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Hear our radio interview with Nancy Corran and Jane Via by clicking the orange arrow above.

By Miriam Raftery

May 21, 2016 (San Diego) – You may be surprised to learn that although the Catholic Church officially refuses to allow ordination of women as priests, a reform movement within the church called Roman Catholic Women Priests includes 200 women priests who have already been ordained  by male Catholic bishops. 

These rebel religious leaders, whose ordinations are not recognized by the Church, include Nancy Corran, a Roman Catholic woman priest who leads the Mary Magdalene Apostle Catholic Community (MMACC) here in San Diego.  

The MMACC has issued a statement supporting Pope Francis’ recent announcement of plans to establish a panel to study the prospect of ordaining women as deacons.

“This could be the start of something big,” a statement issued by the MMACC states. 

Just 20 years ago, Pope John Paul II, in Ordinato Sacerdotalis, stated that the Church had no authority to ordain women as either deacons or priests.  The faithful were expected to adhere to that belief and the popular interpretation was that people could not even talk about the subject, the MMACC’s statement recalls.

THE MMACC urges Pope Francis to establish a panel with members from all points of view on the issue, and to set reasonable timelines for the panel to proceed and publicize its results.  “MMACC hopes and prays that this debate leads to positive action leading to ordination of women deacons as full equals of their male counterparts,” the group’s statement continues. “MMAC further prays that this will lead to ordination of women priests in the institutional Church, for which there is historical evidence and precedent in the first 1100 years of the Church’s existence.”

That includes the first seven women members of Roman Catholic Women Priests, who were ordained by male Roman Catholic bishops on the Danube River in 2002, Corran told East County Magazine. “They are thus considered in the line of Peter, what the church calls `apostolic succession.’”

Corran told East County Magazine, “They were indeed ex-communicated.  However, the movement grew, and even should their ordination be "irregular," the church still has to contend with the fact that these women were indeed ordained priests and from them, a gender inclusive branch.

Today, she says, there are about 200 women worldwide ordained as Roman Catholic Women Priests and many RCWP-led communities. The largest is the Mary Magdalene Apostle Catholic Community here in San Diego.  MMACC was founded by a now retired Roman Catholic Woman Priest, Dr. Jane Via.  Nancy Corran is her successor as pastor. Corran, ordained in 2010, holds a Diploma in Theology from Oxford and an MDiv from San Francisco Theological Seminary of the Graduate Theological Union (GTU) in Berkeley.

Most in the community are “Vatican II Catholics,” she says, adding, “These are Roman Catholics who were swept up in the spirit of the hoped-for reforms in the 60s. Over the next decades, they saw the promising reforms reeled back. This current Pope has certainly re-ignited some of that hope for renewal.”

MMACC welcomes all, especially those whom the institutional church marginalizes. The community meets weekly for Mass Sundays at 5 pm, at Gethsemane Lutheran Church, 2696 Melbourne Dr., San Diego, 92123.  In Serra Mesa above Qualcomm Stadium.   MMACC.ORG

RCWP hopes to ultimately win recognition from the Church, though that could prove a formidable challenge to attain. As recently as last year, National Catholic Reporter indicated that the pontiff stated, “"Women priests -- that cannot be done.” He added, “Pope St. John Paul II -- after long, long discussions, long reflections -- said it clearly."

Acknowledging that the Vatican typically proceeds at a glacial pace, MMACC’s statement concludes, “Constant action from lay groups will determine whether the Vatican will progress at all or, absent solid action, whether they will freeze solid in the embrace of tradition. Embracing tradition will continue the second class status of females in the Church.  Or will this panel be the start of something really big?”  


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Interview with Jane Via and Nancy Corran, Mary Magadalene Apostle Catholic Community