|Left to right: Miriam Picconi, Bridget Mary, Wanda Russell|
The Gospel of John portrays a close relationship between Mary of Magdala and Jesus. When the other disciples come and go, Mary stays nearby, weeping, searching for clues of Jesus whereabouts. Her grief is real. She has listened to his teaching and experienced his healing love. This type of deep friendship suggests a break with the social conventions of the time. Jesus treats Mary of Magdala as an equal among the male disciples. In an age where a woman’s word was suspect, the Risen Christ calls her to be the apostle to the apostles to proclaim the good news of the Resurrection, the central belief of Christianity.
In an ancient Coptic Christian Scripture, “Pistis Sophia”, written in the Second Century, Jesus chooses Mary of Magdala and John to “be on my right and on my left.” Mary’s prominence is reflected throughout the document. She asks 39 out of 46 questions and participates in providing interpretation of this document. Peter expresses resentment toward her throughout the work: “My Lord we shall not be able to endure this woman, for she takes our opportunity and she has not let any of us speak and takes all the time herself.” Mary objects to Peter’s efforts to intimidate her and charges that “ he hates the female race.” History is repeating itself today!
On Holy Thursday, April 5th, Pope Benedict chastised the growing number of male priests for their support of women priests. 400 Austrian priests and 300 German theologians have endorsed women priests. 800 Irish priests called the pope’s intervention “unfair, unwarranted and unwise.” (Irish Independent)
In the Gospel of Mary, written early in the Second Century, Jesus warns the disciples against following a “set of rules and laws not given by him.” Mary tells the disciples to proclaim the Gospel without fear. She assures them of the Savior’s presence. In the second part, she shares a vision she has received. Andrew and Peter react with scorn to her revelations but Levi defends her:
“Peter , thou has ever been of hasty temper. Now I see that thou dost exercise thyself against the woman like the adverseries. But if the Savior has made her worthy, who then art thou to reject her?”
The early Church Fathers affirmed to Mary’s leadership among the apostles.
Pope Hippolytus who lived from 170 to 236 AD, addressed the role of women in early Christianity: “Lest the female apostles doubt the angels, Christ himself came to them so that the women would be apostles of Christ… Christ showed himself to the male apostles and said to them…’It is I who appeared to the women and I who wanted to send them to you as apostles.’” (Brock, pp. 43-49)
Gregory of Antioch (d. 593) portrays Jesus as appearing to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary at the tomb and saying to them: “Be the first teachers to the teachers. So that Peter who denied me learns that I can also choose women as apostles.” (Brock, p. 15)
In Romans 16, St. Paul praises Junia and Andronicus, as “outstanding apostles” who were in Christ before he was. Since Paul, Junia and Andronicus were apostles, there were more than 12 apostles. The “twelve” was a symbolic number referring to the twelve tribes of Israel. And, of course, in spite of what the hierarchy in the Roman Catholic church states, Jesus did not ordain anyone at the last supper. Scholars, like Gary Macy, in The Hidden History of Women's Ordination , present scholarly evidence of women in Holy Orders during the first twelve hundred years of the church's history. (One could say that is the church's best kept secret, but NO MORE!!)
Roman Catholic Women Priests are ordained in apostolic succession because a male bishop with apostolic succession and in communion with the pope ordained our first bishops!
In 2002, 7 women were ordained on the Danube, in 2006, 12 women were ordained in the first U.S. Ordination in Pittsburgh. Now there are approximately 125. Women Priests are in Europe, U.S. Canada, and Latin America.
As part of an international initiative of the Roman Catholic Women Priests Movement, the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests claims equality as a human right. Our vision is justice for all, justice for the poor, justice for women, and justice for women in the church including ordination.
Our liberation movement is living prophetic obedience to the Spirit by disobeying an unjust, man-made, canon law that discriminates against women in our church. Sexism, like racism, is a sin. Women in the Roman Catholic Church are treated like second class citizens. Like Rosa Parks, whose refusal to sit in the back of the bus helped to ignite the civil rights movement, the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests are renewing and reforming the church. We serve the people of God as priests in a Christ-centered, Spirit-filled, inclusive community of equals.
We women priests in ARCWP stand in solidarity with Roman Catholic women and all women. We believe women have the divinely human right to make reproductive decisions on their own behalf-without consulting male priests or bishops. 98% of sexually active Catholic women have used a method of contraception banned by the U.S. bishops.
We are also aware of our sisters who live in abject poverty in the U.S. and across the globe. Many of these women have been denied access to affordable birth control by their governments. Others are forcibly denied the use of contraceptives by husbands or male partners who have no regard for their female partner’s safety or volition. The results of this tragedy has led to millions of deaths for women and children throughout the world especially in sub- Sahara Africa and the poorest parts of South Asia where contraceptives are frequently unavailable. If women priests were decision-makers in our church, contraception would not be an issue. Women priests are visible reminders that women are sacred and equal images of God and therefore, have the right and responsibility to plan and care for their families.
The New Testament identifies the crucified Christ with the Wisdom of God. …”to those who are called, Christ is the power and the wisdom of God.” ( 1 Cor. 24) The connection in scripture is made between the crucified Jesus of Nazareth and the cosmic Risen Christ in Christ- Sophia. In this liturgy today we integrate this powerful image of Christ Sophia in our prayer and song. Thanks to our music director Kathleen Rosenberg for the beautiful musical Mass of Christ Sophia which she composed.
Now we ordain our beloved Sisters, Miriam and Wanda, who will continue to minister on the margins, living compassion and justice no matter what obstacles come in their way. Wouldn’t Mary of Magdala be proud of them? … and us!! Alleluia!
(Ann Brock's book, Mary Magdalene, the First Apostle, concludes that the job description for apostle was the experience of an appearance of the resurrected Christ and a divine mandate. In that connection she quotes Gregory of Antioch (sixth century). Gregory portrays Jesus as coming to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary at the tomb with the charge, "Be the first teachers to the teachers. So that Peter who denied me learns that I can also choose women as apostles" (p. 15). Other texts are discussed in chapter five: the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Mary, Pistis Sophia, the Dialogue of the Savior, and the Sophia of Jesus Christ. She concludes that the tensions between Peter and Mary Magdalene rooted in historical controversies over the leadership role of women in the church. )
Bridget Mary Meehan, D.Min., a Sister for Christian Community, was ordained a Roman Catholic priest in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on July 31, 2006. She was ordained a bishop on April 19, 2009. Dr. Meehan is currently Dean of the Doctor of Ministry Program for Global Ministries University, and is the author of 20 books, including Living Gospel Equality Now: Loving in the Heart of God, The Healing Power of Prayer and Praying with Women of the Bible . She presides at liturgies in Mary, Mother of Jesus Inclusive Catholic Community in Sarasota, Florida and celebrates liturgies with groups in N.VA. Dr. Meehan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and www.arcwp.org