Late last year, Pope Francis gave hints that he might be open to the ordination of married men, letting them become priests in far-flung parts of the world like the Amazon region, after bishops representing indigenous areas made this push. Now, however, that idea has been officially quashed: The pontiff turned down the proposal, which was approved by over two-thirds of the bishops who showed up for an October summit on the topic. The decision came via "Querida Amazonia (Beloved Amazon)," a papal document that the Vatican released Wednesday, per CNN. The New York Times notes the decision has "raised the question of whether Francis' promotion of discussing once-taboo issues is resulting in a pontificate that is largely talk." The pope's rejection of the proposal was a surprise to many, though one archbishop tells CNN that Francis felt it simply wasn't the right time.
The bishops' proposal had been designed to address the unique needs of remote areas of South America, where finding priests to cater to the faithful can be difficult. Per the AP, Francis didn't even mention the ordination of married men in his letter, though a Vatican spokesman noted to the Times that the pontiff had decided against "changes or further possibilities of exceptions." Nervous conservatives had pushed back on the idea, feeling that this limited type of ordination would open the door to completely lifting the celibacy mandate for priests. One thing the pope did mention specifically in the document: that ordination for women was out. Although he supports having more leadership roles within the Church, Francis noted that women need to find "other forms of service and charisms that are proper to women," not push for being ordained. (Read more Pope Francis stories.)