There will be women a priest «when God wills», for the moment it is better «not to raise the issue». But there is «no fundamental obstacle», from «a theological perspective», for women to say mass on the altar. It is, instead, a «tradition» that dates back from the time of Jesus. This was said by Cardinal Jose da Cruz Policarpo, seventy-five year old Patriarch of Lisbon, who has just been confirmed for another two years at the head of the diocese of the Portuguese capital.
Polycarpo released a lengthy interview to the monthly «OA», the magazine of the Portuguese Order of Attorneys. He explained that with respect to women priests «the position of the Catholic Church is very much based on the Gospel, it does not have the independence of a political party or a government. It is based on fidelity to the Gospel, to the person of Jesus and to a very strong tradition received from the Apostles».
«John Paul II – continued Polycarp – at one point seemed to settle the matter». Reference is in the Apostolic Letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis (1994), one of the shortest documents of John Paul II, with which the Pope, after the decision of the Anglican Communion to open to women priests, reaffirmed that the Catholic Church would never do so.
«I think – said Cardinal Polycarp – that the matter cannot be resolved like this. Theologically there is no fundamental obstacle (to women priests, ed.), let’s just say that there’s this tradition: it has never been done otherwise».
When asked by the interviewer, curious of the affirmation made by the cardinal that there are theological reasons against women priests, Polycarpo replied: «I think that there is no fundamental obstacle. It is a fundamental equality of all members of the Church. The problem is a strong tradition that comes from Jesus and the ease with which the Reformed churches have granted priesthood to women».
The Patriarch of Lisbon also explained that he believed the demand for women priests is a «false problem», because the same girls that pose the question, when he retorts if they would be willing to become priests, shake their head.
The statements made by the Portuguese Cardinal are intended to cause discussions. A year after the letter of John Paul II a question was in fact posed (dubium) to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, then headed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and secretary Tarcisio Bertone.
He wondered whether «the doctrine according to which the Church has no authority to confer priestly ordination on women, proposed in the Apostolic Letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, was to be considered permanent, to be regarded as belonging to the deposit of fait». The answer, approved by Pope John Paul II, was «yes».
The Congregation explained that «this teaching requires definitive assent, since, founded in the Word of God written and constantly preserved and applied in the Tradition of the Church from the beginning, it has been set forth infallibly by the ordinary and universal Magisterium», and therefore «must always be kept, everywhere and by all the faithful, because it belongs to the deposit of faith».