The Table

In a connection that Roman Catholic woman priest, Diane Dougherty fostered, (she described the serendipitous networking as feeling “like Mary and Elizabeth… a baby is jumping in my womb……maybe all of ours”), I had the opportunity to sit down with Forbes writer, Cathy Huyghe on her recent trip to Rome. Cathy is a dynamic woman involved in various organizations and efforts to empower women and girls, fight sex-trafficking, and not to mention, writes about the culture and business of the wine industry. Who could ask for more? 

These three bottles of wine, made from Sangiovese, Syrah, and Merlot grapes, were part of a gift from the FONDAZIONE to the Pope. Photo Credit: Cathy Huyghe

These three bottles of wine, made from Sangiovese, Syrah, and Merlot grapes, were part of a gift from the FONDAZIONE to the Pope. Photo Credit: Cathy Huyghe

I met with Cathy fewer than twenty-four hours after she arrived to Rome and it seemed like she had already held dozens of meeting, fluttering between Vatican offices and various embassies.  The main focus of her time in Rome was to attend a meeting organized by Franco Ricci of the Fondazione Italiana Sommelier as well as the Italian wine guide Bibenda, and attend an audience with the Pope. Cathy is interested in wine as a metaphor, and particularly in the ways Pope Francis has used wine in his messages.

In Rome, it is not uncommon to have meetings with people passing through; many friend-of-friend connections come alive and over espresso one must uncover how we both got here. It was a lovely, lively meeting: we found we share several paths and passions, and will each be able to help one another in our collective work in elevating and promoting women in the Catholic Church.  (+1 for Diane the match-maker!) 

Cathy described our meeting on her blog:

Another coffee, a final one, was with an amazing woman, who is very young, with a spine of steel for the perfectly contrarian work she is doing. You have a sense, looking at her initially, that she is a lamb surrounded by a pack of wolves.

And guess what? The metaphor is here too. Those wolves think that they could smell her blood in the water. But she has a heart of her own, a powerful pounding one that beats for a mission. She survives. And so does the mission.

In a two-part series, “Psalms in Latin American Feminist Perspectives,” theologian Mercedes Garcia Bachmann of Buenos Aires, Argentina, brought a slice of feminist hermeneutics to the Faculta Valdese di Teologia, and unintentionally, a sliver of understanding to Pope Francis’ “blindspot.”


Bachmann began her presentation by noting that many biblical scholars and teachers in Latin America are often too involved with social or public movements to contribute new scholarship in theological forums, so there is “more going on than to read.” 

I attended the first lecture just a few days after Pope Francis returned from the Philippines, where he spoke repeatedly about fighting a “colonization of ideology,” cautioning against “gender theory” as an unwelcome requirement to receiving foreign aid. Fighting corruption and capitalism are obvious themes of Francis’ pontificate, however hearing “gender theory” wrapped into the privileged colonizer stereotype stung for me (especially in knowing how harmful the “global gag rule” was for providing needed health education and services for families).

While usually the first to roll my eyes at the vague-reasoning of “well, he is an old Argentinian man,” as to why Francis doesn’t understand women, gender, or sexuality, it was in reading Psalm 91 in particular, through an intersectional lens of feminist liberation theology that helped widen my understanding of his context.

“Some of my students are born into democracies, but for those of us who were born into a dictatorship, there is a sense that we are always in danger of persecution and injustice.”

“Religion came to the continent with conquest and weapons,” Bachmann said, and so there is an awareness that persecution is always possible. And the colonizer is always present. I don’t agree with Pope Francis on his “ideological colonization” – especially with our Roman Catholic historical baggage, but for me (and perhaps to my ignorance), it became less confounding (though not less twisted) that he rejects western cultures of privilege and wealth.  After feeling completely deflated and disappointed from the reports from the Philippines trip, I think I needed a feminist theologian to shed some rational light from her own experience of Argentina onto what felt wrong and irrational. She didn’t mention the Pope, but her vigilance to perspectives of social and economic reasoning, often before (for me, the instinctual) feminist response, reordered the exegesis enough to make it feel distinctly Latin American, or at least less western. 

