Women's Ordination Conference

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The Women's Ordination Conference is the oldest and largest organization in the United States that works to ordain women as deacons, priests, and bishops in the Roman Catholic Church. Founded in 1975, it primarily advocates for the ordaining of women within the Catholic Church. The idea for the Conference came in 1974, when Mary B. Lynch asked the people on her Christmas list if it was time to publicly ask "Should Catholic women be priests?" [1] 31 women and one man answered yes, and thus a task-force was formed and a national meeting was planned. This first meeting was held in Detroit, Michigan, on Thanksgiving weekend of 1975, with nearly 2,000 people in attendance.[2]

Leadership and views[edit]

Erin Saiz Hanna and Kate McElwee are Co-Executive Directors of the Women's Ordination Conference.[3]

WOC leaders frequently cite a conclusion of Catholic theologians from the Vatican's Pontifical Biblical Commission that found no scriptural basis for the exclusion of women from the Catholic priesthood, saying Pope Francis could refer to that finding to allow females into the priesthood.


After its foundation in 1975, WOC first gained notoriety in 1979 during Pope John Paul II's first visit to the United States. Leaders of the group led a vigil the night before the pope's audience at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.. During the pope's talk at the venue, Mercy Sr. Theresa Kane, then the leader of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, asked the pope to permit women to serve in all ministries of the Catholic Church.[5]

The organization has also hosted several conferences after their inaugural event in 1975 in Detroit, with conferences in 1978 in Baltimore and 1995 in Washington, D.C. It has also hosted conferences in conjunction with Women's Ordination Worldwide in 2001 in Dublin, Ireland,[6] and 2005 in Ottawa, Canada.[7] Those two groups are also hosting a conference in September 2015 in Philadelphia, just prior to Pope Francis' first visit to the United States.[8]


Another organization dedicated to the ordination of women in the Catholic Church, Roman Catholic Womenpriests, has incurred an automatic excommunication by decree of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Leaders of WOC that have attempted female ordination with RCWP may also be said by some to join them in a state of latae sententiae excommunication.

See also[edit]