A new article in the Italian Jesuit journal Civilta Cattolica raises questions about the teaching of St. John Paul II that women can never be ordained to the priesthood.

The essay in Civilta Cattolica carries special significance, because material in the journal is approved in advance by the Vatican. Moreover, the editor of Civilta Cattolica, Father Antonio Spadaro, is a key adviser to Pope Francis. The essay is by the deputy editor, Father Giancarlo Pani.

Although the essay does not directly advance the argument that women could be ordained, the author questions whether the statement by St. John Paul II in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis is an authoritative and binding statement of the Church magisterium. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) answered that question in 1995, stating plainly that the papal teaching was definitive and should be “considered as belonging to the deposit of the faith.” Nevertheless Father Pani reopens that question.

Citing “tensions” between the Church’s teaching and the work of theologians, the author says that the 1995 statement from the CDF “does not take into account the developments that the presence of woman in the family and in society has undergone in the 21st century.” He says that there is “unease among those who fail to understand how the exclusion of woman from the Church’s ministry can coexist with the affirmation and appreciation of her equal dignity.”

“One cannot always resort to the past,” the article argues, calling for a new approach to the issue. Father Pani closes with the observation that Pope Francis has shown that he will not “limit himself to what is already known.”

Pope Francis himself has said that the teaching of St. John Paul II on the impossibility of ordaining women is “the last clear word… and this holds.”

Story from Catholic Culture.