In reading Psalm 91 we “read from the body,” which Bachmann ascribes mostly as a technique of feminist theologians and women, but in this sense it is a matter of protection, from peril, war, and death.  Where I think Pope Francis falls short in his socio-economic approach, even if we give him the benefit of the doubt that he is “reading from the body,” is that his body is male (the norm, the un-gendered), and the “gendered” the others are out of his peripheries. In seeking protection, even bodily, it is not the same protection a woman or non-conforming gendered person might seek.

We discussed how many people create amulets from Psalm 91, or leave their bibles open to the Psalm to protect their homes. These “superstitious” or popular practices are generally dismissed as outside Catholic institutional norms. Here, as feminists we are asked to elevate these “outsider” practices as valid; while the Catholic institution attempts to restrict how the bible should be read or interpreted, women are always outside of these practices (in house churches, for example).

We also discussed Psalm 128 as a social critique of an economic system that might erode peasant family values: one which prioritizes family, land, children, and stability. Very simply, the ideal is described as children growing and working on one’s land (as investments), while one’s wife matures over years (like wine), the blessing comes from a stable family.  In doing so, the Psalm is postured against the temporary resident, the landless, those without inheritance: women’s dilemmas.

Just as biblical scholars in Latin America may be more involved in social movements than scholarship, Bachmann suggested that in the shadows of persecution, social needs take priority over the concept of salvation (which she described as an “after life” deliverance).  We concluded our first meeting noting that there is a salvation in reading the Psalms “from the body,” as God’s miracles are often bodily, coming through human bodies, feet, throats, wombs. Through women. 

VaticanI recently came across an article by an Italian theologian, Lilia Sebastiani, “Chiesa, ciò che manca alla parità,” where she describes why ordained ministry is important in the Roman Catholic Church: “Non perché io consideri il ministero ordinato così centrale nella prospettiva redenta,” but because Jesus did not intend to prioritize one community over the other.

It is not realistic to imagine the “disappearance of the hierarchy,” and so Sebastiani argues that we must imagine the removal of its power: when it is shared, the structure can be more fluid.

While aware that many women (not just traditionalists, but theologians as well) are not interested in the priesthood, especially as it stands, Sebastiani disagrees with the “no grazie” attitude.

While the problems of the current priesthood and the acceptance of women to the priesthood seem like two different issues, she argues that their root is the same.

Not only when women can be ordained, but when all ministers can live in a system that isn’t structured on the exclusion or absence of women, many things would change: “It is the only visible transformation consistent with the logic brought by the salvation of Jesus.”

She goes on to say that perhaps women can go on just fine without ordination, but the Church cannot go on excluding women from leadership and teaching, and furthermore asking the hierarchy to be “artificially protected” from women’s influence.

Read the full article on page 35 here

“Ma poiché una gerarchia c’è, e non è affatto realistico ipotizzarne la sparizione, ritengo che il modo migliore per togliere al potere i suoi aspetti antisalvifici sia condividerlo, renderlo fluido quanto più è possibile.

Molte donne (non parlo ora di quelle più tradizionaliste, ma di donne anche evolute, colte e impegnate, tra loro parecchie teologhe), dicono: no grazie, il sacerdozio così com’è non ci interessa!

Non sono d’accordo. «Così com’è», la categoria dei ministri ordinati si fonda su una certa connotazione di casta e sull’esclusione del femminile. Ma molte cose cambierebbero nel momento in cui le donne non fossero più escluse dal ministero e i ministri non fossero più tenuti per obbligo di stato a vivere senza donne. (Sembrano due problemi; in realtà, almeno alla radice, sono uno solo). Le donne saranno veramente accettate dalla chiesa quando potranno essere non solo spose legittime dei ministry ordinati, ma anche sorelle e colleghe nel ministero. È l’unica trasformazione visibile coerente con la logica della salvezza portata da Gesù.

Le donne forse possono andare avanti benissimo senza l’ordine sacro; ma la chiesa cattolica forse non può andare avanti continuando a escludere le donne da ogni funzione di governo e di magistero e tenendo i propri ministri artificialmente al riparo dalla loro influenza.

Non è un ‘problema delle donne’, ma della chiesa cattolica: un problema in cui si gioca tutto il suo futuro prossimo.”  Lilia Sebastiani 

The Pontifical Council for Culture and the Vatican’s “Women’s Consultation Group” launched a video campaign asking women: “who you are, what you do, what you think about your being a woman, your strengths, your difficulties, your body, and your spiritual life.”  The Vatican will host a meeting in February 2015 to reflect on four issues:

1) Between equality and difference: the quest for an equilibrium

2) “Generativity” as a symbolic code

3) The female body: between culture and biology

4) Women and religion: flight or new forms of participation in the life of the Church?

