Some Say Women Priests Are Unlikely

NEW YORK (AP) — Advocates of ordaining women as Roman Catholic priests cite the church’s unfolding sex abuse scandals as powerful arguments for their cause, while acknowledging the high unlikelihood of achieving their goal anytime soon.

Even with extensive grassroots support for letting women become priests, Pope Francis and the Vatican’s male-dominated hierarchy have stressed repeatedly that a men-only priesthood is a divine mandate that cannot be changed.

“I don’t see any movement to ordain women on the horizon, although I wish I did,” said Margaret McGuinness, a religion professor at La Salle University in Philadelphia. “The people in power aren’t going to look at this as a solution.”

In the United States, an organized campaign advocating for female priests dates to the 1970s, and its leaders have seized on the new sex abuse scandals — in which the alleged perpetrators are male clergy — to help make their case.

The most notable scandals: allegations that ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick molested at least two minors, as well as adult seminarians, and a Pennsylvania grand jury report alleging that about 300 priests sexually abused at least 1,000 children in six dioceses since the 1940s.

“If we had women as equals and partners, women ordained in the Catholic Church, the church would not be in this mess, because we would have parents who would minister and who would make sure children are protected,” said Bridget Mary Meehan, a former nun who has led a rebel movement to ordain women, including herself, in defiance of church doctrine.

The penalty for attempting to ordain a woman is excommunication. The Vatican considers it so abhorrent that it’s included it in the same classification of “more grave crimes” as sex abuse.

The current scandals suggest that church leaders, over the years, have placed a priority on “protecting abusers and silencing survivors,” said Kate McElwee, executive director of the Women’s Ordination Conference.

Pope Francis, she noted, has called on lay Catholics to help create a new culture in the church that would curtail sex abuse and “clericalism” — the policy that places priests on a pedestal.

“It seems obvious to me you need to abandon the old boys’ club and have everyone at the table,” McElwee said.

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