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Catholic Women’s Ordination – Response to Pope Francis interview with CBS 20 May 2024

For Immediate Release: May 21, 2024

We are shocked to hear that Pope Francis has rejected the possibility of women serving as ordained Deacons or members of the clergy. (Interview on CBS news on 20 May)

Many CWO members facilitated the process whereby people from parishes were consulted about their experience of Church and what they would like to see happen. Women’s ordination came up time and time again. A frequently stated concern was that there was no point to the consultation because “no-one listens”. In bypassing the October Synodal process, Pope Francis appears to be proving this to be a valid concern. What happened to “journeying together”?

After a blunt “No” to the question of whether a young Catholic girl would ever have the opportunity to be ordained, Pope Francis stated

But women have always had, I would say, the function of Deaconesses without being Deacons, right? Women are of great service as women, not as ministers…within the Holy Orders.”

This is insulting. Don’t women and girls experience enough oppression and discrimination in the world? Shouldn’t we expect better treatment from our Church and from this Pope? Why is the Institution still pursuing this misogynist path?

As Francis well knows, many women are called to ordained ministry. They suffer because they cannot test their calling; some have left to become Priests in other denominations and some have followed the Spirit’s call and become Roman Catholic Women Priests. They conduct meaningful ministries within their communities. The Institution’s response – excommunication!

We know that women served as ministers from the very beginning of Catholic Church history in the tradition of the Deacon Phoebe (Rm 16:1). Evidence is readily available for anyone who chooses to remove their misogynist blinkers.

We beg Pope Francis to listen not only to women called to ministry but also to the cries of parishioners throughout the world.

Catholic Women's Ordination (CWO) is a UK based organisation. For over 30 years, we have prayed and campaigned for ordained priestly ministry for women in a renewed Roman Catholic Church. We commit to demonstrating that the exclusion of women from ordination in the Roman Catholic Church reinforces the oppression and poverty of women and girls around the world

Press Release – Response to the ROME SYNOD 17 November 2023


CWO believes in a reformed, declericalised priesthood for women working alongside men in smaller, less hierarchical communities. We welcomed the Synod discussions about reducing clericalism. Clericalism excludes women, is less transparent and can encourage power being used abusively and it can only be effectively tackled once women are recognised as truly equal to men and restored to shared ministry as peers. 

We want to see decentralisation, with more decision making happening in local areas, responding to local needs. We see glimpses of this in the Early Church tradition upon which our faith is based 

CWO noted there was discussion about Women Deacons but no decisions were made. This is now the third recent attempt to further a case to restore the women’s diaconate. How much longer can this possibly take? 

CWO is, however, ambivalent about Women Deacons because it would likely entail "bolting us on" to the current hierarchical structures but in a way that limits the vocations of women. CWO is concerned that if women are made Deacons it might be a lesser form of the Diaconate without ordination, and with no possibility of consecrating the Eucharist -which is at the centre of Catholicism, the heart of church life and of which parishes are in desperate need.

CWO is pleased to note that reforming Seminary Training is on the future agenda. Few men are coming forward as candidates for priesthood so we soon envisage vast parishes with occasional brief visits from exhausted priests to say Mass. CWO believes further shortages may in fact accelerate positive change for women's equality in priestly ministry. CWO envisages flourishing, inclusive, active Eucharistic Communities, where women, alongside men, will be ordained in sacramental and pastoral care. 

We support optional celibacy for all priests.

We support inclusive language in the Liturgy.

In conclusion, we support the equality of women in the Catholic Church.


WOW Press Release

Bishops' Dubia

14th July 2023

CWO is a "Companion on the Road" to Spirit Unbounded

(press release)

“Human Rights in the Catholic Church” event

to Coincide with International Synod in Rome 


Spirit Unbounded, a global community of Catholic reform and other Christian and ecumenical networks that share a vision of a just and inclusive church, presents “Human Rights in the Catholic Church,” a weeklong event coinciding with the 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in Rome in October.


The Spirit Unbounded event will take place from 8–14 October 2023 and will feature both live and prerecorded digital presentations. Presentations from 8–12 October will be streamed online, with live and prerecorded presentations on 13–14 October. Gathering spaces in Bristol (UK) and Rome will allow people to attend the event in person.