The Council for Culture took one week to crowd-source one-minute videos and photos to answer these questions. WOC members were up to the challenge. Make sure to check #LifeofWomen on Twitter and Facebook for more photos and videos.


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Alta's ordination 10-10-09







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A selection of videos:
 and more on You Tube! #LifeofWomen


Incompatible with God’s Design: A History of the Women’s Ordination Movement in the U.S. Roman Catholic Church 

By Mary Jeremy Daigler

Incompatible with God’s Design is the first comprehensive history of the Roman Catholic women’s ordination movement in the United States. Mary Jeremy Daigler explores how the focus on ordination, and not merely “increased participation” in the life and ministries of the church, has come to describe a broad movement. Moving well beyond the role of such organizations as the Women’s Ordination Conference, this study also addresses the role of international and local groups.

In an effort to debunk a number of misperceptions about the movement, from its date of origin to its demographic profile, Daigler explores a vast array of topics. Starting with the movement’s historical background from the early American period through the early 20th century to Vatican II and afterward, she considers the role of women (especially Catholicism’s more religious adherents) in the movement’s evolution, the organization of the ordination movement in the United States, the role and response of clergy and Vatican teachings, the reality of international influences on the U.S. movement, and the full range of challenges—past and present—to the ordination movement.

Incompatible with God’s Design is compelling reading for any student of theology and women’s studies, as well as those interested in staying abreast with the changing role of women within the U.S. Roman Catholic Church.

Mary Jeremy Daigler has been a visiting scholar at the Mount St. Agnes Theological Center for Women in Baltimore since 2008. She holds a doctor of ministry in church administration, a master of divinity from the Andover Newton Theological School, Massachusetts, and a master of arts in Classical Languages from the Johns Hopkins University. She is the author of Through the Windows: A History of the Ministry of Higher Education among the Sisters of Mercy (2001).



To order, visit, call 1-800-462-6420, or print and mail or fax this order form:

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Over the weekend I attended the meetings for a group called, “Council 50” – which is hoping to host a gathering in Rome in November 2015 to bring together representatives from all over the world to share their particular political and social contexts, and their positive experiences of being church. It sounds exciting but the irony of meetings about meetings is not lost on me…


For a second I sympathized with the bishops and cardinals, meeting to discuss issues on marriage and family life the next two weeks, and really to plan for the Ordinary Synod in the fall of 2015: meeting about meetings.

The Council 50 group is unique for our work because of the large involvement with Italian reform groups and base communities. Again I put myself in the Synod hall as our meeting flickered between Italian, English, French, German, and half translations of each.  Words, intentions, and humor get lost and found around the table (try drafting a mission and vision statement simultaneously in several languages!) as we hope to understand each other. Again, a small semblance of sympathy for the bishops here, despite their professional outfitting and translation services, international meetings can be a bit of a circus.

However, while the bishops are meeting to discuss family and marital life, the obvious lack of families is a particularly embarrassing situation. While, it may be in the minds’ of bishops and cardinals, they think they are being inclusive and welcoming by hosting several couples, it cannot be stressed enough that these “decision makers” have actively chosen to not pursue married life, and presumably a reproductive life. I just think, are bishops not embarrassed at the sight and structure of their meetings?  Reports that married couples are “stealing the show” demonstrate the very lack of experience of family and married life in the Synod. And while Cardinal Nichols may have said the sexual lives of couples is not something bishops talk about much… they certainly talk a lot about the reproductive lives of women.

Deb Rose-Milavec of FutureChurch

Deb Rose-Milavec of FutureChurch with our report

As sometimes comical or scattered our meetings felt over the weekend, we were always discussing how we are Church and how to invite other people to tell us about how they are creating and building church communities, with some of these people shockingly in the room. The lack of diversity of who will actually contribute to the working document for the Bishops is one example of the painful separation of power in the Catholic church. The opaque selection process for lay couples and the layers and layers of interpretation, summary, and analysis of what is discussed in the synod halls indeed must partially explain the growing distance between orthodoxy and orthopraxis, the theological and the pastoral for many Catholics.

