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The Roman Catholicism & female ordination

Catholic groups promoting female ordination

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This essay describes three Roman Catholic groups that are promoting female ordination. A more complete list of such groups is located elsewhere on this site.

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"We Are Church" Movement

During Easter of 1995, a grass-roots group of lay and ordained Roman Catholics met in Innsbruck, Austria. They organized a petition drive to call "for a more loving, democratic, and generous church." The renewal movement spread quickly to Germany and eventually to: Belgium, Brazil, Bolivia, Canada, Catalunya, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, France, Great Britain, Holland, India, Ireland, New Zealand, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, the USA, and Venezuela. On 1996-NOV-23, the  "International Movement We are Church", (IMWAC)  was founded. It now consists of 138 autonomous Roman Catholic reform groups. 1

They proclaimed a manifesto in Rome on 1997-OCT-12. 1,2

  1. The building of a Church of brothers and sisters that recognizes the equality of all the baptized, including the inclusion of the People of God in the election of bishops in their local churches.
  2. Equal rights for men and women, including the admission of women to all Church ministries.
  3. Free choice of either a celibate or married life for all those who dedicate themselves to the service of the church.
  4. A positive attitude toward sexuality, and a recognition of personal conscience in decision-making.
  5. A message of joy and not condemnation, including dialogue, freedom of speech and thought.  No anathemas and no exclusion as a means of solving problems, especially as this applies to theologians.

On 1998-OCT-15: They signed a statement: "A Pope for the Time to Come: Bishop of Rome and Universal Pastor." It called for the next pope to be someone "who is willing to restore the tradition of full participation of people in church and who invites all Catholics to share governance in decision-making, especially the election of church leaders." They call for:

bullet women, gays, and married persons to be considered for ordination.
bullet increased academic freedom.
bullet a compulsory retirement age of 75 for the pope (the same as is presently in place for bishops).

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Desire for change: Corpus Christi Church, Rochester NY:

Father James B. Callan became the parish priest at Corpus Christi in 1976. Membership had dropped to 200. Under his 22 years of leadership, membership has increased to 3,400. 750 to 1,000 church members volunteer in their many outreach programs. 3 Recently, he introduced some innovative practices:

bullet An associate pastor, a woman, concelebrated Mass with Fr. Callan. She wore a stole, the symbol of the deaconate and priesthood. She has been photographed holding an uplifted communion chalice. 4
bullet Communion has been distributed to the 1/3rd of his congregation that are non-Catholics (many are spouses of Catholics).
bullet Five same-sex unions have been blessed with church ceremonies.
bullet Gays and lesbians have been included in marriage preparation courses which were previously offered only to heterosexual couples.

None of these practices are particularly radical for Episcopal, United, or other liberal Protestant churches. However Corpus Christi is a Roman Catholic church; such activities are strictly forbidden under church rules. 5

Bishop Matthew Clark ordered Father Callan to be transferred, effective 1998-OCT-4. In the meantime, the Bishop ordered that there are to be no more disobeying of church teachings. Although there are rumors that Bishop Clark was instructed to "fire" Fr. Callan, he stated that the decision was his own. Parish members appeared to have ignored the instructions of the bishop. On 1998-AUG-23, they overwhelmingly approved a "Statement of Faith" in which they stated that they would not give up their beliefs and practices, even if they are in opposition to instructions from the Vatican. The vote was 3,022 to 7. The statement states that all will be invited "to share the Eucharist," that women will continue to offer the Eucharist "and be fully recognized for their calls to ministry," and that gays and lesbians will remain a "rich part of the weave of our celebration."

A rally and prayer vigil was held by parish members outside the diocesan offices. They sang "We Shall Overcome." Some wore T-shirts that proclaimed "My heart is broken, but my spirit is strong." Jennifer Donato, 17, attended the rally. She said: "I am very frustrated that the Vatican and the bishop cannot see that Jesus wanted and welcomed everyone, not just people who fit the category."

Bishop Clark appeared distressed at the business-as-usual activities of the parish. He said: "I have not heard much about the legitimate authority of the bishop of Rochester, or an that it is not the prerogative of a diocese to go off on its own, much less one of its parishes." Father Callan said: "The parish is struggling to keep me, but more, to keep their values. God is using this as an opportunity to speak clearly on the issues -- and the issues are discrimination against women, gays and Protestants."

The parish had several committees working, in an effort to keep Father Callan. They even considered a group visit to the Vatican and a guest spot on "Oprah!" They have established a web site. 6

On AUG-23, about 20 women from  Episcopal, Free Methodist, United Church of Christ, and other denominations attended a meeting at Corpus Christi to review the status of women clergy in Christendom. Denise Donato, Corpus Christi's family minister, said: "The group spent some time discussing their own experiences and then talked about the larger issue of leadership roles of women in the church. It's an age-old problem, and this group sees this as a first step in addressing that." 7 Speaking of her own situation, she commented: "I do feel called to ordination, and I am not alone. There are many women who God has called whose gifts are not being used to minister, and some of the richness of ministering is lost in that process." 7

Father Callan left Corpus Christi parish after mass on 1998-SEP-6. During 1998-OCT, Pastoral Associate Mary Ramerman was fired. On 1998-DEC-7, he was stripped of his priestly functions for an indefinite period. He can no longer administer the sacraments of the church or celebrate Mass. He has been ordered to keep away from Corpus Christi Church property. Fr. Callan commented: "I have given my whole life to the church...As a boy, I dreamed of becoming a priest, ever since I was 5 years old. Now I will be faithful to God, ministering where I can. The church will change and it will welcome me back." At a "supplemental" religious service in the Downtown United Presbyterian Church, after a standing ovation, he told the attendees that he was unable to celebrate Mass. But he felt that God was close. He asked them to "focus on Jesus and on the issues...In the face of discrimination and injustice, we will never again be silent...Never again." 8

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Statement by "Canon 1024"

Canon 1024 is an Internet mailing list devoted to a discussion of women's ordination. Its name comes from that portion of the Roman Catholic church's canon law which discriminates against women in ordination. On 1998-AUG-6, they sent a letter to Pope John Paul II in support of women's ordination.

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Links to other female advocacy groups are listed elsewhere.

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  1. Manifesto of The International Movement We Are Church at
  2. The "International Movement We Are Church" has a home page at:
  3. A. Jones, "Amid urban misery, a life-changing haven," National Catholic Reporter, 1997-FEB-28 at:
  4. J. Blackwell & D. Mandelaro, "Corpus Christi pastor 'fired'," Rochester NY Democrat & Chronicle, 1998-AUG-16, at:
  5. Doug Mandelaro, "Clark wants end to parish protests: Bishop turns impatient as Corpus Christi youths are latest group to rally for Callan," Democrat and Chronicle, Rochester NY, 1998-AUG-26. Temporarily available at: 
  6. Corpus Christi's web site is at: They list Jesus Christ as Pastor, and James B. Callan as Administer. A new web site will shortly be created at:
  7. Lisa Hutchurson, "Women who seek a place at the altar take stock," Democrat and Chronicle, Rochester NY, 1998-AUG-23. Temporarily available at:
  8. Doug Mandelaro, "Bishop suspends Callan indefinitely," Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, 1998-DEC-8.

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Copyright 1997 to 2017. by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2017-AUG-08

Author: B.A. Robinson

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