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Cardinal Hollerich urges caution, dialogue on women’s ordination

Cardinal Hollerich urges caution, dialogue on women’s ordination

Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, the relator general of the 16th Annual General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. / Credit: Daniel Ibáñez/CNA

CNA Newsroom, May 20, 2024 / 14:44 pm (CNA).

In a new interview, Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, SJ, suggested that the Church’s position on female priests is not set in stone and should be discussed further, at the same time warning of triggering “a huge backlash.”

Speaking to the official Swiss Catholic portal kath.ch on May 17, Hollerich, who is the archbishop of Luxembourg, said the prohibition against ordaining women was “not an infallible doctrinal decision” and could be changed over time with arguments.

“The way I see it, most bishops are in favor of a greater role for women in the Church,” the Jesuit cardinal said. “I am in favor of women feeling fully equal in the Church. And we will also work toward this. I don’t know if that necessarily has to include ordination to the priesthood. You can’t tie everything to the priesthood alone. That would be clericalization.”

When asked whether he thought Pope Francis would introduce female priests, Hollerich replied: “It’s very difficult to say. The pope is sometimes good for surprises.”

The archbishop of Luxemburg added: “But I would actually say no. Shortly before the synod, there was a ‘dubia’ from a few cardinals. They asked whether John Paul II’s rejection of the priesthood of women was binding for the Church. Francis replied very wisely: It is binding, but not forever. And he also said that theology would have to discuss this further.”

The cardinal, who has previously courted controversy on doctrinal matters, emphasized the need for ongoing discussion.

“It means that it is not an infallible doctrinal decision. It can be changed. It needs arguments and time,” Hollerich said.

At the same time, the Jesuit cautioned against pushing too hard for changes, noting that “if you push too much, you won’t achieve much. You have to be cautious, take one step at a time, and then you might be able to go very far.”

The interview was conducted by Jacqueline Straub, who works for the official portal of the Church in Switzerland and publicly describes herself as “called to be a Roman Catholic priest.”

Her assertion to Hollerich that women were forced to take a back seat in the Church was “based on a typically European principle of the individual,” the cardinal responded.

Citing the example of blessing homosexual unions after Fiducia Supplicans, Hollerich warned of a potentially “huge backlash” if the Vatican were to introduce the ordination of women to the priesthood.

“We have to have these discussions with the whole Church; otherwise, we will have huge problems later. Then the Catholic Church will fall apart.”

In 1994, Pope John Paul II, citing the Church’s traditional teaching, declared in the apostolic letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis: “Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32) 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.”

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