Nevertheless, it is encouraging to see the process of the bishops’ meetings starting with the stories of couples and families, and even in these first few days, the tone and topics seem encouraging. This morning Deb Rose-Milavec of FutureChurch and I were able to hand several copies of our collaborative report, “Voices of the People” to Archbishop Kurtz, president of the USCCB, who thanked us both and shook our hands, and Jeffrey and Alice Heinzen from La Crosse, Wis. (who each hugged us!) on their way into the synod hall. All three were gracious and warm, thanked us for our work… before going behind gates and closed doors.   

Recommended reading so far:

Sex and Social Justice at the Synod on the Family

You’ve Got Male: Synod on the Family Slideshow

Cutback of information makes this synod harder to read

By all accounts, the theme of these Synod sessions should have been collegiality. Pope Francis, instead, has chosen a topic that interests and affects almost all Catholics, in some way: family. Every day, home-grown collegiality. Undoubtedly a populist, Francis has engaged the world’s Catholics in discussions of family life, the Sacraments, divorced and remarriage, family planning… it is incredible how this topic, (and even a flash of hope) has ignited the baptized to chime in.

In November and December 2013, fifteen U.S. Catholic reform organizations sent out a survey in preparation for the Synod on the Family. 16,582 participants responded.  Dr. Peter J. Fagan from the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine analyzed the survey responses and produced the final report.

The results of the survey were similar to other sociological data, but the number of respondents who self-identified as weekly Mass-goers was 52 percent, a surprisingly high number given the overall average is 24 percent according to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University. Demographically, 83 percent were laypeople and 11 percent vowed religious or ordained. On the important issues of contraception, sacraments for divorced and remarried Catholics and same sex relationships:

Sr. Mary John Mananzan

Sr. Mary John Mananzan

● 1 percent said the teachings of Humanae Vitae were completely accepted. 76 percent supported alternatives.
● 75 percent of divorced and remarried couples felt they could approach the sacraments regardless of church recognition of their union.
● 73 percent said marriage equality was extremely or very important.

These numbers and the volumes of responses are not isolated to those in the U.S., but reflected many of polls from around the world.

“Right now it looks like there are very few participants at the Synod who will be representing the voices of many Catholics who already feel excluded from the Church,” said Deb Rose-Milavec of FutureChurch.  “It is our work to do all we can to make sure those voices are heard and that the circles are widened to include those who represent the sensus fidelium on issues  where our lived experiences cannot be expressed adequately by male celibates.”

Kate McElwee and Sr. Mary John Mananzan

Kate McElwee and Sr. Mary John Mananzan

As a representative for WOC I was able to share some of this work at the Catholic Reform forum held in Rome these past few days. Among the other representatives was  Sr. Mary John Manazan, OSB from the Philippines. An incredible feminist theologian, Sr. Mary John took a more expansive view as she outlined her suggestions to the Synod-goers: address patriarchy and kyriarchy in our church and in our families.  Patriarchy in all forms creates a culture of violence against women; therefore, starting with the Church, we need non-patriarchal families, where dominance does not decide the safety or health of women and children. Sr. Mary John brought the taboo issues of FGM, incest, domestic violence right to the altar of the Church where this meeting was held. Her presentation brought the realities of what is often couched in vague terms to the devastating, on-going effects of our Church’s and our own complicity. Other speakers included Robert Mickens, Paul Collins, Marilyn Hatton, among others. (Read more about the event here ).


Bishop Geoffrey Robinson speaking at the European Forum for LGBT Christians

In the afternoon the European Christian LGBT Forum hosted an event  “The ways of love” in the Faculty of the Waldenses.  The forum was chaired by the Vatican expert Marco Politi, and featured Australian Bishop Geoffrey Robinson and theologian James Alison. The room was full of familiar faces from New Ways Ministries, FutureChurch, and Council 50 organizers, but also about 100 attendees, mostly Italians. An obvious lack of women’s voices (and presence) was the only short-coming of this well organized event.   

