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Bishop Felix Davidek of Czechoslovakia

Bishop Felix Davidek of Czechoslovakia

by Magdalena Eliasova

New Women New Church, Autumn 1999, pp. 7-8.

New Women New Church is the official newsbulletin of the Women’s Ordination Conference. WOC National Office, PO Box 2693, Fairfax, VA 22031-0693; tel. (703) 352-1006. Subscribe!

Read also the article by Jan Peters which helped Bishop Davidek make up his mind to ordain women as priests!

“Society needs the service of women as a special rument for human sanctification. ”

Felix Maria Davidek. Who is this man whom we have never heard of, making a confident proclamation? And who and what gives him the authority to issue such a daring statement?

The place was eastern Europe and the time was 1948. The Soviet Union had acted on a moral obligation to subjugate the small poor countries by force in order to save them from demonic Western societies. Successful politics was based on majority prosperity under any circumstances and any opposition group was forced to go underground. The Church was a potential enemy. And the Church, once again, wore two faces.

Felix Maria Davidek - a priest ordained on July 29, in Brno, former Czechoslovakia - while working in small village parish had been studying science, medicine, philosophy and psychology in Brno University and making plans to establish “Atheneum” - a theological prep school. The year 1948 interfered, but it did not stop Davidek’s organizing, and finally in 1950 his Atheneum was illegally instituted.

“The Church in the whole world has an obligation to reflect kairos - the right moment”

Felix Maria Davidek 1950

Felix M. Davidek was arrested and in 1952 sentenced to 14 years in prison for high treason for his defiance of state-imposed restrictions on his academic activities. In prison he had enough time to sort out his thoughts and ideas about the continuation of Antheneum and the establishment of a community - to be called Koinotes - which would serve as a model for the local Church under totalitarianism in order to guarantee the continuation of the apostolic mission. He was released two years early in 1964 and one of his first acts was to contact Ludmila Javorová whom he had known since childhood, and other people who had been excluded from traditional seminaries.

Then theologians

Koinotes started functioning soon after under his leadership. On Oct. 29,1967 Davidek was made a bishop. That meant self-sufficiency for Koinotes.

By 1970 Bishop Davidek had decided to call a synod to discuss an urgent need of the local Church. He was convinced that the “kairos” had come - the “kairos” to ordain women. The synod was convened at Christmas time, only after his careful study of Vatican II documents convinced him of the right of the local Church to do so. The synod was attended by about 60 people, including various clergy, among them a few bishops and order sisters, and lay people. It had been preceded by weeks of preliminary hearings. The issue of women’s ordination generated considerable controversy. The synod consisted of lectures and presentations on this theme. The following is from one of Davidek’s presentations:

  1. “From the exegetic point of view we don’t have any convincing arguments for the exclusion of women from priestly functions.
  2. The exclusion of women from clerical functions was an outcome of historical developments and that is why this fact loses all absolute implication.
  3. The Christian approach to authority as a charismatic mission and service which enters places of judicial approach, urges the quest for the participation of woman in clerical office and in order to formulate the question of whether woman could function in a broader and more biblical aspect. . ."

Davidek also mentioned the letters of St. Paul where, according to him, Paul insisted on the equality of women with men.

In the early morning of December 12, the group gathered for a secret vote. The result was surprising. Half the people present expressed the conviction that the ordination of women was the right thing to do. But the final decision was not made until a year later, when Bishop Davidek took the ultimate step and started preparations for the ordination of women to the diaconate and the priesthood.

According to Peter Fiala and Jiri Hanus, in the following years several women received the diaconate and at least one woman was ordained to the priesthood. The Bishop was fully aware of the implications of his actions and that they were at variance with canon law. But Davidek believed that anything once created contributes to the continuing evolution of this world, and that the time had come for women to become priests and that regardless of personal risk he was called to be a catalyst.

It is unknown how many women were ultimately ordained during Davidek’s years of involvement with Koinotes, which ended with a series of personal accidents and Davidek’s death on August 16, 1988.

Only one, his old friend Ludmila Javorova, has come forward to identify herself.

Indeed, the Vatican responded, not by denying the ordinations had taken place, but by denying any females ordained the right to perform priestly duties.

Davidek’s vision of equal rights for women in the Church is a vision of justice. It can be criticized, dismissed, overlooked, but it can never be silenced.

It is not important that it happened decades ago in a different part of the world. The fact that there were, and still are, validly ordained women priests in the Roman Catholic church points toward the changing status of women in the church.

The following text is taken from Davidek’s presentation during the synod in 1970.

“...Today mankind needs and is literally awaiting the ordination of women. The Church should not oppose it. This is the reason why we have gathered here. This fact leads us to the need for prayer and the need for sacrament. Nothing else. Society needs the service of women. If we characterize it psychologically then we recognize that society is missing something. It needs the service of women as a special instrument for the sanctification of the second half of mankind. As matters stand, contemporary sanctification of the world would be insufficient. We want nothing but ‘CONSECRATIO MUNDI’ - A SANCTIFICATION OF THE WHOLE WORLD."

This article first appeared in Equal Writes and is reprinted with their permission and that of the author.

Magdalena Eliasova, a native of the Czech Republic, is a member of the Philadelphia Catholic Worker and a supporter of SEPA/WOC. She has used previously untranslated material as the source for this article.

Read also:

Overview Signs of a Vocation A woman's journey Steps to take Answering critics Writing your story
Six options for Catholic women who feel called to the priesthood?

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