There is no question women priests in the Catholic church will not come from the top down. But maybe, just maybe, they’ll come from the bottom up.

An international group called Roman Catholic Womenpriests is growing apace. Now 87 people have been ordained – including six men – bringing the total to 37 in the United States and Canada and 50 world wide. The latest involved two women being ordained last month in St. Louis.

The presiding bishop at these ordinations was Patricia Fresen, a quite remarkable woman. She is a former Dominican nun and a former Seminary professor in South Africa where she took a leading role against apartheid. Fresen became a priest in 2002 and a bishop in 2005.

Patricia Fresen’s ordination was duly documented and notarized. After leaving her order she moved from South Africa to Germany where she learned that a male Catholic bishop wanted to ordain her a bishop . The bishop said to her: « I will lay hands on you in the apostolic succession in which I stand, so that you can ordain others. » Two other bishops were present since it takes three to consecrate a bishop under canon law. Fresen has now become the best known female Catholic bishop in the United States.

The women priests say many male priests support the movement privately and three bishops in good standing have taken the extraordinary step of ordaining women bishops.

Obviously these women priests cannot serve Catholic parishes directly. Many of the women celebrate the Catholic sacraments where they are invited, often saying Mass in people’s homes or in communities ranging from a few participants to a couple of hundred.

In the eyes of the Church these ordinations are not licit but they would certainly seem to be valid. So the women are truly priests and the bishops are truly bishops.

These are the facts on the ground. They are not a flood but a trickle. And trickles have grown into floods before.

Do you support women priests?

Is it enough for Rome to say educated Catholics cannot even discuss the issue?

Is the experience of women priests in other churches a positive one.




  1. 1
    Alex Thomas Says:

    « In any Irishman’s life, there are four sacred women. His mother, his sister, his wife and his daughter. You might as well ordain them. You will not be giving them any more power or influence than they already have.  » – Fr. Andrew Greeley.
    « Abortion and gay marriage are two great impediments to world peace. » – Pope Benedict XVI.
    In a local Benedictine monastery, there is a tapestry of St. Benedict subduing the devil in the desert. The devil is a woman. So Eve bit the apple, did she? Got her and hubby kicked out of Paradise, eh? Well, at least that would give them something to talk about, at the end of a day, apart from, « You know what’s for supper, I don’t give a damn what you call those funny looking things with the long, hanging noses, and if you stick that thing in me one more time, I’m gonna break it off! »
    You want world peace? Make the next Pope a woman. How many women in charge, apart from Maggie Thatcher, send their boys off to die in the desert, so Daddy can have more oil? How many women have other women imprisoned and lashed for being the victim of gang rape?
    Forget Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton. Let the presidential race be between Oprah Winfrey and Condi Rice.
    You can fool most of the people most of the time, but you can’t fool Mom. Real men respect real women, but they do not fear them. Ordain them. Respect them. Take sacrements from them. Life may be a bitch, but the devil is a bastard.
    My name is Alex Thomas. She moves in mysterious ways — doesn’t She?

  2. 2
    SUZANNE Says:

    Who the heck cares? The Church has spoken. In the history of the Church, when a doctrine is settled, it’s settled. There’s no going back.

    Not going to happen folks. You’re wasting your time.

  3. 3
    Kathleen Says:

    Dear Neil,

    Thanks for the support for ordination of women. I notice that one person wrote against it. I invite her and any of your readers who are interested to look at, and at, to see the real history of ordination in the Catholic Church — women have already been ordained in the early church: deacons, priests, and bishops. We are now reclaiming what was taken from women when scholastic theology rose in the middle ages.

    We are interested in honest dialogue with anyone who is willing to really examine the evidence.


  4. 4
    Chimera Says:

    Lots of people care. The people for whom Catholicism is extremely personal, and who would welcome the ministrations of women, they care. People who want their diety to be both male and female, they care. People who do not like having their personal lives micromanaged by an out-of-touch, patriarchal society of frustrated bachelors, they care. The sacred feminine is being emancipated.

