Sept. 13, 2007 - Last week 25-year-old Jessica Rowley became one of about a dozen women nationwide to make a highly unusual career move: she was ordained a Catholic priest. Rowley’s ordination—which took place at Eden Theological Seminary, a progressive institution in Webster Groves, Mo.—is approved by the Ecumenical Catholic Communion, a group of churches that decline to recognize the authority of the pope but see themselves nevertheless as Roman Catholic. This week Rowley—who is also married—begins working full-time as an associate pastor at Saints Clare & Francis, a breakaway parish in Webster Groves.
The Roman Catholic Church, not surprisingly, does not recognize Rowley as a priest. “The Church does not see itself able to ordain women, following the long and constant teaching of the church,” says Sister Mary Ann Walsh, a spokeswoman for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. (It does, however, recognize the more than 100 already married men who became priests after a conversion to Roman Catholicism.)
It appears that the Ecumenical Catholic Communion have something in common with various Protestant sects (and it’s not that they think the Pope is just a guy in a funny hat). The ECC apparently just follow some of the other major tenets of Catholicism (i.e. transubstantiation et al). And the whole celibacy/ not getting married part of the priesthood was not introduced until the Middle Ages. The logic was that the church could only consolidate land holdings if they were not responsible for the offspring of the priesthood. And that sort of just held on. We wonder if certain rebel, non-papal Catholic groups are going to force change on the part of the church in Rome. This is a pretty good story if you have a minute to read.