News and Press Releases
Roman Catholic Women Priests
Bishops Respond to the
Pennsylvania Grand Jury Findings
26 August 2018
We, the undersigned international circle of Bishops representing the Roman Catholic Women Priests movement, state the following:
- We thank the Pennsylvania State’s Attorney for doing the work the Roman Catholic Bishops have failed to do and for disclosing the criminal conduct of hundreds of Roman Catholic priests and an estimated thousand child victims.
- We condemn the conduct of priest sex offenders. We condemn the conduct of Bishops who conspired to cover up the criminal conduct of priest sex offenders and expanded the number of child victims by transferring offending clergy to new assignments. We condemn the conduct of Bishops who failed to report clergy accused of sexual crimes to local law enforcement agencies for investigation and possible prosecution. We condemn the conduct of Bishops who themselves engaged in sex offenses with minor victims. We condemn the conduct of all clergy, priests and bishops, who engaged in the sexual harassment of adult women and/or men.
- We believe the structure of priesthood in the Roman Catholic Church is bankrupt and corrupt and must be completely restructured.
We call upon the U.S. Bishops to tender their resignations as bishops subject to the acceptance or rejection of Pope Francis.
- We call upon Pope Francis to establish a lay led ecumenical council to explore new structures for church leadership and church order, including:
- the ordination of married men, women, and people of all genders;
- the normalization of LGBTQ relationships and same sex marriage;
- the establishment of a process for participation of local laity in the selection/election of their bishops;
- the establishment of lay representation by 2/3 in all ecumenical councils for purposes of developing and setting Roman Catholic theology, policy, self-understanding and practice.
We are aware that this sexual abuse crisis is a worldwide crisis, occurring on every continent where the Roman Catholic Church has a presence. This crisis dramatically affects all of God’s people.
Healing and renewal in the Roman Catholic Church can only begin after a serious accounting of its hierarchy. A recall of the current, collective leadership and a non-hierarchical restructuring of the Church is imperative in order to heal the grave wounds to the body of Christ and move the Church into the 21st century.
+Marie Evans Bouclin, (Sudbury, ON, Bishop Emerita, RCWP Canada)
+Merlene Olivia Doko, (Pismo Beach, CA, Bishop Emerita, RCWP-USA)
+Patricia Fresen, (Stuttgart, Germany and Johannesburg, South Africa, RCWP)
+Joan M. Clark Houk, (South Bend, IN, RCWP-USA, Great Waters Region)
+Andrea Michele Johnson, (Annapolis, MD, RCWP-USA, Eastern Region)
+Jane Kryzanowski, (Regina, SK, RCWP Canada)
+Christine Mayr-Lumetzberger, (Pettenbach, RCWP Austria/ Europe)
+Nancy Louise Meyer, (Indianapolis, IN, RCWP-USA, Midwest Region)
+Ida Raming, (Stuttgart, RCWP Germany)
+ Sibyl Dana Reynolds (Pebble Beach, CA, RCWP-USA)
+Suzanne Avison Thiel, (Portland, OR, RCWP-USA, Western Region)
+Jane Via, (San Diego, CA, RCWP-USA, Western Region)
Two New Bishops for RCWP Western Region Ordained
October 1, 2017
(From Womens Ordination Conference’s “Table”)
Ministry of Prophetic Obedience: Celebrating Suzanne Thiel, RCWP
September 25, 2017 by Ruth E. Broeski.
You may think of Roman Catholic bishops as stern or stuffy; certainly you think of them as male. Not so, I say! October 1, 2017 at a synagogue in Aptos, California, Roman Catholic Womenpriests (RCWP) will be ordaining two new women bishops. They are Reverend Suzanne Thiel and Reverend Jane Via. As a sister priest, I have been asked to write about Suzanne.
Bishop Suzanne Thiel, RCWP
I first met Suzanne in 2006, sitting at a garden table of an Italian bakery in our home city of Portland, Oregon. She was already with another candidate, and I was invited because I was also pursuing priesthood. Suz and I eyed each other, and I silently thought she was at least okay. You must understand we were at the amorphous beginning of this movement of RCWP in the United States, and we were some of the early candidates feeling our way in this newly coalescing group.
We didn’t exactly know what we were developing, but Suzanne brought to us her organizational and ministerial talents and sense of adventure. Those traits have served RCWP, her ministries, and the Church through thick and thin. She now conducts Sunday services for under-served Catholics and Protestants in assisted living, volunteers in hospital chaplaincy, performs weddings and funerals, anointing, and does informal counseling. She is at the ready for anyone who needs a priest. In RCWP her range is from administration to finances all the way to printing banners, brochures and doing everything, I mean everything, in between. Life has been full in ways she could not have imagined while visiting with me on that bakery patio.
