Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 6, 2023 / 11:53 am (CNA).
Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas, on Tuesday issued a pastoral letter stating that the Catholic Church has “no authority whatsoever” to ordain female priests or deacons, a declaration the bishop said was meant to address potential discussions at the upcoming global synod.
The bishop issued the letter as a follow-up to his August pastoral document in which he warned of attempts to “present an alternative to the Gospel of Jesus Christ” and urged Catholics to “remain firmly upon the perennial teachings of the faith.”
In his September missive, Strickland reiterated that Christ “is the only path to everlasting life” and that “no other path to salvation can be found.” The bishop subsequently warned that some are attempting to “chip away or destroy altogether the Deposit of Faith” of the Catholic Church.
Noting that the ordination of women will “reportedly be a topic of discussion at the upcoming Synod on Synodality,” Strickland said that throughout the centuries the Church has always held that only men can be ordained to the priesthood.
“Sacred Tradition and the Ordinary Magisterium of the Church have affirmed throughout the ages that the Church has no authority whatsoever to ordain women to the priesthood,” the bishop said.
“This cannot be changed because Christ instituted a male priesthood in order to image himself as the bridegroom with the Church as his bride,” he said.
Strickland further cited St. John Paul II, who wrote in his 1994 apostolic letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis that the Church cannot “confer priestly ordination on women,” with the pope directing that this conclusion “be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.”
Addressing the possibility of female deacons in the Church, Strickland further highlighted what he said was the historical difference between the “important roles of service” many women filled in the early Church and the specific office of the ordained diaconate noted in the Acts of the Apostles.
“Because sacramentally ordained deacons share in the apostolic ministry with priests and bishops, the Church has decreed that they must also be men, as were the apostles Jesus chose,” Strickland wrote.
The bishop noted near the end of his letter that though the Church itself is holy, it “is also made up of sinful members who are called constantly to repentance and conversion.”
Diocesan spokeswoman Elizabeth Slaten told CNA on Wednesday that the document “was simply a general letter [the bishop] had been considering for a while.”
Strickland was embroiled in controversy earlier this year after he was subject to a Vatican-directed investigation, known as an apostolic visitation, in the wake of several controversial incidents including a tweet in which he appeared to suggest that Pope Francis was “undermining the Deposit of Faith.”
The bishop denied any wrongdoing in the wake of the investigation. He admitted that the process was “not fun,” though he remained outspoken about what he said were attempts to undermine the Catholic faith.
“The sad thing is that too many people are bringing a false message that is harmful to the world and to the mystical body of Christ that is the Church,” he said.
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