Homily on Ordination
Women's Ordination 101
Forbidden Grace: Hildegard von Bingen and A Modern Woman's Call to the Catholic Priesthood by Rev. Shanon Sterringer, Ph.D
Womanpriest: Tradition and Transgression in the Contemporary Roman Catholic Church by Jill Peterfeso
Why do you go by Father Anne?
I use the moniker Father Anne for many reasons, but, in a nutshell, it's this: we are a Church that relies heavily on symbol, and the priest is a one of the most powerful symbols in the Church's imagination. I am inserting myself as fully as possible into this symbol in order to expand it to include a woman's body. I live the life, I wear the collar, and I assume the title "Father." In so doing, I both mock the absurd notion that women are not called to priesthood, while at the same time confirming the reality that I am, in fact, a real Roman Catholic priest--as real as any man serving in the same role.
In addition, I don’t want any confusion. When people in the United States hear the title “Father” in reference to a minister, they almost always identify this term with the Roman Catholic Church. Let there 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 leadership (this includes you, Pope Francis) that I directly challenge with my ministry.
Are you a real Roman Catholic priest?
It depends on whom you ask. I will be ordained with the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests. In 2002, a Roman Catholic bishop ordained seven women to the priesthood. In 2003, he ordained two women as bishops, and these women have since ordained more women as priests and bishops. There are now more than 270 female Roman Catholic priests throughout the world. So, yes, we are real priests in that we have apostolic succession through ordination just as any male priest. But if you ask the institutional Church, they will say we are not real priests since we have violated doctrine and have been punished with excommunication.
If the Church excludes women from priesthood, why violate Church doctrine?
The doctrine of an all-male priesthood is propped up by theology rooted in sexism. It really is that simple. While other denominations have moved on to welcome women, the Roman Catholic Church still clings to male domination at great ethical and practical cost to the people of God. The doctrine of an all-male priesthood is an unjust law that takes a crushing toll on the women called by God to serve, and morally maims the larger Body of Christ by forming Catholics to believe that women are less than human. Further, the entire Church misses out on the many gifts that women bring to leadership and ministry--gifts the Church desperately needs now more than ever. This teaching is anti-God.
God is calling me to minister as a Roman Catholic priest. Because the institutional Church prevents me from living out my vocation, I was unable to continue to grow the way God desires. It left me no choice but to follow my conscience and my prayer, and pursue my vocation another way. I do not undertake this lightly, nor do I do it as an act of defiance. Quite the opposite: I have a deep love for the Roman Catholic Church, and the faith and spirituality it offers to the world. Above all else, I pursue the path of ordination to honor what God asks me to do, and to serve the Church I love.