Letter: Pope's stand against women priests is not infallible

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The Independent Online
Sir: I feel sure that my fellow Roman Catholics who long for the day when our church, too, will ordain women will not find their ardour dampened by the latest example of papal intransigence ('Papal blast widens split over women priests', 31 May). Theological commentary on the 1870 definition of papal infallibility has consistently insisted that no divine guarantee of inerrancy can be attached to the Pope's private opinions, however extravagantly conveyed to the 'faithful'.

The argument that Jesus did not envisage the ordination of women on the grounds that the New Testament reports no example of his ordaining a woman is a risky one: the New Testament reports no instance of Jesus ordaining anyone to the priesthood. On the contrary, the only priesthood the New Testament knows is the priesthood of Jesus himself and of all the people of God. The silence of Roman Catholic authorities, papal or episcopal, when their attention is drawn to this fact, is deafening.

Those Roman Catholics in this area who were privileged to share very recently in the joy of a newly-ordained Anglican woman's first Mass and to receive communion at her hands, have experienced the uplifting of spirit and enlargement of mind which follow from this courageous and joyous decision of part of the Catholic Church in these islands. We long for the day when the Roman tradition too will benefit from the graces that flow from the inclusion of women in its ordained ministry.

Yours faithfully,

VINCENT McLAUGHLIN

Purley, Surrey

31 May

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