As progressive as Pope Francis’ views are on issues like same-sex marriage and climate change, the pontiff’s recent comments about women in the priesthood show he’s still going to stick with tradition on some matters.
During a news conference on Pope Francis’ plane this past Tuesday, a reporter asked him whether there might be female priests in the next few decades, especially given that the head of the Lutheran Church in Sweden who welcomed him is a woman. “St. Pope John Paul II had the last clear word on this, and it stands,” Pope Francis said, referring to a 1994 letter then-Pope John Paul II wrote which shut down the notion of women being ordained as priests.
This is not the first time Pope Francis has weighed in on the idea. Earlier this year he created a commission to study whether women could serve as deacons, like they did during early Christianity. Since deacons must be ordained, this was an indicator to some that Pope Francis might consider allowing women into the priesthood. But Pope Francis also subscribes to the Catholic Church’s traditional view that priests must be men because Jesus chose men as his disciples. Therefore, according to the Church, because priest’s role is to act as the person of Christ, a priest must be a man.
What roles do women play in the Catholic Church today? What roles have the played in the past and how have their roles evolved over time? What can we make of Pope Francis’ seemingly un-modern stance, especially after having much more modern views on other issues central to the Catholic Church?
Kathleen Buckley Domingo, Associate Director at Office of Life, Justice, and Peace; Archdiocese of Los Angeles
Gail DeGeorge, Editor of the Global Sisters Report which is part of the National Catholic Reporter