Ever heard of the Danube 7? I hadn’t though I pride myself in being alert to women’s issues. The Danube 7 are Catholic women who felt they were called to the priesthood. They took the same training as their male counterparts and were ordained by church bishops who had the power to do so. The sole difference between them and other Catholic priests is that they are females. Of course, when the Catholic church heard of their heresy, the women were excommunicated, denied the right of burial in church ground and condemned to the eternal suffering of hell — a fate which never threatened pedophile priests.
One could argue these women had an alternative for their calling. The Episcopalian church welcomes female priests. But these 7 chose Catholic ordination in the hope of opening the priesthood not only for women but for married men and gays as well. (“The Rebel Priests” by Julia Duin, More, May 2013, pg. 124) Since that first ordination, June 29, 2002, 124 women around the world have become Catholic priests. 10 have been elevated to bishops. They work outside the walls of the Church, of course, but two groups have emerged to champion their cause: The Association of Roman Catholic women Priests (ARCWP) and the larger Roman Catholic Woman priest (RCWP-USA).
Public sentiment seems to be with these rebellious women as they attempt to drag the Church into the 21st century. A Pew Poll suggests 62% of practicing Catholics support the need for innovation and about 30 million former members have fallen away, in part, because of a lack of reform. (Ibid pg. 124) Like the American nuns who have been chastised by Church authorities for focusing too much on helping the poor rather than railing against abortion, the Danube 7 are struggling to revitalize their religion from within. Their efforts have been described as “fraught with threats which require courage.” (Ibid, pg. 124)
I’m not surprised by the description. Feminine history has been nothing but a tale of courage. In our country, women vote because the Suffragettes were defiant. In Pakistan, Malala Yousafzai, braved a murderous Taliban to obtain her education. Samar Badawi, a Saudi woman, sued her government in the courts, hoping women will one day no longer be legally declared children. Progress toward equality is slow. But each time a woman challenges her oppressors, she gives courage to others. My hope is that one day a single voice will emerge. “Enough of the tyranny. Enough!”