    The Church speaks a lot. It’s past time it listened. Catholics around the world want change, and if they don’t get it within their own church, they will get fed up and leave, taking their friends and families (and not incidentally, their wallets) with them. There are other churches who are more than willing to receive them with open arms and minds.

    Doctrines have changed before, and usually because of great public pressure. It will again. No time spent in the evolution of personal faith is wasted. And time is on the side of the women.

    Of course, those who do not want change will also be accomodated. There will still be male priests. Opus Dei is not going away.

     » Is it enough for Rome to say educated Catholics cannot even discuss the issue? »

    Say WHAT? Really? Rome has some flappin’ nerve, doncha think?

    A few years ago, I was doing some research on a related topic, and I came across some information that surprised me. Short version is thus: The viability and legality of any religious organization is decided in Canada by the provincial governments. Every priest must be registered and approved by that government. Any one of the provinces or territories has the ability to force the Catholic church to either comply with provincial statutes or take itself away. And if the provincial governments, in these feministic times, decide that woman are to be ordained because that’s what the voters want, then ordained they shall be.

  5. 5
    Tony Kondaks Says:

    « Nature has given woman so much power that the law cannot afford to give her more. » Samuel Johnson, the philosopher, said that about a century ago in response to whether he believed in women’s suffrage.

    Women are already a quantum step above men in terms of spirituality and holiness. Women, in effect, are already Godly in the sense that she is able to create human life within her, just like God. And the ability to create Man — who is made in the image of God — is the ability to create God in the flesh here on Earth. Our (men’s) participation in the whole affair consists of about 30 seconds of grunting and thrusting. And then we either roll over and go to sleep or go to the kitchen for a pizza and a beer (scratching our balls and burping as we go).

    It is therefore a fallacy to believe that women are equal to men as it is quite obvious that they are far, far superior.

    Aspiring to become priests, therefore, is a step down for women because they are, by nature, already above such consideration. For the benefit of our weak, feeble ego’s, the domain of priesthood must necessarily be left to men so that we can at least feel we are important for something.

    I neither support women priests, women rabbis, nor women in combat.

  6. 6
    Cate McB Says:

    Wow — how to respond to Tony? — so many patronizing and stereotypical ideas and so little time from my perspective.

    I’m with Kathleen. I think we need to ditch patronizing stereotypes and have honest dialogue about among other things, the historical evidence.

  7. 7


    What’s the matter with Hillary Clinton?

    It’s not going to happen. Remember all those right wing Catholics jumping up and down yelling the church could not change its teaching on slavery. Well, lo and behold, the church did. Just as in the fullness of time, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, it will change its teaching on women priests. Meanwhile while we are waiting you can continue to take your marching orders from the centralized coterie of male septuagarian celibates whose main objective is to prop up the patriarchal system.

    Good luck with your work. Shalom.

    The following might have strengthened your argument. Some Catholic women want no truck or trade with ordination because they contend it’s just a useless buying into the male patriarchal system.
    Good letter in the Gazette this morning on Mulroney.

    Before she died the wonderful Sister Gertrude McCLaughlin did a marvellous paper on women deaconesses in the early church for the Quebec bishops. Let’s get back to that.

  8. 8
    Joe Agnost Says:

    « The Church has spoken. »

    Wow… why mess things up by discussing them critically eh? Let’s just assume that there are no other points of view and take the word of the church as written in stone.

    Doesn’t anyone else think this is blind-faith taken a little too far? Shouldn’t there be discussion within a religion or is the word of the pope the nail in the discussion coffin?

    « In the history of the Church, when a doctrine is settled, it’s settled. »

    Is that true?? I’m sure there have been other points in history when the church changed its mind.

