The Origins of Roman Catholic Womenpriests
The Roman Catholic Womenpriest movement (RCWP) started in 2002 when seven brave women - Iris Müller, Ida Raming, Pia Bruner, Dagmar Celeste, Adelinde Roitlinger, Gisela Forster and Christine Mayr-Lumetxberger - were ordained to the priesthood on the Danube river by two canonical Catholic bishops who recognized the need for women's priestly leadership in the Church. Soon after, womenbishops were ordained in order to continue the work of ordaining more womenpriests. All RCWP womenpriests and womenbishops have been ordained in full Apostolic Succession and are working for the renewal of the Roman Catholic Church from within.
The Danube Seven: the first Womenpriests ordained on the Danube River in 2002
Today, there are over 200 womenpriests ordained worldwide. In Canada, we have 9 womenpriests and 2 womenbishops. RCWP churches are inclusive Catholic communities where people can live out their faith in welcoming, supportive and forward-thinking environments. While upholding the ancient traditions of the Catholic Church, RCWP is leading the way forward for a new model of Catholicism and priesthood in the 21st century centred around equality, inclusivity and the voice of the Catholic people—the sensus fidelium.
The Orant in the Catacomb of Priscilla, Rome (late 2nd century – 4th century C.E)
Why We Need Womenpriests
All over the world, women are being called by the Spirit to priestly ministry. Gender does not determine a person's ability to represent Christ. Women are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27) and "All are one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).
There is no scriptural reason why women cannot be priests. In April 1976, the Pontifical Biblical Commission came to this conclusion, reporting that "It does not seem that the New Testament by itself alone will permit us to settle in a clear way and once and for all the problem of the possible accession of women to the presbyterate." An academic study from 1979 by Sandra Marie Schneiders at a Jesuit school of Theology concluded the following:
An examination of the biblical evidence shows the following: that there is positive evidence in the NT that ministries were shared by various groups and that women did in fact exercise roles and functions later associated with priestly ministry; that the arguments against the admission of women to priestly ministry based on the praxis of Jesus and the apostles, disciplinary regulations, and the created order cannot be sustained. The conclusion we draw, then, is that the NT evidence, while not decisive by itself, points toward the admission of women to priestly ministry.
There are multiple passages in the Bible about women in priestly roles, such as Romans 16 where Paul refers to "our sister Phoebe, a deacon (diakonos) of the church at Cenchrea" and Junia who was "outstanding among the apostles" and "in Christ before I was." Other passages discussing women's early ministry in the church include Acts 1:12-14, 18:24-26, 21:7-9, and Romans 16:1-16. There is also archeological evidence of women ministers in the early church.
Catholics around the world are supportive of womenpriests. A 2015 study of US Catholics found that 88% of people believe that you can be a good Catholic and support women as priests. And according to a 2014 univision poll, womenpriests are supported by 83% of Catholics in France, 78% in Spain, 60% in Argentina, 59% in Italy, and 54% in Brazil.
Women are no longer waiting for permission to answer God's call. This "prophetic disobedience," as Bishop Patricia Fresen says, to discriminatory canon law, and prophetic obedience to the Spirit, is bringing hope and renewal to the Catholic Church.
9th century mosaic in the Chapel of St Zeno, Rome.
From left to right, Theodora (called 'episcopa' or bishop), St Praxedes, Virgin Mary, and St Pudentiana