Pope Wants More Women in Church Leadership Positions but Rejects Female Priests

Pope Francis talks as he leads the weekly audience in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican.
Pope Francis talks as he leads the weekly audience in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican. | (Photo: Reuters)

Pope Francis has stated that while he supports having more women in positions of authority within the Roman Catholic Church, he does not support allowing women to become priests.

The head of the one billion-strong Church was interviewed by Reuters earlier this week on a host of issues. When asked about female ordination, Francis responded that there is "no Church without women," but that he affirms church tradition on ordination rules.

"With sacred orders, you can't do anything because dogmatically it doesn't go — and John Paul II was clear and closed the door, and I won't turn on this. It was a serious thing, not capricious," said Francis, as quoted by the Catholic site Crux.

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"But we mustn't reduce the presence of the women to their role ... No, it's a thing that man can't do. Man cannot be the bride of Christ. It's the woman, the Church, the bride of Christ."

In 2016, Francis created a commission to study the role of women in the Church, with the possibility that women may eventually be allowed to become deacons.

The Women's Ordination Conference, which advocates for a female priesthood, stated at the time that the commission's creation and it having equal numbers of men and women was encouraging.

"[This is] an important step for the Vatican in recognizing its own history of honoring women's leadership," said the Conference in 2016.

"Only when women are equally included in all ordination rites — as deacons, priests, and bishops — and at all Church decision-making tables, can we begin to restore our Gospel values of equality and justice."

In April, Pope Francis appointed three female theologians to the Catholic Church's prominent Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which is tasked with defending Catholic teaching.

This marked the first time that women were appointed to the CDF, a move that the Vatican paper L'Osservatore Romano labeled "historic."

Francis' remarks reaffirming the Church's ban on female priests comes around the time that research published on the website Religion in Public indicated that American Catholic support for female ordination was exaggerated.

Although a 2015 Pew study found that 59 percent of American Catholics support female ordination, Benjamin Knoll of Centre College in Danville, Kentucky, and Cammie Jo Bolin of Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., argued that this response may be skewed by respondents wanting to give a popular answer rather than what they believed.

"[Our research] suggests that about half of American Catholics might be saying 'yes' when asked about women's ordination on telephone surveys when they really mean 'no,'" they noted.

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