Women's Ordination Conference
Why Fr. 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 Catholic tradition, yet it is significantly contracted in our Catholic imagination because it is bound up solely with the male form. A key part of my ministry is to expand this rich symbol to include the body of a woman. I live the life, I wear the clerics, and I go by the title "Father." As I embody the priesthood throughout my days, I become a living witness to the truth that God calls women to serve as priests. In addition to doing this heavy symbolic work, the title is frankly catchy: it both 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. Lastly, 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 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 Catholic Church and it’s leadership (this includes you, Pope Francis) that I challenge with my ministry.
Are you a real priest?
It depends on whom you ask. I am ordained with the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests. This movement began in 2002. A bishop ordained seven women as priests on the Danube River. A year later, women were ordained as bishops. Those female bishops have been ordaining women as priests since. There are now approximately 250 of us across the world. We have apostolic succession, have been formed and educated in seminary, and have received the Roman Catholic sacrament of holy orders. However, if you ask the institutional Church, they will say we are not real priests because we have broken canon law and that ordination of a woman is "not possible."
Why do you break the law?
The exclusion of women from the priesthood is rooted in an unjust law propped up by sexist theology. It's really that simple. There is historical, archeological, theological and scriptural evidence that supports the ordination of women in the Catholic Church. After many long years of discernment, struggle, sacrifice and prayer, I had to finally obey God's ask of me. Though some interpret my ordination as a sign of disrespect for the institutional Church, in reality it is a great act of love for the Church I adore.
I encourage you to put aside your preconceived notions and invite God to teach you about this issue. Thoroughly educate yourself and pray about all you learn in the light of the Holy Spirit. There are numerous times in history when the Roman Catholic Church has dramatically changed its position (complete reversal). For example, the Church has changed its position on slavery, ecumenism, religious freedom, and Judaism. As human beings we can never know all things, and so we must walk the humble path of allowing the Spirit to ever-deepen our understanding of what God envisions for us as a human family. Ordination is one more area where God is working to bring the Church into alignment with God's desire for gospel justice for all creation.