Why Father Anne?
I go by Father Anne for many reasons, but in a nutshell, it's this: the priest is one of the most powerful symbols in the Roman Catholic tradition. The priest symbol, like the sacraments, makes present the invisible realities of our world so that we can better engage with them: for example, the priest makes present the relationship between God and Jesus, between Jesus and the Church, and the paschal mystery. However, this symbol is significantly contracted in the Catholic imagination because it is collapsed with the male form alone. It is lopsided, obstructing the power of the Spirit to flow freely through it. A central part of my ministry is to expand this rich symbol to include the body of a woman. I am exactly like a male priest-- I am celibate, I wear clerics, I use the Roman Missal and the traditional Catholic prayers, and I go by the title "Father." The only difference between me and a male priest is that I am a female. I embody the fullness of the symbol, claiming it as my own, harnessing its power and turning it back onto the tradition to call the Church to account for its sexism.
In addition to the heavy symbolic work of my title and ministry, the title Father Anne is "sticky." It piques people's curiosity, and it both lovingly mocks the notion that women cannot serve as priests and confirms that I am, indeed, a real Roman Catholic priest--as real as any man. Lastly, when people in the United States hear the title “Father” in reference to a person wearing a collar, they almost instinctually identify it with the Roman Catholic Church. I want there to be no mistake: I am not Lutheran, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, or Methodist. I am a Roman Catholic priest, and it is the Roman Catholic Church and its law that I challenge with my ministry.
Why do you break the law?
The exclusion of women from priesthood is an unjust law propped up by sexist theology. It is that simple. There is ever-increasing historical, archeological, theological and scriptural evidence that supports the ordination of women in the Catholic Church. Women were ordained in the Roman Catholic Church in various ministries up until the 12th and 13th century, when the definition of ordination was changed. Women were subsequently pushed out of ministry, and the new definition was read into the old to erase the history of women's ordination in the Church. Further, even if women were never ordained, using an unjust history to justify an oppressive future goes directly against the life of Jesus and God's vision of liberation. After many long years of discernment, struggle, and prayer, I finally obeyed God's ask of me. Though some interpret my ordination as a sign of disrespect for the institutional Church, it is in reality a great act of love for the Church I adore.
As human beings, we can never know all there is t know, for we are not God. This means we must walk the humble path of allowing the Spirit to ever-deepen our understanding of what it means to be fully human. We musts allow the Holy Spirit the freedom to teach. You are invited aside your preconceived notions and invite God to teach you about this issue. Thoroughly educate yourself and pray about what you learn in the light of the Holy Spirit. The Roman Catholic Church has evolved extensively over its two thousand year history. There are numerous times in history when the Roman Catholic Church has fully reversed its position. For example, the Church has changed its position on truth in other religions, religious freedom, slavery and anti-Semitism. Ordination is another area where God is working to bring the Church into alignment with God's desire for justice for all creation.
Women's Ordination Conference