The Roman Catholic Women Priests Movement has ordained 145 women priests worldwide since its beginnings in Germany in 2002.
For a very short time, Irish American Jennifer O’Malley thought about turning her back on the Catholic Church. Despite being brought up in an active Catholic family and attending Catholic school from kindergarten through high school, as many children with a Co. Mayo grandfather would, she felt the Church had left her wanting in her inability to be ordained.
“I did think about the possibilities of being ordained with the Episcopal Church and explored that very briefly but as soon as I started exploring it, I realized that was not my calling,” O’Malley, who is based in Long Beach, California, told IrishCentral.
“I'm Catholic in my blood and in my bones.
"I quickly realized that it was almost a responsibility to stay, to refuse to leave, and to force the institution to reckon with the vocation that God has called me to.”
Having read about the emergence of the Roman Catholic Women Priests Movement initially in the newspaper, a nun in one of the parishes O'Malley attends told her more about it, introducing her to a woman priest within the Catholic faith who was also based in California.
“I was participating in a small faith community and they recognized a call to priesthood in myself,” O’Malley said.
“Once I met this other woman priest, and some of my other friends who had said to me 'oh, you should think about becoming a priest’ or ‘I wish there was a way that you could be ordained' also met her, we all thought 'yeah, this is perfect.’ It's what I'm being called to.”
The Roman Catholic Women Priests Movement officially started in Germany in 2002, where seven women were ordained as priests within the Catholic Church. Since then, bishops from among these women have also been ordained, allowing them to ordain further women around the world.
According to the movement's website, there are currently over 145 Roman Catholic women around the world who are “reclaiming their ancient spiritual heritage and are re-shaping a more inclusive, Christ-centered Church for the 21st century.”
“We advocate a new model of priestly ministry united with the people with whom we serve. We are rooted in a response to Jesus who called women and men to be disciples and equals living the Gospel,” the movement states.
It was ten years after this official start, in 2012, that O’Malley was ordained and she now serves ministries in her local community in the evenings and weekends, around her full-time job as a specialist director.
While she says that up to 95% of the people she meets with are happily receptive to her role as a woman priest, those who don’t agree with it are not extremely vocal, even when they express their opposition.
“God doesn’t call people based on gender or on biological parts, to be frank, but rather God calls people based on the gifts that God has given us,” O’Malley argues, adding that she feels it’s only by making bold moves such as this one that she will see the changes within the Catholic Church that she desires.
“The Canon Law that says only a man can be a priest is a human-created law that's flawed. Those things [flaws] are changed by people breaking laws and that's what we're doing.
“It's 2018. To have an institution say that a person cannot hold a position simply because of their gender is so ridiculous, to be quite honest, and I think it's very oppressive of the Church to continue to oppress women's call to the priesthood.”
Much of this oppression is upheld by Pope Francis, she believes, who while loved for his views on helping immigrants, is still opposed to the idea that a woman can be ordained.
“I think his view of women is not what it should be,” she states.
“He's made it clear that he doesn't support the ordination of women. He has said that the door continues to be closed and it's unfortunate because he talks to accepting migrants and working with the poor.
"However, women are disproportionately affected by these things and while he continues, or the institution continues, to oppress women, I don't think that he can fully talk about these other issues.”
“It's not just ordaining women,” O’Malley adds.
“It's not just putting a woman on the altar and solving everything.
“It's also about making sure the voices of the people in parishes [are included] and including the voices of everybody in decision making, changing some of the language we use to be more inclusive, and reaching out to other oppressed communities in the church like the gay and lesbian community.
“We've got to look at all the other parts of the institution that also need to be changed ... The Church is becoming irrelevant in some ways, especially amongst younger people.”
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