The following day, the International Movement We Are Church (IMWAC) hosted a press conference with representative from three continents sharing recommendations to those attending the Synods sessions. Many of the speakers highlighted flawed doctrine, misapplied “traditions,” and emphasized that theological and theoretical discussions should not be “played against” pastoral needs. IMWAC surveyed their members worldwide and produced a list of seven questions for the synod:

IMWAC press conference

IMWAC press conference

1. What Images of the family will be used?

2. What is a family?

3. Will the complexity of the modern world be addressed?

4. How can the situation of families and partnerships in crisis be addressed?

5. Will the differing circumstances of women and men in families be address?

6. How will the status of children be viewed?

7. What impact do modern reproductive technologies have on families, marriages, and partnerships?

The reality shared in the room was that Catholic people are already making decisions about their families and reproductive lives without the church: “that train has left the station.” But as Catholics we believe our church can be a moral leader in the world, by following the example of Jesus. (If we first even humanize gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered persons, affirm the bodily autonomy of women, embrace equality for women in all ministries and society, and reframe the imposition of celibacy on clergy, to name a few). One speaker referred to Pope Francis’ intentions to go the the margins of society and work there; however in our Church it is really the bishops who are on the margins of the complex realities of family life. Many mentioned the some “quick fixes,” the feasibility of some of these recommendations is seemingly possible and within reach — and yet Pope Francis has not made a move on some of these “easier” reparations.

It was acknowledged around the table that “women’s issues” always come last on these lists. And while as reformers we look to what Pope Francis not saying or doing, Miriam Duignan reminded the group that we must also pay attention to what Pope Francis is actively saying about women, the words that he does choose to say are flippant, sexist and rely on outdated and offensive gender roles.  If you haven’t watched WOC’s video, “Vatican: It’s a Man’s World,” most of these quotes come from Pope Francis.

Today another reform coalition called “Council 50″ will meet to plan a gathering in a year’s time, marking the close of the Vatican II Council and the signing of the Catacomb Pact. Rome truly has been transformed these past few days by the presence of so many engaged, interested Catholics who are here to give witness to the pastoral and sacramental needs of families. I will be looking for where the Synod of Bishops becomes permeable to the choruses of voices literally surrounding them. Where, in their closed sessions will we see any bubbles from the letters, surveys, and reports calling for a more relevant, a more pastoral church?

Women’s Ordination Worldwide (WOW) held its steering committee meeting this past week just outside of Dublin, hosted by our Irish delegates from We Are Church – Ireland.  The annual meeting brings together leaders in the women’s ordination movement  from Australia to Bangladesh, Poland to Italy, Germany to Canada, representing a spectrum of strategy and practice.  Holding our differences, WOW strongly emphasizes the word “ordination” in our work as we advocate for the inclusion and equality of women across all ministries in the Catholic Church. WOWlogo1

The agenda focused largely on our upcoming conference: “Gender, Gospel, and Global Justice” to be held 18-20 September, 2015 in Philadelphia, USA. It has been ten years since the last WOW Conference and will be held just days before the World Meeting of Families, when Pope Francis is expected to visit Philadelphia. WOW envisions this Conference to bring the discussion of women’s ordination to a global stage, drawing activists, feminists, theologians, women religious, clergy, students, and Church-going Catholics together, to speak in a chorus of voices. We believe that gender justice in our Church and our world is rooted in Jesus’ life and message, and transforming our Church from the sins of sexism will transform our communities and the status of women everywhere.

Our hosts, We Are Church – Ireland, organized an afternoon with theologian Mary T. Malone, who discussed her latest book, “The Elephant in the Church: A woman’s tract for our times,” followed by small group discussions on five topics. Over forty people gathered for this discussion, contributing greatly to the challenges of our work: (1) fighting clerical culture; (2) the failings of priests; (3) waning motivation and growing frustration; (4) encouraging “good priests” as well as women priests; (5) the tragedy of a Church does not honor the voices and experiences of women, and the congregations that suffer because of this loss.

Mary T. Malone meets with WOW and local Catholics

Mary T. Malone meets with WOW and local Catholics

As a member of the steering committee I led a group to address the first concern (clerical culture), something deeply understood in Ireland, especially in light of the systemic abuse of power in covering up sexual abuse scandals. Around the table we had a wealth of experience: former priests, ordained women priests, lay ministers, and of course, all of us priestly people. For many, seeking or pursuing ordination was seen as elevating oneself in the community, claiming a closer position to God. Models that recognize the shared gifts of people, without stratification, without hierarchy were discussed as more fulfilling, holistic, and healthful. Connection to the “Global Church” is better experienced, similar to many of the early mystics, through one’s personal relationship with God, not through Rome.

