Pope Francis and the Ban on Discussing Women's Ordination Twenty Years Later

WOW Action Alert:
Call on Pope Francis to open discussion about women’s ordination
Deadline May 15, 2014

Pope Francis: a new era?

Pope Francis: a new era?

May 22, 2014 will mark the twentieth anniversary of John Paul II's Apostolic Letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis in which he attempted to officially ban discussion about the ordination of women.

In a now infamous July 28, 2013 interview with reporters at the end of World Youth Day, Pope Francis referenced this document when he said, “On the ordination of women, the church has spoken and said no. John Paul II, in a definitive formulation said that door is closed.”

Women's ordination advocates remain mindful of Pope Francis's well expressed wisdom that, 'Dialogue is the only way for individuals, families and societies to grow, and that the Church should not be afraid to re-examine customs when they no longer serve as a means of communicating the Gospel.' Women's Ordination Worldwide encourages people to keep speaking out.

Closing dialogue when there has been none does not show a way forward to growth. A male only priesthood is a custom that is neither consistent with Christianity nor has it ever served as a means of effectively and fully communicating the Gospel.

Pope Francis on the role of women in the church, a year in review

You may wish to reflect on these alone or gather as a group to share thoughts. Participants may take turns reading Pope Francis’s quotes aloud and reflect on how the quote personally affects them and/or their church community.

  • “On the ordination of women, the church has spoken and said no. John Paul II, in a definitive formulation said that door is closed.”- July 28, 2013
  • “It is necessary to broaden the opportunities for a stronger presence of women in the church. I am wary of a solution that can be reduced to a kind of ‘female machismo,’ because a woman has a different make-up than a man. But what I hear about the role of women is often inspired by an ideology of machismo.” – September 30, 2013, interview with America Magazine
  • “Women are asking deep questions that must be addressed. The church cannot be herself without the woman and her role. The woman is essential for the church. Mary, a woman, is more important than the bishops. I say this because we must not confuse the function with the dignity. We must therefore investigate further the role of women in the church. We have to work harder to develop a profound theology of the woman. Only by making this step will it be possible to better reflect on their function within the church. The feminine genius is needed wherever we make important decisions. The challenge today is this: to think about the specific place of women also in those places where the authority of the church is exercised for various areas of the church.” - September 30, 2013, interview with America Magazine
  • “The reservation of the priesthood to males, as a sign of Christ the Spouse who gives himself in the Eucharist, is not a question open to discussion, but it can prove especially divisive if sacramental power is too closely identified with power in general.”  – Evangelii Gaudium, November 24, 2013
  • “We need to create still broader opportunities for a more incisive female presence in the Church. Because “the feminine genius is needed in all expressions in the life of society, the presence of women must also be guaranteed in the workplace and in the various other settings where important decisions are made, both in the Church and in social structures.” - Evangelii Gaudium, November 24, 2013
  • On the possibility of women cardinals: “I don’t know where this idea sprang from. Women in the Church must be valued not “clericalised”. –December 14, 2012, Interview with La Stampa
  • “How is it possible for any woman to develop an incisive presence in the many areas of public and professional life where important decisions are made, and at the same time to maintain a special presence within the family?” – January 25, 2014
  • “It is in dialogue with God, enlightened by prayer, that the Christian woman continually searches to answer the Lord’s call, in the reality of her situation. This is a prayer that is always supported by the maternal presence of Mary. She, who cared for her divine Son, who propitiated his first miracle at the wedding at Cana, who was present on Calvary and at the Pentecost, shows you the road to take to deepen the meaning and role of women in society and to be fully faithful to the Lord Jesus Christ and to your mission in the world.” – January 25, 2014

Recommended Reading

 Please use this resource list as guide to further explore the question of women’s ordination.

Our Own Short Course on Women's Ordination

Articles on Pope Francis and role of women in the church

Books on women’s ordination

  • Osiek, Carolyn and Margaret MacDonald with Janet Tulloch, A Woman’s Place: House Churches in Earliest Christianity, Baltimore, MD: The John Hopkins University Press, 2005.
  • Torjeson, Karen Jo, When Women Were Priests: Women’s Leadership in the Early Church and the Scandal of Their Subordination in the Rise of Christianity, New York: Harper Collins, 1993.
  • Macy, Gary, The Hidden History of Women’s Ordination, New York: Oxford University Press, 2005
  • Madigan, Kevin and Osiek, Carolyn, Ordained Women in the Early Church: A Documentary History, Baltimore, MD: The John Hopkins University Press, 2005.
  • Halter, Deborah, The Papal No: The Vatican’s Refusal to Ordain Women, New York: The Crossroad Publishing Company, 2004
  • Malone, Mary, T., Women and Christianity, Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 2001
  • Wijngaards, John, Did Christ Rule Out Women Priests (available online)
  • Wijngaards, John, The Ordination of Women in the Catholic Church: Unmasking a Cuckoo's Egg Tradition, London: Contiuum, 2001

Discussion Questions

Participants are asked to freely reflect on the following questions:

  1. Do you think women should be ordained in the Roman Catholic Church? Why or why not?
  2. How has/hasn’t the church changed during Pope Francis’s papacy?
  3. What priestly gifts do you possess? How do you answer your baptismal call?
  4. How would the Roman Catholic Church be different with women priests? How would it be the same?
  5. What structures within the priesthood and the church need to change to allow for a renewed priesthood and renewed church where all are equal, liberated from oppression, and nourished spiritually?
  6. What do you think of women who are moving beyond Roman Catholic structures to be ordained in Roman (or other) Catholic faith communities? 

Take Action

In preparation for the twentieth anniversary of Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, Women’s Ordination Worldwide is collecting letters from the faithful who:

  • support dialogue about women's ordination in the Catholic Church

  • support the opening of doors to the ordination of women; and

  • who recognize that women, like men, are not only created in God's image but are also called to serve all God’s people in all ways, including holy orders.

A delegation of women’s ordination advocates from around the world will, during prayerful vigil hand deliver these letters to the Vatican -- letters from women who are called to priesthood and from all those who stand up for justice in the church.

Make Your Voice is Heard


Send your letter by May 15, 2014 online by filling out the form below.

By Post:

Or send by post a hand-written letter to Pope Francis by May 15, 2014 to either:

  • c/o WOC PO BOX 15057 Washington, DC 20003 USA; or

  • c/o John Wijngaards Catholic Research Centre, 111a High St, Rickmansworth, WD3 1AN, UK

You can submit your letter in the language of your choice.  Visit www.womenpriests.org for translations of this action alert into a variety of languages.

Closing Prayer

O loving God, scripture teaches us:

“There is neither male nor female, Jew nor Greek, slave nor free.”

All are one in your image.

Let us live this message in our lives, in our communities,

and especially in our churches.

Let us use our voice to speak truth about justice and equality.

Let us celebrate the gifts of all God’s people.

Give us hope for the future of our renewed, justice, and equal church.


These stories will be collected and hand delivered by representatives of Women's Ordination Worldwide to the Vatican on the anniversary of Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, May 22, 2014. Please direct any questions to woc@womensordination.org
I agree to allow the content of my response to be shared publically