    « …the domain of priesthood must necessarily be left to men so that we can at least feel we are important for something. »

    Are you sure you’re a man?! This comment is unbelievable…

  9. 9
    Alex Thomas Says:

    « What’s the matter with Hilary Clinton? » Well, she COULD use a little time in the tanning booth, for one…she does have bigger brassier ones than Bill ever did (must have been all those interns, eh?) and she has been a little vague on how many bodybags from Iraq and Afghanistan and possibly Iran would be enough…of course, the clincher would be that autographed poster of Maggie Thatcher in her attic…
    All in all, folks…wasn’t two terms in charge ENOUGH for the Neutron Nanny?
    My name is Alex Thomas. Meet the new boss…same as the old boss…

  10. 10
    SUZANNE Says:


    Women have not been ordained. That is pure, unadulterated, feminist revisionist bunk.

    Remember all those right wing Catholics jumping up and down yelling the church could not change its teaching on slavery.

    Who? What doctrine on slavery? Where did the pope issue an encyclical (or the equivalent) saying « slavery is morally acceptable » and then issue another encyclical saying « slavery is not morally acceptable ».

    Didn’t happen.

    This has simply never happened. In fact, if it has happened, how come apologists against Church infallibility only come up with the same few examples (that are easily refuted).

    Joe wrote:

    Is that true?? I’m sure there have been other points in history when the church changed its mind.

    People in the Church change their minds. But not once a doctrine is settled.

    Meanwhile while we are waiting you can continue to take your marching orders from the centralized coterie of male septuagarian celibates whose main objective is to prop up the patriarchal system.

    If patriarchy is so horrible, why are you still Catholic?

    Long live the patriarchy, as far as I’m concerned.

  11. 11
    Alex Thomas Says:

    Suzanne: Long live the patriarchy! Deus Lo Volt! Slaughter the Greek, the Turk and the Jew! Auto Da Fe! Burn the heretic bastards! Gott Mit Uns! To the ovens with them! Oh, and check out the rosy cheeks (pun intended) on that altar boy, Father! Yes, this patriarchy has SUCH an impressive track record, has set SUCH a shining example of moral rectitude, has shown such righteous courage! It must be so delightful to acknowledge no doubt, to never question, to bear no witness to history OR current events.
    I envy you, Suzanne. How does it feel, to be thick as a brick? To never know reason, to harbour no doubts, to never voice question. To have learned all you will ever need to learn. To never need to think again.
    My name is Alex Thomas. The gifts of the Magi are Life, Love, and The Pursuit of Wisdom. Hey, Eve, you gonna finish that apple?

  12. 12
    Chimera Says:

    « Women have not been ordained. That is pure, unadulterated, feminist revisionist bunk. »

    Ha! Tell that to the bishops who ordained them! Feminist, perhaps. Revisionist, no. But are you allowed to use words like « adulterated » when talking about priests?

    You might not like it, but it did happen in the past, and it is happening now, and it will happen in the future.

  13. 13
    Timothy Says:

    Regardless of one’s feelings on the matter. the Bishop of Rome did speak and the matter is closed. You may continue to discuss the issue, but nothing will change.

    Regarding Canada above, any attempts to force the Church to ordain women will likely result in male candidates being flown to Rome for ordination and then returning to their native country. No women will ever be ordained by the Catholic Church regardless of country or laws. The Church, if necessary, will go underground. A 2,000 year old institution of Christ fears no temporary civil government.

    Also, the recently « ordained » womenpriests are currently « poisoning the well » by not faithfully following the Roman Missal. Their documented liturgical abuses just provide the Church with more evidence against womenpriests.

  14. 14
    Barbara Says:

    And did you know that the Vatican State had its own executioner until a few decades ago? And now it has finally seen the light and weighs in against capital punishment.

    Only God is Truth. The rest of us learn it bit by bit over time.

  15. 15
    Barbara Says:

    Here is a link giving historical references. The author is Papal-friendly.

