Cardinal Hollerich: There’s ‘space to expand’ Church teaching on all-male priesthood

Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich of Luxembourg, relator general of the Synod of Bishops, speaks at a news conference to present an update on the synod process at the Vatican Aug. 26, 2022. Looking on is Cardinal Mario Grech, secretary-general of the synod. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Rome Newsroom, Mar 28, 2023 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, SJ, the archbishop of Luxembourg and a key leader of the Synod on Synodality, said the Catholic Church’s teaching on a male-only priesthood is not infallible and a future pope could allow women priests.

The cardinal, 64, addressed the topic of the ordination of women, homosexuality, women in the Church, obedience to the pope, and the German “Synodal Way” in an interview with Glas Koncila, a Croatian Catholic weekly, published March 27.

“Pope Francis does not want the ordination of women, and I am completely obedient to that. But people continue to discuss it,” Hollerich said.

The cardinal questioned the infallibility of papal documents such as St. John Paul II’s Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, which affirmed the Church’s perennial teaching that only men may be ordained to Holy Orders.

“It is the Holy Father who has to decide” whether women can be priests, Hollerich said.

The cardinal added that “with time” a pope could go against what John Paul II wrote in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, saying he is “not sure you could call it” infallible.

“It surely is a true teaching for its time, and we cannot just push it aside. But I think that there might be some space to expand the teaching — to see which of the arguments of Pope John Paull II could be developed,” he said.

“But for the moment, if Pope Francis tells me it is not an option, it is not an option.”

John Paul II stated in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis: “Although the teaching that priestly ordination is to be reserved to men alone has been preserved by the constant and universal Tradition of the Church … 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” (No. 4).

Pope Francis has upheld John Paul II’s teaching on a male-only priesthood at multiple points in his pontificate.

“On the ordination of women in the Catholic Church, the final word is clear, it was said by St. John Paul II and this remains,” Pope Francis told journalists in 2016.

In a 2018 interview with Reuters, on women priests Francis said: “John Paul II was clear and closed the door, and I will not go back on this. It was something serious, not something capricious. It cannot be done.”

In the Croatian weekly interview, Hollerich said he does not promote women’s ordination, but he supports giving women more pastoral responsibility.

“And if we achieve that, then we can perhaps see if there still is a desire among women for ordination,” he said, noting that such a change would need the consent of the Orthodox Church, since “we could never do that if it would jeopardize our fraternity with the Orthodox or if it would polarize the unity of our Church.”

Last week Hollerich was succeeded as president of the European bishops’ commission (COMECE), a post he held since 2018. On March 7, Pope Francis appointed Hollerich to his council of cardinal advisers.

In the interview, the cardinal was asked if his appointment was a sign of Pope Francis’ trust in him during a time when many Catholics find it difficult to trust the pope.

Hollerich said: “It is very difficult to be Catholic without obedience to the pope. Some very conservative people always preached obedience to the pope — as long as the pope said the things they wanted to hear. The pope says things that are difficult for me, too, but I see them as a chance for conversion, for becoming a more faithful and happier Christian.”

The Luxembourger cardinal also commented on homosexuality, saying: “When Church teaching was made, the term homosexuality did not even exist.”

He claimed that in the time when St. Paul was writing about the impermissibility of sodomy, “people had no idea that there might be men and women attracted to the same sex” and “sodomy was seen as something merely orgiastic at the time, typical of married people who entertained slaves for personal lust.”

“But how can you condemn people who cannot love except the same sex? For some of them it is possible to be chaste, but calling others to chastity seems like speaking Egyptian to them,” he said.

Hollerich added that people can only be held to moral conduct bearable “in their world.”

“If we ask impossible things of them, we will put them off. If we say everything they do is intrinsically wrong, it is like saying their life has no value,” he said. “Many young people came to me as a father and spoke to me about being homosexual. And what does a father do? Does he throw them out or embrace them unconditionally?”

The cardinal also said he finds “the part of the teaching calling homosexuality ‘intrinsically disordered’ a bit dubious.”

