Martin Mallon (Ireland)
Martin's previous articles
Benedict XVI stated in his Christmas 2005 Address to the Roman Curia that the
documents of the Second Vatican Council should be interpreted using the
hermeneutic of continuity (interpreted in keeping with previous Church teaching)
as opposed to the hermeneutic of discontinuity (interpreted in rupture with
previous Church teaching).
in view of his subsequent espousal of the hermeneutic of continuity, Pope
Benedict, when he was Cardinal Ratzinger and the head of the CDF, supported the
changing of Canon Law by the introduction of the term “definitive” for
certain teachings as promulgated by John Paul II, in
Orsy, S.J. has pointed out, in his book Receiving the Council, Liturgical Press,
new teaching came across as an attempt to introduce infallible statements
without the Pope having to speak ex cathedra. It would appear that although it
was John Paul II who introduced the term in his 1998 Motu Proprio that it was
strongly supported by Joseph Ratzinger
of the reasons for the new idea would seem to have been to enable John Paul
II’s “definitive” statement in his Apostolic Letter on the ordination of
women priests, Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, in 1994, that women could not be ordained
as priests, be confirmed, retrospectively, as infallible. Many theologians
argued that it was not infallible as it was not an ex cathedra statement.
fact that Cardinal Ratzinger produced a statement from the CDF insisting that
Ordinatio Sacerdotalis’s teaching was infallible, in 1995, even though it was
not ex cathedra, appears to confirm this theory.
result of extending papal infallibility is to give the Pope/Curia/Rome more
power and control over the Church by centralising power. This contradicts the
teaching of Vatican II on collegiality and subsidiarity and, therefore, breaches
and undermines Vatican II.
Another purpose in introducing the new theological idea of “definitive” teaching was to give Cardinal Ratzinger/ John Paul II a back door means of infallibly stating that women could not be ordained as priests. Possibly John Paul II was not prepared to or was advised that he could not, on theological grounds, prohibit the ordination of women priests ex cathedra. This seems likely based on the absence of any theological basis for this prohibition being included in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis and the fact that he did not make an ex cathedra statement. The intention was that the Motu Proprio would, retrospectively, make Ordinatio Sacerdotalis’s teaching infallible.
Pope Benedict XVI appears intent on reversing or going against the teachings of Vatican II, which emphasised the importance of the sacrament of baptism and, therefore, the role of the laity in the church and subsidiarity.
are left in the inconsistent situation where the hermeneutic of discontinuity
may not be used to interpret the teachings of Vatican II, but may be used to
endorse “definitive” teachings.
Christmas 2005 Address to the Roman Curia
Letter Motu Proprio Ad Tuendam Fidem
CDF response re teaching in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis