Dissent within the Catholic Church is always complicated. The dogma of infallibility of the Church, that in certain circumstances the accuracy of the teachings of the Church is guaranteed by the Holy Spirit, is an article of faith for Catholics. You would assume a concept like this would preclude disobedience among church figures and active laity, which is why the recent ordination of four Roman Catholic women as priests in Catonsville is so remarkable.
The Roman Catholic Womenpriests movement began in Germany in 2002, when seven women were ordained by three bishops. Despite a 2008 Vatican decree that promises excommunication for women seeking ordination and bishops who participate in the ceremonies, the movement has been gathering momentum since the “Danube Seven,” as the first women priests are called, have gone on to ordain more women, with more than forty women ordained in the United States alone.
Of the four women ordained in Catonsville (two of whom are local), at least three are married, which further puts them at odds with the Vatican’s position on eligibility for priesthood.
It doesn’t seem likely that the Vatican will change its position on the ordination of women anytime soon, especially considering Pope Benedict XVI’s conservative papacy, which just in the last couple years has put great effort into a constriction on the practices of Catholic nuns. Given the long-running decline in the number of priests, perhaps it should reconsider.
The whole issue has yet to come to a head. Time will tell whether the women’s ordination movement will eventually be accepted into the larger Catholic fold or produce a new schism in the Church. Either way, it’s history in the making, and Catonsville will have played at least a small part.