The statement, which declared deviations from Catholicism's "definitive truths" a violation punishable by anything from a warning to excommunication, is aimed at wayward priests and theologians, says Ostling. And they appear to be getting the message. The day the Vatican released its new edict, America's Catholic bishops -- under pressure from Rome -- revised their advice to parents of gay children to incorporate some of the homophobia demanded by the Holy See.
The pope's word is infallible and Catholics are obliged to abide by it. That was the message from the Vatican Wednesday, in a papal edict designed to quell debate over the ordination of women priests. The Catholic Theological Society of America had questioned the status of a 1994 papal statement against women priests. "The Vatican wants to make clear that such statements have doctrinal status," says TIME correspondent Richard Ostling. "Papal infallibility is rarely invoked -- this statement reveals the urgency the pope feels about battening down the hatches."