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What are the options for Catholic women who feel called to the priesthood

What Options?

for Catholic women who feel called to the priesthood

The Vatican’s total ban on the ordination of women puts many women who are called to the priesthood under enormous pressure. Since we are frequently asked for advice on this matter, we have assembled information and a tentative assessment on some of the major options.

This text is not a judgment on what individual women, acting in good conscience, have done in the past.

It is meant to help others reflect on all the implications of the various paths lying open to them. Please, write to us with your queries, suggestions and comments!

Jackie Clackson
Reasons for this option The Options Risk factors


“Yes, I am a Catholic woman priest!” by Ludmila Javorová;

Interview with Ludmila Javorová.
1. Seek ordination from your own local Catholic bishop?

This is really an ideal scenario, unfortunately out of reach for most. But we have an interesting precedent in our time. Under the communist regime of Czechoslovakia, Bishop Felix Davidek ordained several women deacons and priests (1970-1975).
There is no doubt that a local bishop has the power to validly ordain women even if it were still to be in conflict with general Church Law.
For urgent pastoral reasons some local bishop(s) might well follow his example in spite of Roman opposition.

Background reading: Bishop Felix Davidek


Conflict with the rest of the Church . . .

The danger of splitting up the Church community will deter most bishops from acting on their own.


Journey to Priesthood by Catherine Calore

2. Join another Church in which women are ordained?

Other Christian Churches have begun ordaining women to the priesthood.
By joining a mainstream Church, a woman’s personal vocation to the priestly ministry is safeguarded.

Background reading: Sister Christian Churches.

Personal isolation . . . ?
A Catholic Woman’s Journey to Vocation by Maria Marlowe

Walking into a trap . . . ?
Is this the right path? by John Wijngaards


* Statement regarding the ordination of women in Austria (29 June 2002) by Ida Raming;

* Reflections by Gisela Forster
3. Have yourself ordained for the Catholic Church by the "River Ordination" movement?

This began as the ‘Passau group’: seven women who had themselves ordained by Bishop Anthony Brasschi at Passau on 29 June 2002. Four of the women have subsequently been ordained bishops.

The women see their action as a prophetic gesture. In spite of their protestations that they want to remain Catholic, they were excommunicated by Rome.

Background info pack: The Ordination of Catholic Women in Austria

Risk: schism, by setting up a parallel hierarchical structure

* Protest ordinations neglect community by Rosemary Ruether;
* Ordinations of Catholic Women by outside bishops? by John Wijngaards;
* “We shall have ordination!” - by any means?! by Joseph Niewiadomski.


Celebrating the Eucharist without a Priest? by Peter Trummer

Catholic Women Ordained Priests? - alternatives by Marcel Vincent

Do not wait any longer! by Soline Vatinel
4. Preside at the Eucharist etc. without ordination?

Christian communities have the right to celebrate the Eucharist. Many theologians agree that, in extraordinary circumstances, when no ordained minister is present, the community can appoint one among them, a lay woman or lay man, to preside. This is now happening in many places in the Church.

The need is well illustrated by Sr. Eileen McCormack, missionary in Peru. She presided over Eucharists which she celebrated for her abandoned communities. She was killed by the ‘Shining Path’ terrorists in 21 May, 1991.

Background reading: ‘Do This in Memory of Me!’ by Eileen McCormack


Underestimating the value of sacramental ordination?
* What you need to know about the Sacrament of Ordination by John Wijngaards
* Apostolic Office: Sacrament of Christ by Edward J. Kilmartin

Gradual alienation of some communities from the main Church body?


To protect anonimity we cannot publish the letters we received on this.
5. Be directly ordained by Christ himself?

A (very small) number of Catholic women believe they have been directly ordained by Christ himself. They feel his call so strongly that they believe he himself has imposed hands on them.

Background reading: Saint Catherine of Siena.


Losing sight of the need of the external sacrament?
Directly ordained by Christ? by John Wijngaards



Why do I stay in the Catholic Church?

Discerning the Spirit’s New Creation by John Wijngaards
6. Stay in the Catholic Church and reform it from within?

Women who feel called to the priesthood but remain within the Catholic Church do this for a variety of reasons. They value their Catholic roots. They feel a special obligation to the Christian family to which they belong. They support reform.

Rather than focusing on fulfilling their own personal vocation, they make it their aim to open the priestly ministry for all Catholic women. They want all women in the Catholic Church to enjoy the right to full participation in all ministries, including the episcopate and the papacy.

Background reading: pioneer Gertrud Heinzelmann.


Lack of vocation support . . ?
Read our Vocation Support section!

Isolation . . ?
Link up with a Catholic Women’s Ordination movement in your country!

Depression . . ?
Take an Antidote!
  Please send us your comments and suggestions!  

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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as published by www.womenpriests.org!

Wijngaards Institute for Catholic ResearchThis website is maintained by the Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research.

The Institute is known for issuing academic reports and statements on relevant issues in the Church. These have included scholars' declarations on the need of collegiality in the exercise of church authority, on the ethics of using contraceptives in marriage and the urgency of re-instating the sacramental diaconate of women.

Visit also our websites:Women Deacons, The Body is Sacred and Mystery and Beyond.

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