Avery Dulles, “Humanae Vitae and Ordinatio Sacerdotalis: Problems of Reception,” in Church Authority in American Culture: The Second Cardinal Bernardin Conference, edited by the Catholic Common Ground Initiative (New York: Herder and Herder, 1999), pp.21-22.
In spite of the ideological cleft [in the american Church], it is possible for reasonable adherents of each side to appreciate their adversaries’ point of view. Few conservatives are so extreme that they deny all mutability in the tradition or question the possibility that the church might have something to learn from developments in secular society. The church itself encourages its members to be men and women of their own time and to proclaim the faith within the framework of new cultural situations. Many traditionally Catholic ways of thinking, speaking, and acting derive from the secular culture of the past, including the Hellenism of late antiquity and the classicism of medieval and early modern Europe. These cultural elements should not be unduly sacralized. Doctrinal conservatives should therefore be able to understand why some Catholics might regard the official teaching on the points we are considering [birth control and the ordination of women] as open to change.
Conversely, any progressivist who wants to be a Christian, especially a Catholic Christian, must maintain roots in the past. Christians worship the eternal Son of God, who became flesh some two thousand years ago and proclaimed a Gospel that subsequent generations gladly make their own. Christians seek to regulate their ideas and conduct by a revelation that became complete in the apostolic age and is authoritatively transmitted through the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments and through apostolic tradition. The articles of the creed and the dogmas of the church, while they admit of reformulation and reinterpretation, are abidingly true and cannot be nullified by any future developments. All Catholics should therefore be able to to see why the Catholic teaching on contraception and women’s ordination appears to many as irrevocable.
UPDATE: Another interesting quote from Dulles in this essay: “Following Vatican II the bitterest dissent has come from right-wing traditionalists” (p. 28).