Pope Francis: Stop Criminalizing God's Call

Pope Francis and Catholic Church Leadership

Pope Francis updated the code of canon law to include a revision that codified the "grave crime" of ordaining a woman, with a punishment of automatic excommunication (Canon 1379).

While it is not new, it continues to be an affront to the people of God and to women and people of all genders who authentically discern a call to ordained ministry.

To: Pope Francis and Catholic Church Leadership
From: [Your Name]

Your recent codification of the “crime” of ordaining a woman is nothing less than an attempt to criminalize God’s call. This effort is theologically unsound and incompatible with our common understanding of God’s boundless creativity, power, and mercy.

The new canon 1379, which excommunicates women who are ordained and the people who ordain them, woefully attempts to suffocate the Holy Spirit. It punishes faithful women who dare to answer God’s call to the diaconate or priesthood with greater severity than those who sexually abuse children or vulnerable people.

Francis, many of us have been inspired by your pastoral leadership and found hope in your openness to bold dialogue and parrhesia. By your invitation, we as a church are at the very beginning of a global synodal process, eager for the sensus fidei to find its way to the synod in Rome in 2023.

Yet, you say one thing as a pastor, and do another as Supreme Pontiff.

As a pastor, you champion breaking down walls and opening doors, you encourage encounter and accompaniment with the most marginalized in society, and you call each of us to follow our “dream of vocation.”

As pontiff, you have repeatedly and painfully rejected the equality and dignity of more than half of the church. You have reinforced the “closed door” on women’s ordination to the priesthood, and have questioned the very sacramentality of the church’s long history of ordained women deacons. You have also joked about women theologians as “strawberries on the cake,” and women as simple gossipers. Ecumencially, you will embrace the woman archbishop of the Church of Sweden with a hug, but then say in another forum that the ordination of women “leads to ruin.”

Your Holiness, please consider expanding your vision of encounter and accompaniment to include walking with women who are called to ordained ministry, as well as those who long for their sacramental leadership. You will hear the stories and witness the pastoral care of people who have authentically discerned God’s vocation for their lives. Rather than seeing it lead to ruin, you would learn of the great richness women have to offer our church.

Penal codes policing vocational callings are not the path to a synodal church.

We, the undersigned, urge you to heed the wisdom of your people, who know the limitlessness of God’s call, and yearn for the ministries and leadership of women. Their exclusion is one of the deepest wounds that the “field hospital” of the church must heal before being able to move forward. We call upon you to begin this healing in a spirit of urgency and repentance, and open all ordained ministries in the church to all who are called by God.