, the history faculty had a Jesuit come speak on the First Vatican Council, and a more anti-Roman, bigoted attack on the Faith I have never heard: openly mocking the Pope, the Council Fathers, and inviting derisive laughter against both from the delighted audience. The Jesuit began by assuring all present that he, and the then Jesuit Provincial, certainly didn’t believe in Papal infallibility, and spent the rest of his lecture assailing this dogma.

    It was unbelievably bad, but at least opened my eyes to the utter cynicism of many who pretend to be Catholic priests and religious. The lecture left a vile taste in my mouth.

    Not wishing to appear self-righteous here, but if I didn’t accept Catholic doctrine, I would leave the Church and follow where my conscience led; whereas it appears there are plenty would believe and act exactly as they please without any qualms at all about remaining as parasites within the Church. A Sydney Anglican who views Mass as an abomination, and therefore refuses to attend any such Catholic event, is more honest and self-consistent than that Jesuit.

  3. John Nolan says:

    The Church of England is perfectly free to “ordain” women because it is a Protestant sect which can make up its own rules. Even so, it recognizes that there is “impaired communion” which is a euphemism for schism. Cannot these liberal so-called Catholics get it into their thick heads that, apart from the schism that would inevitably result, a decision to ordain women (counter to nearly 2000 years of tradition) would require the assent of all the bishops of East and West in a genuine ecumenical council, which has not happened in well over a millennium? Do they really believe a pope can say “I’ve changed my mind”? Presumably they do, so it is a waste of time engaging in any serious dialogue with them.

  4. Gareth says:

    I love to be controvesial, so I am going to throw a cat amongst the birds here by adding that I am sure another reason that the Church’s ‘No’ to women priests hasn’t really sunk in is because the Church has failed to adequately speak out against secular feminism per se.

    When was the last time I heard JPII or Benedict make any statement against the notion that is opposed to Biblical values that a women take the place of a man in modern society?I don’t remember many Papal statements encouraging motherhood or that a mother stay be in their rightful place as full-time mother during a child’s early years. In fact, to the contrary – Papal statements seem to celebrate and encourage this???

    And at local parish level, women dominate by taking over altar servers roles (which clearly should be reserved for men), distributing communion (reserved for the priest), readings and singing etc etc.

    So come on, it is hardly to be expected that anyone in the Church take its stance on women priests seriously when on the other hand, it seems to be not only doing nothing, but actively encouraging secular feminism??

    • Schütz says:

      There are many papal statements encouraging motherhood, but the propositions you put forward here as “biblical” are not Catholic teaching. That is why you do not hear the popes saying this kind of thing. The Church is on favour of anything that strengthens the family. Thus the demands of the workplace upon either parent – father or mother – would be wrong if it negatively impacted upon the family. But there is no dogmatic reason why the mother cannot be the major breadwinner of the family while the father is the one who stays at home to care for the children.

      • “13. … It is a most sacred law of nature that a father should provide food and all necessaries for those whom he has begotten; …”
        [Leo XIII., Encyclical Letter Rerum novarum,

        But one doesn’t need a Pope to tell one this; it is a matter of natural law.

        • Schütz says:

          I wonder.

          1) the pope believed this to be a “sacred law of nature”. Does this come under his magisterium of teaching revealed faith?

          2) was the pope saying that, even at the level of natural law, this was the duty of fathers in particular as over against the duty of mothers? In other words, was he discounting the possibility that this is the sacred duty of parents as such? Was he saying that this duty primarily falls to fathers? Was he saying that between them both parents could not together arrange for the provision of their family as best suited their situation?

          Just wondering if you are not being too narrow in your interpretation of Pope Leo’s statement.

          • Gareth says:

            Sorry, totally disagree with you here David – it is Catholic dogma (even defined at Council of Trent) that a male is HEAD of the household.

            From this, it is pretty self-explanatory that generally speaking God desires that a male’s primary responsibility is to be provider and protector of the family, whilst the female’s primary responsibility is the rearing of children.

            Papal statements even in the 1930s and 1950s by Pius’s XI and XII did not beat around the bush – they expoused families and governments to be faithful to this model and anything less as a deviation from God’s plans.

            JPII’s and Benedicts statements on the issues are wishy-washy and seem to give a positive light to secular feminism. Catholic institutions seem to also not care.

            No-wonder Papal prouncements on women priests do not seem to set in deep if the Church at the local level seems no different from the rest of society on the broader issue of family models and being counter-revolutionary to secular feminism that states a women should live their lives as of a man.

            Also, if JPII and Benedict were really serious about saying no to women priests, should they also not demand action or implement discipline when public figures such as Sister Joan Chrisster steps out of line?

            Like so many other issues, it appears there is a lot of talk, but no action.

          • “Does this come under his magisterium of teaching revealed faith?”

            I expect that it came under his Magisterium of teaching morals, not Faith.

            “this was the duty of fathers in particular as over against the duty of mothers?”


            “In other words, was he discounting the possibility that this is the sacred duty of parents as such?”

            He clearly said “father”, not ‘parent’, so yes.

            “Was he saying that this duty primarily falls to fathers?”

            It would seem to be something stronger than that.

            “Was he saying that between them both parents could not together arrange for the provision of their family as best suited their situation?”

