Stop Mansplaining Easter! Catholics demand the restoration of women to the Easter story

Just like John Paul II did during his papacy, Pope Francis has recently been moved to apologize for a Church history of male authoritarianism, male domination, the enslavement of women and sexual violence against women.  But the fact remains that acknowledgements and apologies without concrete action for change remain meaningless.

Despite occasional apologies, our Church continues to worship patriarchal power and male domination.  Despite the inclusive leadership modelled by Jesus, it is a Church controlled by men, for men.  The current sexual abuse crisis that has gripped the worldwide Church is a tragic reminder of why this corrupt, patriarchal model must change.

Approaching Easter, we recall the fact that it was women who Jesus chose to witness and preach the Good News of the Resurrection.  Despite this, we will not hear any women preaching the Gospel in any Catholic Church on Easter Sunday anytime soon. The voice of Mary Magdalene has been overpowered by a 'manshow' that is more comfortable with keeping her silent, alone and dismissible. She is barred from the pulpit.

Despite the Bible commemorating the service of Deacon Phoebe (and a recent papal commission on the ordination of women as deacons), there has been no report or significant movement from the Vatican toward the restoration of the ordained women's Diaconate.

Despite the Bible telling us about the Apostle Junia and despite Mary the mother of Jesus being the second most prominent model for sacramental priesthood (the first being her own son), these women would be barred from service in ordained ministry today on account of their lack of their 'missing maleness'.
Charity in the form of kind word or apologies is no substitute for justice withheld.  Depriving our Church of priests just because they happen to be women is an injustice to all Catholics and an insult to Jesus' model of equality and inclusion. The hostage-taking of Christianity by the all male clerical caste is wrong.  Why is Pope Francis allowing this injustice to continue when Jesus reminded us that we are all in his image and that we are all asked to bring his message of love to the world?

Dear Pope Francis, if Jesus chose Mary Magdalene to be the herald of the Good News, why won't we be hearing a woman preaching the Gospel this Easter Sunday?

Your sisters in Christ,

Women’s Ordination Worldwide


Dear Archbishop Kurtz,

The Beginning of Lent, 2016

I am writing to you and to all the ordinaries in the United States to ask you to discuss at your next assembly a core issue of structural re- form in our churchecclesia semper reformandaan issue that contin- ues to disrespect every aspect of our identity and mission: the decision to see women as not worthy of ordination to the priesthood.

Of all the things that Pope Francis has said and done, the way he opened the Synod on the Family in 2014 was perhaps the most extraor- dinary: he asked the bishops to speak “freely,” “boldly,” and “without fear.” On the one hand, this exhortation is incredibly shocking, that he would have to ask his fellow bishopsgrown men and the church’s teachersto speak honestly with each other. On the other hand, given the atmosphere of the Vatican where honest dialogue can have such negative consequences, his exhortation was not only necessary but even a modest sign of hope in our not-very-relational church.

If you believe that the ordination of women to the priesthood is vital for the integrity, mutuality, and viability of our church, I ask you to speak freely, boldly, and without fear.

If you find there is nothing in Scripture or tradition that is prejudi- cial against women or that precludes their ordination to the priesthood, I ask you to speak freely, boldly, and without fear.

If you know that the actual history of ordinationof women as well as menneeds to be acknowledged and carefully understood by you and your fellow bishops, I ask you to speak freely, boldly, and without fear.

If you know that any given woman is as religiously mature and able to provide pastoral care as any given man (please see the enclosed letter), I ask you to speak freely, boldly, and without fear.

If seeing women and men either through a “complementarity” lens or in light of precious theological symbolismis not pertinent to women’s ordination, I ask you to speak freely, boldly, and without fear.

If you believe the letter, Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, arrested dialogue on the ordination of women at a time when it could have been open, intelli- gent, and fruitful, I ask you to speak freely, boldly, and without fear.

If you see the letter, Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, as an historical expla- nation of ordination rather than a theological explanation (please see the enclosed letter), I ask you to speak freely, boldly, and without fear.

If you think the theological explanation declared by the Vatican in the 1970s and 1980sthat women cannot be ordained because they are not fully in the likeness of Jesus”—would be silly if it were it not so he- retical, I ask you to speak freely, boldly, and without fear.

If you know that the church’s opposition to the ordination of wom- en is understoodinside and outside the churchas affirming women’s inferiority and as justifying domestic violence and other atrocities against women, I ask you to speak freely, boldly, and without fear.

If you understand why so many of the adult faithful in this country are leaving the church in droves over the injustice of women barred from priesthoodif you see that a patriarchal Jesusis a colossal contradic- tionI ask you to speak freely, boldly, and without fear.

If the church’s current practice seriously undermines our God’s re- lational Three-in-Onenessif a huge patriarchal plank is stuck in the church’s eye, worshipping the Father as male, the Son as male, and the Holy Spirit as maleI ask you to speak freely, boldly, and without fear.

Archbishop Kurtz, if you want our churchincluding the domestic churchto walk proudly on two feet instead of imitating patriarchal cul- ture and hobbling around on one and if you know that our church will never be fully in the likeness of Jesus until women are fully in that like- ness, pleasehonoring the human and the divinehave the courage to speak freely, boldly, and without fear.

John J. Shea, O.S.A.

P.S. Enclosed is a letter I mailed to all the ordinaries in the United States at the beginning of Lent in 2014. 


Letter to Maryknoll Superior regarding threatened Excommunication of Roy Bourgeois, November 24, 2008

November 24, 2008

Superior General, John Sivalon
P.O. Box 303
Maryknoll, NY 10545

Dear Father Sivalon:

I write as Coordinator of the ecumenical network, Women’s Ordination Worldwide (WOW), with regard to the threatened excommunication of Fr. Roy Bourgeois. Founded in 1996, WOW has representatives from 11 countries, and reaches many others through its international groups.

In 2001, at WOW’s first international conference in Dublin, Vatican pressure forced the keynote speaker, Aruna Gnanadason, of the World Council of Churches, to withdraw. Two other speakers, Sister Joan Chittister OSB and Sister Myra Poole SND, were threatened with serious consequences. Reflecting on the Benedictine tradition of obedience and authority, Chittister’s Prioress, Sister Christine Vladimiroff, wrote, ‘There is a fundamental difference in the understanding of obedience within the monastic tradition and that which is being used by the Vatican to exert power and control and prompt a false sense of unity inspired by fear.’

Member groups of WOW represent a range of opinion on the ‘contra legem’ ordinations. Some women within our movement who feel called to ordination have chosen to wait for change in the Church’s official position. Others, in an act of prophetic obedience to what they experience as a call from God and their communities, have chosen to take the path of valid but illegal ordination. WOW honours the courage and commitment of both groups.

Since the decree of Ordinatio Sacerdotalis (1994), Roman Catholic women who feel called to ordained ministry, and those who support them, have been silenced. They have no voice within the Church’s structures to make their views heard.

In this context, the threatened excommunication of Fr. Roy is a penalty that is out of all proportion to his supposed offence. His decision to speak out on women’s ordination is an act of witness to his passion for justice and the Gospel. It is time to call a halt to this bullying of committed Catholics whose concern is to make the Gospel message of love, justice and compassion a reality for the world. What is at stake here is the Church’s integrity as an institution which purports to uphold these Gospel values, and its regard for the teaching of 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’.
- Cardinal Josef Ratzinger, Commentary on the Documents of Vatican II,
  ed. Vorgrimler, 1968, on Gaudium et Spes, pt.1, ch.1.

‘Criticisms of papal declarations will be possible and necessary to the degree that they do not correspond with Scripture and the Creed, that is, with the belief of the Church. Where there is neither unanimity in the Church nor clear testimony of the sources, then no binding decision is possible; if one is formally made, then its preconditions are lacking and therefore the question of its legitimacy must be raised.’
- Cardinal Josef Ratzinger, Das neue Volk Gottes. Entwuerfe zur Ekklesiologie, p. 144; Patmos 1969 (emphasis added).

In conclusion, I quote from the keynote address by Aruna Gnanadason of the WCC, written for WOW’s first conference in Dublin:

‘We live in a world of exclusion and violence; a world with untold forms of discrimination that threaten the integrity of communities.…. In the life of the church itself, there is evidence of gender-based discrimination and even of sexual abuse of women in pastoral contexts and more recently of the new steps the church has been called to take in the face of increasing evidence of paedophilia. In such a context, what should ordained ministry be about? The Church is called to respond with compassion and pastoral fortitude. At the heart of the commitment to the ordination of women and men must be the concern for the community in which the church is present to serve.’
- Gnanadason 2001, available at

We urge you to support Fr. Roy’s right to speak and act on this issue, and to oppose his excommunication. We assure you of our prayers as you reflect on the matter.

Yours sincerely


Jennifer Stark
Coordinator, Women’s Ordination Worldwide


Member organizations of WOW

Brothers and Sisters in Christ (Ireland)

Catholic Women’s Ordination (Great Britain)

Catholic Network for Women’s Equality (Canada)

Femmes et Hommes en Eglise (France)

Wir Sind Kirche (We are Church) (Germany)

Housetop / (Great Britain)

IKETH (European Federation of Women Theologians)

Maria von Magdala (Germany)

Miriam (Austria)

New Wine (Great Britain)

Ordination of Catholic Women (Australia)

Phoebe (Japan)

Roman Catholic Women Priests (North America)

Roman Catholic Women Priests (Europe-West)

Women’s Ordination Conference (USA)

Letter to Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales re Ludmila Javorova, January 12, 2008

January 12, 2008

Monsignor Andrew Summersgill
General Secretary
Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales
39 Eccleston Square

Dear Monsignor Summersgill:

I am writing with regard to the ordination of Ludmila Javarova, a woman priest ordained into the Roman Catholic Czech underground church in 1970 by Bishop Felix Davidek. A letter in support of Ludmila, and asking for her rehabilitation, has been sent by me on behalf of Women’s Ordination Worldwide (WOW) to His Holiness Pope Benedict. I enclose a copy here for you.

Women’s Ordination Worldwide is an ecumenical network of national and international groups who work for the inclusion of women in all ordained ministries, particularly at this time within the Roman Catholic Church.

We would be grateful for the bishops’ reflection and prayers on this matter, and would also welcome a response from you on behalf of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.

Women’s Ordination Worldwide sends the Bishops’ Conference our prayers for a whole and inclusive priesthood which will affirm and use the rich gifts of women and men together in ministry and mission, for the healing of the Church and the world.

Yours sincerely,


Jennifer Stark
Coordinator, Women’s Ordination Worldwide 

Letter to Pope Benedict XVI Requesting Rehabilitation and Acceptance of Ludmila Javorova's valid ordination to ministerial priesthood, January 12, 2008

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
Apostolic Palace
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:

Miriam (Austria)

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)

Phoebe (Japan)

Women’s Ordination Conference (USA)

An Open Letter to Pope Benedict from Catholic Organizations on the World Day of Prayer for Women's Ordination, March 14, 2007

MARCH 14, 2007

His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI
00120 Via del Pellegrino
Apostolic Palace

Your Holiness,

 Every year on 25 March, the feast of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Catholics around the world organize events to bring attention to the fact that Catholic women are excluded from ordination. This year will be the 14th annual World Day of Prayer for Women’s Ordination, and we expect that there will be over 25 events around the world.

 In honor of this day, we invite you to lead the way in presenting a fair and equitable model of how women should be treated in our world by taking the necessary steps to open all doors to women within the Roman Catholic Church, including admission to all ordained ministries.  We also ask that you work to renew church structures in order to involve all members in governance.  By acting justly within our own ranks, we, the body of Christ, can affect society.

 On the same day that we celebrate Mary saying ‘yes’ to God, we are saying ‘yes’ to women’s leadership in the Church.  Mary’s decision was conscious and deliberate, and it made her an active partner in bringing about the reign of God.  By praying for women to be priests on this day, we embrace Mary’s spiritual power and her prophetic role in God’s plan of justice for the world.

 Because Mary is a spiritual leader and some even call her a priest, on 25 March we will pray for women’s ordination to a renewed priestly ministry.  We will also pray for the difference that women in church governance would make by addressing the issues of social justice that disproportionately affect women, such as domestic violence, sexual assault, sex trafficking, HIV/AIDS, genocide and more.  

The exclusion of women and lay men from the full decision making and sacramental life of the Church is linked to these issues in that — while the impact has extremely different levels of intensity — the root cause is the same: male domination and sexism.

 As this day of prayer approaches, we urge you to open the discussion on women’s ordination and the need for change in Church structures.  To bring our beloved Church closer to the gospel values that Jesus modeled for us, we need all the gifts of the Holy Spirit, in women as well as in men, to be fully integrated into every aspect and ministry of the Church.

Thanking you for your time and consideration,

 Brothers and Sisters in Christ, Ireland

Call to Action, USA

Catholics for a Free Choice, USA

Catholics for a Free Choice, Canada

Catholic Network for Women’s Equality, Canada

Catholic Women’s Ordination, United Kingdom


Dignity, USA

Interreligious Conference of European Women Theologians, Germany

Femmes at Hommes en Eglise, France

Housetop, United Kingdom

National Coalition of American Nuns, USA

New Wine, Great Britain

New Ways Ministry, USA

Phoebe, Japan

Purple Stole Movement of We Are Church, Germany

Quixote Center, USA

Roman Catholic Womenpriests Europe-West, Germany, France, and Switzerland

Roman Catholic Womenpriests North America, USA and Canada

Save Our Sacraments, USA

Sisters Against Sexism, USA

Southeastern Pennsylvania Women's Ordination Conference, USA

Women’s Ordination Conference, USA

Women's Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual, USA


Most Reverend Pietro Sambi, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States

Most Reverend William S. Skylstad, President, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Most Reverend David J. Malloy, General Secretariat, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops