Women's Ordination Conference

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The Women's Ordination Conference is an organization in the United States that works to ordain women as deacons, priests, and bishops in the Catholic Church.

Founded in 1975, the conference was seeded from an idea the year before, 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. The first gathering was held in Detroit, Michigan on the Thanksgiving weekend of 1975, with nearly 2,000 people in attendance.[2]

According to the teachings of the Catholic Church, ordaining women is theologically impossible, as Pope John Paul II declared in Ordinatio sacerdotalis.


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.[3]

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,[4] and 2005 in Ottawa, Canada.[5] Those two groups also hosted a conference in September 2015 in Philadelphia, just prior to Pope Francis' first visit to the United States.[6]

In October 2018, WOC organized a peaceful protest outside the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome to call for "Votes for Catholic Women" during the Fifteenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on "Young People, Faith, and Vocational Discernment."[7] The "Votes for Catholic Women" campaign gained both liberal and conservative support in arguing that female religious superiors should be allowed to vote alongside male religious superiors at the Synod.[8] Members of WOC and other Catholic reform groups clashed with Italian police during the protest.[9]

Leadership and views[edit]

Kate McElwee is the executive director of the Women's Ordination Conference as of June 2022.[10]

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. The conference has said Pope Francis could refer to that finding to allow females into the priesthood.

He [Francis] could have quoted the Vatican's own the Pontifical Biblical Commission that concluded in 1976 that there is no valid scriptural or theological reason for denying ordination to women.

— [11]

WOC draws upon a range of scriptural, historical, theological, and political material to promote women's ordination. These positions include Jesus's inclusion of women as his partners in ministry, evidence for women's leadership in the early church, the theological stance that women are capable of imaging Christ on earth, the church's evolution throughout history, the authenticity of women's vocations, and the sociopolitical outcomes of women's equal leadership.[12]

Canonical status[edit]

As with another organization dedicated to the ordination of women in the Catholic Church, Roman Catholic Womenpriests, members of WOC that have attempted female Catholic ordination enter into state of automatic (latae sententiae) excommunication.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Women's Ordination Conference - Our Story". www.womensordination.org. Archived from the original on 29 May 2009. Retrieved 17 January 2022.
  2. ^ "New book charts women priests movement for human rights in religion". Womensnewsnetwork.net. November 24, 2011.
  3. ^ "Our Story | Women's Ordination Conference". Womensordination.org.
  4. ^ "Now is the time: A celebration of women's call to a renewed priesthood (Dublin 2001)". Women's Ordination Worldwide.
  5. ^ "Breaking Silence, Breaking Bread: Christ Calls Women to Lead (Ottawa 2005)". Women's Ordination Worldwide.
  6. ^ /conference-details/[dead link]
  7. ^ Poggioli, Sylvia. "Vatican's Meeting Of Bishops Is Overshadowed By Abuse Allegations". Peconicpublicbroadcasting.org.
  8. ^ Kuruvilla, Carol (October 16, 2018). "Catholic Activists Demand Women's Voting Rights At Major Vatican Meeting". HuffPost.
  9. ^ "After brief embrace with prelates, activists clash with Italian police". National Catholic Reporter. October 3, 2018.
  10. ^ "Board of Directors and Staff | Women's Ordination Conference". Womensordination.org.
  11. ^ "Pope Francis slams door on women's ordination | Women's Ordination Conference". Womensordination.org.
  12. ^ "Why Ordination? | Women's Ordination Conference". Womensordination.org.

External links[edit]