Letter to Pope Benedict XVI Requesting Rehabilitation and Acceptance of Ludmila Javorova's valid ordination to ministerial priesthood
January 12, 2008
His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI
00120 Vatican City
Dear Pope Benedict
I write to you on behalf of Women’s Ordination Worldwide (WOW), a network of national and international groups whose primary goal at present is the admission of women to all ordained ministries in the Roman Catholic church. This letter has been written in collaboration with Wir Sind Kirche (Germany).
You have spoken convincingly in your encyclical ‘Deus caritas est’ about God’s love which manifests itself among people. In the spirit of this love we approach you today with a fervent wish, which surely cannot leave you unmoved.
We, Roman Catholic and other Christian women and men of the organisation WOW (Women’s Ordination Worldwide), have supported R. C. women with a vocation to the priesthood and the diaconate for a long time. We therefore express our hope for a change in Canon 1024 of Canon Law.
Our request today is the rehabilitation and acceptance of Ludmila Javorova’s valid ordination to the ministerial priesthood. As you well know, her ordination was a valid act of ordination by Bishop Felix Davidek; it was witnessed by members of the Czech underground church ‘Koinotes’ on December 27th, 1970 and prepared by a synod of the church. Bishop Felix Davidek had long been convinced that the traditional and traditionalist arguments against the ordination of women could no longer be accepted by society in the 20th century. Society was in need of ‘the service of woman as a special instrument for the sanctification of humankind’. The underground church then could survive communist persecution only by ordaining married men and women as priests; alas, the communist state did not recognise them as such. The courage of these men and women, often fearing for their lives, cannot be esteemed highly enough. The R.C. official church has recognised the ordination of the men and in some cases they continued their priestly ministry, as married men, in another denomination. But the women priests?
Pope John Paul II sent a message by the then Bishop of Brno to Ludmila Javorova after the end of communism in Czechoslovakia, that she was prohibited in her function as a priest. How can that be? Why do different standards operate here? What happened to Ludmila Javorova’s work in the last twenty years in extremely difficult conditions? She was Bishop Felix Davidek’s Vicar General; all papers, documents, communications of the underground church, a network of small cells of spiritual work, went through her hands. Apart from doing the required administrative work she was active in her pastoral role, she organised secret seminars, was the messenger between the different cells, worked in women’s jails, in particular supporting imprisoned nuns, and accompanied the dying.
She led a life in permanent danger of being found out by the secret police. And for that she is supposed to be humiliated by silence? Just like the ordained men, Ludmila Javorova and the other women, ordained with her, are priests for life.
Pope Benedict, even if one cannot change Canon Law very quickly, you can, by the process of an Indult, recognise the ordination of Ludmila Javorova. To operate such a special permission, frequently invoked because of pastoral necessity, is now quoted as being impossible, simply because it deals with women. Has not Teresa of Avila complained about the same thing, over 400 years ago? How much longer are women supposed to wait until they will be treated justly?
Ludmila Javorova cannot wait. She is 75 years of age and has a severe cardiac illness. Would it not be high time to celebrate her life and work? Everybody who has met her and experienced how she radiated her faith, has felt that Ludmila Javorova is a priest.
You, Pope Benedict, have the power to confirm that the ordination of Ludmila Javorova was valid. In the name of divine love we ask you strongly to recognise the life and work of Ludmila Javorova by an Indult and to effect a reconciliation of her church with her. We ask you to give a sign of God’s love, visible on earth.
Full of hope, we send you our cordial greetings and wish God’s rich blessing on your pontificate.
Jennifer Stark (WOW Coordinator)
On behalf of all women and men in WOW
The Steering Committee of WOW consists of delegates from the following:
Ordination of Catholic Women (Australia)
Bangladesh (Individual member)
Catholic Network for Women’s Equality (Canada)
Femmes et Hommes en Eglise (France)
Wir Sind Kirche/Germany (Germany)
Maria von Magdala (Germany)
Catholic Women’s Ordination (Great Britain)
New Wine (Great Britain)
IKETH (Inter-religious Conference of European Women Theologians)
Roman Catholic Women Priests - North America
Roman Catholic Women Priests - Europe-West
Brothers and Sisters in Christ (Ireland)
Women’s Ordination Conference (USA)