            No, obviously he wasn’t; he said “father”.

            • Gareth says:

              John XXIII made simialr magesterial statements.

              The doctorine on the matter can be found on the duties of marriage section in the Council of Trent.

              I once read it is actually a sin to deliberatly deny for no legitimate reason a male as his place as primary breadwinner.

  5. Joshua says:

    Yes Gareth – but why do women in the parishes do all the jobs? Is it not because there are few men, and fewer willing to help out? I recall a parishioner at the Cathedral in Hobart who told me that she didn’t really want to read nor be an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion, but she had volunteered because she felt she ought help out, and *no one else did* (and yes, she specifically mentioned that she thought men should do so, *but not enough volunteered*).

    I say this as a bloke who has finally agreed to my parish priest’s request and become a senior server at our OF Mass once a fortnight, while still going down to Hobart once a month to be M.C. at the EF Mass…

    • Gareth says:

      In all honesty, the answer maybe that generally speaking (a broad generalisation here) that contrary to widespread beliefs, men are quiter types.

      My own father is a point in case, whilst not being a deeply religious person, he attends weekly Mass and is happy on doing the quieter jobs around the parish such as counting the collection money on a Sunday afternoon whilst no-one is looking or doing the vacuuming.

      Me thinks that the answer is a tiny bit deeper – since Vatican II many of the ‘roles’ that women served the Church in which are genuinely religious but in which no-one notices such as being a member of the Legion of Mary, rosary devotion groups etc etc have been downplayed as positive things for Catholics to be actively involved in. Instead, we are taught that women are particpating in the Church by doing the readings or handing out Communion, when the priests are too lazy to do it or to arrange senior male of the parish.

      I just think the modern Church has got it bitterly wrong when it comes to what warrants active lay participation and some of this can be traced back to trying to appease the les and arguements of secular feminism.

      • Schütz says:

        Tonight in my class for Anima Education there was only one male student (this is unusual – but the women always out number the men). He recounted attending a retreat last weekend on which he was the only male. Perhaps we blokes need to take some blame for leaving “the religious stuff up to the wimin.”

        • Shan says:

          Or… has being religious become so associated with feminine traits that few men want to come near it?

          I expect that my school would get more boys offering to be altar servers if they wore black hooded robes, rather than beige ones…

          Also if they stopped all the dancing…

          And the effete singing…

          And the homilies emphasised real virtues instead of Dr Phil syllogisms…

  6. John Nolan says:

    If there is a genuine necessity for lay people to take Communion to the sick and housebound, I see no reason to exclude women, but I would insist that they (men or women) wear gloves when handling the pyx and use tweezers to pick up the Host. If the Chalice is to be administered at Mass I have no objection to male or female EMHC doing this, provided that they do not handle the sacred vessels directly. And they should not enter the sanctuary, still less approach the altar. I would go further than Gareth or Pius X and allow mixed choirs but a liturgical schola positioned literally ‘in the choir’ must be male and in choir dress (cassock and cotta). Those who proclaim the Scripture should be properly instituted Lectors (who have to be male) and every parish should have properly instituted Acolytes. Altar girls and Communion in the hand should be banned; they were abuses which were reluctantly granted post facto recognition. Altar rails must be restored and the Liturgy of the Eucharist celebrated ad orientem.

    I know this makes me sound dangerously liberal but we are talking about the Novus Ordo whose days are numbered anyway.

    • Gareth says:

      Your last statement is wishful thinking at best, John.

      • John Nolan says:

        Gareth, I wouldn’t be so sure; Bugnini himself gave his missal only 20 years, and there are strong hints from Rome that the “reform of the reform” has only started, and the end result will be a unified Roman rite. SP has made 1962 the yardstick. My hunch is that it will happen around 2030, 70 years after the Council, but the way things are going it may well be sooner.

        • Gareth says:

          I think you are getting a bit ahead of yourself here John and this is coming from someone that attends the traditional Mass irregularly.

          What I am getting at here is – do you really think traditional, conservative or orthodox Catholics have such great numbers that somesort of restoration is possible?

          Sure, there are good attendances at traditional mass centres in the one or two parish’s that they are present in each Australian capital city and that is a good thing, no doubt – but the numbers are anything but revultionary or anything that the slack Australian Bishops will take any notice of and the average Australian Catholic doesnt have any idea.

          Do you really think any real great change will or has been taking place in the average Australian parish over the past fifteen years. I am sorry, most of it is only wishful thinking?

          In reality, sadly only about one or two per cent of Catholics would be on board with what you are saying. There needs to be seriously a major world event or a wait for the next generation who are removed from Vatican II for any great change to occur in the Catholic Church

  7. John Nolan says:

    Gareth, the restoration is not only possible, it is inevitable; to quote St Edmund Campion “it is of God; it cannot be withstood”. Don’t expect the average Catholic to know much about the Faith or the Mass – he or she has had 45 years of modernist brainwashing and poor or nonexistent catechesis. It will take time; Rome is not going to repeat the mistakes of the 1960s. The Nuchurch liberals aren’t going to give up without a fight – their guru Hans Kung boasted in the 1990s that they were in control – but they have been on the back foot since 2005.

    The bishops will fall into line; they know which way the wind is blowing.

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