With a Roman Catholic Woman Priest (RCWP) at the table, we discussed the bridges that have to be created and compassionately modeled from where we are now as a Global Church, and where we would like to be, where perhaps, some suggested, ordination is no longer necessary.


For WOW, we recognize these bridges (honor and embrace in full membership and work of RCWP), but if we recognize that ordination, as we know it, is the requirement for full participation in the decision-making, theological debate, official teaching and writing, and of course the Eucharistic celebrations – this is the lynchpin, the threshold that breaks along gender alone. As Teresa Forcades recently said, “All the decision-making is linked to something called ordination, and ordination is linked to something called gender.”  It was a challenging conversation, a good conversation that ultimately asks Catholics to seek both nourishment, (spiritually, theologically, communally) to know God in holistic and sustaining ways, and for some, to find the energy to keep a foot in the Institutional Church to work for transformative change, that we know will change the world. Read more statements from WOW

WOW Delegates meeting

WOW Delegates meeting

Mary T. Malone writes that “The priesthood, as we know it, was designed by men, inhabited by men, theologized by men, liturgised by men, and experienced by men. It was designed for men by men.” It was clear in my small group that the construct of ordination is broken and has formed a sick hierarchy, a sick institution.  Malone spoke about how much of feminist theology responds to male theology, when there is a richness in the theology of women, theology by women that empowers women and the people of God to thrive as spiritual, experiential beings made in the image of God.  This tension– the attempted conversation of activists and theologians with the Institutional Church, and the freedom of knowing that access to God is available to all, without exception or exclusion, without mediation– causes vertigo in the women’s ordination movement, personally and in our messaging.  I must admit there is a truth to the kind of madness of having our feet seemingly walking away from one another.

Yet, returning to the fifth discussion point, we ultimately must believe in the riches of our faith. We know its beauty and find joy in the sacraments. We are in a discipleship of equals, as Jesus preached, radically inclusive and in solidarity with all those on the margins. We are the body of Christ, and we are the Church.

“If you feel deeply enough, you stay.  Not because you’re a masochist, but because it’s worth it. You’re struggling for the soul of something.” Elizabeth Johnson

WOW Steering Committee Meeting, Dublin 2014

WOW Steering Committee Meeting, Dublin 2014


Mary Jeremy Daigler. Incompatible with God’s Design: A History of the Women’s Ordination Movement in the U.S. Roman Catholic Church. Lanham, MA: Scarecrow Press, 2012. 199 pp., appen., biblio., index. ISBN 978-0-8108-8479-3. $75.00.

There was a time in my life when I devoured every article and book on women’s ordination. I was passionate about every aspect of the issue. Those intense feelings waned over the past decade or so as I moved on to understand and live out my priesthood in different ways. Yet over the years I wondered if I’d ever experience that intensity again. To my surprise, reading Daigler’s book brought back that excitement for me. This is a rigorous and thoroughly researched history of the movement that will be required reading for anyone who wants or needs to be informed on our movement as well as a good read.

Incompatible with God’s Design is a page-turner filled with personal stories and drama and yet it is also balanced with the keen insight and reporting of a seasoned historian. Daigler is a good storyteller yet she is also able to recount historical events and characters without casting her emotions or judgments that could sway even the most dispatched writer or academic.

The book lays out its subject matter as if weaving a tapestry. Daigler chooses as her theme “design” as in God’s careful creation and each chapter develops that masterpiece with matching titles—“Illuminating a Design,” “Braid,” “Mosaic,” “Circles,” “Cross,” “Centripetal Lines,” and “Upward Spiral.”

In each chapter the author moves us through history. She begins with the St Joan’s International Alliance in 1911 in England, to our foremothers here in the States with the story of Mary Lynch, the beginning of WOC, and the tireless and generous work of many disciples—women and men alike. Daigler traces the pre- and post-Vatican II eras, the role of women religious in the movement; organizational stitches and seams; the Vatican teachings and how they were promulgated; international influences—with lots of detailed examples of the movement across the globe; all the way up to the current time, spreading out the quilt of challenges and hurdles still needing to be conquered.

