LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Twenty years ago this month, the Vatican reaffirmed the ban on the ordination of women, which led to the birth of a movement within the Church called the “Roman Catholic Womenpriests” who say they are defying the Catholic Church to answer a call from God.
These devout Catholics, who preach teachings and rituals of their faith, were excommunicated by the Roman Catholic Church because, they say, they are women.
“It’s a sexist law created by some humans and the call of God trumps that,” Jennifer O’Malley said.
O’Malley, a self-proclaimed Catholic priest, holds prayer in a tiny Episcopalian Chapel in Long Beach.
“It’s important that everyone participates in the liturgy and everyone has a role,” she said about her small gatherings where everyone sits in a circle.
She is one of four self-proclaimed Catholic priests in Southern California who are part of the Roman Catholic Womenpriests. They are Catholics who believe they oversea the ordination of female priests — a movement that began decades ago in secret.
“The womanpriests movement was rooted in the 60s. It was not until 2002 that RCWP was formed when seven women were ordained by some male bishops on the Danube River,”
O’Malley says the movement has grown through “apostolic succession”. There are currently 180 of them worldwide, but most of them preach in the United States.
According to Gary Macy, a renowned author on the subject, women were ordained up until the 12th century, but only as leaders in the community.
“What you got was a job within the community, and any job you got went through an ordination ceremony,” she said.
The definition of ordination changed in the 13th century when the Church made it official barring women from receiving the holy sacrament, according to Macy. She said disobeying would be as serious as priests who sexually abuse children.
“The former Pope saw this as a grave crime — one that merits excommunication,” she said. “Women cannot be ordained priests and even if they went through the consecration ceremony or ordination ceremony, nothing happens.”
Rosa Manriquez said the law is not stopping her from following her dreams of becoming a Catholic priest.
“It’s like you can come here, but no further. And then I’ll hear how we’re all equal in the Church, but you just can’t be a priest,” Manriquez said. “That makes no sense.”
“My Church has a history of exclusion and has grown up over the centuries…over the decades. There was a time in the Church that Native Americans had no souls. There was time the Catholic Church was perfectly okay with slavery,” she added. “I think without those people in the Church who risked speaking out against slavery, who risked speaking out about what was said about Native American people, our church would not be where it is right now. It would not have progressed the way it has. My point is I am part of the Church that says there needs to be a change.”
Many in the RCWP movement hope change will happen, that one day women will be allowed to lead inside Catholic churches.
“Hopefully one day they’ll realize that gender won’t be a requirement to be called by God for ordination. But even if they don’t, the people are recognizing it, and the people are the Church,” O’Malley said.
“In any institution there can be like a tunnel vision, and there’s a need for someone to say ‘No, no, no. Look over here’,” Manriquez said. “I believe that’s what I’m doing as being part of the renewal of the Church — being one of those voices. It may not be recognized in my lifetime, but I think it’ll be eventually recognized.”
According to a New York Times/CBS poll, 59 percent of American Catholics support the ordination of women.