Maybe you were holding out hope that the Catholic Church would eventually change its ways regarding female priests. Or maybe you quietly appreciated the patriarchal hierarchy, because that sort of thinking probably hurts the Church and pushes women out of the faith.
Either way, Pope Francis said today that the ban on female priests will likely stay in place forever:
The journalist, a Swede, mentioned that among those who welcomed Francis during his visit was Lutheran Archbishop Antje Jackelen of Uppsala. Jackelen is the primate of the Church of Sweden and a woman.
“Is it realistic to think that there might be women priests in the next few decades?” the journalist asked the pope.
“On the ordination of women in the Catholic church, the last word is clear,” Francis responded, before mentioning John Paul’s 1994 apostolic letter banning the practice, Ordinatio Sacerdotalis. “It was given by St. John Paul II and this remains.”
“But really forever?” the journalist asked. “Never?”
“If we read carefully the declaration made by St. John Paul II, it goes in this direction,” Francis replied.
Saying that women can’t be priests isn’t news. That’s just the way it goes in the Church. But the insistence that this will never change, coming from a pope who is generally perceived as forward-thinking and inclusive, is apparently surprising to many people.
I don’t know why. It also wouldn’t surprise me if Pope Francis said homosexuality will never be accepted in the Church. Sexism and bigotry are baked right into the Catholic formula and it’s served them just fine up to this point. Why change the recipe now?
(The answer to that is that it would likely bring a lot of lapsed Catholics back into the Church and create a new generation of passionate Catholics, proud of the inclusive nature of their faith… but why do the smart, strategic thing when condemnation is just a Bible verse away?)
For what it’s worth, women are allowed in other positions of power within the Church. They can be deacons, for example. But there’s a ceiling.
You won’t see a female priest. You won’t see a female bishop. You won’t see a female cardinal. You won’t see a Pope Francine.
While today’s announcement changes nothing, I’d like to think some Catholic women will rethink why they stay in a Church that doesn’t treat them as equals with regard to leadership. Just because it’s tradition doesn’t mean it’s right. And when you consider how the Church already denounces abortion and birth control, it’s clear that respect for women and their rights are not a priority for them, now or in the future.
(Image via Shutterstock)