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Why should women be priests?


There are many examples of women fulfilling leadership roles in both the Old and New Testaments, but no examples of Christ ordaining either men or women to the priesthood in the structured way that priesthood is formulated today. Ordination came later.


"So God created people in God's own image, male and female God created them." (Genesis 1:27)

"There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (Galatians 3:28)

The above texts emphasise that both women and men are made in the image of God. One of the main arguments against the ordination of women is that women are not made in the likeness of Christ. Do not women show Christ like characteristics such as love, compassion, personal concern, nurturing, wisdom and sacrifice? What is essential is Christ's humanity not his maleness.
Listen to Myra on the beginnings of our movement, click here.



The "received" tradition in the church of women as inferior has excluded them from the sacramental role of priesthood and from other decision-making roles. St. Thomas Aquinas' opinion that "woman is by nature in subjection (to men), but a slave is not (by nature in subjection)" seems to be shared by today's hierarchy.

The earliest traditions show that in New Testament times women were leaders of Christian communities (Romans 16:1, 12, 15, 1 Corinthians 16:19, Philippians 4:3-7).

This tradition was lost. Likewise in the past women have been great leaders, e.g. women as abbesses like Hilda of Whitby. These traditions evaporated. To consider women for priesthood is a recovery of these earlier traditions, and of the Scriptural ideal. In the past, one tradition in the Church, expressed by Aquinas, has been to consider women as defective human beings, and the idea of women priests as therefore unthinkable. However, to teach that women are equal but different, as the Pope now does, is in itself a break with an earlier world view, both secular and religious. Is it not illogical for him to consider women equal but not adequate for priesthood?
Click here to listen to Mike on women’s ministry in the early Church.

John Wijngaards has written extensively on women in the early church see www.womenpriests.org and his book No Women in Holy Orders?



Given the distortions in the present theology of the church on women, it is urgent that we must listen to international women's voices today as they articulate their call to priesthood. The institutional Roman Catholic Church continues to ignore and sometimes denigrate and insult women who believe they have a Spirit-inspired vocation to the priesthood, which they cannot explore or test. This is not only, an institutional injustice, but a serious refusal to listen to the Holy Spirit; a refusal, which if continued, will have serious repercussions in the Christ-like credibility of the Church.


It is unfair to men to expect them to shoulder alone the burden of celibate priesthood. It is unfair to women that 80% of pastoral workers in the worldwide church are women, yet few, and numerically disproportionate positions of authority, are held by women.
Hear Jillian speak about the injustice of excluding women from the priesthood, click here.



The last supper - men only??

Christ instituted the Eucharist with those present at the Last Supper. Who was there? The Last Supper was the Passover Seder Meal celebrated by Jews at which the whole family and friends would be present. The woman of the household had a particular liturgical part to play. It was much later that the male priesthood, as we now know it, was developed. The Gospels do not mention that the women (including Mary) were sent out of the room...Did he say only to the men at the table "Do this in remembrance of me."?



Image copyright We Are Church Ireland


Copies of this inclusive “Last Supper” are available from WAC Ireland’s website http://wearechurchireland.ie/last-supper/ where you can order online and delivery is worldwide. 

The 3 different sizes of the “Last Supper” now available are:

  •    Large print                 38” x 19”     (97cm x 48cm)

  •    Medium print           16.5” x 8”       (42cm x 20cm)

  •    Postcards                    8” x 4”       (21cm x 10cm) 

BUT say our critics...

Surely Jesus didn't ordain women...

He didn't ordain men either! This came later in the Church's history. Jesus called women as well as men to be his disciples. However, a patriarchal tradition was inserted into the Church by the culture of the times that men alone could be priests. It is important to note that the arguments that have upheld this notion have shifted through the ages, culminating in the 'icon' theory of Inter Insigniores, 1976, of Paul VI's and re-instated as 'definitive' by John Paul II in 1994 , in his apostolic letter ' On Reserving Priestly Ordination To Men Alone'. This latter document is also known now as the 'Dubious Dubium', questioning the authority of the Pope in releasing the letter as 'definitive'; i.e. just below defining the non - ordination of women as infallible.



In contrast, Jesus went out of his way to include women among his disciples. We know Jesus called the woman at the well to be the apostle to the Samaritans. (John 4:1-42).

The first apostles of the Resurrection were Mary Magdalen and her friends. (John 20.1-18)

There were also many other women appointed as apostles by the risen Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:6)

A woman cannot be an ikon or likeness of Christ

"Man and woman are both with one and the same dignity 'in the image of God'. In their 'being man' and 'being woman' they reflect the Creator's goodness". (Catechism of the Catholic Church section 369). In Baptism men and women are equally baptised into Christ (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1267-1268). In Holy Communion we feed on Christ in order to become 'ikons' of Christ and share his characteristics of love, compassion, personal concern, nurturing, wisdom and sacrifice. If women are not to be ikons or representatives of Christ why are they admitted to Holy Communion?

Image courtesy of Roy M. Thottam

Pope John Paul II stated the matter must not be discussed in 1994 (Dubius Dubium 1994 see above)

In conscience, we believe that the issue must be examined and that Canon Law may be criticised when it leads away from its object. Law may be revised to meet new situations. Paul uses images of woman in childbirth (Galatians 4:19) and as nurse (1 Thessalonians 2:7) to describe God's ministry - a recognition that prophetic gifts are found among women as well as men. Lala talks about how we have been gagged, click here.





Inspirational Women

We have been inspired by many women since we began our campaign in March 1993. You can be inspired too if you click to hear Ianthe and Una.


Christian Women's Resource Centre (Lumen Religious Books Trust)

This centre is run by a founder member of CWO and contains books for sale and much reference material, including archives, press cuttings and research papers. email: books@catholic-womens-ordination.org.uk

The purpose of the centre is to provide information and resources that will illuminate the issues concerning the full participation of women in the life and thinking of the Christian churches and beyond.

Women and the Bible Trevor Dennis

This paper can be found by clicking here

A Wing and a Prayer

Katharine Jefferts Schori

ISBN: 978-0-281-05932-4
Available directly from Amazon or any good bookshop.

Making All Things New

Dorothea McEwan and Myra Poole

ISBN: 978-1-853-11528-8
Canterbury Press Listen to Myra discuss the book, click here.


'Making Liturgy': creating rituals for worship and life

Edited by: Dorothea McEwan, Pat Pinsent, Ianthe Pratt and Veronica Seddon

ISBN: 978-1-853-11440-5
Canterbury Press: London, 2001.

'Prayer, Protest, Power': the spirituality of Julie Billiart today

Myra Poole

ISBN: 978-1-853-11427-8
Canterbury Press: London, 2001.

'Living, Loving, Longing': a woman's miscellany

Compiled by: Pat Pinsent

Canterbury Press: London, 2007.