Female Catholic Priests Defy the Vatican

Although the Catholic Church famously refuses to ordain woman priests, a group of women defied the order back in 2002, when seven were ordained in Germany by two Catholic bishops.  Since then, according to a fascinating story by NPR, a movement to ordain women as Roman Catholic priests has gone international, as women ordained other women and created a wide network of “Roman Catholic Womenpriests,” as the movement calls itself.

Recently, four women were ordained in Maryland (where, on the other side of the spectrum, an Episcopal parish recently decided to join the Catholic Church), in a ceremony held in a Protestant church.  According to the Baltimore Sun, the ritual was “full of song and messages of inclusiveness,” and the church was full of the ordinands’ family and friends, including several husbands (this is another clear move away from Catholic doctrine, since male priests must remain celibate). 

In 1994, Pope John Paul II reaffirmed the Vatican’s stance on female priests, saying that the church cannot ordain women.  And in 2008, the Vatican went a step further, saying that any women who is ordained and any bishop who ordains a woman will be immediately excommunicated from the Church.

Marellen Mayers, one of the Maryland ordinands, said that she had considered converting to Episcopalianism when she realized that her calling was as a priest.  I became very conscious and aware of a new calling — to be in full ministry alongside my brothers as a priest.”

Mayers considered converting to the Episcopal Church, which permits the ordination of women. “But the more I thought about it, I could not bring myself to leave the Catholic Church,” she said. “I was raised in the Catholic Church, and I wanted to remain faithful to the traditions and the way my parents brought me up. I was a child of Vatican II and Pope John XXIII.”

According to Lily Percy’s story for NPR, the women have faced significant challenges, and have lost “friends and colleagues within the Church — many of whom fear they will lose their jobs if they support the women’s ordination movement openly.”

But the women are still firm in their vocation as priests.  In a interview posted on the Womenpriests’ website, Eileen DiFranco, a priest based in Philadelphia, said, ” Amidst the hurts, the movement grows. Jesus promised us that ministry and discipleship would not be easy. Faith in God rather than fear of the unknown or of change moves us women priests forward.”

The courage of these women of faith is compelling, and even as the institution of the Catholic Church seems increasingly out of touch with its adherents, people like the Womenpriests prove that the religion itself remains meaningful, even if people who defy its boundaries must face significant barriers.

Photo from Randy OHC's Flickr photostream.

96 comments

caterina caligiuri

******* MARTA E.****......YOUR WORDS ARE MY WORDS...I TOTALLY AGREE WITH YOU

Martha Eberle
Martha Eberle4 years ago

Doesn't matter how we vote, since the Pope is the voice of god on earth, and the pope lives on in the Middle Ages. As an atheist and an opponent of fanatical religions, I shouldn't have a voice in this, but I am proud of these women who are doing what their god says, not what a human man says. The Catholic Church has made its own rules, made by male humans, not by god.

KrassiAWAY B.
Krasimira B.5 years ago

Noted with interest.

William G.
William G.5 years ago

Men, woman, and the church. A man’s reproduction system is completed by age 18. With the exception of disease, a man’s behavior has no consequence on the health of children being born for the next generation. In contrast, the health of a woman during all of her child bearing years directly affects the mental and physical health of the next generation. This has lead societies to hold woman to a much higher standard than men. It has also inadvertently, a natural law of human behavior, allowed abuses of woman and prohibited them from obtaining lessor goals such as political office, high level business management, etc.

Ladies, what is more important than the mental and physical health of the next generations? Is this not enough responsibility for you? I believe that woman that understand their true responsibilities to mankind and the differences in the roles of men and woman can make excellent church and educational leaders.

Ainsley Chalmers
Ainsley Chalmers5 years ago

A genuine calling to serve God comes from God himself. who is to say therefore that God has got it wrong in selecting a woman to serve as a priest in the church. God never errs unlike us humans. there is nothing in the bible which says women should not be priests. In fact in Paul's letters and in Acts women are commended for their service by the apostles. some would argue that these women were serving roles supportive of the priests. I personally feel that gender should not preclude one from a priestly calling from God and I am a male. In other areas of society women can aspire to any role they choose to serve in. Why not the ministry?

Trudi Gray
Trudi Gray5 years ago

Michelle- are you fresh off the Mayflower, dear? You appear to be a genuine antique, and as such should be in a Museum, not talking bollocks on these pages.

Christine S.

A female Catholic priest is far less likely to rape the altar boys, I'm just sayin'...

Judith Corrigan
Judith Corrigan5 years ago

The Catholic church needs to change its stance.

Norma V.
Norma Villarreal5 years ago

Female clergy will do no more harm than the males...predators are predators in both genders. Care to bet how fast a male will turn in a female for (alleged) sexual abuse compared to turning in the brotherhood?

Dennis Warren

Having not been raised a Christian, just one question: does it say anything in the bible about one man being appointed the arbiter of all things Christian? If not, what or who gives the pope the authority to interpret the bible for all RC's?