October 22nd, 2010
07:00 AM ET

The life of a so-called woman priest

Editor's Note: CNN's Philip Rosenbaum, Jonathan O'Beirne and Carl Graf bring us this story and video from Staten Island, New York.

It's a busy Sunday morning in August for Gabriella Velardi Ward in her modest home in the New York City borough of Staten Island.

Velardi Ward lights candles, gingerly lays out prayer sheets and looks at herself in the mirror, mindfully putting on her white robe and vestments.

A short woman with a behemoth sense of spiritual self, Velardi Ward also attends to earthly matters.

While she makes sure the table is full of healthy vegetarian dips and finger foods, umbrella-carrying worshipers trickle through the door before the heavens unload. She hugs new arrivals who take seats in a rough circle in the humble but welcoming suburban living room.

To any stranger, this would be a scene to behold: a demonstration of belief, perhaps similar in passion to 1960s war protests whose organizers loved their country but felt deep pain over some of its most troublesome acts.

Velardi Ward leads this sing-a-long and prayer-filled sit-in of devotion and rebellion on behalf of God, his creatures great and small and her half of humankind.

She says this is a Catholic Mass.

She says she is the priest.

"I was five when I told my sister that I wanted to be a priest and she laughed at me and said, 'You can't, you're a girl."'

"I've been a Roman Catholic priest since July of 2008," Velardi Ward says, in proud defiance of official Church doctrine, which strictly forbids women from the role.

Velardi Ward, ordained by a worldwide organization called Roman Catholic Womenpriests, says some express surprise that she is a woman of the cloth. Like her sister many years ago, others say that's not even possible.

"Women and men are created equal by God and can therefore equally represent Christ," the vision statement of Roman Catholic Womenpriests says in its counterpoint.

Before being ordained as a woman priest, the group requires a college degree in divinity, theology, or other related subject, a litany of religious and community experience, plus a written "synopsis of one's life story of the applicant's growing awareness of a possible call to priesthood."

"Rooted in a response to Jesus, who called women and men to be disciples and equals in spreading the Good News, we are called to exemplify the changes we wish to see in the Church," the statement says.

"For me, it was falling in love with the Mass. It was falling in love with Benediction. It was falling in love with prayer. It was falling in love with just being with God, even at that age," says Velardi Ward, who, as a child, drew chalices and tabernacles, while classmates were more into Rock and Roll, G.I. Joe and Barbie.

In third grade, Velardi Ward joined a vocation club geared towards entering the convent. She also began reading religious philosophers and later explored other faiths, such as Bahá'í and Buddhism.

"I wanted to find God. I wasn't feeling it. I wasn't finding it in this way because I was rejected," she says, because of her gender.

The 63-year-old mother of two broke off from the Church after high school and did not come back until she was in her 40s, when she became very active in a local church and once again felt the overwhelming desire to be a priest.

She went to seminary to study for the calling.

"We are members of the Church. We are a reform movement within the Church. We are not a schism, we are not leaving," she says.

But the Church does not agree, to put it mildly. In July, the Vatican's Chief Internal Prosecutor Monsignor Charles Scicluna called women’s ordination a “grave delict.”

Ordained women are subject to ex-communication according to Canonical law.

"We stand in a long line of prophetic disobedience to an unjust law. Ex-communication doesn't have power unless you give it power. So, to me, it doesn't mean anything," she said.

Most striking, rules recently issued by the Vatican have made the ordination of women as priests a "crime against the faith" that it puts on a similar level of sin as pedophilia.

"To compare people who destroy lives of children to we, who want to serve the people of God, is outrageous to me," Velardi Ward says.

"How dare, how dare they put that in the same sentence?" she asks, adding that women are also made in the image of God.

Citing a 1976 statement from the Pontifical Biblical Commission, Roman Catholic Womenpriests writes that there is no scriptural reason women cannot be ordained.

The group paraphrases Galatians 3:28 as saying there is "no male or female in Christ Jesus" and says there is archeological evidence of women priests, deacons and bishops.

