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Pope establishes new penalties for ordaining women: automatic excommunication and defrocking

Published Thursday, Jun. 3rd, 2021

On June 1st, Pope Francis made it painfully clear that the Roman Catholic Church continues to view any attempt to ordain women to the priesthood as a “grave crime” --  possibly equal to sexual abuse of children and adults by members of the clergy. 


In the first revision to the Code of Canon Law in 40 years, Francis clarified the Church’s position and punishments on four topics: clerical sex abuse of adults and minors, fraud, and ordination of women. 


Choosing to address these issues at the same time, and in this way, sends a strong and deeply upsetting message. 


Ordination of women has been banned within the Church for years. That’s not news, although the Vatican’s commitment to discrimination continues to frustrate and disappoint both those in and outside the Church in new ways. Until now, this ban was only addressed in ecclesiastical law by stating that priesthood was reserved for the "baptized male."


With these revisions to the code, attempting to ordain a woman is now explicitly a crime, punishable by automatic excommunication for both the person who attempts to provide ordination and the woman herself, along with possible defrocking of the cleric. 


Understandably, these changes to the code have been met with scrutiny and serious backlash. Addressing the persistent issue of clerical sex abuse is long overdue and commendamendable. But presenting it alongside new penalties for ordination of women is definitely not


By banning them from ordination, the Church keeps women in a subordinate role, but this discrimination is not supported among practicing Catholics themselves.


According to the advocacy group Women’s Ordination Conference, 88% of U.S. Catholics would be “comfortable” with the ordination of women, 63% of U.S. Catholics support ordaining women as priests, and the majority of Catholics worldwide would like to see women have equal standing in ordained ministry, including those in France (83%), Spain (78%), Argentina (60%), Brazil (54%), and Italy (59%). 


We’ll shout it from the rooftops: 


AMM wholeheartedly supports the ordination of women. Of course we do! 


Our online ordinations are free and accessible to all people, in order to remove common economic and social barriers kept in place by traditional churches. And ordination through AMM gives you all the same rights as someone ordained by a traditional brick-and-mortar church. 

We will never discriminate against anyone, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race, income, or ability. You can read more about our beliefs as an organization on our Who We Are page.



Learn more about Pope Francis’s message of the new changes, titled Pascite Gregem Dei, or "Tend the Flock," in this piece from NPR’s All Things Considered


Read Pope Francis’s "Tend the Flock" message, addressing the revisions to Book VI of the Code of Canon Law, on the Vatican’s website here


View the complete Codes of Canon Law, available in multiple languages, here.  




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