The Beginning of Women's Ordination Worldwide (WOW)...
Women's Ordination Worldwide (WOW) was founded in 1996 at the First European Women's Synod in Gmunden, Austria.
WOW is an international ecumenical network of groups whose current mission is the admission of Roman Catholic women to all ordained ministries. It is founded on the principle of equality and therefore opposes any discrimination.
'There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus'. (Galatians 3.28). WOW affirms the God-given diversity of humanity and is committed to providing a model of collaborative, non-hierarchical leadership.
In its early years, WOW functioned as a loose network of organisations who kept in touch by email or through occasional newsletters. The first coordinator was Andrea Johnson (Women's Ordination Conference - USA). In 1998, she was succeeded by Myra Poole (Catholic Women's Ordination - Britain). In 2005, Marie Bouclin (Catholic Network for Women's Equality - Canada) assumed the coordinator's role. She was followed by Jennifer Stark (Catholic Women's Ordination - Britain).
In 2008, WOW transitioned its convening leadership from one of an international coordinator to that of a democratically elected Leadership Circle. The Leadership Circle is elected by the Steering Committee from among among themselves.
International Conference Dublin, Ireland 2001
Women Priests - Now is the Time
In 2001, the Irish organisation, Brothers and Sisters in Christ (BASIC)(now part of We Are Church Ireland), organised and hosted the first WOW international conference. It was held in Dublin. Keynote speakers in Dublin included Sr. Joan Chittister, John Wijngaards and the Revd. Rose Hudson-Wilkin. The last-named replaced Aruna Gnanadason, of the World Council of Churches, who was forced to withdraw due to pressure from the Vatican.
International Conference Ottawa, Canada 2005
Breaking Silence, Breaking Bread
Following the Dublin conference, in July 2001, BASIC acted as coordinator for WOW on a short-term basis until January 2002, when the Austrian branch of the international movement We Are Church (Wir Sind Kirche) took on this role. In July 2002, the WOW International Steering Committee met at Salzburg and drew up a constitution. At this meeting, Marie Bouclin of Canada was asked to be coordinator, and the second international conference, hosted by the Canadian organisation, Catholic Network for Women's Equality, took place in Ottawa in July 2005. Speakers at the Ottawa conference included Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza and Rosemary Radford Ruether.
Archives of both conferences, including all the keynote speeches, are included on this website:
International Steering Committee
WOW policy and general management are the responsibility of a Steering Committee made up of representatives from all the member groups. A four member Leadership Circle is elected on an annual basis from candidates who are Delegates to the Steering Committee/.
Commitment to Dialogue
WOW affirms commitment to dialogue, within and between its member groups, and with other organisations, including our ecumenical partners. Virtually all of WOW's member groups include men and women from other Christian traditions. WOW celebrates the enrichment of understanding and friendship that results from the work to affirm women as fully human and fully part of God's creation with all that this vision implies.
WOW seek to foster unity of purpose among those who share the vision of a renewed ordained ministry for both men and women (married and celibate) that is true to Christianity's biblical roots within a renewed Roman Catholic Church.
Some Catholic women who feel called to ordination have committed themselves, often at considerable personal cost, to waiting for official change in the Church's position.
Others, as an act of conscience, and after careful reflection, have felt compelled to respond to their sense of calling from God and their communities and have been ordained, validly but illegally, within the Roman Catholic Womenpriests movement. In addition, a number of women have been ordained within independent Catholic Churches (not Roman), such as the Ecumenical Catholic Communion.
WOW honours the courage and commitment of all who walk this difficult path, whatever their choice.
Women's Ordination and the Vatican's Pontifical Biblical Commission
In 1976, the report of the Pontifical Biblical Commission found that there were no Scriptural grounds for denying priestly ordination to women. However, since the publication by Pope John Paul II of Ordinatio Sacerdotalis (1994), and the subsequent Responsum ad Dubium issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (1995), discussion of Roman Catholic women's ordination has been officially forbidden, and women play no part in the decision-making of a male, celibate, clerical hierarchy. WOW's work for Catholic women's ordination means finding a way forward where there is no path.
Vatican Silences Discussion
On a number of occasions, the prohibition against discussion about women's ordination has been reinforced by various penalties including excommunication.
In the late 1990s, Father Tissa Balasuriya, an Indian priest, was excommunicated when he refused to withdraw statements made in his book The Eucharist and Human Liberation, including those supportive of women's ordination.
In 2006-7, a Canadian priest, Father Ed Cacchia, was removed from his parish for speaking out in support of women's ordination.
In 2008, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) formally decreed that a woman who attempts to be ordained a Catholic priest and the person attempting to ordain her are automatically excommunicated. As a result, women ordained in the Roman Catholic Womenpriests movement have now been declared excommunicated latae sententiae.
In 2010, the Vatican added 'the attempted ordination of a woman' right alongside priest paedophelia to its list of most serious crimes against Church law ('delicta graviora'). Sexual abuse of a minor by a priest had been added to that list in 2001. The 2010 revisions simplified procedures and gave the CDF the power to laicize without an ecclesiastical trial priests who sexually abuse minors or those who attempt the ordination of a woman..
Recently, an American Maryknoll priest, Father Roy Bourgeois, who spoke in support of women's ordination and preached the homily at one of the RCWP ordinations received this sentence. He has been expelled from his Order and stripped of his priesthood on account of his refusal to recant his support for women's ordination.
Vatican Silencing of Dialogue Continues
These actions by the Vatican reinforce the ban on discussion of an issue among committed Catholics who are gravely concerned for the future of pastoral ministry does nothing to resolve the core issue.
WOW urges Church's leaders, clerical and lay, to open debate on this issue and on other aspects of the Church's systemic discrimination against women which is acknowledged by several recent Popes -- John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis included.
At stake here is the Church's integrity and its regard for the primacy of conscience:
'Over the pope, as the expression of the binding claim of ecclesiastical authority, there still stands one's own conscience, which must be obeyed before anything else, if necessary even against the requirement of ecclesiastical authority. Conscience confronts [the individual] with a supreme and ultimate tribunal, and one which in the last resort is beyond the claim of external social groups, even of the official church'.
Pope Benedict XVI (writing as Cardinal Josef Ratzinger), Commentary on the Documents of Vatican II, ed. Vorgrimler, 1968, onGaudium et Spes, pt. 1, ch. 1.