Women have always been the majority of members in almost all religious groups. Not only they supported church financially gathering money through bake sales and community suppers but also they sewed altar cloths, taught at Sunday schools and organized a church choir. What’s most important, women raised their children in religious traditions of the family. There would be no next generation to keep the faith alive without them. But no matter how big women’s contribution to the development of the church and religion was, they were always on the sidelines and didn’t try to change anything.
Only in the 1960′s. during the second wave of the feminist movement, some activists started to emerge. They were campaigning for women’s ordination in the priesthood. In 1965, religious feminists called for “radical changes in church,” and later created an organization dedicated to women clergy of the Roman Catholic Church. In 1975 the first conference devoted to womenpriests of the Roman Catholic Church was held in Detroit. Among the subjects of this conference two main themes were discussed: ordination of the women and creation of a renewed church and clergy through a radical transformation of the church hierarchy. In 2002 the first seven women ever were ordained by a bishop in Austria. Later they were excommunicated by Pope John Paul II. However since then, more and more womenpriests began to appear in the U.S. and Europe. These women expect structural changes in the Roman Catholic Church that will allow them to be priests along with men. Despite the fact that they do not want to go against the church or separate from it, often just the opposite happens: they are excommunicated from the church for trying to serve God. As a result women are more alienated from the church, having no desire to accept the religious canons. Another contradiction is that women want to be ordained by man, exactly following the traditions of the Roman Catholic Church, while the main purpose of women priests is to change the traditional hierarchy and achieve equal status with men. It turns out that by performing men’s religious rituals, women still agree with the traditions of the church that symbolize its patriarchal and discriminatory role of women in the church.
Women are trying to be a part of men’s ordination rituals, instead of fighting with the existing structure and hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church, and instead of trying to instill new traditions and rituals associated with the women ordination. Such a method of struggle makes this system more conservative and complicates the women’s path to equality in religion and the church. You must first change society’s attitude towards women ordination, as it is the congregation that doesn’t always perceive a woman as a preacher. Therefore, women can expect even the smallest change in the structure of the Roman Catholic Church only after overcoming stereotypes in their environment. However, the slightest change in the structure of this ancient institution may require not tens but even hundreds of years. It is probably easier to create an institution separate from the Roman Catholic Church, which will deal with women’s ordination. It will be easier for the Vatican to accept fully formed institution, recognized by society, than just a group of women who want to have equal religious rights with men.
As for the Russian Orthodox Church, it also has negative attitude towards ordained women. This attitude is explained by the fact that all the apostles were men, so only men can be priests and ordain. But since among the Orthodox, there is no active women movement for the right to be priests, this issue was raised only once in the discussions of the World Council of Churches. Therefore, there is no fierce debate on this issue in Russia yet.