BY JOHN OMICINSKI
Gannett News Service
WASHINGTON -- Saying they were "painfully aware" of disagreement on the subject, U.S. bishops this week told American Catholics that ordaining female priests is out of the question because Jesus Christ's apostles were all males.
"Ordination to the ministerial priesthood is reserved to men," said a document released by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops' doctrine committee, "because the Church is bound to follow the example of the Lord, who chose only men as his apostles."
The priesthood document, titled "Ten Frequently Asked Questions about the Reservation of Priestly Ordination to Men," offered no prospect for further study that might reopen the issue.
Noting that Pope John Paul II invoked papal infallibility in restating the church's position on a males-only
priesthood, the bishops said, "The church must follow the example of Christ, who called women to discipleship but not to membership in the Twelve."
While emphatically closing the door on a female priesthood, the U.S. bishops' doctrinal committee, headed by Cincinnati Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk, said it was "painfully aware" that some U.S. Catholics disagree.
"These differences present obstacles along the way toward unity among us," it acknowledged.
But the church's teaching "must be accepted in faith," the document concluded. The doctrine of male-only priesthood, it said, is "discerned and explained" by the church from Christ's teachings and "not invented or generated on her own authority."
Several other faiths have ordained female priests and ministers, and the Roman Catholic bishops admitted the issue has become a roadblock to closer ties with other faiths.
The male-only priesthood wasn't meant as an affront to women, the committee hastened to add, explaining that "the church has clearly affirmed the equal dignity of men and women."