Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Inside NCR

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Inside NCR

Article excerpt

Perhaps another bishop or two, somewhere in the world, has secretly ordained a woman.

The one we know of, though, was ordained in the secrecy of an underground church during the desperation caused by the extremes of the Cold War in Czechoslovakia. One gets the sense that this was not so much an act of defiance as it was an accomplishment of holiness. So there is an unexpected calm threading through the report beginning on page 36, an exclusive first look at Miriam Therese Winter's book on the ordination of Ludmila Javorova. This book, to be published next month, is the vehicle Javorova has chosen to tell her story. Previously she has been almost silent about the matter. When our Rome correspondent, John Allen, visited Javorova in her apartment in the southern Czech city of Brno in 1999, she would speak only in general terms. One explanation that she said could be used and appears in Allen's book, Cardinal Ratzinger: The Vatican's Enforcer of the Faith, was that her ordination was not a feminist statement but rather a strategy for the pastoral care of women jailed by the communists.

Bishop Felix Davidek, who ordained Javorova, had been imprisoned himself and was held in a place where the exercise yards for men and women were separated by only a wall, Allen writes. "Davidek would say Mass while walking around the yard, jumping up and shouting the words of consecration over the wall so the women could hear. He realized this was inadequate and wanted to prepare a small number of women to administer the sacraments in prison, on the assumption that some of them, since they were active in the underground church, would eventually be arrested. …

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