I had a dream that there were voices calling out to me from Beyond Walls. When I listened closely I could tell that they were the voices of women…some I knew, others I didn’t. They were all were pleading with me to help tear down the walls that separated us from one another other. I didn’t know how to respond. I wanted to help but I couldn’t find any tools to break down the barriers that were keeping us apart.
I stared at the wall. It was made of “safety glass” with glistening lights. My first thought was that it was a magician’s cage…you know, the kind that would hide a person and make them disappear. A voice whispered: “You are aware that it is all an illusion.”
Usually the act consists of a male magician who dons a top hat and swirls around in a cape, and waves a magic wand…and at his invitation or command, his beautiful woman assistant goes inside a magic box. As soon as she is securely inside, the quickly lockers her in, and then with the wave of his stick he makes her disappear. He spins the box around and around with a smirk on his face. He thinks he has all the power, and the woman is at his mercy. She is just the “side show.”
In my dream I began scrambling around, looking for a book of magic tricks so that I could learn how to set the woman free. I desperately wanted to get her out of the box. I knew that if I didn’t do something fast, she might be trapped forever.
As I was struggling to find such a book, I woke up from the dream.
Whose voices were calling out to me? Who needed to be set free? And then it dawned on me.
The Pope is coming to visit the United States in September. Many Roman Catholic women across the country and being contacted by their bishops and being told to remain silent while the pope is here. There are even plans in some dioceses to put them behind walls, or to keep them far out of sight, so that the Pope won’t see them or hear their voices. Even some parishes and other centers that had offered them a place to stay during the Pope’s visit have been receiving some pressure to just turn them away…to disinvite them. They should be told that they are not welcome, supposedly because they might make their dioceses look like they couldn’t control their women.
Do you think I am dreaming this up? Just look closely at the “safety glass walls” that are being put up and see beyond the glittering lights to the other side as plans are being made for the Pope’s visit.
From first hand experience, I know that Members of the Women’s Ordination Conference have been officially silenced by the Office of the Pope since 1983 when he officially banned members of the WOC to be in dialogue with their bishops. How do I know this for a fact? Because I was a loyal daughter of the Roman Catholic Church and member of the WOC back then. It was that desperate act of censure that drove me out of the Roman Catholic Church. I had accepted that it would be a long time before women would be ordained, but I never in my wildest dreams thought that my church would ban me from speaking about women’s ordination! I could not remain silent.
At that time I joined the Episcopal Church and began the process towards ordination to the priesthood. While it was not an easy process by any means, I was able to speak up before bishops, standing committees, commissions on ministry, and other members of my new church…and my voice was heard.
Other women have chosen another path, and I am in awe of them. I know women who remained Roman Catholic and have given prophetic witness to their calling to be deacons, priests and bishops. At the beginning of the 21st century, a small movement began and women’s ordinations in the Roman Catholic Church became a reality. Women in several countries around the world, including the United States, have been ordained following the rituals of the church by validly ordained bishops in Apostolic Succession. And I have seen official documents that prove it.
“That can’t be,” you say, “or I would have heard about it.” That is precisely my point. Ordained Roman Catholic Women are speaking out, but they are being treated harshly and severely punished by the church they love and feel called to serve. They are being silenced and put in a box marked “excommunication” for the “crime of attempting sacred ordination of a woman.”
Their stories are being told on their websites. Just Google Roman Catholic Women Priests and Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests and you will see their faces, their ordination dates, and the ministries in which they serve. They are real and they are here to stay.
There is also an excellent documentary about this movement called “Pink Smoke Over The Vatican” that documents the first ordinations of women deacons, priests and bishops in the Roman Catholic Church. You can order a copy of this DVD through amazon.com
Their movement continues to grow. In September, just as the Pope arrives in our country, three women bishops from those who are already ordained in Apostolic Succession will ordain three new women bishops in order to provide the leadership and organization for their growing numbers. This is not a protest but a prophetic witness to how the Spirit is moving while the hierarchy remains rigid and out of touch. If the bishops listened to their membership, they would learn that an overwhelming majority of American Roman Catholics would welcome women priests. Their “excommunications” could be lifted and their holy orders recognized, and their ministries would thrive.
I wrote back in 1983 that I longed for the day when I would be able to embrace my sister priests in the Roman Catholic Church. It was a hope and a dream that has now become a reality. I am proud to say that I have heard their voices and have felt their warm embrace as we are called to serve God in our various vocations and ministries. I hope that you get to know them, to listen to their stories, and speak out so that together we can break the illusion that they are not wanted or needed by the Church that they love, and by the people that God has called them to serve.