For Immediate Release: 1 November 2016

Contact:  Kate McElwee +1 607.725.1364


On the papal plane from Sweden to Rome, Pope Francis was asked by a journalist:

“Is it realistic to think that there might be women priests in the next few decades?”  

“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? Never?”

“If we read carefully the declaration made by St. John Paul II it goes in that direction.”


The Women’s Ordination Conference (WOC) is profoundly disappointed with Pope Francis’s reliance on his predecessors’ documents regarding the possibility of priestly ordination for women.

Several times Pope Francis has been asked by journalists aboard the papal plane regarding women’s priestly ordination.  The reason this question cannot be suppressed is because the exclusion of women defies the example of Jesus, who welcomed men and women equally. Ordinatio Sacerdotalis is an outdated, fallible and painful document created by his predecessors to diminish the leadership and vocations of women.

Instead of citing John Paul II, Pope Francis might have cited the Vatican’s own Pontifical Biblical Commission that concluded in 1976 that there is no valid scriptural or theological reason for denying ordination to women, or looked to archeology and historical documents that show women’s leadership in the early church. He could have looked to Jesus who welcomed women as his equal. Or he could look to the people of God who overwhelmingly support the ordination of women.

The Church cannot be afraid to examine customs when they no longer communicate or resonate with the Gospel. A Church that is not open to the gifts of half of its membership is unsustainable and out-of-touch with the needs of its people. “Never changing” is not only historically inaccurate but simply not an option when it comes to women’s equality.

The Women’s Ordination Conference and the majority of U.S. Catholics we represent do not accept “never ever” as an option. We will continue to work for the full equality of women in the Roman Catholic Church knowing that unjust laws are indefensible with a God that does not discriminate. Patriarchy will not have the last word.

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