Roman Catholic women priests?

AFP/GETTY IMAGES Pope Benedict XVI arrives to lead an ordination mass at St Peter’s basilica at the Vatican on April … Continued


Pope Benedict XVI arrives to lead an ordination mass at St Peter’s basilica at the Vatican on April 29, 2012, to mark Vocation Day. Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday called for young people to consider joining the clergy, as the Catholic Church struggles to counter a decline in new priests in Western countries

From the outside looking in, it seems the Vatican would be just as happy to throw all its women ministers under the bus.

First, Rome ordered an investigation of all U.S.-based institutes of Catholic women religious, the sisters most people call “nuns.” Then Rome forced what amounts to a hostile takeover of their largest leadership group, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR). Then there is the ongoing debate over whether women can be ordained.

The Vatican initiatives toward the sisters—the investigation and the takeover—seem to have met quiet resolves, at least for now. The investigative reports are in the proper Curia office, and the cardinal who called for the study has long retired. LCWR gently rejected a takeover at its August 2012 meeting, and the group’s leaders pledged to start working with the bishop-overseers by explaining what, exactly, it means to be a woman religious. They will meet again this autumn.

An underlying theme of both events echoed the request of a former LCWR president, Mercy Sister Theresa Kane, who in 1979 publicly asked Pope John Paul II to include women in “all ministries” of the church. The code became the coda: ordination of women as priests.

The Catholic Church does not ordain women as priests, and says it never did. Despite volumes of evidence of ordinations of women to the diaconate, the sacred order responsible for the church’s charity, the priesthood has always been a different story.

Why? Well, the priesthood is rooted in the action of Christ with the Apostles: “do this in memory of me”—and until recently Christianity has uniformly agreed that Christ as head of the church must be represented by a male and that the church does not have authority to digress from his choice. In modern times some members of the Anglican Communion and various Protestant denominations have created women priests and pastors, but the Catholic and Orthodox Churches retain their older tradition.

So, who are the Roman Catholic Womenpriests (RCWP)? They say they “stand in prophetic obedience to Jesus who calls women and men to be disciples.” The Catholic Church calls them excommunicated.

Like other breakaway groups, the RCWP traces the provenance of its ordinations to Catholic bishops who, at some point, were in full communion with Rome. Many other groups—the Catholic Apostolic National Church, the Old Catholic Apostolic Church of North America, the American Catholic Church for example—ascribe to the same or similar justifications for existence: the Catholic Church is either too conservative or too liberal.

The RCWP movement falls on the liberal side of the equation, notably affirming same-sex relationships and women priests. Begun with ordinations in Austria in 2002, it has expanded to Canada and the US and, to a lesser extent in Europe and in South America. In the United States the movement is divided between Roman Catholic Womenpriests-USA and the smaller Association of Roman Catholic Womenpriests. With about 140 clergy around the world, some of whom are former Catholic sisters, RCWP operates mainly in house churches.

So, what does RCWP mean? Are they Catholic? Are they priests?

The first seven RCWP women were ordained on a Danube Riverboat by Argentine independent Catholic Bishop Rómulo Antonio Braschi and Ferdinand Regelsberger, a former Benedictine monk, whom Braschi had ordained as bishop. The fly in the canonical ointment is that one day prior Dusan Spiner, a Catholic priest whose episcopal ordination in the Czech underground church is acknowledged by the Vatican, ordained six of those seven as deacons. It is unknown whether Spiner, who literally missed the boat the day of the priestly ordinations, ever re-ordained any of the seven as priests or as bishops.

Their excommunication papers speak of their violating the law, attesting to their ordinations’ invalidity because they were illegal. Yet the typical Catholic argument against women priests is that such ordinations are “invalid”—they didn’t take—no matter who performed the ceremonies.

Theological hairsplitting aside, the official Catholic determination is no, they are not Catholic and even within their own movement they are not priests.

Their leaders say no one cares about Catholic officialdom and that people are looking for the ministry of women in the individual worship communities spread out among 29 U.S. states led by RCWP.

Why? Sister Theresa Kane put it well when she explained matters to the pope 33 years ago: “Our contemplation leads us to state that the Church in its struggle to be faithful to its call for reverence and dignity for all persons must respond.”

