Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

Rev. McHeretic on Women’s Ordination

June 14th, 2011, Promulgated by Dr. K

Here is the latest dissent from the Rev. Richard McBrien. This time, the McBrien tackles the subject of women’s ordination. Instead of submitting to the definitive teaching of the Catholic Church set forth infallibly that men alone are ordained priests, Rev. McHeretic continues to reach for straws by claiming that the teaching is not infallible, and thus open for discussion.

If the Catholic Courier dares to publish this latest trash from Fr. McBrien, a copy should be sent to Rome immediately for review. They should not be able to pass along such dissent and claim to be a Catholic newspaper. Here is an excerpt:

“Ratzinger noted that the teaching on women’s ordination “has been set forth infallibly by the ordinary and universal magisterium,” as well as by the 1998 apostolic letter of Pope John Paul II, Ad Tuendam Fidem (“For the defense of the faith”), accompanied by a commentary written by Ratzinger, who said essentially the same thing as he is now saying as pope.

But canon 749.3 stipulates that if there is any doubt about the infallible nature of a teaching, it is not infallible. The canon reads: “No doctrine is understood to be infallibly defined unless it is clearly established as such.”

Therefore, even if then-Cardinal Ratzinger concluded that Pope John Paul II’s teaching on women priests in Ordinatio sacerdotalis was infallible, it could not be considered infallible because it was not “clearly established as such.”

And even if a pope, such as Benedict XVI, wished to argue that a specific teaching of one of his predecessors was infallible, canon 749.3 would also seem to preclude such an argument.

Moreover, individual Catholic theologians, major Catholic theological organizations in the United States, and the Canon Law Society of Great Britain and Ireland have expressed serious doubts about the claim that the Church’s current prohibition of the ordination of women to the priesthood is grounded in an infallible teaching.”

I don’t know how much clearer Pope John Paul II could have made his declaration without using the word “infallible” itself. Even then, I imagine that McBrien would come up with some other loophole!

Here is what the Holy Father wrote in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis:

“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 Holy Father proclaims that he is eliminating all doubt on the matter of women’s ordination, he invokes his supreme Papal authority, he makes a declaration on faith and morals, and finally, he requires that this declaration be held definitively by all. The door is closed for good on women’s ordination. There is no doubt whatsoever about Pope John Paul II’s intentions with regard to this pronouncement. Because pouters like the Rev. McBrien continued to cast doubt on this definitive teaching, then-Cardinal Ratzinger, with the approval of the Holy Father, clarified that the Pope had indeed made an infallible declaration. 

McBrien’s article also contains the following inflammatory commentary:

“However, if it were not for the constant drumbeat of criticism on the part of ultraconservative Catholics — most or all of whom have had no formal education in theology, Scripture, liturgy, or canon law — and the appointment of another ultraconservative as Apostolic Visitor — Charles Chaput, Archbishop of Denver — Morris would not have been removed from his diocese.”

This is yet another example of the “liberal elite” thumbing their noses at us supposedly uneducated “ultraconservatives.” By the way, was the Rev. McBrien including Archbishop Chaput in this group of uneducated Catholics? He did say “most or all.”

Pure rubbish from one of the Church’s worst dissenters.



27 Responses to “Rev. McHeretic on Women’s Ordination”

  1. Anonymous II says:

    If the pope wanted his pronouncement to be accepted as infallible, why did he not state simply that it was an infallible doctrine??

  2. Gail F says:

    Anonymous II: What part about “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 I declare” and “this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful” do you not understand?

    I like the typesetting of this post; very emphatic!

  3. Ben Anderson says:

    Love the giant red text!

  4. Hopefull says:

    Maybe we could start assembling a wish list for the next bishop. Getting rid of McHeretic in the Courier would be in the top 10. Move Cathedral to St. Michael? Put tabernacles back in the center of the sanctuary. Get rid of priestesses, for sure. No butt baptism. Cut Diocesan staff in half. Reopen at least one Catholic School in the first year. Train all priests to do TLM…..can you imagine a doctor just specializing on, say, the left side of the body? Or a lawyer only handling motor vehicle accidents for blue cars? Silly of course. But how much sense does it make to have a priest ordained and not be able to say TLM as well as Novus Ordo? Oh, and on my list would be to raise the retirement age for priests. Whatever happened to “Thou art a priest forever!”

