Ludmila Javorová (born 1932, Brno) is a Czech Roman Catholic woman who worked in the underground church during the time of communist rule in Czechoslovakia and served as a vicar general of a clandestine bishop. She is known for being one of a number of Czech women who underwent an ordination ceremony as a priest, the religious result of which is in dispute.
Javorová was born into a Catholic family, and expressed a wish to become a nun, but that was not possible in the time of communism. She started to work in civilian professions and to support Church activities in her free time.
According to statements made in 1995 and later, the underground bishop Felix Maria Davídek, who was a friend of her family, secretly ordained Javorová on December 28, 1970, during the early years of occupation of the country after the Prague Spring. She had served him as his secretary and deputy, after his return from prison in 1964, and "gradually took over important tasks in organising the clandestine Church structure Koinótés. Davídek named her his vicar general and later ordained her as a priest."
After the end of communist rule in Czechoslovakia in 1989, Javorová seemingly tried for some time to conceal her status from the wide public, saying that "the time is not ripe to talk about that". About 1995 she changed her mind and decided to speak. She helped to prepare a book interview about her experiences, authored by Miriam Therese Winter. Javorová now lives in Brno and remains an active member of the Roman Catholic Church. She is currently a speaker of the Liturgical Commission of her local parish.
While there appears to be no evidence that an ordination ceremony did or did not take place as claimed, its theological significance is in controversy.
On one side, Davidek justified the ordinations by the pastoral needs of a church suffering harsh persecution (he himself endured fourteen years in Communist prison for his faith) and in particular, of women tortured in prison who had no access to male priests but may have been ministered to by priests of the same gender. Archbishop John Bukovsky is quoted as saying that the ordinations were "illicit but valid".
On the other side, the Catechism of the Catholic Church states that an ordination ceremony performed on a woman would be invalid as well as illicit; this doctrine is found in the writings of Thomas Aquinas and many others. Pope John Paul II has written "Priestly ordination, which hands on the office entrusted by Christ to his Apostles of teaching, sanctifying and governing the faithful, has in the Catholic Church from the beginning always been reserved to men alone" in his Apostolic Letter, Ordinatio Sacerdotalis. This is reflected in the current Code of Canon Law.
The group Roman Catholic Womenpriests dispute this doctrine.
Within Davídek's group itself, the ordination of women and of married men was highly controversial and may have played a role in its splitting in the early 1970s. Davídek himself concealed Javorová's ordination from many of his co-workers and demanded written promises of "absolute silence on the matter" from people participating in his secret ordinations. Historians Fiala and Hanuš conclude that these ordained women (there were about five, Javorová being the only publicly known) found very few specific sacerdotal tasks in the Davídek's group, and conclude from this that their ordinations can therefore be considered as only a "symbolical act and a precedent".
Notes and references
- Christa Pongratz-Lippitt (11 April 2011). "Czechoslovakia’s Secret Church".
- Fiala/Hanuš, Skrytá církev..., p. 102; in Czech: "postupně přebírá důležité úkoly při vytváření skryté církevní struktury Koinótés. Davídek ji jmenoval svou generální vikářkou a posléze jí udělil kněžské svěcení."
- Bollag, Burton (April 12, 1992). "Vatican Rejects Secret Priests Ordained in Czechoslovakia". New York Times., also December 8, 1991
- http://www.womenpriests.org/called/javo_rep.asp, retrieved March 23, 2006
- Fiala/Hanuš, Skrytá církev..., pp. 95-102, 105-110.
- Fiala/Hanuš, Skrytá církev..., p. 104.
- Miriam Winter: Out of the Depths (a biography of Ludmila Javorová) 2001. ISBN 0-8245-1889-6
- Fiala, Petr and Hanuš, Jiří: Skrytá církev, Felix M. Davídek a společenství Koinótés, CDK Brno 1999 (ISBN 80-85959-39-9)