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Statement by Ida Raming on the ordination of women in Austria

Statement regarding the ordination of women in Austria (29 June 2002)

published here at the request of Ida Raming on 21 June
translated by John Wijngaards
Read the original German text here!

A number of Roman Catholic women from Austria and Germany have decided to have themselves ordained by a Roman Catholic bishop. They make this decision hereby public, and explain their reasons as follows:

¤For more than 40 years, therefore since the beginning of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), women have disproved the grounds on which they are excluded from the ministries with conclusive arguments. In the period after the Council until now, numerous academic and popular books and articles have been published in favour of the ordination of women, and this happened world wide. The Vatican leaders of the Church (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Pope) have so far ignored these findings of study and research, even when they were presented by the Papal Bible Commission (cf. Report of the Bible Commission in 1996). In repeated statements (Inter insigniores, 1976, Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, 1994, Responsum ad dubium, 1995) it has rather cast its ban on women priests in concrete, and has given this teaching the rank of being a 'quasi dogma' ("This doctrine requires definitive agreement . . . ").

¤ Women who feel called to the priestly ministry and who would like to live their call, thus find themselves in a serious conflict of conscience. On the one side they encounter the resoolute position of the official leadership of the Church, on the other side God calls them to the priestly ministry in the Church. 'The love of Christ urges' them! The women who are concerned live in an intolerable tension and therefore seek a way out.

¤ Since continuing discussion does not produce any prospect, as experience has shown, the women have decided to opt for an ordination contra legem (against the law; c. 1024 CIC). For a change in the juridical position of women in the Roman Catholic Church cannot be expected in the forseeable future. As is known, in a General Church Council that could decide about the admission of women to the ministries, only bishops (therefore exclusively men!) would have voting rights, and bishops have shown themselves in the past as conformists to what the Pope and the teaching authority want.

¤ The women are aware of the fact that through this step they go against present Church law and the opinion of the Church's teaching authority. But this law ("Only a baptised man can validly receive holy orders", c. 1024), as well as the Church doctrine that underpins it, contain a serious affront to the dignity of women as persons and human beings and of their Christian standing. The fact that women are baptised and confirmed is ignored. The validity of ordination is tied at no more than the male gender! Through this the law of c. 1024 and the doctrine that underpins it rudely contradict women's being God's image (Gen 1,27), the teaching of the Second Vatican Council (Lumen Gentium Nr. 32 etc.) no less than Gal 3,2f. which declares: "All you who have been baptised in Christ, have put on Christ. There are no more Jews and Greeks, men and women, slaves or free, for you are all one in Christ Jesus". Baptism - rather than just the male sex - was already understood as the condition for valid ordination by the theologians and church lawyers of the Middle Ages (“...post baptismum quilibet potest ordinari ”).

* Both the doctrine of the ban on women priests and the law that is based on it (c. 1024 CIC) reflect therefore a heresy, of which in the Roman Catholic Church should no longer be made the victims.

* The women who will take part in the 'illicit' ordination understand their action as a clear prophetic sign of protest, a protest against doctrine and Church law that discriminates against women. This discrimination has been laid on women by men in the Church and is causing serious damage to the Roman Catholic Church and its public credibility.

* The vocation of women which was given by God for the building up and the renewal of the Church (cf. Eph 4,8.10-12), are being suppressed by Church law (c. 1024). In view of the pastoral needs (combining of many parishes on account of the shortage of priests and the resulting shortfall in offering eucharistic services, etc.), this cannot be justified. The women who take part want, through this deed, honour the free action of the divine power of the Spirit who gives to each what it wills (cf. 1 Cor 12,11), and so open a new perspective for the future in the Roman Catholic Church. With the approval of the ordaining bishops, they want to strengthen and equip themselves for the following tasks: pastoral guidance of people, especially of women and groups of women die are being estranged from the Church (they badly need spiritual sisters in the ministry!); and the building up of or ministry to basic commonuties. Over and above, they want to offer themselves for the pastoral service to people, wherever and whenever it is desired.

* The women who will take part see themselves in this deed as directly imitating Jesus who broke with laws that had been established by the hierarchical religious authorities of his time and his religion (e.g. the prescriptions concerng the sabbath and situal purity). In this Jesus followed no whim. Rather he acted on the recognition that people are not there to maintain unjust and inhuman laws and norms, but that the laws of a religion should serve people (cf. Mk 2,27 etc.).

* By acting against the law (contra legem)the participating women want to appeal to the responsible ecclesiastical leaders to finally honour the spiritual vocation of women to the ordained ministries and to give them rightful space in the doctrine, law and practice of the Church.

* The women who, on account of the hardening of the official Church's position, are driven to their acting against the law should not be blamed; the blame should rather fall on Church leadership which has provoked this action through their oppressive actions.

On Easter morning courageous women disciples, Maria of Magdala and other women, went to the tomb of Jesus - in faithfulness to their master. The stone before the tomb was rolled away - they were the first to meet the Risen Lord and so they became the messengers of his Resurrection. Trusting on the power of the risen Christ committed women today want to blaze a new trail, and so contribute to the rolling away of the heavy stone of discrimination that weighs on the Roman Catholic Church. As women priests they want to dedicate themselves to a Church in which people, no matter what their race or sex, can live together in justice and freedom, and so serve God.

The group of women commend themselves and their risky venture to God's goodness and the intercession of all the saints, - especially the intercession of the Mother of Jesus and St. Thérèse of Lisieux who was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1997 (doctor Ecclesiae universalis). She said of herself: "I feel called to be a priest!"

June 2002
for the group of women to be ordained
Ida Raming und Iris Müller

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