In his new book The Universal Christ, Richard Rohr writes
“you can only reform things long term by unlocking them from inside – by their own chosen authoritative sources. Outsiders have little authority or ability to reform anything. . . . We need to reconstruct and not just continue to deconstruct.”
He cites Jesus and Paul as examples of prophetic reformers who trusted their own experience of God versus the status quo of Judaism. They reframed the tradition for inclusion of more people.
Our international Roman Catholic Women Priests Movement has been deconstructing a patriarchal male model of priestly ministry excluding those who don’t follow the man-made rules of the Church. Instead, the Movement reconstructs a new model of inclusive ministry in which all are one in Christ, spiritual equals invited to celebrate sacraments.
In our inclusive communities, for example, the entire assembly is invited to pray the words of institution/consecration, in contrast to the institutional Roman Catholic Church where this is the role of the priest alone. Likewise, at our ARCWP ordinations, the people, not just the bishop and clergy, are invited to lay hands on the ordinands.
We are leading the Church out of a medieval clerical understanding of a male priest as persona Christi possessing exclusive power to “confect” sacraments because of his ordination. We affirm the Christ Presence in the entire people of God and in all creation.
According to contemporary theologians such as Bernard Cook in The
Future of Eucharist,
“a fresh understanding of the resurrection has led people to accept
Christ's constant and active presence in the believing community, changing their view of "real presence" and opening them to accept the whole body of Christ as co-celebrant with the priest. These new understandings - already evident in some Catholic congregations - will change the way all Catholics think and worship in future years.”
The priest alone does not have magic powers to make Christ present in the Eucharist. Rather, it is the entire Body of Christ, priest and people, who manifest the Christ Presence in the Eucharist. As members of a community of equals, women priests are modeling a new relational, inclusive, welcoming model of priestly ministry. They are spiritual friends, contemplative activists, prophetic voices, facilitators of inclusive sacramental celebrations. They are reframing the tradition to include everyone especially our sisters and brothers who have been excluded and marginalized in our sacramental rites and celebrations.