A “Saintly Smackdown” What If: Women Priests

Hi guys — sorry for the radio silence here on the blog over the past few days. I was engulfed in traveling to and presenting at this year’s wonderful University of Dallas Ministry Conference. The event was — as always — well organized and enthusiastically attended. Before I launch into the “meat” of this post, a few random observations:

  • This year’s conference was moved to a new venue: the Irving Convention Center. This meant I really didn’t even set foot in Dallas, simply passed back and forth between the lovely Omni Mandalay and the conference. I loved the venue, but could have done without the canine next-door neighbor who shared my Eastern bedroom wall. He apparently suffers from severe separation anxiety…
  • I had two interesting Twitter conversations — that is, two “real life” conversations with people on the topic of Twitter. One of these chats found Paul Snatchko of Magnificat and me trying to convince NC Reporter’s John Allen that he needs to be on Twitter. The second involved helping another person (who shall for the moment go nameless) try to retrieve his or her Twitter password. If that person begins tweeting, I will claim an “assist”.
  • Ave Maria Press family at University of Dallas Ministry Conference

    My publisher rocks! Ave Maria Press sponsored several of us at the conference and played host to a lovely dinner and numerous book signings. I’m blessed to be part of such a great team. If you enjoy having authors speak at events like this, please support our Catholic publishers by buying books! With the Christmas giving season coming up, please consider great Catholic books as a gift that will keep on giving…

And now onto the topic of today’s post. A few weeks ago, I blogged about my big mistake when I neglected to give proper acknowledgement and thanks to those who serve in the role of permanent deacon. We had a great combox conversation and you can be assured that I’m actively praying for and publicly thanking every deacon I can find these days. I certainly will never make that mistake again. During this weekend’s “Saintly Smackdown” in Dallas, I suggested a rousing ovation for the deacon who was among us. He, along with the religious sisters, brothers, seminarians and priests in the room received much support from the audience.

What I didn’t have to deal with was recognizing the two “women priests” who were roaming the convention center dressed in full roman collar. I actually don’t think I spotted them for the first time until after I’d given my talk. Apparently, they were thankfully not interested in what I had to say and attended another presentation. I did continue to see them a few more times throughout the weekend as they interacted with others at the event.

On the way home yesterday, I asked myself what I would have said or done had they been:

1. In my talk
2. Identified themselves when I asked members of the clergy, religious and those in training for vocations to please rise and be recognized

It’s likely that I would not have verbally acknowledged them in any way and would simply have moved along. I’m glad that I have some time now to ponder the question, and thought I’d bring it to you, our “think tank”, to see how you might handle such a situation. I am not a confrontational person by nature, so it’s highly unlikely that I would have engaged them in front of a group of conference attendees who had come to hear a talk on the saints. I’m sure it would have definitely thrown me off my game, which is another reason to thoughtfully prepare in advance for possible future talks. Truthfully though, I do wish I could have had a few moments of quiet conversation with them to simply better understand how they could so forcibly and visually go against the teachings of the Church.

So I’m leaving this to you — if you saw them (the “women priests”), would you ask them about their positions? Would you acknowledge their presence or simply be polite and move along? Please be clear that I’m not wanting to have a conversation here on the merits of women’s ordination. Rather, I’m asking what you’d do given the current teachings of the Magisterium of the Church. Let’s have a respectful dialogue in the comments below so that I’ll be better prepared for the future.

About Lisa M. Hendey

Lisa Hendey is the founder and webmaster of CatholicMom.com and the author of The Grace of YesA Book of Saints for Catholic Moms and The Handbook for Catholic Moms. Lisa writes for several online and print publications, enjoys speaking around the country and is a frequent television and radio guest and host. Visit her at LisaHendey.com.

  • Kathy Schiffer

    You are most generous, Lisa. There’s nothing “saintly” about women who pretend to be ordained to the priesthood when the Church clearly explains that this cannot be so. This is Pride, dressed up in drag and declaring “I will not serve.”

    How to handle in a public setting? If they declare themselves priests in a public setting, then I’d call them out, respectfully reminding the crowd that they are not in conformity to Church teaching and have, in fact, excommunicated themselves. Otherwise, at least some in the group could be led astray.

    • lisahendey

      Wisdom Kathy, that’s what I’m seeking here. Thank you for chiming in. I always appreciate your insights!

  • Deacon Tom

    Well, this time of year I might have asked where the Halloween party was! In all seriousness, my brothers and I used to dress up like priests and “play Mass” too when we were very young. Those “women priests” (no such thing) are doing absolutely nothing different than we used to do as kids. It’s mere fantasy play. If there’s a cow standing in the field and I ask ask a young child to identify it, they will say, “It’s a cow.” If I walk to the cow and hang a sign around it’s neck that says “horse,” the young child will still call it a cow. If a woman puts on the clothes of a member of the clergy, she is still not clergy.

