From Canon Lawyer Edward Peters:
Rather, Ordinatio [John Paul II’s ap. lit. Ordinatio sacerdotalis (1994)] asserts something about the Church, namely, that “the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women”. Ordinatio is not about orders, nor even about women, it’s about the Church and about what Jesus authorized his Church to do, or not do, with priestly orders in regard to women.
Think of it this way: If Gabriel himself appeared in fiery splendor above St. Peter’s Basilica and proclaimed “Just so you know, women are ontologically capable of receiving priestly Orders!”, not one jot of Ordinatio would have to be changed, why? because Ordinatio is not about women or orders, it’s about the Church. The pope, shielding his eyes, could say to Gabriel, “I’m confused, does this mean that we can ordain women priests after all?” Gabriel would respond [with a face-palm], “No! for Pete’s sake, because Jesus did not give that authority to his Church!
One of the tedious things about the arguments for and against the ordination of women to the pastoral office is that it so often degenerates into side discussions that mistake the central truth that we cannot afford to miss. It is not given to the Church to ordain women. Period.
This is NOT a discussion of whether women are able. Goodness knows that some of the most able students in the pre-sem programs of the Church never complete the preparation or are ordained. Only an idiot would insist that the only people capable of doing the work of the pastoral ministry are those actually set apart by call and ordination to do so. So we end up arguing if women can (is able to) preach or preside or hear confession, etc..
This is NOT a discussion about some obscure Bible passage whose meaning is unclear. I go blue in the face over every argument over the meaning of what it means that women are to keep silent or any one of the other passages which are often used against women's ordination. For every passage over which scholars may argue about the meaning of the Greek or the situation in the congregation and St. Paul's intent in responding, there are other passages whose meaning is clear, crystal clear (husband of one wife, as just one example).
This is NOT a discussion about culture. It is a dead end discussion to argue that culture in Jesus' day prevented His commending the ordination of women or modern culture today offers the opportunity to ordain women. Jesus did not seem to be much concerned about what people thought over the company He kept, what He did on the Sabbath, the cleansing of the Temple, etc... Furthermore, what does it imply that our Lord was constrained to keep His true will hidden for nearly two thousand years. Culture does not shape doctrine or practice in the life of the Church. Period.
This is NOT a discussion about whether or not the individual feels called by God. It is given to the Church to mediate that call, that is to discern and confirm that inner call or not. As the Church spoke over the issue of whether Gentiles could be accepted into the Church, even though passionate arguments were made on both sides, it was the Word of the Lord and the Spirit who led the Church to confirm or deny this avenue. Every year there are men who are turned away by the Seminary even though they insist they feel called by God. Yes, it may be true that the Church makes mistakes here but that is the responsibility of the Church to make this call. The inner call is confirmed by the external call mediated through the Church. Not to ordain a woman is not to reject her or her usefulness to the Lord and His Church.
This is NOT a discussion of personal value or worth. Men do not have an inherently greater value to the Lord, to the Church, or to the work of the Church. Women are not inferior to men. Different callings, different vocation, are not in competition (except in the world and here our Lord warns us that it shall not be so among His people). St. Paul makes it abundantly clear that baptism commends us equally before the Lord as His people, elect unto Him, saved by virtue of Christ's suffering and death, and set apart as His holy, beloved, and declared righteous children. Baptism does not, however, erase or blur or render obsolete the distinction of male and female. Our gender as male and female is NOT a defect of sin which Christ must heal or for which He has atoned. It is God's creative order.
So what is at stake? What is the authority given to the Church and what is not given to the Church? It is my conviction that Canon Lawyer and John Paul II got it right. The Church has no authority to change or act in the matter of women's ordination. We have no authority to substitute something other than water and the baptismal formula of the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in baptism. We have no authority to change the elements of bread and wine into pizza and beer or even rice wafers and grape juice. We are given these means and this mandate by the Lord. It is ours to fulfill as the Church but not to change.
In essence, we have confidence when we act in accordance with the authority of Christ and we lack confidence apart from that authority. So we can argue all we want to about ability, what it means to teach or keep silent, culture, the inner call of God, or egalitarianism. None of this matters. The Church is not given the authority to do this. It does not make women second class citizens of the Kingdom any more than any other male who is not ordained is less before the Lord than those men who are ordained. The Church does not have the authority to act upon this. Period. It makes a great question for the curious but it is of little import to the Church, to the work of the Kingdom, or to the Pastoral Office. We are given what God has given and this is our authority and our mandate and no other.