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  • Writer's pictureJohn Pacheco

All Gaillardetz’s Glitter is Not Gold (Part 2)

Updated: Mar 5, 2023

This is the 2nd part off a 3 part critique of Dr. Richard Gaillardetz’s theological views. I have provided my response below to Dr. Gaillardetz’s letter to the CCCB. His remarks are in blue.

Regarding my position on the ordination of women, I have never challenged the truth of this teaching in any of my work; I have, however, addressed the altogether different question of this teaching’s authoritative note, and have critically analyzed the claim of the CDF’s Responsum ad Dubiumthat this teaching has been taught infallibly by the ordinary universal magisterium. My reservations have been echoed by far more distinguished scholars such as Fr. Francis Sullivan who was for thirty years on the faculty of the Gregorianum and, I suspect, taught many in your own conference!

So, in other words, what Dr. Gaillardetz is saying is that he rejects the confirmation of the infallible character of Ordinatio Sacerdotalis issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF). By what authority can Dr. Gaillardetz claim to reject the CDF’s judgement? He has no more authority than you or I do to so, his mandatum notwithstanding. In fact, the Responsum ad Dubium was written precisely to counter the belief by dissident theologians like Dr. Gaillardetz which demotes Ordinatio Sacerdotalis’s infallible character to a lesser authority. It is the reason why our current Holy Father (then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Prefect of the same congregation) and by order of Pope John Paul II sought to squash such dissent because, as His Eminence said at the time, “these reactions attempted to cast doubt on the definitive character of the letter’s teaching.” Pay close attention to the strong and unmistakable language that Cardinal Ratzinger uses in both his cover letter and the Responsum (emphasis mine): COVER LETTER TO BISHOPS’ CONFERENCE PRESIDENTS Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger ______________________________________________ November 8, 1995 The publication in May 1994 of the apostolic letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis was followed by a number of problematic and negative statements by certain theologians, organizations of priests and religious, as well as some associations of lay people. These reactions attempted to cast doubt on the definitive character of the letter’s teaching on the inadmissibility of women to the ministerial priesthood and also questioned whether this teaching belonged to the deposit of the faith.

This congregation therefore has judged it necessary to dispel the doubts and reservations that have arisen by issuing a responsum ad dubium, which the Holy Father has approved and ordered to be published (cf. enclosure).

In asking you to bring this responsum to the attention of the bishops of your episcopal conference before its official publication, this dicastery is confident that the conference itself, as well as the individual bishops, will do everything possible to ensure its distribution and favorable reception, taking particular care that, above all on the part of theologians, pastors of souls and religious, ambiguous and contrary positions will not again be proposed.

The text of the responsum is to remain confidential until the date of its publication in L’Osservatore Romano, which is expected to be the 18th of November. With gratitude for your assistance and with prayerful best wishes I remain, Sincerely Yours in Christ, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger ___________________________ CONCERNING THE TEACHING CONTAINED IN ORDINATIO SACERDOTALIS RESPONSUM AD DUBIUM Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith October 28, 1995 Dubium:Whether the teaching that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women, which is presented in the Apostolic Letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis to be held definitively, is to be understood as belonging to the deposit of faith. Responsum: In the affirmative. This teaching requires definitive assent, since, founded on the written Word of God, and from the beginning constantly preserved and applied in the Tradition of the Church, it has been set forth infallibly by the ordinary and universal Magisterium (cf. Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium 25, 2). Thus, in the present circumstances,the Roman Pontiff, exercising his proper office of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32), has handed on this same teaching by a formal declaration, explicitly stating what is to be held always, everywhere, and by all, as [pertaining] to the deposit of the faith. The Sovereign Pontiff John Paul II, at the Audience granted to the undersigned Cardinal Prefect, approved this Reply, adopted in the ordinary session of this Congregation, and ordered it to be published. Rome, from the offices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, on the Feast of the Apostles SS. Simon and Jude, October 28, 1995. Joseph Card. Ratzinger Prefect Tarcisio Bertone Archbishop Emeritus of Vercelli (Source) Let me ask you something, folks: just how many times does Rome (through the Pope and the CDF) have to say something is “definitive” and “infallible” before Richard R. Gaillardetz admits the infallible nature of the teaching? Apparently twice is not enough. And who has the right to settle the question of the infallible nature of a teaching? Rome or a theologian from Toledo? What saith our Tradition to this question? If anyone is particularly interested in reading the hoops that Dr. Gaillardetz jumps through to justify his position and his manufactured difficulties with the “ordinary papal magisterium“, you can read it here on this Pro-Women Priest website to whom Dr. Gaillardetz gave permission to publish his work. He writes:

“What was unusual in this instance was that the pope was proposing a teaching “to be definitively held” in what appeared to be an exercise, not of the ordinary universal magisterium of the whole college of bishops, but of the ordinary papal magisterium….This appeal to the ordinary papal magisterium raised serious questions because Lumen gentium § 25 makes no mention of the ordinary papal magisterium proposing teaching to be held as definitive. In considering the ordinary papal magisterium the constitution says: “The religious assent of will and intellect is to be given in a special way to the authentic teaching authority of the Roman pontiff even when he is not speaking ex cathedra; in such a way, that is, that his supreme teaching authority is respectfully acknowledged, and sincere adherence given to decisions he has delivered, in accordance with his manifest mind and will which is communicated chiefly by the nature of the documents, by the frequent repetition of the same doctrine or by the style of verbal expression. (note 6)” The clear burden of this passage is to affirm the authority of papal teaching even when it falls short of a definitive teaching act. The response owed to such teaching is not a definitive assent but an obsequium of intellect and will.” (Source)

Suffice it to say that Dr. Gaillardetz’s shameless attempt to strip the infallible nature of Ordinatio Sacerdotalis by his appeal to the absence of infallibility in the ordinary papal magisterium in Lumen Gentium § 25 is a complete distortion of the Pope’s universal and absolute authority to settle matters of dispute within the Church.

Technically speaking, the Holy Father was exercising his role as the HEAD of the ordinary and universal magisterium in making a definitive (infallible) declaration of a “non-defining act”. There is no technical provision for the Pope to infallibly declare on “non-defining” acts alone as Supreme Pontiff, as there is with a “defining act” (as enunciated in Pastor aeternus). Therefore, when the Holy Father wishes to pronounce on the infallibility of a “non-defining act” (like the inadmissiability of women priests), he must do so (and did so) through his capacity as Roman Pontiff, Head of the Episcopal college of Bishops.

The Magisterium of the Church, however, teaches a doctrine to be believed as divinely revealed (first paragraph) or to be held definitively (second paragraph) with an act which is either defining or non-defining. In the case of a definingact, a truth is solemnly defined by an “ex cathedra” pronouncement by the Roman Pontiff or by the action of an ecumenical council. In the case of a non-defining act, a doctrine is taught infalliblyby the ordinary and universal Magisterium of the Bishops dispersed throughout the world who are in communion with the Successor of Peter. Such a doctrine can be confirmed or reaffirmed by the Roman Pontiff, even without recourse to a solemn definition, by declaring explicitly that it belongs to the teaching of the ordinary and universal Magisterium as a truth that is divinely revealed (first paragraph) or as a truth of Catholic doctrine (second paragraph). Consequently, when there has not been a judgment on a doctrine in the solemn form of a definition, but this doctrine, belonging to the inheritance of the depositum fidei, is taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium, which necessarily includes the Pope, such a doctrine is to be understood as having been set forth infallibly.17 The declaration of confirmation or reaffirmation by the Roman Pontiff in this case is not a new dogmatic definition, but a formal attestation of a truth already possessed and infallibly transmitted by the Church. (Source: Doctrinal Commentary on the Concluding Formula of the Professio Fidei, 9)

Furthermore, the Pope’s role in acting as the Head of this ordinary and universal magisterium is to exercise his charism of confirming the brethren in what they have ALREADY taught universally and throughout the ages (emphasis mine):

Actually, if we consider the act of teaching, the Magisterium can teach a doctrine as definitive either by a defining act or by a non-defining act. First of all, the Magisterium can proclaim a doctrine as definitive, and thus to be believed with divine faith or to be held in a definitive way, through a solemn ex cathedra pronouncement of the Pope or an Ecumenical Council. However, the ordinary papal Magisterium can teach a doctrine as definitive because it has been constantly maintained and held by Tradition and transmitted by the ordinary, universal Magisterium. This latter exercise of the charism of infallibility does not take the form of a papal act of definition, but pertains to the ordinary, universal Magisterium which the Pope again sets forth with his formal pronouncement of confirmation and reaffirmation (generally in an Encyclical or Apostolic Letter). If we were to hold that the Pope must necessarily make an ex cathedra definition whenever he intends to declare a doctrine as definitive because it belongs to the deposit of faith, it would imply an underestimation of the ordinary, universal Magisterium, and infallibility would be limited to the solemn definitions of the Pope or a Council, in a way that differs from the teaching of Vatican I and Vatican II, which attribute an infallible character to the teachings of the ordinary, universal Magisterium. The particular nature of a teaching of the papal Magisterium that is meant merely to confirm or repropose a certitude of faith already lived consciously by the Church or affirmed by the universal teaching of the entire Episcopate can be seen not in the teaching of the doctrine per se, but in the fact that the Roman Pontiff formally declares that this doctrine already belongs to the faith of the Church and is infallibly taught by the ordinary, universal Magisterium as divinely revealed or to be held in a definitive way. 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 sea dogmatic definition (like the Trinitarian dogma of Nicaea, the hristological 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. (Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone. “Magisterial Documents and Public Dissent.” L’Osservatore Romano (29 January 1997): part 1, no. 2.) So, to summarize, firstly, in the Responsum ad Dubium, the then Cardinal Ratzinger confirmed that Pope John Paul’s teaching was “set forth infallibly by the ordinary and universal Magisterium”. Secondly, although the CDF has clarified that no EX CATHEDRA teaching was defined in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, the similar conditions found in a solemn definition were also pronounced in the infallible declaration of Ordinatio Sacerdotalis. This suggests that the form was essentially the same, but merely applied within the Ordinary Universal Magisterium and not the Extraordinary one. Let’s review, once again, Vatican I’s three conditions for an infallible EX CATHEDRA statement and compare them to both Ordinatio Sacerdotalis and to Cardinal Ratzinger’s Responsum ad Dubium:

Vatican I 1. in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians 2. in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority 3. he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole church Ordinatio Sacerdotalis 1. and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful 2. in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren(cf. Lk 22:32). 3. and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful Responsum ad Dubium 1. explicitly stating what is to be held always, everywhere, and by all 2. the Roman Pontiff, exercising his proper office of confirming the brethren(cf. Lk 22:32) 3. has handed on this same teaching by a formal declaration…as [pertaining] to the deposit of the faith.

Thirdly, even if John Paul II did not issue an solemn Ex Cathedra definition on Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, he did make a formal declaration that the teaching of the Church regarding women ordination is to be held definitively by all the faithful. The infallibility of the teaching was, therefore, confirmed by the Roman Pontiff as the Head of the Episcopal College, who “confirms the brethren in the faith” (cf. Lk 22:32). As Cardinal Bertone has explained (L’Osservatore Romano 29 January, 1997), a papal pronouncement of confirmation enjoys the same infallibility of the ordinary, universal Magisterium, which includes the Pope not as a mere Bishop but as the Head of the Episcopal College. What the Pope has confirmed as definitive and infallible, Gaillardetz has claimed to NOT be definitive and infallible. At the very least, this is rashness and presumption on the part of

Dr. Gaillardetz. John Paul II made it clear that the teaching of Ordinatio Sacerdotalis is to be definitively held by all the faithful. By refusing to accept the teaching as definitive, Dr. Gaillardetz is in manifest disobedience to the Pope.

Dr. Gaillardetz’s dissent is not surprising, of course, since he has made it clear that, in his opinion, “the obstinate denial of a definitive doctrine would not necessarily place one outside the Roman Catholic communion(Teaching with Authority: A Theology of the Magisterium of the Church, p. 263, (The Liturgical Press, 1997). This position stands in direct contradiction to the 1998 CDF Commentary on Professio Fidei which explicitly notes that whoever denies such definitive teachings “would be in a position of rejecting Catholic doctrine and would therefore no longer be in full communion with the Catholic Church” (6).

John Pacheco

October 4, 2009

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