“Still, we have to accept all the people and make them feel the love of God. If they feel it, I am sure it will change something in their heart,” he added.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that homosexuality “has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures.” It goes on to say that “basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that ‘homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.’ They are contrary to the natural law” (No. 2357).

Hollerich also was asked to comment on the idea that there is an “effeminate” spirituality in the Church and that it might be to blame for a decade-long decline in vocations to the priesthood.

The cardinal said: “Boys and men disappear in every system that disregards differences in psychology.”

“Looking at the Church, if most of our catechists are women, they will catechize in a feminine way, which will estrange some of the boys. If it is too soft, they will not like it. We have disregarded these differences, and in that sense, have become very feminized,” he said.

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    • I’ve long and painfully regarded SJ as Society of Judas. They have only themselves to blame. They have been at the forefront of the deconstruction of the faith for many, many decades. They demean their own legacy. What would their Holy Father Saint Ignatius and the other original Fathers of the the Society make of their sacrilege?

  1. Hollerich claims there is space to expand his teaching. The CCP could help him launch his trial balloon from anywhere he chose–Uranus likely would appeal to the man and his minions. Hollerich’s teaching could also dock and berth (AKA hook-up) with the pope’s orbiting words.

  2. Compassion toward those who suffer homosexual attraction is a good thing. To exploit the charisma of compassion to promote normalization of this disorder is diabolic.
    Card Hollerich’s agenda, as he previously stated, is to change Church doctrine on homosexuality. Mustn’t this be corrected by the Vatican? We cannot reverse God’s ordained nature of male and female sexual identity. We cannot displace God as if we were God.

  3. We read: “The cardinal [Hollerich] added that ‘with time’ a pope could go against what John Paul II wrote in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, saying he is ‘not sure you could call it’ infallible.” No one has accused Hollerich of being sure of anything!

    So, it’s back to the four overriding “principles” Evangelii Gaudium (2013) where we first encountered the Hegelian ideology that “time is greater than space.” Also, three other enigmas which–while there is some truth to each of them–are less ambiguous after ten years.

    Connecting to a dozen monotonous posts by yours truly, beginning in 2019:

    FIRST, when is “time is greater than space” at risk of HISTORICISM (the “paradigm shift,” now with Hollerich even in the nature of the priesthood)?
    SECOND, when is “realities are more important than ideas [concepts?]” at risk of NOMINALISM (LGBTQ exemptions from the moral absolutes of the universal natural law, and therefore the Catechism and Veritatis Splendor)?
    THIRD, when is “unity prevails over conflict” at risk of CLERICALISM (the synodal plebiscite of Bats-sing and der Synodale Weg, and now especially Hollerich and the circular tautology: A Synod on Synodality)? And,
    FOURTH, when is “the whole is greater than the part” at risk of GLOBALISM (e.g., the Fundamental Option, Proportionalism/Consequentialism, and the unfortunate conflation of Centesimus Annus’ interactive “human ecology” with “natural ecology” in the possibly prophetic Laudato Si and its “integral ecology”)?

    When? Likely in October 2023 and October 2024.

  4. Falsifies Church history, theology, Church Fathers, the apostles and Scripture. And reduces the Catechism to mere invention.

    Anathema you are, Hollerich.

  5. “The term homosexuality didnt even exist>>>????” The Cardinal from Luxembourg needs to review his old testament if that is what he believes. They used a description of this sin in the bible rather than one word, but its meaning could not have been more clear. This is not allowed. Here is the slippery slope: Do we then move on to give the OK to other sinful sexual practices like multiple partners, pedophilia, adultery, bestiality, or else worry these folks will “never know love”? Seriously, let them do their thing, but NOT as members of the church. Such people must make a choice. It is not for the church to change ages old truths to accommodate this rather disgusting stuff. Sorry to say that if approval of this stuff becomes standard, along with women priests, I will be leaving with my wallet for a Latin Mass community which teaches traditional values. If I wanted to be an “anything goes” Protestant, it would be easy enough to find a denomination like that.

