On Tuesday, Pope Francis essentially slammed the door on the possibility of women ever being able to become Catholic priests, Reuters reports.
While riding on a plane with the press, Francis casually made the announcement—which would lock women out of major leadership roles in the world's largest religious organization—after a reporter asked him about meeting with a female Lutheran priest in Sweden. The reporter wondered if he thought women might have a shot at being Catholic priests in the coming decades.
"Saint Pope John Paul II had the last clear word on this and it stands, this stands," Francis replied. He was apparently referencing the 1994 open letter to the world from the pope before last, which said, "I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church's faithful."
The female reporter, pressed a bit, asking, "But forever, forever? Never, never?"
"If we read carefully the declaration by St. John Paul II, it is going in that direction," Francis replied.
Francis's comments go against the more progressive image he has brought to the church after softening on issues like evolution and the big bang, as well as the LGBTQ community. During his visit to the US last year, he said organizations both inside and outside the church need to finally value the "immense contribution" made by women. The church, he said, should be "carrying forward the legacy of the past not primarily by maintaining our structures and institutions, which have served us well, but above all by being open to the possibilities which the spirit opens up to us."
That being said, the Catholic Church does change its mind from time to time. Just last week, it decided Catholics could no longer spread their loved ones' ashes around, so there's no saying that this is truly eternal.
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