  • Marsha West

    The answers I’m seeing sure don’t leave much room for ecumenism – there are Lutheran, Episcopalian, Methodist women who ARE clergy and who wear the collar. You are assuming that those wearing the collar are Roman Catholic women claiming to be womenpriests. I think that “calling out” or attributing motives or even demonizing these women is far from the spirit of Christ. And what about those women who we know were actually ordained during the cold war in Eastern Europe – and then who were asked (or made to) suppress themselves after the fall of the Iron Curtain? Were they priests? They were ordained by valid Bishops for a pastoral reason (no man could minister to women in Communist prisons). They were out of the “ordinary,” to be sure – but they did exist. This is a question that is not yet finalized – in spite of what you hear. It may well be that 500 years from now there may be Roman Catholic women-priests. In the meantime, it is best to continue in a spirit of non-confrontational charity and live the questions, even if one is convinced that the present position of the hierarchy is correct. What does it mean to “bear with one another,” if not to avoid attributing evil motivations to the actions of others?

    • Marsha West

      Just to clarify – I am not intending to open the question of women’s ordination here – just to remind myself and others that it is best to assume the best in others and to avoid breaking the bond of unity, especially in a public forum, when it is not necessary.

      • lisahendey

        Marsha, thank you for taking the time to comment and for your clarification. I greatly appreciate you sharing your perspective.

  • http://www.thedeaconspeakin.com Deacon Sean Smith

    I’m not sure there is anything you can or should do in such a setting, Lisa. There is nothing that assures that anyone self-identifying as a priest or deacon or religious is, in fact, representing themselves truthfully. And in the setting of a conference audience, there is little harm that can come, one way or the other. Actually attempting to act on that representation, by, for example, presenting oneself as a con-celebrant at a conference Mass, is a real problem!

    I went to Mass in India last month, hoping I could assist at the altar. When I introduced myself to the pastor hoping for an invitation, he first asked if I had a letter from my bishop saying I was in good standing. I did not, so he said that regretfully he could not invite me to assist. I even have a tattoo of a deacon cross on my arm, but self-identification doesn’t mean anything. The pastor was quite correct in asking for an “official” identification of who I am.

    Being excommunicated does not mean that someone cannot attend a conference.

  • http://www.lorislifeandtimes.blogspot.com Lori Miller

    I saw the same women you must have seen. I assumed they were episcopal priests. I do agree with Marsha in every way except for one. Like Marsha says, we should embrace these women with the love of Christ. It doesn’t mean we have to agree with what they are doing, but we should treat them with the same love and respect all people deserve. They do not need to be publicly called out at a conference. I do not agree with Marsha regarding women in the priesthood. I don’t see how the Church can change its teaching on this even 500 years from now. But that is not what we are talking about here. Lisa, if the women in the collar had been in the room, I’m sure you would have handled it well.

  • Leslie Lenko

    Would have to agree with Marsha West. One may assume the women are Catholic priests when they see the Roman Collar when possibly there are not. In attending an Ordination event for a seminarian we were supporting through a vocations program, I saw the same thing. Sometimes I reflect on this. There is a conversation that I wanted to have. I remember having questions I wanted to learn answers from. The Catholic church needs more women directors and promoters, I hope women will consider that. I know the church welcomes women who promote vocations to the priesthood and religious life.

  • http://www.catholicinfertilityjourney.com Angelique Ruhi-Lopez

    I figure I would chime in here. We did have the “women priests” in our session and I can assure everyone that they identified themselves as Roman Catholic. I answered some of their questions face to face at the end of one of our sessions and I was close enough to see that one even wore a lapel pin that said “Roman Catholic Priest” on it. From what I understand, there is a story behind these “ordinations,” and these women are frequent visitors to Catholic conferences. I honestly do not know all the details (I can just say the word “schismatic” was used when giving the background) but whatever the story is or isn’t, for me, it was a call to prayer – for clarity and wisdom in the midst of confusion.

    The questions we were asked by them after our presentation were clearly not from the perspective of one representing the one, holy, Catholic, apostolic Church but we made sure to faithfully represent the teachings of our Magisterium, regardless of how skeptically our answers were received. We had never been faced with this sort of situation when speaking – it was an overt distraction to be sure – but considered it a renewed call to continuously ask for the Holy Spirit’s guidance as we continue to defend and spread the word about our Church’s teachings.

