VIENNA (ChurchMilitant.com) - The archbishop of Vienna, Cdl. Christoph Schönborn, is again advocating for the ordination of so-called women deacons.
On Saturday, the cardinal tweeted, "I was only recently able to consecrate deacons again. A great joy. Perhaps I will one day be able to consecrate women to the diaconate." This tweet followed a speech Schönborn gave the same day at his cathedral in Vienna during which he recounted his recent ordination of 14 men to the diaconate. He then advocated for the ordination of women to the diaconate.
"Maybe one day, women [will be ordained] as deacons, too," said Schönborn. He added, "There were deaconesses in the church, in some Eastern churches to this day. Basically, that's open."
This push by Schönborn and others to ordain females contradicts the teaching of Pope John Paul II, who in his 1994 Apostolic Letter, Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, taught that the Church has no authority to confer Holy Orders on women. He finishes the letter with this definitive statement:
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.
The following year, Cdl. Joseph Ratzinger, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), said John Paul II's teaching in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis was infallible. In response to those who questioned this fact, the cardinal issued a statement on Oct. 28, 1995 which was also signed by John Paul II clarifying that the "inadmissibility of women to the ministerial priesthood" does, in fact, belong "to the deposit of faith." In the response to this very question Ratzinger affirmed:
"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."
A month later, Ratzinger asked all bishops to send out this official confirmation that John Paul II meant his teaching banning women from ordination to be received as infallible.
Ordaining women to the diaconate is impossible because it is a participation in the one sacrament of Holy Orders as does the priesthood and the episcopate. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, which Schönborn drafted, teaches in paragraph 1536 that diaconate is part of the sacrament of Holy Orders:
"Holy Orders is the sacrament through which the mission entrusted by Christ to his apostles continues to be exercised in the Church until the end of time: thus it is the sacrament of apostolic ministry. It includes three degrees: episcopate, presbyterate, and diaconate."
The current prefect of the CDF, Cdl. Luis Ladaria, reaffirmed John Paul II's teaching that the sacrament of Holy Orders is only conferred validly by the ordination of men.
On May 30, he wrote:
First, concerning the ministerial priesthood, the Church recognizes that the impossibility of ordaining women belongs to the "substance of the sacrament" of Orders (cf. DH 1728). The Church does not have the power to change this substance, because it is precisely from the sacraments, instituted by Christ, that the Church is made. It does not pertain only to a disciplinary element, but a doctrinal one, inasmuch as it pertains to the structure of the sacraments.
Laderia was also upset with those, like Cdl. Schönborn, who kept pushing the heretical doubt that such ordinations are possible. In an interview in April, Schönborn replied, "The question of the ordination [of women] is a question which clearly can only be clarified by a council. That cannot be decided upon by a pope alone. That is a question too big to be decided from the desk of a pope."
In his May statement Laderia addressed those who fomented doubt regarding this unchangeable teaching:
Secondly, the doubts raised about the definitive nature of Ordinatio sacerdotalis also have grave consequences for the manner of understanding the Magisterium of the Church. It is important to reaffirm that infallibility does not only pertain to solemn pronouncements of a Council or of the Supreme Pontiff when he speaks ex cathedra, but also to the universal and ordinary teaching of bishops dispersed throughout the world, when they propose, in communion among themselves and with the Pope, the Catholic doctrine to be held definitively.
Pope Francis himself upheld John Paul II's teaching as late as November of 2017. During an inflight interview, he was asked about the ordination of women. He replied,"As for the ordination of women in the Catholic Church, the last clear word was given by St. John Paul II and this holds."