The Vatican continues to restrict women from becoming ordained members of the church

By Naledi Ushe
January 11, 2021 08:54 PM

Pope Francis has stopped short of allowing women to be ordained members of the clergy but has granted formal permission on Monday for women to become lectors, read Scripture, and assist in administering communion.

While many Catholic churches have already had women performing those roles, this is the first time there's been an explicit grant for them to do so. 

The new amendment to Code of Canon Law changed the verbiage of "lay men" to "lay persons" to be more inclusive. The updated rule states, "Lay persons who possess the age and qualifications established by decree of the conference of bishops can be admitted on a stable basis through the prescribed liturgical rite to the ministries of lector and acolyte," per Vatican News.

Pope Francis
| Credit: Kim Hong-Ji-Pool/Getty

Over the years, the pope has been under pressure to allow women, at minimum, to become deacons – a role just below priests who can perform duties such as baptisms, preside over weddings, and perform funerals and burial services – as some historians have claimed women had higher roles in the early days of the church. 

Despite the recent push for inclusion, the law affirms that women are unable to become ordained priests or deacons as the Vatican has reserved those positions for men.

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Monday's announcement came as disappointment for some people, who felt that the formal change of law isn't much of a progressive step because Masses have already allowed women to perform those roles. 

Lucetta Scaraffia, the former editor of the Vatican's women's magazine, told the Associated Press it is a "double trap" and a "step backward" for women because it affirms women aren't able to become deacons.  

"This closes the door on the diaconate for women," she said.

Pope Francis has been praised in recent months for his progressive support of same-sex civil unions and appointing the first African American cardinal in a bid to improve race relations within the church.