Pope Francis: Why women cannot be ordained priests

Pope Francis women priests

Pope Francis has unequivocally stated that women cannot be ordained as priests; however, he emphasised the important role they have to play in the life of the Church.

In an interview with America Magazine, Francis responded to a question posed by Kerry Webber, executive editor of the magazine published by the Jesuits of the United States:

“Many women feel pain because they cannot be ordained priests. What would you say to a woman who is already serving in the life of the Church but who still feels called to be a priest?”

The Holy Father was unequivocal in his response:

“And why can a woman not enter ordained ministry? It is because the Petrine principle has no place for that,” the pope said.

“The ministerial dimension, we can say, is that of the Petrine church. I am using a category of theologians. The Petrine principle is that of ministry,” the Holy Father said.

A theology of the ‘Marian principle’

The pope explained that there is another “theological” way in which women play a vital role in Church life.

The dignity of women, he said, reflected the spousal nature of the Church, which he called the “Marian principle”.

“The way is not only [ordained] ministry. The Church is woman. The Church is a spouse. We have not developed a theology of women that reflects this,” Pope Francis said.

“The Petrine principle is that of ministry.

“But there is another principle that is still more important, about which we do not speak, that is the Marian principle, which is the principle of femininity in the Church, of the woman in the Church, where the Church sees a mirror of herself because she is a woman and a spouse.

“A church with only the Petrine principle would be a church that one would think is reduced to its ministerial dimension, nothing else. But the Church is more than a ministry.

“It is the whole people of God.

“The Church is woman. The Church is a spouse. Therefore, the dignity of women is mirrored in this way,” the pope said.

“Therefore, that the woman does not enter into the ministerial life is not a deprivation.

“No. Your place is that which is much more important and which we have yet to develop, the catechesis about women in the way of the Marian principle,” he said.

“There is a third way: the administrative way.

“The ministerial way, the ecclesial way, let us say, Marian, and the administrative way, which is not a theological thing, it is something of normal administration. And, in this aspect, I believe we have to give more space to women,” Pope Francis said.

Theologians must explore and venture

At a recent meeting with members of the International Theological Commission, Pope Francis told the Commission that it is the vocation of the theologian is always to risk going further because they are seeking and they are trying to make theology clearer.

“The theologian dares to go further, and it will be the magisterium that will stop them,” the pope said.

Theologians must explore and “venture” out further to help enrich doctrine while catechists must stick to established, “solid” doctrine, never anything new, Pope Francis told theologians.

The pope singled out the women members on the Theological Commission, saying women bring a different intellectual perspective to theology, which can make it “more profound and more ‘flavourful’.”

Francis suggested that the prestigious ITC could consider including more women in their group.

In September, women’s role in the Catholic Church was the focus of a New Zealand group working for gender equality in Church leadership.

A media release from a group called “Be the Change, Catholic Church, Aotearoa” notes New Zealand women’s suffrage was granted on 19 September 1893, and the September anniversary shows the Catholic Church is 129 years behind New Zealand in recognising the leadership skills of women.

To mark women’s suffrage and highlight God’s call for the Church to allow women to exercise their gifts, on 18 September, Catholic women in Auckland and Wellington mounted an installation of women’s shoes at their respective cathedrals.


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