As the United States prepares for the first visit from Pope Francis in September, the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests is preparing to ordain three new bishops due to the growth in the movement. This peace-and-justice pope is rekindling the spiritual fire of Vatican II that has been stifled by his predecessors.
There is an important question ARCWP asks him to answer when he makes his visit here: Will he put actions to his words about primacy of conscience?
Pope Francis spoke about the primacy of conscience, resurfacing a Vatican II teaching that past popes have suppressed and ignored. In a Sunday Angelus address on June 30, 2013 that aired on Vatican Radio he said, "May Mary help us to become more and more ... free in our conscience, because it is in conscience that the dialogue with God is given — men and women able to hear the voice of God and follow it with decision."
Pope Francis also said, "Jesus wants neither selfish Christians, who follow their egos and do not speak with God, nor weak Christians, without will, 'remote-controlled' Christians, incapable of creativity, who seek ever to connect with the will of another, and are not free. Jesus wants us to be free, and this freedom - where is it found? It is to be found in the inner dialogue with God in conscience."
As ordained Roman Catholic Women Priests, we have listened to our informed consciences and have heard God calling us to be priests. On part of his tour, Pope Francis will come to Philadelphia a few days after our new bishops will be ordained there on Sept. 24.
This act of ordaining women has been called by the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith "a grave offense against the faith" and has been put in the same category as pedophilia. Women who follow their consciences by answering God's call to the priesthood are also excommunicated by the church. People who attend the liturgies and/or ordinations of women priests are threatened with excommunication.
When Pope Francis visits Philadelphia and sees the news of the ordinations of our new bishops will he consider lifting these excommunications? If he really means what he says about primacy of conscience it would seem like a very wise and fitting action.