Excommunicated Catholic 'womenpriests' push for female ordination

(Photo: REUTERS / Neil Hall)The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby speaks with female priests after their march celebrating the 20th anniversary of women becoming ordained priests in the Church of England in London May 3, 2014.

A group of women who formed "Roman Catholic Womenpriests" say they will push their quest for female ordination in the Catholic Church from which they have been excommunicated.

The group said from California they are devout Catholics and have formed an association called the "Roman Catholic Womenpriests," CBS Los Angeles reported on May 13.

The RCWP was organized in 2002 when seven women were ordained by some male bishops on Europe's Danube River.

Despite the ban on the ordination of women,  noted by Pope Francis in his November apostolic exhortation "Evangelii Gaudium" (the Joy of the Gospel), the women said they continue to defy their church to answer a call from God.

On May 3, the Church of England celebrated the 20th anniversary of women becoming ordained priests in London.

In September the Pope had excommunicated Australian priest Father Greg Reynolds, in his first such act, for supporting the ordination of women as Catholic priests.

Reynolds told National Catholic Reporter he believes the excommunication is linked to his support for same-sex marriage and that he had attended rallies that favor changing the definition of marriage.

The Roman Catholic Womenpriests assert they were excommunicated by the church simply because they are women.

They say they have challenged the Church's Canon Law 1024, saying only baptized males can be ordained, and they describe it as "an unjust law that discriminates against women."

"It's a sexist law created by some humans and the call of God trumps that," Jennifer O'Malley, one of the self-proclaimed female priests, now said to number 180 worldwide, told CBS. Most of this group are Americans.

The RCWP claims its ordinations are valid.

"We are ordained in apostolic succession within the Roman Catholic Church." On their website they defend their movement and explain their fight for the ordination of women.

"We women are no longer asking for permission to be priests. Instead, we have taken back our rightful God-given place ministering to Catholics as inclusive and welcoming priests," they write on their website.

In November, Pope Francis affirmed the Catholic Church's millennium old ban against the ordination of women saying the church is not going to change its position.

"The reservation of the priesthood to males, as a sign of Christ the spouse who gives himself in the Eucharist, is not a question open to discussion," the Pope wrote in Evangelii Gaudium.

He acknowledged that "... many women share pastoral responsibilities with priests, helping to guide people, families and groups and offering new contributions to theological reflection ...."

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