  5. Thinkling says:

    Ugh, he’s following the same Through-the-Looking-Glass logic I mentioned in a previous thread:

    Church: Ordinatio Sacerdotalis says infallibly that the Church has no authority to ordain women.

    McH: But Ordinatio Sacerdotalis is not an infallible document

    Church: CONCERNING THE TEACHING CONTAINED IN ORDINATIO SACERDOTALIS RESPONSUM AD DUBIUM states that the Ordinatio Sacerdotalis teaching is infallible.

    McH: But that document isn’t infallible.

    I mean this with all due respect to Fr. McBrien, but in the last year or so his writings make me fear that someday soon he’ll turn up walking alongside a highway naked at 2:00 AM without any idea where he is. The man seems to be losing it. Pray for his conversion.

    to infinity and beyond

    Logical nihilism at its best.

  6. Thinkling says:

    Hmm, the last two lines of my last post should be right after the dialog, before the highway remark. Sorry about the browser burp.

  7. Anonymous II says:

    Gail F You did not answer my question. All I received was a flip response with a tone of sarcasm.

  8. Mike says:

    I remember first reading Pope John Paul II’s solemn declaration quoted above by Dr. K. and wondering why His Holiness had included the phrase, “in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren.” While the phrase does serve to show his intention it didn’t really strike me as making his statement any more authoritative than it would have been without it.

    A few months later I acquired a used copy of Roy Deferrari’s English translation of Denzinger’s Enchiridion Symbolorum and spent some time reading up on the background behind some of our doctrines. When I got to Vatican I’s fourth session and it’s declaration of papal infallibility, I believed I finally understood why His Holiness had made that allusion to Luke 22:32.

    Immediately prior to the solemn declaration on infallibility the following three sentences appear (my emphasis):

    For, the Holy Spirit was not promised to the successors of Peter that by His revelation they might disclose new doctrine, but that by His help they might guard sacredly the revelation transmitted through the apostles and the deposit of faith, and might faithfully set it forth. Indeed, all the venerable fathers have embraced their apostolic doctrine, and the holy orthodox Doctors have venerated and followed it, knowing full well that the See of St. Peter always remains unimpaired by any error, according to the divine promise of our Lord the Savior made to the chief of His disciples: “I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and thou, being once converted, confirm thy brethren” [Luke 22:32].

    So, this gift of truth and a never failing faith was divinely conferred 1837 upon Peter and his successors in this chair, that they might administer their high duty for the salvation of all; that the entire flock of Christ, turned away by them from the poisonous food of error, might be nourished on the sustenance of heavenly doctrine, that with the occasion of schism removed the whole Church might be saved as one, and relying on her foundation might stay firm against the gates of hell.

    Vatican I’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church cited Luke 22:32 as an important part of its explanation of why it was justified in proclaiming the doctrine of papal infallibility and 124 years later Pope John Paul II made that same verse a prominent part of his declaration in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis.

    I now believe that His Holiness knew exactly what he was doing.

  9. Mike says:

    Please ignore the “1837” in the second paragraph of the blockquote, above. The text was scanned in and the number is actually part of the marginal index system employed by the author and not part of Vatican I’s Constitution.

  10. annonymouse says:

    I wish Archbishop Mansell would shut McBrien up. Shame on Notre Dame University for sheltering this heretic all these years.

    Isn’t there a mandatory retirement age for loud-mouthed heretics?

  11. Jim R says:

    Professor McBrien is focusing on the wrong Pope. So what if there is some defect in what Pope JPII wrote? So what that CDF has no charism of infallibility – thus we can discount the response to the dubium. Professor McBrien notes the very reason why the teaching must be held as infallible:

    “Ratzinger noted that the teaching on women’s ordination “has been set forth infallibly by the ordinary and universal magisterium,” as well as by the 1998 apostolic letter of Pope John Paul II, Ad Tuendam Fidem (“For the defense of the faith”), accompanied by a commentary written by Ratzinger, who said essentially the same thing as he is now saying as pope.

    NOTE THE LAST CLAUSE: Benedict XVI is NOW saying, as Pope, that the teaching on women’s ordination is infallible. End of issue Roma locuta est.

