This episode marks the end of our two-part special on Roman Catholic Women Priests. We follow the story of Diane Dougherty, former nun and ordained Priest at First Metropolitan Church.
“I always wondered why there were no women at the altar, only men.” -Sr Leticia Rawles
“The priest is alter Christus. He plays the part of Christ and Christ works through the priest in the action of the Eucharistic sacrifice. As a man his sexuality matters because he brings to this action of redemption the fact that he is not only a human, but like Christ, he is a man. Women participate in the redemptive sacrifice as did the Blessed Virgin–as women and as mothers. For a woman to be a priest is therefore as impossible as it would be for a man to be a mother.” -Fr. Dwight Longenecker
“…it is important to be aware that the question of the gender of God is a thoroughly modern issue. No matter how entrenched in the imagination of the average Christian the image of God might be, theological tradition has never assigned sex to God. St. Gregory of Nazianzus well represented the tradition when he affirmed that the terms “father” and “son” as applied to the persons of the Trinity were not names of natures or essences but of relations and even in this case the terms are used metaphorically.” - Sandra Schneiders
According to their website, the initiation of Roman Catholic Women Priests (RCWP) is a “renewal within the Roman Catholic Church. [Their] goal is to achieve full equality for all within the Church as a matter of justice and faithfulness to the Gospel. The Women Priests movement advocates for a new model of inclusive priestly ministry in the church. [They] stand in the prophetic tradition of holy obedience to the Spirit who calls all people to discipleship.”
The ordained Roman Catholic Women Priests minister to communities in the US, Canada, and Latin America. The movement began on the Danube River, where Christine Mayr-Lumetzberger, Adelinde Theresia Roitinger, Gisela Forster, Iris Muller, Ida Raming, Pia Brunner and Angela White were ordained as women priests on June 29th, 2002. This was the first public event wherein women were ordained women priests.
“When I was put in my role as a young nun, I was put back into humanity. We were expected to grow with humanity as people of God; God is part of all of us. Clericalism is a spreading virus, an internal illness in the body of the church that affects the well-meaning clerics who are forced against their consciences to go along with what they know is wrong. Women's ordination is a prime example. Many priests will not even enter into a discussion because the pope says no. Their underlying fear is loss of pension, their good name, no place to go in clerical society. They are loaded with fears." -Diane Dougherty
Diane Dougherty is a former Sister of the Sisters of Humility. She grew up in Painsville, Ohio and joined her former community in 1963. For the years that she was a sister, Diane was a teacher. She saw and experienced unnecessary discrimination from male leaders and in 1987, she left the community. In an interview with National Catholic Reporter, Diane recalled her telling her superior, "... my first 12 years as a sister were happy, working for institutions the nuns operated. Then I had to work for priests and had no voice: The parish belonged to the pastor.”
She was ordained to priesthood on Oct. 20th, 2012. She is the first woman priest in Georgia and serves at First Metropolitan Community, an LGBTQ+ church.
“We are authentic women living out our gospel call within the Catholic Church. We stand as equals with all clergy through this ordination,” she said. “Sexism is now and always has been divisive. You cannot take half a religious denomination, make them second class, and say this is the will and intent of Jesus. The gospels and experience of the early church clearly indicate women have been called to full discipleship. There is historical and archeological evidence that verified women were priests and deacons for the first 1,200 years of its existence. That is also how long it took to make a hierarchy to say we never existed. Oppressed for the last 800 years, we are now rising up to say once again, we are here, we have been here and we will always be here, because God calls us all to be God’s presence on earth — both male and female.”
The ordination of women priest comes from the lack of women representation in the church. Although roles as lay women are available, there is few roles of leadership in the church for women to fulfill.
“God, being a God of order and being all-wise, good, and gracious, has ordered all things in creation for our good. This order in the creation he has retained and renewed in redemption. As part of this good order God has appointed the man to be the head of the family and to be the elder (presbyter) or priest in the wider family of the Church. God's good order does not envision nor permit women to exercise the ministry of "headship" in the family, nor the ministry of oversight involved in the offices of the priesthood and episcopate as they are understood and practiced by Anglicans.” - Rt. Rev. John Rodgers
By reclaiming leadership positions in the church, women are reclaiming a space at the table to express their viewpoints and validate the experiences of women as human beings. Along with that is the ability to be role models for the generation to come; with women and men leading in places of equity, there will be a better understanding of the human race.
“To say that a woman is not ordainable and cannot serve in persona Christi – as a deacon – is to argue against the incarnation…The important thing is not that Christ became male. It’s that Christ became human. If we say that woman cannot live in persona Christi, I think we’re making a terribly negative comment about the female gender.” - Phyllis Zagano
Sr Loretto Gunn, CSJ:
I think the role of women religious . . . We say that we are ecclesial women and we are church women. And, I think that’s very true. But, I like the definition that women religious are really the conscious of the Church. So, I don’t see myself as a women religious in the thick of the Church’s battles, I see myself as a woman religious on the edge and constantly pulling the Church. I think if we want the Church to become all the Church is meant to be then I think it’s the role of women religious to pull them there. To challenge the Church. To question the Church, never to be content with the status quo, because the status quo is death. You don’t need energy to live the status quo. You don’t need energy to maintain a system. But, you need passion and energy to always reframe the system, reimagine the system, challenge the system, to call it to the more so it becomes truly the Church that Jesus Christ, who is God incarnate, meant for us to be.
This marks the end of our two-part special on Roman Catholic Women Priest. For more information please refer to the links in the description section.
A special thank you to Muahmong Vang and Pa Ia Xiong for being the voices behind this episode.
For Further Information:
Roman Catholic Women Priests:
Mission Leading to Influence:
Fr. Dwight Longenecker:
Rt. Rev. John Rodgers:
Tympanum and lintel, Saint Trophime, photo: Claude Valette (CC BY-ND 2.0)