Catholic dissident group to ordain women priests in Morristown, April 25



Catholics who thought they never would live to see the ordination of women priests can witness it right here in Morristown, on Saturday, April 25, 2015.

A dissident organization called Roman Catholic Womenpriests will ordain seven women at 2 pm, at the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer.

church of the redeemer easter
Morristown’s Episcopal Church of the Redeemer. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

The Vatican does not recognize females as priests, and has warned women that the ritual amounts to automatic excommunication, according to the Rev. Marellen Mayers, who has traveled from Baltimore for Saturday’s ceremony.

“Jesus calls both men and women,” Mayers countered.

Established in Germany in 2002, Roman Catholic Womenpriests now numbers about 200 women priests, mostly in the U.S., Mayers said.  They have staked a claim to “apostolic succession” — theological  legitimacy — based on ordinations they say were performed by Catholic bishops who they decline to name.

Asked in 2013 about the ordination of women, Pope Francis declared: “The church has spoken and says no… That door is closed.”

Wouldn’t it be easier for women to switch to the Episcopal Church, where they would be welcomed into the priesthood?

“I’m born and raised a Roman Catholic,” Mayers said. “As much as I appreciate the Episcopal Church and all they have done to further social justice, I’m Roman Catholic and want to further change in my church.”

One of the seven women to be ordained, Susan Schessler, is a retired school administrator from High Bridge, Mayers said. The others hail from Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and Maryland.

A 2009 ordination of the Roman Catholic Womenpriests. Photo:
A 2009 ordination of the Roman Catholic Womenpriests. Photo:

About 200 people, including 25 priests from the sect, are anticipated to attend the two-hour service.

Morristown was chosen because it’s central to the ministry’s eastern region, which extends from Nova Scotia to Florida, and because it’s near where the Rev. Mary Ann Schoettly  preached until her death last year, Mayers said.

The Sophia Inclusive Catholic Community worships in Harding and Sparta.

Services celebrated by the Roman Catholic Womenpriests differ from traditional Catholic masses in more than priestly gender.  Anyone can take communion. And the liturgical language is more “inclusive,” Mayers said.

Instead of parishes or congregations, these women priests lead “inclusive communities,” which gather in rented halls or homes, as early Christians did, Mayers said.

There are no seminaries for these women.  Requirements for the priesthood generally include a master’s degree in divinity/ theology, parish experience, and psychological screening, Mayers said.

Many of the candidates are former nuns, Mayers said. Others are retirees or work day jobs, because they are not paid for their ministries.  Mayers works as a preschool administrator; she had to forego her career as a Catholic school theology teacher when she pursued the priesthood.

roman catholic womenpriests logo“That’s how strong the calling is,” she said. “It gets to the point where that’s what you’re being called to do.”

The Vatican’s insistence on celibate male priests, stretching back centuries, is rooted not in theology, but rather in protecting church property from being handed down to heirs of clergy, Mayers said.

Yet she contends the modern church would have saved enormous sums — and spared many children from trauma — by ordaining women.

“If men and women were in the ministry all along, the pedophile scandal never would have happened,” Mayers said. “Women would have held men accountable.”


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  1. If a secular man told a religious women, they were not accepted in their work environment, you would never head the end of religious persecution.

  2. I don’t understand why women would want to be priests, especially in these times but oh well. I don’t agree with the nasty attitude and comments they get. Nevertheless, religion has not been kind to women, but if they feel they have a shot at turning things around so be it. There should be more done for women in religious organizations to help prevent the injustices towards the female sex all around the world. Until then, the secular world will keep employing women, thank God.

  3. so. at this point they are not actually catholic although they claim to be catholic.
    it’s like buying a burger from Burger King and calling it a Big Mac.. and expecting other people to take you seriously.

    what a joke.
    how can someone be a “priest” without any understanding of theology?

  4. The ordination of women is nothing new, as Old Catholics, Episcopal and Anglican Catholics, Independent Catholics, and (deaconess) Orthodox Catholics have for years done so. Female ordination by non-Vaticanite Romans is somewhat newer, but again not unusual.

    The important thing is Catholicism is growing, both in and outside the “families” of Vaticanite, Utrecht, Canturberry, the ISM Conference, and the Ecumenical Orthodox Synod.
    One can be Roman in theology, liturgy, governance, or culture – and still be either a Vaticanite or not. Francis is the Vatican Ceasar, The Vaticanite Pope over several denominations, and the Bishop of Rome for Vatican affiliated Romans only. His hurling of excommunications on Catholics under a different bishop is a relic of the past. By virtue of joining Woman priest – a separate denomination of Romans these women were no longer under his authority anyway.

    It is the same as what has been happening when entire Vaticanite parishes have left that governance system to become Independent, Old Catholic, or Episcopal.

    There is no current accurate count of who is a Vaticanite Roman and who isn’t in part because the Vatican can’t set a single membership standard. Current figures by CARA include sub groups like the French Romans – who are Culturally Catholic and in very large #’s don’t believe in God period.

  5. Just so you know…. there have been independent Catholic jurisdictions ordaining women as priests and bishops long before the RCWP came along. All of us can demonstrate our apostolic succession back to the first apostles. Just do the work. Touch the people of God and heal them. Bring the Eucharist to those who have been marginalized. Give hope to the hopeless. But please, the RCWP has come late to the game – they are not new and they are certainly not the only group ordaining women. They are just the only group making noise about it. As for whether or not the Roman Church has the “power” to ordain women… well, if they don’t, then they don’t have the power or authority to do anything else, either. My ordaining bishop was ordained a priest in 1978 and bishop in 1981, and she wasn’t the “first” and it wasn’t “new” … Here’s a website that lists many of them that pre-date the RCWP by 50+ years:

  6. Amen! Another thought….they did not print 12 little plastic photo ID cards with magnetic strips, labeled “apostle.” The Gospels tell us again and again how Jesus welcomed the marginalized of society…..short person, tax collector, leper, lame, blind, children, hemmorhaging, bent. The very fact that the number 12 is symbolic of the 12 tribes highlights the fact that it is a layer of symbolism added later…much later. Of course Jesus chose females as well as males….who stood by him at the foot of the cross?

  7. I was there at the ordination yesterday, and it was incredible. Especially significant for me was the chanting of the Litany of the Saints as the seven women lay prostrate, as is traditional for ordinands. I truly sensed that “cloud of witnesses” which the Litany calls upon and honors. Rev. Mayers is right: it is a testament to the authenticity of their calls that these women often forego more “lucrative” careers or positions in order to answer the invitation of the Holy Spirit. To say that she does not call women is still a mystery to me. Pope Francis can say “Who am I to judge?” when referring to gays, but cannot say the same about women and ordination.

  8. The patriarchal priesthood is not a dogma of the Catholic faith. Based on the “Catechism of the Catholic Church” and John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body,” my understanding is that the ordination of women to the priesthood would be in perfect continuity with apostolic tradition:

    Ordination of Women in the Sacramental Churches

    This is a visceral issue that cannot be resolved by reasoning alone. But this is not about what women (or men) want either. This is about discerning what Christ wants for the Church in the 21st century, for the glory of God and the good of souls. Would Jesus, in today’s globalized world, choose 12 males to represent the patriarchs of the 12 tribes of Israel?