    • lisahendey

      Angelique thank you for taking the time to chime in and especially for your very last words. I didn’t want to presume to mention your interaction with them, but am glad that you shared your experience and how you responded. It was that situation which began this mental questioning in my own mind. I could only pray to have handled it as respectfully as you did. Thanks for sharing!!

      • http://www.catholicinfertilityjourney.com Angelique Ruhi-Lopez

        Thanks for your kind words, Lisa. It was great to finally meet you in person! May God continue to bless you, your family and your ministries.

        • http://www.catholicinfertilityjourney.com Angelique Ruhi-Lopez

          One more thought – I have never seen an ACTUAL Roman Catholic priest wearing a lapel pin that lables him as such. It might be a red flag if you have to wear one to try to make others believe you are one!

  • Audra

    Smile and move on. I would have to make a assumption that if two women showed up dressed like that they were looking for attention and confrontation. Glad you didn’t give them what the were looking for.

  • Jennifer O’Malley

    I would have treated them as all the other ordained people who stood up were treated, as that is what they are- ordained priests. I’m sure they both would have been open to having a dialogue about their call to serve and their ministries after the session.

    • lisahendey

      Had they been validly ordained ministers of another faith tradition (for example as Jewish rabbis), I would agree. Their declaration of themselves as validly ordained Catholic priests is incorrect.

      • Jennifer O’Malley

        They (and I) are validly ordained. If you look at the Roman Catholic Womenpriests website: http://www.romancatholicwomenprists.org, you can see the history of the movement. They were ordained in apostolic succession, therefore it is valid.

        • lisahendey

          Thank you for sharing your comments Jennifer and for continuing the dialogue. I think you meant to point our commenting community to http://www.romancatholicwomenpriests.org/ – I’m placing the correct link here for those who wish to read it.

        • Steve P in Detroit

          “They were ordained in apostolic succession, therefore it is valid.” Well, no. Validity of a sacrament requires a proper subject (as well as proper form, matter, etc). The authorities to whom God has entrusted faithful transmission of his teaching have said just about as clearly as can be that the only proper subject to receive Holy Orders is a baptized male. You’re free to dissent from that, of course, but you’re not free to dissent from that and continue to call yourself a faithful Roman Catholic.

        • Ted Seeber

          That isn’t a Roman Catholic organization recognized by the Vatican. They are schismatic and heretical.

          And besides that, their claims are nonsense.

        • Ted Seeber

          After reading the link a little closer:
          1. I notice they don’t name the bishops who are doing this. I find that to be incredibly suspicious and dishonest in and of itself.
          2. No answer for the question “Why don’t you just become Anglican”?
          3. No answer for the charge that female priests actually harm the faith of men.

          • Jennifer O’Malley

            you raise some good questions.

            Why don’t we (I) become Anglican. I respect and find elements of the Anglican faith beautiful, but I am Catholic and want to remain Catholic. I was raised in a Catholic family and find much richness and beauty in our rituals and in Catholic Social Teaching. To leave the Roman Catholic Church would be to deny who I am.

            As far as female priests harming the faith of men. I’m not sure I understand your question. How would I harm the faith of men by following God’s call for myself? I know and respect many male Catholic priests.

  • Steve P in Detroit

    To start on charitable ground, let’s credit them with responding to some sense of vocation. That’s the good news. But then we move on to the grounds of ecclesiology, and the need for the Church to affirm any individual’s perceived vocation. What’s needed at this point is help for them to clarify just what their vocation exactly is. With magisterial teaching about as close to definitive as it can be, it’s pretty clear that whatever their true vocation is, it isn’t to the priesthood. Now the challenge for them is to find the humility and docility to accept guidance. If they do accept it, they, the Church, and the kingdom of God all come out ahead. If not, there’s a problem.

  • lisahendey

    Just a little fyi from the Catechism:
    1577 “Only a baptized man (vir) validly receives sacred ordination.”66 The Lord Jesus chose men (viri) to form the college of the twelve apostles, and the apostles did the same when they chose collaborators to succeed them in their ministry.67 The college of bishops, with whom the priests are united in the priesthood, makes the college of the twelve an ever-present and ever-active reality until Christ’s return. The Church recognizes herself to be bound by this choice made by the Lord himself. For this reason the ordination of women is not possible.
    Read more at http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/p2s2c3a6.htm

    • MaryMArrucci


      St.Paul had women among his co-workers.

      He actually named women Apostles women deacons and women co-workers.

      And that is all in “Acts” for anybody who has not read their scriptures.
      (Ask any theologian)
      The Bishops who ordained the women priests were left nameless for obvio reasons.

