John M. McDermott, S.J.
MANY AMERICANS both in the Church and outside it find a tension, if not a contradiction, between the pope's Letter to Women, in which he praises and encourages the movement for the liberation of women, and Ordinatio Sacerdotalis,in which he affirms that the Church has no authority to ordain women to the priesthood. After the publication of Ordinatio Sacerdotalis some Catholic theologians questioned the binding authority of the apostolic letter. Their questions and complaints were not silenced by the subsequent response of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to a dubium (doubt) proposed to it. Given the heated debate in the American Church and its potential for dividing the Church further, the underlying issues of authority, ecclesial order, and theological grounding have to be studied, clarified, and explained to the faithful.
During our meetings four basic areas of discussion were proposed: the role of authority, the theological arguments in favor of the prohibition or opposed to it, the larger role of women in the Church and in society, and the philosophical meaning of equality (sameness) in an age of nominaUsm that stresses the uniqueness of each human being, especially when faced with the universaUty of the moral law. Due to the limitations of time, attention was directed principaUy to the first two areas.
Although all agreed that if the limitation of sacerdotal ordination to male believers is of divine law (jure divino), pertaining to the