Catholic Womens Ordination

A few weeks ago I addressed a gathering of the CWO, the Catholic Womens Ordination movement in London.  I think it could accurately be said that, as far as the official Church is concerned, these people are the untouchables of today. We are not supposed to engage in conversation with them, since even talking about the topic that their movement promotes is forbidden.

The group I met with on that Saturday afternoon were about as far removed from being a dangerous body of people as you could imagine.  They were mostly women, but with a few men scattered among them. Many of them have been involved in the movement for many years. More significantly, many of them are committed members of their local parishes.

A couple of things that struck me about them:

1. They were extremely friendly and warm people. It was easy to feel completely at home in their presence. Even though I had never met them before, apart from one or two, and that I was a man coming to talk on an issue more directly related to women, I did not feel in any way under pressure.  I did not feel that I had to prove myself, with them.

2. They were in no sense single issue people, the sort of people who are all too common in the Church today, who see everything through one particular lens, and with whom it is impossible to have any reasonable discussion.  While it is true that they are passionate about the ordination of women, they see this as part of a larger justice issue within the church.

3. There were many learned and very intelligent people in that room. Their vision is broader than the ordination of women and in some ways they see themselves as caught on the horns of a dilemma. They desire gender equality but do not want to be women priests if it means following the present model of priesthood.  They could see clearly that our understanding of both Eucharist and priestly ministry in the Church needs radical rethinking.  They don’t just want to be ordained, wear a Roman collar and a black suit and “run” a parish.   In other words, they say that there is a lot to be done before the issue of womens ordination could be satisfactorily resolved.

4. They were people who are deeply committed to the Church; indeed it would not be an exaggeration to say that I believe they have a great love for the Church. And that is what is energising them to continue the struggle despite the enormous obstacles that are being put in their way.

5. There were a number of women there who seem to have no doubt that they have been called by God to the priestly ministry, and who have endured great frustration and hurt by not being able to follow that call.

In summary, I think that Church leadership, instead of blocking out these people, and refusing to talk to them, should be thanking God that people like them are in the Church.  The people that I met could be one of our greatest resources.