    The recent popes have made a radical turnabout vis-a-vis capital punishment and it is to their credit that they listened to the Spirit speaking in their time.

  16. 16

    Good to hear from you.
    Do you really believe that 50 years from now the Roman Catholic church will still be a male celibate patriarchy rejecting ordination for about 50 per cent of its members?
    I do not believe that and if I did I suggest there would be little future for such a church in its current form – nor should there be.

    A most interesting reference to the capital punishment policies of the Vatican. Thanks.

  17. 17
    Timothy Says:

    > »Do you really believe that 50 years from now the Roman Catholic church will still be a male celibate patriarchy rejecting ordination for about 50 per cent of its members? »

    Yep. Its a sure thing. The Catholic Church already rejects ordination for most of its male members (married, no calling, psychological problems, etc.). I’m fairly sure that well over 50% of Catholic men are already rejected for ordination. The Census Bureau reports the percentage of people who have ever been married by the age of 35 is 77% for males and 84% for females. As Catholic marriage rates are higher than average, the pool of eligible male ordination candidates is extremely small. Any future ordination rejection rate will hover around its current 90-95% rate.

    Not only do I believe that the Church will still have a male priesthood in 2050, but also in 2100, 2200, and every year thereafter until the end of time.

  18. 18
    Alex Thomas Says:

    The first pope was a married fisherman. The first « Mass » was celebrated in Aramaic. The Pope was not infallible until sometime in the 19th century. The Mass was celebrated in Latin until the sweeping changes of Vatican II. Change? By Heaven and Hell, change is the rule, not the exception. The richest man in the Catholic system is Andrew Greeley, a multi-millionaire who could probably BUY a red hat if he so chose. However, he is a gentleman: kind to his congregation, barely tolerant of his peers, and openly contemptuous of his « superiors ». More power to him. The Church belongs to the people. The ones that run it do so on God’s sufferance, and even THAT is likely to have its limits. She moves in mysterious ways, after all.
    The Church HAS changed, it IS changing, and it will CONTINUE to change, Deus Volent.
    My name is Alex Thomas. As Within – So Without.

  19. 19
    Timothy Says:

    > »The first pope was a married fisherman. The first “Mass” was celebrated in Aramaic. The Pope was not infallible until sometime in the 19th century. »

    While the first statement is true, the second likely true, the third is false. The Bishop of Rome has always had the charisma of infallibility, from Peter through Benedict 16. BTW, Aramaic is still used for worship within the Catholic Church, just not among Latin Rite congregations.

    > »The Mass was celebrated in Latin until the sweeping changes of Vatican II. Change? »

    The Latin Rite Mass has continued to be celebrated in Latin until the present day. As young Catholics are returning to Latin, the future of the Church in America lies in their reply to the priest saying « Oramus ». I doubt their reply will be in English for too much longer.

    > »sweeping changes of Vatican II. »

    Actually, Vatican II did not change very much. Unfortunately, many liberal Catholics took it as license to make changes. Go back and read all the documents. I have.

    As the thread is on ordination of women to the priesthood, again the Church has stated it lacks the authority from Christ. That is unlikely to ever change. The womenpriests will eventually die and the Church will continue on as destined by God.

  20. 20
    Simon Joseph Says:

    Dear Mr Mckenty,

    I indeed support the ordination of women. It is wrong for the church to deny equal rights for women. All ministries in the Catholic Church should be opened to women. I agree with you that it isn’t going to come from the top, but with grassroot support from the bottom. I wasn’t until recently a supporter of women priests ,but on thinking through I changed my mind.

    Thank you
    Simon Joseph

  21. 21
    Deborah Says:

    On Women’s Ordination – I thought you all would enjoy this!

    Can Men be Ordained?