Many workers of the movement are introduced and given names, places, dates, and the groups they were part of; how they understood women’s roles in the church, and how they went about forging the movement. Daigler is also a capable sociologist as she details the attitudes, cultures, and ethos to which each group subscribed and how they understood the burgeoning movement. Few stones are unturned and the countless people who worked in the movement are given place and stature, including many male clergy who were supportive in the Vatican II and post-Vatican II days. It will be astonishing to many young women who read this book as they will discover that there were so many prominent clerics who were interested, involved, truly supportive of women’s ordination, and, equally telling, they seemed unafraid.

The title of the book comes from a document of the Second Vatican Council, Gaudium et Spes (Church in the Modern World), specifically article 29: “Every form of social or cultural discrimination in fundamental personal rights on the grounds of sex, race, color, social condition, language or religion must be curbed and eradicated as incompatible with God’s design” (emphasis mine). Daigler draws out that design and show precisely over and over and over precisely what needs to be curbed and eradicated.

For readers wanting to scour important sources, Daigler offers some apt appendices: Mary Lynch and Aileen Murphy’s dedication ceremony to the movement; Theresa Kane’s Welcome to Pope John Paul II; the family tree of the women’s ordination movement; and other archival collections. These appendices offer a budding women’s ordination scholar ample back- ground for any serious paper or thesis on the topic.

The women’s ordination movement owes a great debt of gratitude to Mary Jeremy Daigler for this magnum opus. She has put in writing the definitive story that needed to be told. Our other good fortune is that Daigler wrote this book to not only honor those early disciples of the women’s ordination movement in the United States but she also hands over the mantle to the next generation of leaders who are also deftly carry- ing on this important work.

Diana Wear has been an editor for WOC’s New Women, New Church newsletter for over a decade and a half. She writes for us from Richmond, Calif. This article first appeared in New Women, New Church in Spring/Summer 2013, vol. 36 n. 1.

Guest post by Jack Wentland, Progressive Catholic Coalition

Since 2004, WOC has been a sponsoring organization of the “Inclusive Catholic Liturgy”—with female and male priests presiding—at the national gathering of the School of the Americas Watch (SOAW) Convergence as one of the other sponsoring organizations of the Progressive Catholic Coalition [PCC].

Former WOC Board Member, Aileen Hayes, and WOC Assistant Director, Kate Conmy in 2011

Former WOC Board Member, Aileen Hayes, and WOC Assistant Director, Kate Conmy in 2011

On November 23 and 24, 2013, WOC sponsored the PCC information table and shared funding for the cost of space for Eucharist. The information table at the gates of Ft. Benning in Columbus, Georgia, shares information about church reform and the call for justice with thousands of participants in the SOAW Convergence.

The Eucharist, celebrated each of the previous nine years by two priests representing each gender, was led in 2013 by a group of five presiders, the majority womenpriests. In 2004, the first year of the PCC presence at SOA Watch, participants in the “Inclusive Catholic Liturgy” presided over by Crystal Chan of Call to Action and David Corcoran of CORPUS, brought 80 participants, twice as many as expected. And over the years since then, the number have grown. The past three years, funding by the sponsoring organizations of PCC as well as from individuals has allowed for reserving larger space in the Columbus Conference Center, this year attracting a record number of over 300 participants—all ages and various faith backgrounds.

In addition to providing the Eucharist, representatives of the organizations sponsoring PCC offer materials about each of the organizations at the PCC information booth at the gates of Fort Benning where the “School of the Assassins” is located. This year as in most years, SOAW participants came from as far away as Canada and Alaska; they came from as near as Duluth, Georgia. Veterans of, as well as those new to, the movement, they all came with one intention: to overcome the injustice of having a tax-supported U.S. Army training school where hundreds of graduates from dozens of Latin American countries over the years have been implicated in human rights violations and unspeakable atrocities against the people of their own countries.

378072_10150988562205368_514812028_nThe PCC Information Table was first sponsored in 2003, making 2013 the 11th year WOC has sponsored that phase of the PCC presence at SOAW. This was the 10th year at which a Eucharist has taken place at the event—with WOC as one of the sponsoring organizations of the PCC. The idea for promoting a coalition of reform groups was the brainchild of then-CORPUS Board member and FCM member Mary Ann Cejka. She suggested that—since there is a large number of young people from Catholic colleges among the thousands attending and they are not aware of the work of the “reforming church”—an information table at the SOAWatch gathering would promote awareness among this “next gen” population. Mary Ann was commissioned by the CORPUS Board to recruit other reform groups—among them, Call to Action, Federation of Christian Ministries, Future Church, New Ways Ministry, Roll Away the Stone, Women’s Ordination Conference, Roman Catholic Womenpriests (now Association of Roman Catholic Womenpriests. More recently CITI Ministries, Inc. has become a sponsor. “The Progressive Catholic Coalition” was the name chosen for the ad hoc grouping of reform organizations.


