How to get the Church to accept women as priests 

Strategy Presenter’s Pack

We want the Catholic Church to change its present position and accept that women can and should be ordained. What should be our strategy?

In my view, our strategy needs to embrace four major principles:

1. Reclaim the centre ground

That women can and should be ordained priests is at the core of our Christian faith. Our conviction springs from the very tenets of our faith. That is why we should not allow ourselves to be pushed to the fringes of the Church. Nor should we leave the Church. To achieve a complete acceptance of women’s ordination among the Church’s hierarchical leaders and within the whole worldwide Catholic community, we need to reform the Church from within. It is our Church. Read more.

2. Learn and educate for change

Equality for women as a norm in our present-day society exerts – from outside – serious pressure on the Church. Rightly so. It is a wake up call. Why should a Church that claims to be founded by Jesus Christ, the greatest teacher of love, respect and justice for all, tolerate such inequality in its ministerial ranks? It’s our values – and our Church – upside down! On the other hand, opponents to women’s ordination ascribe their view to Scripture, Tradition and the Teaching Authority, they present doctrinal arguments. We cannot afford to ignore them. We have to dismantle their validity. We have to unmask the social and cultural prejudices that led to the misinterpretations of Scripture and Tradition. We have to present evidence that women’s capability to be ordained arises from the true meaning of revealed doctrine.  Read more. 

3. Break barriers and make women visible in the Church

The ancient prejudices that cloud the traditional rejection of women’s ordination on presumed doctrinal grounds are reinforced by lack of familiarity. Most people live and judge by custom, by habit, by what they are used to.

Catholics are only slowly getting used to see women exercising pastoral care, taking leadership roles in their local church, reading sacred scripture, distributing communion and handling ‘sacred’ objects. We need to extend this programme of making women visible in central functions as much as we can.

Also Curch Law allows women to have important roles in the governance of various church structures. Read more.

4. Promote integrity to overcome organizational control

In recent decades Catholic Church authorities have tried to systematically ‘stamp out’ protests against the official ban on women priests. Only such men were chosen to be bishops who were willing to follow the party line. Progressive theologians were silenced. Catholic media were monitored to ensure they would not publish critical opinions.

All this has created a very unhealthy climate in the Church, a climate of fear, a climate of untruth, of many persons in top positions speaking and acting in ways which, in their heart of hearts, they know to be misguided. We need to counter this by promoting truth and integrity at all levels. We need to speak out whenever possible, and encourage others to do the same. Read more.

John Wijngaards

Note. This presentation pack is an updated version of a presentation I prepared for the Women’s Ordination Worldwide 1st International Conference (Dublin 2001).