  12. Nerina says:

    Hopefull, I love your list of ideas for a new Bishop. I have noticed that the Courier is not putting Fr. McBrien in every issue of the print version. That’s a start. The other columnists are equally troubling, but at least most of them aren’t priests.

    Mike, thanks for that very insightful discussion on papal infallibility.

    What gets me about the whole issue of women’s ordination is that people continue to foment and agitate on an issue that has been definitely settled (Anon II – look at the wording in Ordinatio Sacredotalis again – do you think this wording is somehow malleable?). What an enormous waste of time, talent and energy of people that could be better used in serving God’s people. Do they really want to waste their resources on advocating a 1980s feminist agenda? This isn’t about equality, but about power. These people don’t advocate for authentic femininity. They don’t uphold women like me, raising a family and sustaining a marriage (how 1950s of me). They only seek to elevate themselves. How is this obsession to be ordained a reflection of Christian discipleship which demands “I must decrease, so that Christ may increase”?

  13. Louis E. says:

    Priestly retirement ages are a random thing.I’ve read of a couple of pastors in their 90s in Michigan,and I know Msgr. Blacet of Kansas City (the last vice-chancellor of the merged diocese of St. Joseph) is active most of the way through his 80s.

  14. snowshoes says:

    I skimmed the article and responses, and forgive me if I’m repeating someone, but didn’t see it stated quite exactly, that an infallible teaching of the Church that is infallible because it has been clearly held through practice from the beginning of the Church, such as the reservation of ordination to males in the Sacrament of Holy Orders, may not be the subject of a “new” infallible statement ex-cathedra, because it has ever been done. Therefore, Bl. JPTG (the Great) just restated the existing infallible teaching to confirm the faith of the brethren. Way to go, Bl. JPTG!!!

  15. Dr. K says:


    The words of Pope JPII are very clear that Ordinatio Sacerdotalis is a declaration of an infallible teaching. The response released by Pope Benedict while Cardinal prefect of the CDF merely confirms this fact. It is NOT trying to apply infallibility after the fact, as many like to claim so as to give themselves hope that this teaching could be changed.

    Pope Benedict doesn’t need to write his own document because Pope John Paul II’s document is sufficiently conclusive on the matter. And even if he did, the progressives would still not accept it.

  16. Dominick Anthony Zarcone says:

    Heretic, dissenter? Perhaps. Until the appropriate Roman Congregation in the Curia
    declares Fr. McBrien such, I will just stick to relating a personal experience of him and leave those other judgments to the officials who have the competence and authority.
    After Fr. Richard McBrien gave a talk on Church at SBI in 1994, I went to the microphone when invited. Even before he attempted to reply to my observation that he opened his talk without prayer or before he answered my question regarding the significance of numerous evangelical protestant pastors converting to the Church beginning with Scott Hahn in 1986, he publicly labeled me a conservative. How condescending and arrogant! After being
    labeled conservative in a public forum by the guest speaker of such liberal renown at the famously progressive Saint Bernard’s Institute, would anyone in the audience
    even value the question? Probably not. Was I embarrassed? Oh, a little. But with God’s
    help I maintained a measure of composure, courtesy and respect while feeling the grace of
    holy boldness. Thanks be to God….
    After he spit an answer at me, I could feel hundreds of pairs of eyes as I walked out of the auditorium. McBrien had denied what each of the converted pastors testify; they discovered and entered the Catholic Church because of TRUTH…..What an experience! I will never forget Father Richard McBrien
    of the University of Notre Dame.

  17. A Catholic says:

    annonymouse- The current bishop of South Bend (the location of Notre Dame where Fr. McBrien still teaches) is Bishop Kevin Rhoades.

    Fortunately, McBrien is getting long in the tooth like many of the dissenters of his era, so maybe God will retire him soon.

  18. Ben Anderson says:

    Thanks for that story, Dominick.

  19. Sfomo says:

    Just an observation: When Fr. McBrien referred to our Pope as “Ratzinger” I was reminded of my holy aunt who never spoke of the Pope without first saying “Our beloved ___”

  20. annonymouse says:

    To “A Catholic” – Fr. McB is a priest of the Archdiocese of Hartford, and as such comes under the jurisdiction of Archbishop Mansell. Bishop Rhoades has some jurisdiction over the Catholic colleges and universities in his diocese, but whether that extends to the specific work of Fr. McB, I do not know.

    To Anonymous-11234 – by your logic, Catholics aren’t bound to believe ANYTHING other than the two doctrines infallibly taught ex-cathedra (one of which preceded Vatican I), correct? Logically, then, the magisterium has no teaching authority UNLESS the teaching is declared infallible, right?? WRONG!

  21. annonymouse says:

    Anon 11234 – as to which you yourself alude, a teaching does not need to be declared infallible for Catholics to have an obligation to adhere to it (not dissent from it).

    I believe that the teaching on male-only Orders falls under canon 750, section 2: “Furthermore, each and every thing set forth definitively by the Magisterium of the Church regarding teaching on faith and morals must be firmly accepted and held; namely those things required for the holy keeping and faithful exposition of the deposit of faith; therefore, anyone who rejects propositions which are to be held definitively sets himself against the teaching of the Catholic Church.”

    John Paul did not identify his teaching as “infallible” but he sure did identify it as definitive.

    Why not humbly submit to Holy Mother Church? There is great peace in not imagining oneself Pope – Fr. McBrien would have a more joyful existence if he subscribed to this – as it were, he must be the nastiest, least agreeable cleric alive!

  22. Louis E. says:

    Anonymous-11237…do you believe that an indefectible church would definitively hold errors?

  23. Dr. K says:

    the document never uses the word infallible


    John Paul did not identify his teaching as “infallible” but he sure did identify it as definitive.

    There exists no requirement that the word “infallible” must appear in a papal pronouncement for something to be declared infallibly. Ineffabilis Deus, a document which infallibly defines the Immaculate Conception and predates the declaration on papal infallibility, does not contain the word “infallible.”

    The fact that many question its intent to be infallible in fact brings to question its infallibility.

    So all you need to do is get a group of people together to protest infallible declarations and that will make them fallible? If the Rev. McBrien and his ilk were to claim that the Immaculate Conception is up for debate, does that mean this teaching is no longer infallible?

    The document itself is not clear.

    The document is clear. The Pope himself made a pronouncement in which he invoked his papal authority. He made a declaration on some matter of the faith and required that it be definitively held by all. The criteria for infallibility have been met.

  24. Dr. K says:

    “I agree with you. The teaching was definative.”


    “but I can hope that someday the Church see’s the light and changes its position on the issue”

    But if it’s definitive the Church will NOT change its position.

  25. Mike says:


    In Ordinatio Sacerdotalis Pope John Paul II wrote,

    … in order that all doubt may be removed … I declare …

    Notice that he didn’t write “a preponderance of doubt”, or “all reasonable doubt”, or even “99.9999% of all possible doubt”. No, he instead wrote “all doubt”.

    Now when a pope declares that his solemn statement on a matter of faith is intended to leave no doubt whatsoever in the mind of the reader (which is the obvious effect of removing all doubt), I just don’t see how it can be logically argued that he intended that statement be anything other than an infallible pronouncement.

  26. annonymouse says:

    Oh, but Mike, because he didn’t declare it ex cathedra, we are free to completely disagree with it, don’t you know! At least that seems to be the argument.

    It seems to me that whenever we are finding the teachings of the Church problematic, we ought to examine ourselves and determine what about ourselves is keeping us from fully assenting to the teachings of the Church. To dissent (and to dissent so publicly and vehemently as does Fr. McB), it seems to me, requires one to elevate oneself and one’s own opinions and place oneself and one’s opinions above the very leaders and teachers Jesus provides for us. Ah, the sin of pride, again!

    One thing seems sure, Father McBrien: BLESSED John Paul II could not possibly have been more clear in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis. No Pope is likely to ever dispute that pronouncement, and it certainly isn’t going to happen in our lifetimes. So get over it.

  27. Dr. K says:

    1) Just curious…do you find ANY of the teachings of the church stated unclearly? If no, does that mean they’re ALL infallible? And if they ARE all infallible, why even have the distinction?

    I’ve laid out my reasoning twice now and I’m not going to do it again. Read above to see why this particular teaching was declared infallibly.

    Relative to your comment on a few people getting together to protest infallible declarations. If those people are Canon Lawyers, Priests, Bishops and Theologians that make up a good sized portion of the Church….then yes, the infallibility issue has to come into question.

    Back in the day we called people who did that “heretics.”

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