  6. “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.”

    — Isaiah 5:20

    • I do not know whether stock is offered, but ENGSKO (Denmark) millstones are available in sizes from 250 mm to 1,500 mm. You would want to be kind and properly fit the millstone to the prelate.

  7. What is the source of moral authority? Does it exist in the Church or outside the Church? If it exists in the Church, that is where I want to be. If not, then that is where I want to be. When the Church changes its practice relating not only to priestesses but also women at the altar in general, it indicates that it, the Church, is following a moral authority outside the Church. Who said that women can serve at the altar, when for centuries women were prohibited from the altar? Is not THAT the true Pope and not the one sitting in St. Peter’s?

  8. Instead on synod on synod and the collection of opinions and the making of wish lists, we need to establish definitive teaching on basic morality and Church governance. Clear lines have to be drawn as permanent, Unmovable foundations of our faith. These truths should be nonnegotiable.We forget that the Church is not a Democracy, but rather a Theoracy run my God, a benevolent dictator. We are in the world ( the Devil’s domain) but not of it. God’s kingdom is not majority rule.

    • Hello Sol, After what I see the NO church accept, I have no problem at all justifying attendance at my most local SSPX Chapel. How can you blame me? It seems that the hierarchy of the church is willing now to embrace far worse scandals, heretics and apostates. In fact, it seems eager to do just that. So long as one despises the TLM with sufficient zeal, no matter how misdirected he/she might be in other matters; especially of faith and morals, you can find a comfortable place in the “church of accompaniment”.

  9. I love the Church, the Faith, and my local parish. But if I ever walk into my parish church and see a woman playing priest or deacon, or a lay person giving a homily, or any other such nonsense, I will turn right around and walk out. I will look for another church that has the true Faith. If I can’t find one, I will stay home and pray.

    • Find your most local SSPX Chapel and start attending. It matters that we understand where we went awry and return to the place where we might have made an error in judgment. All my life, although I have been in love with the church, I never found myself being quite capable of inviting anyone to attend with me: it was always just a bit too “cringey”. Since I started attending the TLM, I can’t stop inviting others to attend. It’s truly magnificent and a MUST for a person in love with God.

  10. So sad to learn that a cardinal does not know what it means to be a priest of Jesus Christ. He wants women instead of men to help him carry his cross. God has been let down by His priests since the old covenant times. Hoping that those who are faithful to Christ and His teaching will not stay silent. Fraternal correction is badly needed in this time when the truth has been blurred by the world

  11. From womb to tomb, life is a process. Each day of one’s life has 24 hours. When viewed prayerfully with the eyes of genuine faith, priesthood is an exciting challenge. Humble service to the downtrodden, the victims of injustice, the poor, the weak, the elderly, the marginalized, the exploited, the disabled, the diseased, the orphans, the homeless, and the dying are meaningful ways of adding life to one’s life span.

  12. His Eminence Hollerich has publicly announced his apostasy, and seeks a new Church that assents to the practice of sodomy. By extending the rationalization of assenting to sodomy, of course that means assenting to fornication, and removing any objections to sacramental-remarriage-after-divorce.

    His Eminence Hollerich is personally appointed by the Pontiff Francis “to relate” to us the Synod on Synodality, which apparently, from the publicly expressed intentions of Eminence Hollerich, is primarily concerned about admitting and assenting to the practice of sodomy (etc).

    His Excellency Archbishop Scicluna of Malta is also personally appointed by the Pontiff Francis, and speaks strongly in favor of the pathological ideology that the Roman Pontiff is not merely the Vicar of Christ, but much more, he is a sort of oracle of Jesus (a view held by some Catholic people, for instance, those who incline to the web site “Where-Peter-Is”), an idea professed by what Adam DeVille might call “infantilized” Catholics, which is a charge frequently made against Catholic people by anti-Catholic Christians.

