My thoughts on the recent ordination of female priests

On Sunday two women were ordained into an organization calling itself: Roman Catholic Womenpriests. They were ordained at a local Reform Synagogue – Central Reform Congregation. I’m not a member of CRC, but I was actually there on Saturday, as my sister-in-law, who converted to Judaism a few years ago, was having her Bat Mitzvah ceremony. I figured I might as well type out my thoughts.

If a Jewish synagoge were host to the ordination of two Baptist clergy, I wouldn’t expect the Roman Catholic Church to express any displeasure. Or Lutheran clergy. Or Muslim clergy.

To quote from a recent Post Dispatch article from before the event:

The two women will be ordained as priests of an organization called Roman Catholic Womenpriests, which, in its constitution, defines itself as “an international initiative within the Roman Catholic Church.”

The group was founded in 2002, when seven women were ordained aboard a boat on the Danube River in Germany. All of them were later excommunicated. The organization says other women have since been ordained by male Roman Catholic bishops, including Patricia Fresen, a former Dominican nun and Roman Catholic Womenpriests bishop, who will ordain Hudson and McGrath.

The group insists that it is Roman Catholic, but the church says it is not. Church leaders say that Womenpriests is like any other Christian denomination that breaks away from the church because it dislikes its doctrine.

Female ordinations by fringe Catholic groups are not unusual, and bishops often ignore such events because they occur outside the church.

The Church declares the Womenpriests to be a separate church. In so doing, they give up any right to complain about where they are ordained. That the Womenpriests claim otherwise is irrelevant.

This has a parallel in that Jews for Jesus, and other Messianic Jewish churches claim to still be Jewish. Most of the rest of the Jewish community disagrees with the claim. But most religions disagree with each other on the claims they make. That doesn’t mean we disagree with their right to exist, and worship as they choose. That’s why there are different religions. And if a group of Rabbis from a Messianic Church wished to be ordained in a Catholic Church, and the Catholic Church said OK, I’d say, ‘fine.’ Neither the Catholic Church, nor the Messianic Church are part of my religious community, so it’s none of my business.

Similarly there have been scattered stories of Orthodox Jewish women becoming ordained as Rabbis. The Orthodox community doesn’t accept them, and they usually end up with Conservative Congregations. Not being Orthodox, my opinions aren’t very relevant, but I feel that’s as it should be. I don’t expect Orthodoxy to change. But I support the right for women to be Rabbis.

I wasn’t at the event yesterday, but it sounds like it was well attended. I think that CRC’s willingness to be host to the ordination of the clergy of a new religious group shows a strong interest in interfaith ties. Because being a supporter of interfaith relationships doesn’t mean you only strengthen ties with religion A once you get permission from religions B, C and D.

I have also heard some fellow Jews complain a little about the idea of the ordination of another religion occurring within a synagogue. It seems appropriate from a historical perspective for Central Reform, since they spent their first fifteen years renting space from the First Unitarian Church in the Central West End. I suspect several weddings and bar/bat mitzvahs occurred inside the church. Their current synagogue is across the street from the church where they began.

Careful readers of the Post Dispatch article linked to at the top of this post will notice that the new priests plan to celebrate mass at – where? – The First Unitarian Church. The exact same place CRC held its services for 15 years. It’s extremely appropriate for CRC to have been the location where they were ordained.

0 thoughts on “My thoughts on the recent ordination of female priests

  1. DL Emerick




    obviously, some people do not work towards GOD’s millenial vision —
    they want to keep the priesthood for themselves, as their own thing.


    (but, in the felicitous words of bill murray, in Groundhog’s Day:
    to get it right, “you gotta really want it…”
    whether that is pitching cards in a hat or reasoning rabbinical.)


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