Why Father Anne?
I use the title 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 hidden realities of our world so that we can encounter them more fully. For example, the priest makes present the relationship between God and Jesus, between Jesus and the Church, the mission of the Church to love as Jesus loves.
This symbol, however, is significantly contracted in the Catholic imagination because it is collapsed with the male form alone. In other words, its power is lopsided (and at this point severely weakened by the ongoing sexual abuse crisis, the Church's role in colonization and slavery, and the ongoing dehumanization of women), which obstructs the ability of the Holy 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 traditional male Catholic priest--I am celibate, I wear clerics, I use the Roman Missal and its traditional Catholic prayers, I have a seminary education, and I go by the title "Father." The one difference is that I am a female. If I am doing exactly what a male priest does, what is it that women cannot do? I claim the symbol on behalf of all women, allowing the Holy Spirit to harness its power and turn it back onto the Church to call it to account for its ongoing violation of the covenant with God in it's degradation of women. My female form in a Roman collar makes present the reality that women are and have always been co-equals to me. No matter what the patriarchy says to deny this truth, the presence of the Holy Spirit through the symbol is too powerful to obstruct.
I also symbolize the thousands of women across the world who would presently enter the priesthood as it now stands without requiring other changes, such as the ability to marry, the re-theologizing of the sexuality teachings, or an overhaul of the clerical structure now in place. While I agree that those are beneficial areas of growth, I would enter the priesthood as it stands should canon 1024 be rewritten to include women. In the wearing the Roman collar and living out the traditional priesthood as it now looks, God makes present all the women around the world who would do the same.
In addition to the heavy symbolic work of my title and ministry, the title Father Anne is "sticky," piquing the curiosity of people both in and beyond the Church. It lovingly mocks the notion that women cannot serve as priests while at the same time confirming the reality that I am, indeed, a real Roman Catholic priest--as real as any man.
Why do you break the law?
The exclusion of women from priesthood is an immoral law propped up and validated by sexist theology purposely designed to serve a particular agenda. It is that simple. There is ever-increasing historical and archeological evidence unearthed by reputable scholars that demonstrates the ordination of women. Women were ordained in the Roman Catholic Church in various ministries up until the 12th/13th century, when the definition of ordination was changed. This new definition was read into the old understanding to say that women were never ordained. Women were subsequently pushed out of ministry and the history of women's ordination in the Church was completely erased.
After many long years of discernment, formation, deep struggle, and prayer, the institutional Church forced me to choose between obedience to God and obedience to doctrine. Of course, this is not really a choice because I always choose God. I was ordained through the Roman Catholic Woman Priest movement in 2021. Now a priest, my call is to reform this powerful institution that continues to hurt God in its violation of the covenant. While some are tempted to interpret my ordination as a sign of disrespect for the institutional Church, in truth it is the greatest act of love and sacrifice I can make for the Church that has given me my life in God.
It can be difficult to discover that the Church is wrong on a particular issue. This is especially true because the institutional Church is masterful in presenting itself as eternal, as if it never changes. In truth, the Church and its tradition has changed drastically over its 2000-year history, including total reversals in doctrine on issues like religious freedom, the presence of truth in other religions, justification of slavery, and anti-Semitism. By pretending tradition doesn't change, the institutional Church does a great disservice to Catholics, making the Body of Christ ill-prepared for the deeper awakening that occurs over time when we walk closely with God.
The reality is as human beings we can never know all there is to know about God or about the mystery of life because we are not God. In other words, there is always more to learn. This means we must cultivate the disposition to allow God's Holy Spirit to ever-deepen our understanding of what it means to be fully human in God's world. In other words, we must give the Holy Spirit the freedom to teach. To this end, I invite you to set aside your preconceived notions and attachments to how you think things are, and allow God the opportunity to teach you about this issue. Thoroughly educate yourself and take what you learn to prayer.
Women's Ordination Conference