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.