The Vatican issued its most explicit decree so far against the ordination of women priests on Thursday, punishing them and the bishops who try to ordain them with automatic excommunication.
The decree was written by the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and published in the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, giving it immediate effect.
A Vatican spokesman said the decree made the Church's existing ban on women priests more explicit by clarifying that excommunication would follow all such ordinations.
Excommunication forbids those affected from receiving the sacraments or sharing in acts of public worship.
Rev. Tom Reese, a senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University, said he thought the decree was meant to send a warning to the growing number of Catholics who favor admitting women to the priesthood.