Phyllis Zagano is author of “Women & Catholicism: Gender, Communion, and Authority” and recent winner of a Catholic Press Association book award. She holds a research appointment at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y.

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  • tony55398

    Women as well as men are members of the Royal Priesthood through Baptism. Love is God and all who possess Love possesses the power of God to be sons and daughters of God. Love was the Divine substance in Jesus, Love was His, by nature and it’s ours, if we so choose. All Christians who possess Love are other Christs, all those who possess Love will live forever, even non Christians. All who possess Love, possess Christ and those who possess Christ possess His power, to change food and drink into His body and Blood.

  • reformthesystem

    In the 19th century, the Italy-based RC institution drastically modified itself to fit in with the social and political environment of the times. In 1965 its Second Vatican Council overwhelmingly adopted the decree Dignitatis Humanae recognizing the human dignity of all and their religious freedom. In the wake of the technological developments in the role of the human female body during the same decade and the vast expansion of womens’ roles in all areas of human life that accompanied it, the RC aspect of Christianity became desperately in need of further reform of itself along lines of increasing womens’ participation in its priestly role. References to cryptic scriptural fragments and semitic culture in Palestine 2000 years ago are no justification for not embracing that kind of further reform. Lutheran Christians have had lady clerics for a long time now. In the 21st century, this kind of institutional reform is long overdue.

  • Catholic Canuck

    Protestant sects like the lutherans and anglicans left the Truth the moment that they strayed from the Catholic Church. They make up whatever nonsense they wish according to the latest in theological fashion. The Church holds to the faith taught by Jesus. If you wish to believe the ramblings of a 16th century heretic then go right ahead, but the Church founded by Christ will continue to remain faithfull to Him.

  • frjohn1

    The esistence of deconesses is no justification for the ordination of women to the priesthood. A deaconess is not the same as a male deacon and never has had the liturgical function assigned to male deacons. Deaconesses ministered to women, taught them and since originally those Baptized were nude Baptized women. Althoough the Roman Catholic Church abolished the order of deaconess, the Eastern Orthodox Church has never abolished the order. However, most of their ministry was taken over by nuns. There are still deaconesses in a few women’s monasteries in Greece.

  • tony55398

    Women should have a sex change and than change back. Problem solved.

  • tony55398

    Women as well as men belong to the Royal Priesthood. All those who are in a state of grace are other Christs. In what way are other Christs not fully members of the Royal Priesthood, by other Christs I mean just that, people who share the role of Christ in the world, in fact are Christs.

  • IntellectCounts

    What false logic you use! But oh so creative: people who share the role of Christ in the world, in fact are Christs.

    So all carpenters are Christ? To heck with the fact that they are aethistis in China, they are carpenters, so they too are Christ. All those who are fisherman are Christs too? Even if they are Japanese Shinto followers?

    Why stop at the fact that Christ was a male, carpenter. Why not say all those born in Israel are Christs? Even if they deny Christ was the Messiah or a lesser prophet than the Muhammed?

    Come now. Surely you don’t mean to espouse such tripe as “All those who are in a state of grace are other Christs.” I know millions of new born children who have a state of grace that they will never have on this earth again — are they too Christs?

    Please learn some theology.

  • IntellectCounts

    I thought your post above was illogical.

    This post tells me you are not even willing to be intelligent about the subject.

    God bless you though — maybe someday you’ll open your mind to theology.

  • albertcooper

    Slowly since Vatican Two the Catholic Faith has been eroded,The Latin Mass abolisehed by the Biishops,the faithfull saying if they turn the alter around we will leave,then if the communion rail is taken away ,well the same,then girls on the sanctuarry and it goes on and on and many faithfull Catholics just gave up and surrendered their faith,and yet the experiment continues with those inside the church seek Modernisn and excuses in sin.Look at the desert you have created and weep,though I doubt it somehow

  • tony55398

    Intellect overrated,indeed Love counts for more, a person in the state of Grace is one that possesses Love, the Divine substance in Christ, his by nature, ours by adoption, meaning by our choosing, by in fact Loving your neighbor as yourself, these are truly other Christs. Is a person who by appearance and possessing female genitalia yet whose DNA is male eligible for the laying on of hands, for the Priesthood, and if not,why not. The laying on by hands usually means being chosen, being sent forth, being authorised, for a specific role in the Church, by the Church. The Church was given the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, “Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in Heaven, whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in Heaven,” a great deal of authority that could include giving women the Priesthood as well.

  • reformthesystem

    CatCnk’s posting contradicts the RC Church’s own solemn declarations in the Second Vatican Council’s decree Dignitatis Humanae (1965) that recognized the human dignity of all, including women, and their religious freedom.

    Virtually screaming the word “heresy” only shows further intent to cover-up embarrasing evils in which the historical RC Church implicated itself. Thus, CC’s heresy screams skirt the Truth that Cesare, son of RC Pope Alexander VI, in the Apostolic Palace in 1501 presided over one of the most despicable orgiastic abuses of women in history (Wm. Manchester, A World Lit Only by Fire [1992]; J. Burchard, Liber Notarum [At the Court of the Borgia]. Trans. Geoffray Parker. London: Folio Society, an eye witness), which along with similar evils motivated millions following the teachings of Jesus to thereafter separate from that organization. It further serves as a cover for the historical truths that numerous RC popes have in fact been war mongering tyrants, while Pius XII was actually an accessory by concealment to the murders of over 6 million Europeans in the 1940s. Most tellingly, it appears to cover the truth in everyone’s face that in the 20th & 21st centuries that same organization has continued to give cover for en mass despicable acts on little boys that it taught to trust males employeed by it parading as priests.

    A major factor that led to such awful truths is the misogyny the RC organization uncritically swallowed from Semite desert cultures, cultures that also spawned the Prophet Muhammad’s similar treatment of a 9-year-old child, described in his Quran. For the RC Church to become acceptable to the majority of the world’s Christians, recognizing a priestly role for women in faith and morals would be a right step toward returning to the divine teachings that the Father through Jesus and the Holy Spirit gave to the whole World.

  • albertcooper

    The forces of modernisn,with the constant creep in an attempt to destroy the Roman Catholic Church,will never become reality “all may pass away but my word will never pass away”

  • IntellectOne

    Pharisees, would always try and trap Jesus with some question, trying along the way, to plant seeds of ‘Doubt’. If Jesus wanted the Sisters to be Priest,
    they would have been born as boys instead of girls. This insistence on being a Priest, with a capital ‘P’, is merely their own ‘Puny Will, instead of God’s Will.

  • csintala79

    “If Jesus had wanted the Sisters to be Priest, they would have been born boys instead of girls.” This statement is gibberish. It would be like in the days prior to the Civil War telling a black that if God wanted him to be free he would have been born white instead of black.

  • csintala79

    As long as the church remains separate from the state and membership in a church is voluntary, not coerced, the hierarchy should be able to demand obedience from its members, as long as secular laws are not violated. It is reasonable that heterodox members can be disciplined, within what is allowable under civil law (e.g., by excommunication or shunning). The member can either recant or leave for another denomination, sect, religion, or become unaffiliated. The matter is strictly private and between the rebellious member and the leadership. It is no different than a member of the Lions Club being expelled for not adhering to the organizations by-laws. Everything is okey dokey as long as it is understood that coercing individuals to become members of private organizations or adhere to their by-laws is a crime. No more forced or group conversions allowed. Reading the posts of the devout Catholics is pretty scary and depressing.

  • csintala79

    We certainly don’t want to be caught in the trap of moderism. I miss my outhouse.

  • Catholic Canuck

    The Church founded by Christ has seen nonsense movements come and nonsense movements go and has outlived countless enemies. The Church is 2000 years old and spread throughout the world. Lutheranism and anglicanism are not even 500 years old and are withering on the vine. Their pop culture theology has been their undoing. I’ve heard all sorts of incredible rubbish from many different protestants condemning the Church, but as you can see, the Church endures while nonsense fades away.

  • Catholic militant

    Not exactly, for telling women they cannot be priests does not impinge on their freedom the way slavery did for blacks. And if Jesus did want women to be priests, it certainly isn’t obvious from Scripture. So if these women really want to be priests, and believe that the Holy Spirit is inspiring them, than probably Jesus really might be calling for them to get a sex change–which would, of course, He is not.

  • thebump

    Average Catholics are just sick to death of these whiny old cranks and kooks.

  • Agustine AZ

    Sure, do put the LCWR ladies inside the term “nuns”, as I really have no clue if they are or not. I live in South America (where we have more nuns than LCWR) and they are all shocked to hear all the clowning they are doing in aims of “feminism”. Real NUNS wear habits, do respect their vows (poverty, obidience and chastity…MCs the service for the poorest of the poor), but the “nuns” I’ve met in US….what a JOKE! they had more jewlery than my mom! What a message are they sending? certainly not the one to HEAVEN, but to EMBRACE the WORLD!. More religious vocations (both female and male) are coming, real Catholics (lay and religios) are working to educate and grow in prayer, not in what the secular world wants.

  • Agustine AZ

    oh rearry??

  • IntellectOne

    No, because The One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church is the ‘Bride’ of Christ. The Female priest would be a lesbian and that is a No, No,. This is why Jesus only Chose Men to represent Him. There is Only One High Priest and that is Jesus Christ. So you see it would be impossible for the Church to change what Jesus Himself is, a Male, born of a Virgin. Priests are representatives of Jesus and that is why homosexuals cannot and should never be ordained either.. The Bishops have been told this from the beginning.

  • IntellectOne

    Maybe, someday tony55398 will have some Faith and Reason.

  • IntellectOne

    The One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church is the ‘Bride’ of Christ. The Female priest would be a lesbian and that is a No, No,. This is why Jesus only Chose Men to represent Him. There is Only One High Priest and that is Jesus Christ. So you see it would be impossible for the Church to change what Jesus Himself is, a Male, born of a Virgin. Priests are representatives of Jesus and that is why homosexuals cannot and should never be ordained either.. The Bishops have been told this from the beginning..

  • IntellectOne

    The Constitution of the United States protects the Churches with Freedom Of Religion. There is no such thing as Separation of Church and State in the Constitution. Everybody that wishes to express their Religion has the perfect ‘Right’ to express their belief in the Public Square. The Roman Catholic Church has the Freedom and the ‘Right’ to Teach the Faith as Jesus Christ Himself commanded the Apostles to do. Go forth and Preach the Gospel. The problem with the ACLU is that they are schizophrenic and think everybody has to be that way too. Freedom of Religion is not the same meaning as Freedom to Worship. The Constitution guarantees ‘Both’.

  • mikestech

    In other words, even if they call themselves “priests,” they aren’t Catholic priests, and according to Catholicism, they are not ordained. So what exactly is the point of this article? That Protestants exist? Brilliant reporting, Sherlock.

  • Charles R

    Paul’s authentic and definitive statement on the equality of all in God’s eyes is from Galatians 3:27-28 “27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” A primary argument for men being priests is that only they can represent Christ since he was a man. But here Paul tells us if we are “baptized into Christ we have put on Christ”!!! If women have put on Christ surely they can represent Christ in the celebration of the Eucharist! To deny it would be to deny Christ’s baptism.

  • Charles R

    As Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. once said, “I’m as celibate as fifty percent of the heterosexual Roman Catholic clergy.”

  • Charles R

    All the U.S. Women Religious I’ve ever met dress downright dowdy. I think their appearence is a sign of the vow of poverty. The work they do is a living sign of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

  • Charles R

    No the hierarchy should not be able to dictate what it wants. The Holy Spirit is present in the people of the church and the bisops and pope are supposed to listen to “the sense of the faithful”.

  • Charles R

    Take your scripture in context. That bind and loose phrase applies to any gathering of believers Matthew 18:15-20, 15 “If your brother sins against you, go, show him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained back your brother. 16 But if he doesn’t listen, take one or two more with you, that at the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the assembly. If he refuses to hear the assembly also, let him be to you as a Gentile or a tax collector. 18 Most certainly I tell you, whatever things you bind on earth will have been bound in heaven, and whatever things you release on earth will have been released in heaven. 19 Again, assuredly I tell you, that if two of you will agree on earth concerning anything that they will ask, it will be done for them by my Father who is in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the middle of them.”

    The scripture your refering to is Matthew 16:18-20, 18 “And I tell you that you are Peter,[a] and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades[b] will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be[c] bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be[d] loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.”

    So in the early churches the local assembly was actively binding and loosing even to the point of excommunication! Thus a model of strong decentralized collegiality.

  • Charles R

    Tony is correct as Paul so clearly states it in Galatians 3:27 “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.