The Women's Ordination Conference (1975--1994): An introduction to a movement

Laurie Jane Wright Garry, Marquette University


The Women's Ordination Conference (WOC) offers perhaps the most significant example of American Catholic popular theological discussion of the ordination of women in the Catholic Church. This dissertation studies the women's ordination issue in the U.S. from 1975, the year of the First International Women's Ordination Conference, to 1994, the issuance of Ordinatio Sacerdotalis . In particular, the dissertation investigates how WOC and the hierarchy treat three key themes inherent in the debate: Theological anthropology (the nature of humanity as male and female); the roles and status of men and women in church and society; and the general understanding and flourishing of church order and social order. The contribution of the dissertation is two-fold. First, it provides an introduction to central theological dimensions of the debate. After the introduction (Chapter 1), I examine the historical context of the hierarchical Catholic teachings on the ordination of women between 1975 and 1994. I demonstrate and evaluate some arguments in these documents giving specific attention to the following themes: (a) theological anthropology, (b) roles and status of men and women in church and society, (c) understanding of church order and social order (Chapter 2). Second, my cataloging and studying of Marquette University Memorial Library's WOC Archives, which had not been previously investigated, makes these materials more readily and widely accessible for other researchers. After providing a brief historical overview of the WOC conferences, its dialogue with U.S. Bishops, its national leaders, its prominent theological voices, its actions and its key themes (Chapter 3), I analyze the arguments used by WOC in light of the three aforementioned focal themes (Chapter 4). In the concluding chapter, I confirm that a positive interchange between the hierarchy and WOC regarding these three themes is instrumental to explicate this issue in contemporary American Catholicism. I also suggest directions for further research (Chapter 5). Detailed appendices identify WOC archives, articles, leaders and awardees. An extensive timeline lists significant dates in the women's ordination movement. An index to the appendices will benefit the reader.

Recommended Citation

Garry, Laurie Jane Wright, "The Women's Ordination Conference (1975--1994): An introduction to a movement" (2000). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI9977730.