Over two thousand students, prison abolitionists, teachers, nuns, immigrants, musicians, farmers, activists and workers from across the Americas mobilized to the gates of Fort Benning from November 22-24, 2013. This diverse group joined once more to express our humanity and solidarity against the school of death and destruction. This year, those from Latin America and the Caribbean shared their stories with us about how they experienced and witnessed the bloody, violent and flagrant violations of human rights at the hands of graduates of the “School of Assassins”—a designation adopted by the SOAW after the U.S Army changed the name of the school because of the negative attention caused by SOAW’s revealing the notorious record of SOA graduates in carrying out violations of human rights by graduates trained at the U.S. Army school.

It was a true manifestation of the theme: “Justice – Not Impunity!” The speakers at the SOAW 2013 are listed at



One conversation during the weekend was most memorable. Nashua Chantal of Americus, Georgia, who has been a yearly participant at the SOAWatch gathering since 2005, had recently been released from Federal Prison after completing a six-month sentence for “crossing the line” in 2012. Undaunted, indeed encouraged, by his stint in prison, he joined in the weekend in his customary “sad” clown makeup and costume, with clothing and head inscribed all over with the words “Study War No More!” But this year was different. For the seven years he’d been there when I had photographed him, he had chosen to keep a silent vigil holding a purple banner proclaiming those same thematic words that covered him. This year he entered into conversation and posed with young people. His theme: “There’s a need to provide information with those in prison about the work of SOAW and the reason we’re here. With time on their hands, they can learn about the issues and become informed advocates for social justice.”


The question that often arises regarding the efforts of the SOAW is “Have the activities of the past years had any effect? What’s been accomplished?” The answer to that is both “Very much!” and “Not enough!”


On November 14, 2013 an SOA Watch delegation met with Denis McDonough, the National Deputy Security Advisor to President Obama in the White House, to ask that the SOA/WHINSEC be shut down by Executive Order. In January, 2014, Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) introduced legislation to suspend operations at the school and investigate human rights abuses in Latin America. H.R. 2989, the Latin America Military Training Review Act of 2013 renews the legislative efforts against the notorious U.S. military training institute, formerly known as the School of the Americas. Each year for the past few years, this resolution in various forms has gained co-sponsors, a necessary step to get it to the floor of Congress.

Through direct visits to the leadership of six countries in Latin America— Ecuador, Nicaragua, Argentina, Bolivia, Uruguay, and Venezuela—SOAW has been able to convince the administrations of those countries to stop sending their officers to SOA/WHINSEC for training.

At the end of March, 2014, hundreds of advocates for closing the SOA/WHINSEC took part in the “Spring Days of Action” converging on the halls of the U.S. Congress to speak to their representatives about the issues raised in H.R. 2989 and asking them to sign on as co-sponsors.

NOT ENOUGH – Where You Can Help

Getting H.R. 2989 to the floor of congress can be accomplished by a continued concerted effort by justice-seekers across the country. Readers can review the list of sponsors to see if their representatives have signed on to H.R.. 2989 at

If their representatives are listed, call the congressional or local office to thank them for their support. If they’re not listed, call them to ask support by signing on as a co-sponsor.

Even if this resolution does not gain enough sponsorship to bring it to the floor of Congress in this legislative session, rep McGovern has pledged to reintroduce in future sessions. Contacting Congress about this resolution will not go out of style.

Further formation about the 2013 event is at

Workshops offered at the event are listed at:

A picture gallery of the weekend is at:

Supporters of the movement are listed at:

Ongoing news about the results of the work of the SOAW can be found at:


Finally, please consider this a call to action to WOC members to take part in this ministry of justice. The SOA Watch is scheduled for November 22-23, 2014. Since 2004, the PCC planning group had begun preparations for the SOA Watch event with conference calls beginning in August. Members can contact WOC or Jack Wentland directly for details by emailing jackwentland @ gmail . com or calling 860-888-2502.