Like so many women priests, Suzanne came from a background of trying to make the world a better place. She spent years at our local Roosevelt High School, using classrooms, home visits and especially caring to see that teen parents made it to their crucial graduations. She still runs into people grateful to “Mrs. Thiel.” She was involved in her parish, St Clare, where she and her husband (of 43 years) and three sons spent their worship and service time. She helped develop the parish council, was on the school board, trained the altar severs, took communion to shuts-ins and worked as a volunteer with women at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility, making sure the women had a chance to pray and simply share together. It was distressing to her when she was asked to leave those ministries — a consequence of the institutional Catholic Church finding out she was an ordained womenpriest. Needless to say, the empty space has now been filled many times over.
Preparation under Bishop Patricia Fresen’s guidance led to Suzanne’s ordination as a deacon July 28, 2007 at the welcoming Zion United Church of Christ. I remember it well, because I was lying right next to her on the brown carpet as we prostrated ourselves during the powerful Litany of Saints. The following year, Suzanne was ordained a priest in a ceremony in Germany. Once again, she leapt into the unknown.
There is so much history packed into a short time in RCWP. Back in 2006, Suzanne started meeting with another member and myself in what was the nucleus of the Pacific Northwest cluster group of RCWP. Then in 2007 at a meeting of less than a dozen of us who constituted the entire Western Region, Deacon Suzanne agreed to become our regional administrator. I remember our borrowed space in a typical church meeting room of a Methodist church. We went around the circle of our small group. Each person turned down the job, until we got to the person in the last chair. That would be our willing Suzanne. By acclamation we said okay, and from then on Suzanne moved us forward with our seat-of-the-pants development, which continues to this day. I have no idea what would have happened if Suzanne hadn’t been in that fateful last chair. Ah, the ways of the Holy Spirit…
Yes, we were feeling our way forward, trusting Suzanne Thiel to be our lovingly-called “Boss.” At least we were mostly loving toward our administrator. Think about it — we are, after all, a bunch of very strong opinionated women. God bless Suz for hanging in there with “trying to herd cats.” We trusted her to keep us on track with all the organizational nitty-gritty an emerging group needs. It’s her gift, and a grounding one in a collection of women (and a few men) focused on so many varied and heavenly ideals in this world.
(R-L) Donnieau Snyder, Suzanne Thiel, Juanita Cordero
Over these short eleven years, Suzanne has been a force in RCWP, holding a myriad of formal and informal positions. Much of her work has been behind the scenes and thankless (I’ll say thank you now: thank you, Suz!). Besides being the person who hands out RCWP bookmarks no matter where she travels, Suzanne has been essential on the leadership circle, significant on the Board, kept our finances in order, and been a trained eye on legal matters regarding our 501(c)3. She has attended ordinations worldwide, acquainted herself with just about every woman priest and contributed her management skills to our sometimes motley group. Suzanne’s caring involvement has ranged from organizing rides for us from the airport for retreat, to serving on the Board as president and the financial officer.
One thing Suzanne is known for is her wanting to get the word out: “Yes, women priests do exist!” People at progressive and conservative Catholic conferences, people on planes and at pubs and restaurants have seen Suzanne Thiel in her Roman collar and found out for the first time that hundreds of women, yes women, have been ordained as Roman Catholic priests.
Whew! What a legacy in a short eleven years.
When our dear Western Region bishop, Olivia Doko, decided it was time to retire, we began our process for electing two new bishops from among our priests. One night when Suzanne was meditating in her bathtub, the Holy Spirit mumbled something in Suzanne’s ear about “let your role evolve.” So Suz left her name in for the ballot. She was then elected by the members of the Western Region to be one of our bishops. Evolve. Serve. Jump in. Those are all holy messages and motivations for Suzanne Thiel.
On October 1, adding another chapter to our jam-packed history, Suzanne Thiel and Jane Via will join eleven US, Canadian and European bishops on the altar. Suzanne will again offer herself in a new step forward. Western Region bishops, priests, deacons and candidates will be sitting in our Jewish friends’ sacred space to celebrate this joyous ceremony. Together other clergy, and with family and friends, we will unite with the universal Church and follow centuries of Apostolic Succession. We will celebrate our Suz and Jane becoming bishops. They will be lovingly anointed, ordained and consecrated by women’s hands. And I might add, by their hearts and souls, too.
In the spirit of a vocation that will not be denied, Suzanne will once again lie prostrate and surrender her gifts and herself to God. I’m going out on a limb to say God will be pleased. Yes, I think She will be very very pleased. (Written by Rev. Ruth Broeski, Porland, Oregon)
Ministry of Prophetic Obedience: Celebrating Jane Via, RCWP
September 28, 2017
by Jackie Davis
Bishop Jane Via, RCWP
I’ve known Jane Via for 38 years. There was a group of women in San Diego who were meeting to address women’s ordination. I had asked Jane to moderate one of our gatherings focused on inclusive language. Jane was willing but asked me what the fee would be. We had no money and never imagined giving a stipend. Jane agreed that she would moderate this meeting but that it was important for women to learn to value women’s professional contribution as much as we would a man’s. Her words opened up an appreciation for women’s time and knowledge. Our group, WomenSpirit: Catholic Women of San Diego, was about to take a big leap forward in our awareness and consciousness!