    A synod of bishops from the four corners of the earth and a full panoply of Mother Superiors recently converged on the Holy See of Rome, to consider the vexed question of the ordination of men. The Holy See had received many heartfelt appeals from the cruder sex claiming to have a call to the priesthood from God Herself.
    Her Holiness firmly replied to these appeals that the call must have been a wrong number. Our Holy Mother in heaven would never call to the ministry those so obviously disqualified by reason of gender.
    But the men refused to take no for an answer. Throwing down their picks and shovels, they declared they would do no more maintenance to the church roof until they had equal rights with women. They sent petitions to the Holy See, filled with arguments in support of the ordination of men. Although they could find no example from Jesus Himself, the Incarnation of holy wisdom, since he had ordained no men to the priesthood (or women either …)
    Finally Her Holiness decided to gather the Holy Mothers of the Church together, with a number of the best-qualified scholars, who had spent a lifetime studying the odd characteristics of the male gender (from a safe distance, of course). They hoped to come up with a definitive argument, once and for all, against the ordination of men.
    After long and careful study, a final decree was drawn up defining the reasons why men could not be ordained. The decree was proclaimed by Her Holiness and the Holy Mothers departed home to their respective seats of wisdom, feeling very pleased with themselves. The decree Ad Hominem stated to their satisfaction, and, they hoped, for all time, the weighty reasons for their gut prejudices.
    The first part of the decree deduced a good many reasons from men’s biological and psychological natures that disqualified them from the priesthood.
    It was said, first of all, that men were too violent and emotional to be priests. Anyone who has watched groups of men at football or cricket matches, not to mention political conferences, has seen their trigger-happy tempers, their taste for solving conflicts with fisticuffs. To ordain such creatures would be to risk disgraceful brawls at the altar. The male proneness to violence surely disqualifies them from representing Christ, who incarnates graciousness and peace.
    Secondly, the cruder, heavier frame of the male clearly marks him out for the physical tasks of society, digging ditches, mending roofs and the like. The finer, more spiritual tasks of society are intended by Our Mother in Heaven for the more refined spirits and bodies of women. This separation of roles is clearly evident in scripture, where the males are said to have been created from dirt, while women were created last, clearly marking them out as the crown of God’s Creation. It was even suggested by one Mother Superior that Adam was a rough draft, Eve being the more refined and complete version of human nature. The Mothers had a good many laughs at that one, and some decided to have it made into a bumper sticker.
    On the practical level, it was felt that men were needed for military defence. A man’s place is in the army, declared one wise scholar, and all the Holy Mothers nodded in agreement. Besides, men would look silly in red dresses and lace. The sacred garb is clearly intended for women.
    Profound matters of a theological nature were also discussed. One scholar had prepared a long paper proving from the symbolic order that men could not be ordained. The division of humanity into male and female is a profound mystery that symbolises the relationship of the transcendent and the immanent, the spiritual and the material. Women represent the spiritual realm, men the material. The material must be ruled by the spiritual, just as Holy Wisdom presides over the physical cosmos as her household.
    Moreover, since the Church is female, those who represent Her should clearly be female as well. There should be a physical resemblance between the priest and the Church as Holy Mother. Obviously this means that all priests should be mature women. The Church is also said to be the Bride of Christ, and brides are female. The priest, as a representative of the Church in relation to Christ, represents Christ’s bride. Therefore only women can be priests.
    It was solemnly noted that men are sexually attractive to some women. To have a man on the altar may distract a woman from her prayers. For women to have to sit listening to men preach or watching them stomping about the sanctuary might lead their thoughts to descend from the higher to the lower realms.
    Finally, it was noted that most of the people who come to church are women. Men tend to stand outside the doors of the church gossiping, or sneak off to the pub or football match.
    It was hoped that with so many clear reasons, from both the natural and theological realms, against the ordination of men, this would settle the matter. Male impertinence would be silenced, and they would slink back into their proper sphere.

  22. 22

    Deborah –

    Indeed we did enjoy this piece on male and female ordination. Thanks for sharing it with us.

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