What is seen to actually occur if a female were to be the subject of laying on of the hands in ordination?

The CCC 1577 states that "...the ordaination of women is not possible".

What (in the Catholic view) would actually happen if a validly ordained Bishop attempted to ordain a female to ministry?

Would the Holy Spirit refuse to flow through and into the women, thus not marking her indelibly with the spiritual character of a priest?

Or would the spirit flow, but be disagreeable to catholic doctrine?

2 Answers 2


What is seen to actually occur if a female were to be the subject of laying on of the hands in ordinations, according to the Catholic Church?

The short answer is nothing.

The woman in question is not ordained, even after going through the motions of an ordination.

Pope John Paul II in his Apostolic Letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis is very clear on the matter.

Priestly ordination, which hands on the office entrusted by Christ to his Apostles of teaching, sanctifying and governing the faithful, has in the Catholic Church from the beginning always been reserved to men alone. This tradition has also been faithfully maintained by the Oriental Churches.

Furthermore, the fact that the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God and Mother of the Church, received neither the mission proper to the Apostles nor the ministerial priesthood clearly shows that the non-admission of women to priestly ordination cannot mean that women are of lesser dignity, nor can it be construed as discrimination against them. Rather, it is to be seen as the faithful observance of a plan to be ascribed to the wisdom of the Lord of the universe.

Although the teaching that priestly ordination is to be reserved to men alone has been preserved by the constant and universal Tradition of the Church and firmly taught by the Magisterium in its more recent documents, at the present time in some places it is nonetheless considered still open to debate, or the Church's judgment that women are not to be admitted to ordination is considered to have a merely disciplinary force.

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.

Thus we see that the ordination of women to the priesthood is not a question or mere Church discipline, but rather that the Church has no true authority (power) from Christ to admit women to Sacred Orders.

In the Catholic Church, a bishop is latae sententiae excommunicated if he attempts to confer Holy Orders on a woman, alongside the woman who attempted to receive the consecration.

The "ordination" of a woman to the Sacrament of Holy Orders is prohibited by the Catholic Church. An ordination like this carries automatic excommunication for the person who performs the "ordination" as well as the person who is "ordained."

"It is important for Catholics to understand that they cannot receive a valid Sacrament such as Baptism, Confession or Eucharist from an excommunicated person. Catholics should never attend a so-called Mass in which an excommunicated person is presiding.

Canon Law states that only baptized male alone receives sacred ordination validly (Canon 1024).


To my mind, there is a similar question to that of "re-baptism". If someone who is already baptised undergoes the baptism ceremony a second time, it doesn't have an effect. As a priest of mine once said about a friend of mine who had joined a Baptist church: "He didn't get rebaptised: he just got wet."

The phrase in the Canons is:

Every person not yet baptized and only such a person is capable of baptism. (Canon 864)

The equivalent phrase for ordination is

A baptized male alone receives sacred ordination validly. (Canon 1024)

There seems an obvious analogy between the two.

Note also the word "validly". This is in the canons to be contrasted with "licitly". An ordination of a man to another diocese without the permission of his bishop is illicit (i.e. illegal under church law). An ordination of a woman is invalid (i.e. not an ordination).

Similarly, for the Eucharist, you cannot use vodka instead of wine: that is invalid. Not wearing vestments would be illicit, but the mass would still be validly celebrated.

  • 1
    Yes. An illicitly ordained man would become a priest, albeit a gravely sinning one who likely needs to go to confession right away if he knew the ordination was illicit. He would remain a priest, but would most likely be forbidden by his bishop to perform any sacraments except in case of emergency. Commented Sep 23, 2018 at 0:53

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