Jane remained in WomanSpirit as we explored what it was like to create prayer and ritual together as most of us had never been asked to lead prayer. We grew alongside the wisdom of the Women’s Ordination Conference where we imagined a church with women priests that were ordained in a new priestly ministry. Jane’s knowledge of scripture, her friends in other woman-led congregations and her own hunger for ministry impacted the direction of our group and gave us hope to continue our work for justice in our institutional church.
In her personal life, Jane continued to imagine this inclusive vision and allowed the desire for priesthood to grow in her heart. I remember the phone call when she told me about the Roman Catholic Women Priests organization. Jane was about to be ordained a deacon on the Danube River. It was an electric conversation! Jane then co-founded Mary Magdalene Apostle Catholic Community (MMACC) and she brought into this inclusive group people from so many areas of her life – including some of the original WomanSpirit members who were amazed to see one of our own push through the barriers to actually proclaim her priesthood after all these years.
Jane’s ordination moved MMACC to the next level where we could worship weekly with a woman priest. Our community has evolved under Jane’s thoughtful, knowledgeable hand and encouraged our expansion in thought and deed. It is with unbounded joy that we celebrate Jane, our spiritual community, and RCWP as she takes this next step as ordained bishop, embodying women in priestly and pastoral ministry.
Action for women’s ordination in September 2015
in Washington, DC (Jane Via, Left)
Religious Studies Lecturer (San Jose State University)
(Western Region Roman Catholic Womenpriest)
Awarded Fulbright Scholar to Palestine:
DAR AL KALIMA UNIVERSITY COLLEGE OF ARTS AND CULTURE IN BETHLEHEM
for Fall 2018
Fulbright Scholar Program
A program of the United States Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs
March 26, 2018
Roman Catholic Womenpriests Action Network
We advocate for an immediate ban on new sales of semi-automatic rifles, such as the AR-15. We advocate for universal background checks with no loopholes for all who purchase guns.
We urge that you participate in local marches and communicate your insistence for change to your governmental representatives and leaders.
We pray for the safety of all who march and for the presence of the Prince of Peace at all the rallies.
Group Called ‘Roman Catholic Womenpriests’ Say
They Are Defying The Church To Answer A Call From God
May 13, 2014 at 11:15 pm
LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Twenty years ago this month, the Vatican reaffirmed the ban on the ordination of women, which led to the birth of a movement within the Church called the “Roman Catholic Womenpriests” who say they are defying the Catholic Church to answer a call from God.
These devout Catholics, who preach teachings and rituals of their faith, were excommunicated by the Roman Catholic Church because, they say, they are women.
“It’s a sexist law created by some humans and the call of God trumps that,” Jennifer O’Malley said.
O’Malley, a self-proclaimed Catholic priest, holds prayer in a tiny Episcopalian Chapel in Long Beach.
“It’s important that everyone participates in the liturgy and everyone has a role,” she said about her small gatherings where everyone sits in a circle.
She is one of four self-proclaimed Catholic priests in Southern California who are part of the Roman Catholic Womenpriests. They are Catholics who believe they oversea the ordination of femalepriests — a movement that began decades ago in secret.
“The womanpriests movement was rooted in the 60s. It was not until 2002 that RCWP was formed when seven women were ordained by some male bishops on the Danube River,”
O’Malley says the movement has grown through “apostolic succession”. There are currently 180 of them worldwide, but most of them preach in the United States.
According to Gary Macy, a renowned author on the subject, women were ordained up until the 12th century, but only as leaders in the community.
“What you got was a job within the community, and any job you got went through an ordination ceremony,” she said.
The definition of ordination changed in the 13th century when the Church made it official barring women from receiving the holy sacrament, according to Macy. She said disobeying would be as serious as priests who sexually abuse children.
“The former Pope saw this as a grave crime — one that merits excommunication,” she said. “Women cannot be ordained priests and even if they went through the consecration ceremony or ordination ceremony, nothing happens.”
Rosa Manriquez said the law is not stopping her from following her dreams of becoming a Catholic priest.
“It’s like you can come here, but no further. And then I’ll hear how we’re all equal in the Church, but you just can’t be a priest,” Manriquez said. “That makes no sense.”
“My Church has a history of exclusion and has grown up over the centuries…over the decades. There was a time in the Church that Native Americans had no souls. There was time the Catholic Church was perfectly okay with slavery,” she added. “I think without those people in the Church who risked speaking out against slavery, who risked speaking out about what was said about Native American people, our church would not be where it is right now. It would not have progressed the way it has. My point is I am part of the Church that says there needs to be a change.”
Many in the RCWP movement hope change will happen, that one day women will be allowed to lead inside Catholic churches.
“Hopefully one day they’ll realize that gender won’t be a requirement to be called by God for ordination. But even if they don’t, the people are recognizing it, and the people are the Church,” O’Malley said.
“In any institution there can be like a tunnel vision, and there’s a need for someone to say ‘No, no, no. Look over here’,” Manriquez said. “I believe that’s what I’m doing as being part of the renewal of the Church — being one of those voices. It may not be recognized in my lifetime, but I think it’ll be eventually recognized.”
According to a New York Times/CBS poll, 59 percent of American Catholics support the ordination of women.