US Bishops Affirm Women's Contribution to Church

Reiterate Seriousness of Offenses Against Holy Orders

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WASHINGTON, D.C., JULY 16, 2010 ( The U.S. bishops are affirming the contribution of women to the Church after the Vatican included the attempted ordination of a woman in a revised list of the Church’s «more grave crimes.»

The Holy See published the revisions Thursday, which are an update to the 2001 apostolic letter «Sacramentorum Sanctitatis Tutela» that outlines the norms for addressing cases of «gravioribus delictis» (grave crimes).

Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington, chairman of the Committee on Doctrine of the U.S. bishops, published a statement the same day in which he welcomed the Vatican clarification «of the seriousness with which it holds offenses against the Sacrament of Holy Orders.»

«The seven sacraments are an integral and identifying part of the Catholic Church and the faith life of each Catholic,» the prelate said. «To feign any sacrament would be egregious. The Catholic Church through its long and constant teaching holds that ordination has been, from the beginning, reserved to men, a fact which cannot be changed despite changing times.»

Having said that, the archbishop affirmed that «all Catholics are called to Christian service,» and noted in particular that «women have responded with extraordinary generosity.»

«Historically, women have had an essential role in the life of the Church,» Archbishop Wuerl continued. «This is true especially through their volunteer work in parishes, their professional service and their membership in religious communities, lay movements and other organizations, where they serve in a range of areas such as health care and education.

«Today women serve in Church leadership positions at all levels. Women hold nearly half of diocesan administrative and professional positions — a fact that compares favorably to the U.S. workforce as a whole. Women also hold about one-quarter of the top diocesan positions, such as chancellor, school superintendent or chief financial officer. About 80 percent of lay parish ministers are women.»

«The Church’s gratitude to women cannot be stated strongly enough,» he concluded. «Women offer unique insight, creative abilities and unstinting generosity at the very heart of the Catholic Church. Their activity and determinative participation explains much of what makes the Catholic Church the powerful force for goodness and holiness that it is.»

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