I asked to many Roman Catholic Women Priests the story and reasons of their movement.
I knew from Wikipedia that in the summer of 2002, seven women were ordained priests by an independent Roman Catholic Archbishop, on a ship cruising the Danube River. Since Canon Law 1024 states that "only a baptized man can validly receive sacred ordination", everybody involved in the “grave crime” was excommunicated. Shortly thereafter, three women were ordained bishops in great secrecy, so that they could carry on female ordinations in apostolic succession with Jesus Christ and without any help by the Vatican. At first, the ordinations were held only on boats in international waters, but since 2007 other Christian denominations, and one Jewish synagogue, provided hospitality to women priests by opening their spaces for ordinations and worship. In 2008 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (Rome) issued an order of excommunication for the crime of attempting sacred ordination of a woman. The decrete is automatic absolute and universal. Today, the Roman Catholic Women Priests movement counts over 150 ordained women priests and 10 bishops worldwide, and the number is growing. Most Roman Catholic Women Priests are mature. Many have been nuns for most of their life. Their story doesn’t start in 2002.
In 1963 Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, known as Pope John the XXIII, just a month after JFK announced that U.S. was going to put a man on the moon, announced the Second Vatican Council. The Council was held in Rome, in Latin language, and saw for 4 years the participation of all the bishops of the world. Orthodox and Protestants were invited as observers. And they were all male. At the end of the second period, Cardinal L.J. Suenens of Belgium asked the other bishops: "Why are we even discussing the reality of the church when half of the church is not even represented here?" referring to women. In response, 15 women were appointed as auditors in September 1964 and eventually 23 women were auditors.
Rev. Paul Avis wrote: "the Second Vatican Council changed everything. It brought the church into the modern world. It threw off the insularity, defensiveness — even paranoia — that had characterized that church since the 18th century (…) Vatican II reversed the traditional rejection of religious liberty, emphasizing freedom of conscience. (…) It revitalized liturgical worship, affirming that all the faithful participate in, and indeed celebrate corporately, the liturgy, especially the Eucharist. It set the Scriptures center stage in worship and teaching and encouraged the faithful to study them.”
It was said and written that the mission of the church are joy and hope and that the image of the church must be a circle and not a hierarchy, equally needed are the center and the periphery of the local churches with their prophets. The Vatican II Pastoral Constitution “The Church in the Modem World" stated, "With respect to the fundamental rights of the person, every type of discrimination, whether social or cultural, whether based on sex, race, color, social condition, language or religion, is to be overcome and eradicated as contrary to God's intent" (No. 29).
Even the cloths and roles of nuns changed in accordance to recent psychological, sociological and philosophical insights, women got access to seminary and theological studies, but not to ordination.
Jane Via said in an interview: “I learned of the emerging feminist studies in the post Vatican II era as women earned their doctorates in religious studies and began to become researchers and authors in theological studies. Just a phenomenal amount of studies was done on scriptures, on systematic theology, on every dimension of religious studies as it pertains to women in the history and in terms of envisioning what might be more authentic in light of the historical Jesus. Reading feminist theology and participating in local groups helped me to understand the radical importance of inclusive God language to the transformation of the church from a patriarchal monarchical classicist institution to the pilgrim people of God.”
Mary Luke Tobin, that participated in the Council, wrote: "In the middle to late 1970's, there was a great push for women's ordination, but by the 1980's, as women became more conscious of a rigidity and oppressiveness apparent in the clerical state and the inflexibility of patriarchal structures and spirit, they became disaffected and lost their earlier enthusiasm. A new interest in women's liturgies and feminist theology sparked a desire to develop more collegial ways of worship on their own. Thus the concept of Woman Church emerged.”
Many of the women priests I met, felt a call to priesthood when they were very young. The call to priesthood is a call to service to the others and service to God, it’s not a call to power. Many of them decided to become nuns because there was no other option of religious life available. Diane from Atlanta, showing me drawings of pain and dark thoughts that she had made in her last years in the convent, told me: “Never. I never wanted to be a nun. Never, never, never, because I didn’t… I didn’t want to dress like that, I didn’t want to be a nun like that… I knew in my heart this was not for me, but there was no other model. In 1963 I entered and then I stayed there, and it was Vatican II so we were changing, we built a chapel. I stayed there 28 years. (…) When you become a nun, you have to change your name. Yes I did. I was Sister Bryan Marie for about a year and a half, but then we changed back to our baptismal name because your vocation comes from your baptism; that’s our theology. The men made you change your name because they wanted you, as a woman, to give up all identification of who you are for the church. That was the old theology. That was their old theology that was imposed on us."
Diane also recalls an infinite list of episodes where the nuns weren’t treated like adults and weren’t treated with justice by the hierarchy: “This pastor said “Well, all of you can leave”. All the nuns could leave. (…) This clericalism just keeps coming back like a recurring motif, and I thought: who do they think they are? That is not the church, that’s not Catholic. And I don’t have to be obedient to it, because that’s just wrong. I don’t have to be obedient to it. And I have to start speaking out against it. I wrote a lot at that particular time to the priests who were in the parishes, trying to explain what was happening, but these men are… they just go along with the flow, but the flow has to come from the bishop’s office. The Gospel is not served! The Gospel is not served!” In 1965, there were over 180,000 Catholic religious women in the United States. In 2014 there were just 49,883.
Her friend Mary Hellen Sheehan from Tucson, Georgia, ordained deacon, added: “All the great religions are male-identified. As women, we don’t even have or know what religion would look like if there was a true partnership because all of those religions are based around a male deity, and if the God is male then the male is God.” Diane has a black box in her church and on top of it is written “God can’t stay inside any box” and a T-shirt that says “God is not a boy’s name”. Angela Bonavoglia, author of “Good Catholic Girls" book, said: “If you forbid a woman to represent the divine and the highest level of representation of the divine in the church, and if she cannot have power, real power and if you have an institution controlling women most intimate decisions, that doesn't end there: those positions have an influence on the way women are treated in the world, they contribute for the discrimination against women toward the view of women a second-class people and they also are devastating to women in their souls”.