    On January 30, 2017, Edward Pentin of the National Catholic Register disclosed the profession of this erroneous and infantalizing ideology, done by His Excellency Scicluna of Malta, who declared on 25 January 2017 his intention to give Holy Communion to divorced and remarried Catholics, under the “guidance” of Amoris Laetitia, implying that the Pontiff Francis can dispense with the truth taught by all Pontiffs before him, stating: “Whoever wishes to discover what Jesus wants from him, he must ask the Pope, this Pope, not the one who came before him, or the one who came before that. This present Pope.”

    That last statement by His Excellency Scicluna is pathetic, ridiculous and utterly un-Catholic, not to mention irrational, denying the law of non-contradiction.

    His Excellency Scicluna, like His Eminence Hollerich, has also been reported by various Catholic media, including The National Catholic Register, to promote approval of the gay lifestyle option, in a series of public gestures, such as promotion of priests speaking in favor of acceptance of the gay lifestyle, suppressing priests who preach against it, and “tweeting” his support for a gay pride parade in Malta (though the Archbishop claims is was an accident).

    Seems like a clear program of this pontificate, even if one is in favor of the Pontiff Francis, no?

    One thing is shared, and perhaps it is getting down to just this one thing: we all pray that the Pontiff Francis gets well soon and is released from the hospital.

    That’s about it…

  13. Why doesnt he convert to a protestant denomination that allows women priests ssm oh gay priests etc etc He has no place in the Rcc These modernists are always trying to get these topics going We have no unity in the Rcc as it is People whose only crime is wanting to attend Latin mass being marginalised & pushed away TLM being banned all over

  14. Space to Expand’ Church Teaching on All-Male Priesthood” … ample space only in faithless hearts.
    Having worked for years in the administration of an Ivy League divinity school with what you might call an ecumenical faculty twenty-five years ago. Rest assured, what we read in this article is only a small piece of the puzzle. The end of this gross masquerade of “theological speculation” is the abandonment of belief in the Most Blessed Trinity, the Fatherhood of God [too patriarchal they say] the casting aside of the Divinity of our Lord, Jesus Christ [the hypostatic union is a late confection according to these wisdom figures — Catholics among them]. The Holy Spirit is cast as a feminine character [leftist Catholic sisters in this vanguard] and is adaptable to their neutral deist or theistic bent. Of course pantheism is held in high regard these days, and haven’t we seen evidence of that in our Pachamama epoch?
    Frankly I could not be more scandalized than I am with the Jesuit machine at the helm of the Barque of Peter, hellbent on establishing a cult of socially crafted notions, mirroring the neutralizing of our beloved country. It is absolutely unacceptable. Ardent prayer is an absolute necessity.

  15. “On the ordination of women in the Catholic Church, the final word is clear, it was said by St. John Paul II and this remains,” Pope Francis told journalists in 2016.

    Pope Francis has stated the the all male priesthood is a settled matter. “The final word” has already been spoken according to the Pope to whom Cdl Hollerich claims to be loyal.

    Apostasy, plain and simple.

    Francis needs to drop the hammer o. These wolves in sheep’s clothing. They are tearing the Church apart.

    Better we lose all the unfaithful modernists in Europe and America and retain the Faithful in the Global South. The unfaithful modernists are not going to be saved by the Pope bending to their will.

    Far better they be excommunicated and return to he Truth in repentance and contrition.

    Their souls are already in peril. They walk the path of death. They live in perpetual mortal sin. Constantly justifying their actions by way of their malformed conscience.

    Their only hope of Salvation is to be publicly removed from the Church, that they may see their sins and turn back toward Christ.

    Pray for Pope. Pray for our Bishops. Pray for our priests.

  16. I just can’t help but think that, at some point soon, a biological woman that has “transitioned” to become “male” (which, by the way, is NOT possible) will petition the NO Missae Church – the “church of accompaniment” – to enter the seminary to become a priest. I hope our NO church leaders are out far enough in advance to see this coming and preserve the priesthood, the church and the Truth, come what may.

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