      Asfor the 12 male male apostles – they were simply representing the 12 tribes of Israel.
      Nobody really knows who attended the Last Supper – I (for one ) do not believe that were wers not women disciples there.

  • http://www.havingleftthealtar.com Katherine

    Since there is not now nor ever will be such a thing as a Roman Catholic woman priest, I would assume they are Episcopalian and treated them respectfully as such. If they insisted that they were Roman Catholic women priests, I would have to respectfully disagree. It doesn’t mean treating them any less kindly than I’d treat anyone else, but I also wouldn’t propagate the misconception.

  • Sherry Weddell

    Keep my eye on the prize, do my job, and ignore them (1. I can’t tell if they are Protestant ministers of some kind; 2) If they are, in fact, posing as Catholic priests, I don’t want to buy into their desire for notoriety and take the attention off the saints and onto them 3) Once we get on the topic of women’s ordination, your message will be lost because everyone has an opinion and half your audience will be in amygdala hijack in a few minutes, fight or flight hormones rushing through their bodies and they will have stopped thinking at all. 4) One of the greatest arguments for the Church’s trustworthiness is her saints. Focus on that and tell their stories so vividly that people don’t even notice the two women wearing the collar because they’ll be too busy wrestling with the possibility of becoming a saint themselves..

  • http://romancatholicwomenpriests.org Suzanne Thiel

    Yes, Lisa, you are right. There were two of us, Roman Catholic Womenpriests in Dallas,
    Dr. Juanita Cordero and Suzanne Thiel. Like you, we were attending different
    workshops, “roaming” from one booth to another and up and down the escalators to get to the next session. We have not made a habit of attending a lot of Catholic conferences—we would like to but don’t always have the family-time and or monies to fund the travel. This was our second year in Dallas and like you we have found several of the sessions helpful for our own personal spiritual growth, our worshipping communities and the RCWP organization. I am not sure what you were or are so worried about whether we might have attended one of your sessions. We really are quite gracious and grandmotherly types and do not exhibit poor verbal manners in public talks. Regarding Angelique Ruhi-Lopez’s comments, we attended the session as Dr. Cordero besides being an RN is a retired Child Development and Parenting professor from DeAnza College in California—so we were naturally interested in this session. Not once, did we say anything “outloud” at the talk about womenpriests and only at the end when most had left the room did Dr. Cordero ask privately about in vitro fertilization pointing out that some of the material presented was not exactly accurate regarding the number of eggs usually harvested and implanted in women and the cost figures. The discussion was not about Catholic doctrines or faith. This being said—we would hope that younger women might be a little more open and inclusive in their Catholicism and we invite you to further dialogue. We look forward to discussing more with you as to why we were wearing the roman collars and who and what we are all about. We are very much interested in talking with anyone regarding the chaos and current dilemmas in our Church. One can find our contact information on our website and or facebook.

    • Ted Seeber

      Ok, I’ll be more direct then. Why the heck aren’t you Anglican? Or some other denomination that actually accepts women as Priests? It isn’t like the Roman Catholic Church is the only game in town since the Protestant Reformation. If you truly intend to dissent from Apostolic Authority, then at least have the HONESTY to join a different denomination instead of destroying faith for others.

  • lisahendey

    Suzanne, thank you very much for taking the time to come and comment in such a positive, open fashion. I apologize if my remarks seemed judgmental in any way of you and Dr. Cordero personally — I was more asking a hypothetical question of myself given one component of my talk. I welcome the opportunity to learn more though the resources you offered, as well as those provided by other commenters here. Thank you again for your visit to my blog.

    • lisahendey

      But just to clarify for those who didn’t read the above, in line with the teaching of the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, I do not accept the validity of women’s ordination.

  • Ted Seeber

    Depends on the situation, but I suppose I’d approach such women the same way I do other dissenters- asking why they want to be in the Roman Catholic Church when there are so many other sects of Christianity out there that agree with their position.

    Because in the end result, there are only TWO reasons left to be Roman Catholic, and they are so interrelated that dissent in one is automatic dissent in the other: Valid Sacraments and Apostolic Authority. If you can’t believe in Apostolic Authority enough to understand the male priesthood, then what is your philosophical underpinning for Valid Sacraments? And if you no longer believe the 7 sacraments to be Valid as Apostolic Authority teaches, then what is the use for Apostolic Authority?

    Because if you don’t believe in Apostolic Authority, you might as well be Anglican- and they are perfectly fine with ordaining women.

  • Kathy L

    The opinions expressed here are exactly why I left the Church this past June after being a faithful Roman Catholic for 51 years. I can’t condone the Church’s attitudes toward women (and homosexuals) any longer.