Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests:
Answers to Frequently Asked Questions
What do you think about Pope Francis and the new commission he called for to study the ordination of women deacons?
We are grateful for Pope Francis’ work to protect mother earth, his care for the poor, and advocacy for economic equality. However, he must make the connection between poverty and gender justice. Two thirds of the world’s poor are women and their dependent children. If the Catholic Church were to embrace women’s gifts as equals in the priesthood and in decision-making, just imagine the many blessings this affirmation would bring to a world where women suffer injustice and inequality every day. We hope that Pope Francis will chart a new path toward human equality in our church by opening all ministries to women. The commission on women deacons could be a first step toward the full equality of women in the church.
How did your Movement begin?
The Roman Catholic Women Priests Movement began with the ordination of seven women on the Danube River in 2002. An anonymous male bishop with apostolic succession ordained our first women bishops. Therefore, our ordinations are valid. We are disobeying an unjust man-made church law (canon 1024) that discriminates against women by prohibiting women’s ordination. Right now, there are seven sacraments for men and six for women. The Catholic Church cannot continue to discriminate against women and blame God for it. Presently, the official teaching states that the Church has no authority whatsoever to ordain women because the priest acts in “persona Christi”, and must bear a physical resemblance to Jesus. Thus, only men can be priests. Baptism makes us all spiritual equals, and opens the door to all the sacraments, including Holy Orders. Baptized into Christ, we are all spiritual equals (Galatians 3:27-28). We are following our consciences and leading the church toward justice and equality by ordaining women in apostolic succession in a new model of church that is inclusive, non-clerical and empowering for all.Â
In June 2016, Pope Francis has received our ongoing petition campaign from our international movement to lift our excommunications, stop all punishments against us and our supporters, and begin a dialogue with us. See our petition to Pope Francis:
SIGN PETITION : CATHOLICS SUPPORT WOMEN PRIESTS. POPE FRANCIS SHOULD DO THE SAME., Groundswell Campaign
What is your vision/mission?
Roman Catholic Women Priests are a renewal, justiceÂ movement, within the Catholic Church. We are creating a bridge between our present institutional church and a new model of church, rooted in Jesus’ vision of an open table, and beginning a healing process of centuries-old misogyny.
We are changing the church, one inclusive Catholic Community at a time. We offer hope that gender equality can be a reality now by living as companions in a blessed, mutual partnership of love, rooted in the teachings and example of Jesus. We are companions on the journey, an egalitarian partnership with the community of the baptized, facilitating inclusive liturgies and building loving communities of service in our local areas. Our mission is to serve especially those whom the Vatican marginalizes and to serve Catholics who are ready to embrace a more inclusive church. We have an open table which means everyone is welcome to receive sacraments: LGBTQI, divorced and remarried, etc. In our faith communities, everyone consecrates Eucharist, offers mutual blessing and shares in homilies and governance decisions. We are a community of equals, celebrating our identity as united in our diversity in the Body of Christ.
The real issue is the full equality of women in a renewed church where all are equal and all are welcome. The Church that treats women as second-class citizens violates God’s will. Genesis 1:27: God created humanity in God’s image, in the divine image, God created them, male and female God created them. Galatians 3:27.St. Paul reminds us that by our baptism there is neither male nor female, all are one in Christ.
Now is the time for a loving “holy shakeup”, an explosion of grace, which will bring fresh hope for justice and equality for women in the church and world. As a new ecclesial movement we are blessing the church with new life in grassroots egalitarian communities where all are Â equal and empowered.
Who is your target group?
We are serving inclusive Catholic communities where all are welcome to receive sacraments. Thirty-three million Catholics in the U.S. have left the church and we are welcoming them to our inclusive Eucharistic communities.
Are your orders recognized in the Catholic Church?
Roman Catholic Women Priests have valid orders. A male bishop in apostolic succession ordained our first bishops. According to recent polls, a growing number of people in many countries support women priests. Our international movement has ordained members in thirteen countries and on five continents.
Why don’t you get ordained in another church, rather than face excommunication and rejection?
We are faith-filled members of our church dedicated to making our church more loving, open, inclusive, just and equal. The church is our spiritual family and home. Jesus stood on the margins with the least and the last. He treated women as disciples and equals. He proclaimed that we are all the beloved of God, who is love. As followers of Jesus, we live the beautiful mystical, prophetic and sacramental tradition of our church. Pope Benedict canonized two excommunicated two nuns: Theodore Guerin and Mary McKillop. Like these courageous women we spoke truth to power and suffered condemnation; we too are called to be prophets of gender justice for women in our church today.
How do you deal with excommunication?
We reject excommunication. No punishment can separate us from Christ or cancel our baptism. No church authority can separate us from God. This is our church and we are not leaving it no matter what the Vatican says or does (The Vatican’s official line is that our excommunicate is the automatic type, by your choice, you have excommunicated yourself).
Were women ever ordained in church history? The church teaches that Jesus had twelve apostles. How can women be priests?
Jesus called women and men to be disciples (Luke 8:1-3). Jesus did not ordain anyone. The Twelve symbolized the twelve tribes of Israel. Women were apostles: Mary of Magdala and Junia in Romans 16:7. Paul calls Junia an outstanding apostle! So there were more than 12 apostles. Paul was an apostle, and Mary of Magdala and Junia were two women apostles. The early Church Fathers referred to Mary of Magdala as the apostle to the apostles!
The Risen Christ called Mary Magdala to be the apostle to the apostles. She was the first toÂ proclaim the central message of Christianity, the Resurrection. Vatican hierarchy should follow Jesus’ example of Gospel equality and the early church’s tradition of women in liturgical leadership as deacons, priests and bishops.
What is the History of Women’s Ordination?
For 1200 years women were ordained (Gary Macy, The Hidden History of Women’s Ordination, Dorothy Irvin’s archaeological evidence etc., and see major scholarship “women can be priests” in many languages: http://www.womenpriests.org/).
In the early centuries of Christianity, ordination was the process and the ceremony by which one moved to any new ministry (ordo) in the community. By this definition, women were in fact ordained into several ministries. A radical change in the definition of ordination during the eleventh and twelfth centuries not only removed women from the ordained ministry, but also attempted to eradicate any memory of women’s ordination in the past. â€¦However, the triumph of a new definition of ordination as the bestowal of power, particularly the power to confect the Eucharist, so thoroughly dominated western thought and practice by the thirteenth century that the earlier concept of ordination was almost completely erased. References to the ordination of women exist in papal, episcopal and theological documents of the time, and the rites for these ordinations have survived (Gary Macy, The Hidden History of Women’s Ordination).
The Vatican and Google have created a virtual tour of catacombs including two frescoes in St. Priscilla’s catacomb that provide evidence of ancient women deacons and priests in first centuries of church’s history. One fresco depicts a woman deacon in the center vested in a dalmatic, her arms raised in the orans position for public worship. In the same scene there is a bishop being ordained a priest by a bishop seated in a chair. She is vested in an alb, chasuble, and amice, and holding a gospel scroll. The third woman in the painting is wearing the same robe as the bishop on the left and is sitting in the same type of chair. In another fresco in the Catacombs of Priscilla, women are conducting a Eucharistic banquet. This evidence portrays women in liturgical roles and vestments.
Why are you being ordained as deacons, priests and bishops? Do you support clericalism, a top down pyramid model in which the people are basically shut out of decision-making?
We are called by God to minister in a renewed priestly ministry that celebrates our baptismal equality in Christ. We live a non-clerical, circular model of decision-making in our governance and in our independent, inclusive communities. In our liturgies, all are welcome to receive sacraments and fully participate as baptismal equals in celebrating liturgies. In many of our communities there are dialogue homilies, everyone recites the words of consecration and offers mutual blessing. Until women are affirmed as equals at the altar and in decision-making, women will be second-class citizens in our church.
What is your response to sexism in the church today?
All the baptized are in “Persona Christi” who celebrate Eucharist as the Body of Christ. In our present Roman Catholic structure, only male priests are officially recognized as in Persona Christi, and therefore, only male priests are called to preside at Eucharist. Roman Catholic Women Priests are visible reminders that women are equal images of God and therefore, are called to preside at and celebrate Eucharist as the Body of Christ. The Vatican hierarchy cannot continue to discriminate against women in sacramental ministry and in decision-making by insisting only ordained males are in Persona Christi. Our movement follows Jesus’ example of an open table where everyone is the Christ-Presence and all are welcome at the banquet table of God’s love.
How many are in your international movement and where are you?
The total number is approximately 225 for the entire Roman Catholic WomenÂ Priests international Movement which includes branches in Western Europe, Eastern Europe, Canada, U.S., South America and South Africa
Why are there two branches of this movement in the United States?
In the Roman Catholic Women Priests Movement, there are two RCWP groups in the United States, the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests (ARCWP) and Roman Catholic Women Priests USA (RCWP-USA). Like two religious orders RCWP and ARCWP offer different approaches to governance and program preparation. Our common mission is a renewed priestly ministry in an inclusive church.
Both ARCWP and RCWP-USA offer a new model of priestly ministry in a renewed church that lives prophetic obedience and Gospel equality in the Roman Catholic Church now. Both ARCWP and RCWP-USA communicate and share resources on a regular basis. We have a common listserv and national retreats. We collaborate on major reform movement events such as the celebration of liturgy at Call to Action National Conference..
The Association of Roman Catholic Women Priest’s (ARCWP) vision is a renewed priestly ministry within a community of equals. ARCWP makes decisions by a consensus process that involves all members.
ARCWP is an international group without regional territories. Presently, ARCWP is in the United States, South America, and Canada.
Our website is www.arcwp.org