Keynote speakers Sr. Joan Chittister (USA), Dr. Mary McAleese (Ireland), and Steven Newcomb (Shawnee-Lenape author and scholar) head an expanding international roster with over 70 speakers to date. Presenters include activists, artists, and storytellers alongside academics and theologians. Spirit Unbounded is aiming to represent the diversity of the global church at the event, particularly Indigenous communities, and presenters from Oceania, Central and South America, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. Speakers will address the theme of human rights in the Catholic Church, particularly how the church can move beyond clericalism to better model human rights both within and outside the institution.


Conceived as having “the ambience of a festival rather than a conference,” the event will highlight spiritual, theological, practical, doctrinal, and creative ways to reimagine authority and ministry, re-think ethical questions through the primacy of conscience, and renew a commitment to care for our neighbor and our environment. By linking the principles of justice, equality, and mercy to concrete actions, the event will enhance the synodal journey toward a more Christ-centered church. Additionally, it will offer participants from all over the world an opportunity to connect, share their hopes, and expand a network of reform-minded organizations that will endure beyond the official close of the Synod in 2024.


For all event information, including ticketing for both digital and in-person events and accommodation packages, please see the Spirit Unbounded event page here.

CWO statement on the Vatican Announcement about

the presence of women at the Synod 

28 April 2023
We welcome this first step, and the persistence of campaigning groups like CWO has helped to bring about  this positive, initial  move. It will make a significant difference to the Sisters in the Dicasteries with specific responsibilities. However, it is not enough for the lay women around the world who want a genuinely synodal church. 

The women will be chosen by Francis on the basis of their knowledge and “general culture and prudence”, the Vatican said. They will be chosen by a male, priestly hierarchy that have vowed before their own ordinations to uphold male only, priestly ordination.  
Cardinal Mario Grech, who is running the synod, emphasised that only 21% of the delegates would be non-bishops, stating: “It's an important change, it's not a revolution.”

We hope Francis will continue to promote able women and men from diverse backgrounds, but we need him to recognise the need for a truly synodal church, and the synodal demand for women priests is high on the list.  We want to see this "crack in the stained glass ceiling” brightly illuminated by the knowledge, wisdom and experience within our own and our sister organisations.
Prayers from our Vocation Sunday liturgy at Westminster Cathedral 
Women are standing on the “prophetic edge” of the church, denied the opportunity to stand in roles of meaningful leadership or ordained ministry. They have worn out their shoes walking the walk of service and ministry to a church that refuses to recognize their contributions and their callings.  

We pray for those who have gone the extra mile for the church, only to find the door to meaningful leadership and decision-making closed. 

Catholic women are called by God: called to renewed priesthood; called to equality; called to full participation in the leadership of the church.

Catholic Women’s Ordination - Companion to Spirit Unbounded

Press Release 6th March 2023


Catholic Women’s Ordination Press Release

on the death of Cardinal Pell 10th January 2023

For the second time in recent weeks, our prayers are focussed on survivors of clerical abuse whose trauma is rekindled by the death of Cardinal Pell.

An article in The Sydney Morning Herald 21 March 2005 concerned a silent
demonstration by women and men about the lack of women in power positions in the Roman Catholic Church. Pell gave a statement to the Herald that women priests would never happen, "not in any lifetime".

It hasn’t happened in his lifetime but it will.

The abused children didn't get justice in Pell's lifetime but it will come for all those marginalised and abused by the hierarchical church.

Catholic Women’s Ordination Press Release on the

death of Pope Emeritus Benedict  XVI 31 December 2022


Pope Benedict, who has died, sadly represented an exclusive male clerical, hierarchical church that forbade women even to discuss women's ordination. He went as far as to define the act of seeking women's ordination, an excommunicable offence during his time as pope, as a grave crime equal to clerical sexual abuse.


He resigned but continued to live in the Vatican, surrounded by clergy who supported his views. His powerful presence may have delayed some of the reforms that CWO still seeks. CWO continues to hope for an inclusive, truly synodal Church that welcomes women and men to use their gifts, including ordination, for the benefit of all.


As we pray for the repose of the soul of Pope Benedict, we pray too for all victims of clerical abuse for whom his death will be a trigger and for those women, throughout the world, whose vocations to the Catholic priesthood continue to be dismissed and blocked.

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