"In obedience to Jesus, we are disobeying an unjust law," the statement says.

Roman Catholic Womenpriests last year called on Pope Benedict to lift the decree "as a gesture of reconciliation and justice toward women in the church," saying in a news release that it would be a "step away from the institutional church's treatment of women as second-class citizens."

An architect by profession, Velardi Ward estimates that about 125 women priests have been ordained around the world, some keeping it secret to avoid trouble.

What does she believe Jesus Christ would say about the controversy?

"I think Jesus would say to the church, "What are you doing to my church? This is not the church I founded. I included everyone. I taught women who were not allowed to be taught back then. I associated with, I had theological conversations with the women."

Velardi Ward says anyone who sees only males as priests is "worshipping the male." Women make good priests, she says, because they're "compassionate" and bring a balance of male and female energy she says is missing.

Velardi Ward is hopeful about the future and prays for change.

"Right now we are on the fringes and the Church is the center," she says.

"But I think in 50 years, what might happen is that the fringes will grow so large and the center will become so small that after a while the fringes will welcome the center back into the church."

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Catholic Church • New York • United States • Vatican • Women

soundoff (110 Responses)
  1. panyimady

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    October 18, 2011 at 11:21 am |
  2. If You Dare

    Here is a story worth reading, confirmed by doctors present!

    But during "standstill", Pam's brain was found "dead" by all three clinical tests – her electroencephalogram was silent, her brain-stem response was absent, and no blood flowed through her brain. Interestingly, while in this state, she encountered the "deepest" NDE of all Atlanta Study participants.

    Some scientists theorize that NDEs are produced by brain chemistry. But, Dr. Peter Fenwick, a neuropsychiatrist and the leading authority in Britain concerning NDEs, believes that these theories fall far short of the facts. In the doc-u-mentary, "Into the Unknown: Strange But True," Dr. Fenwick describes the state of the brain during a NDE:


    This person was totally braindead, so no activity existed in the brain. Yet, she saw her operation down to a new tool being used on her during surgery. Read if you dare, about the afterlife she expierienced.

    October 26, 2010 at 7:43 pm |
  3. Pauline

    In the "Old Catholic" faith, both women and men may reach the priesthood.

    I do not see any valid arguments as to why women can't be priests. Why isn't it valid if a woman feels that God is calling her to be a priest? I don't know...

    October 25, 2010 at 1:11 pm |
  4. JohnQuest


    Are you familiar with the following verses:
    1 Tim othy 3:2;
    Ti tus 1:6
    1 Tim othy 3:11-12
    1 Tim othy 2:11-14
    Eph esians 5:22-33

    There are many more, seems that the Bible itself suppr esses females, “Let the woman learn in silence with all sub jection"

    October 25, 2010 at 10:44 am |
    • Reality

      To be fair to "Saint" Paul, the Ephesian, Ti-tus and Timothy epistles were, as per most modern NT exegetes, not written by Paul but were penned by pseudo-Pauls

      October 25, 2010 at 4:29 pm |
  5. Scorn

    Prepare for the end of lies. Truth will rule in the end even if all are dead. To deny truth is to deny everything.
    Stop the lies. Stop all of them. Start today.

    October 25, 2010 at 8:07 am |
    • Reality


      One more time:

      In his book, Church: The Human Story of God, Father Edward Schillebeeckx, the famous contemporary theologian, noted:

      "Therefore the historical future is not known even to God; otherwise we and our history would be merely a puppet show in which God holds the strings.

      For God, too, history is an adventure, an open history for and of men and women."

      Of course, Father Schillebeeckx, made the assumption that there is a god, something even he could not prove!!!

      October 25, 2010 at 8:46 am |
  6. Dindy.....

    Please Guys........what are these arguments?? Pray Jesus to come back soon and cleanse all of us and become one church that he, our lord only rule..

    October 24, 2010 at 11:28 pm |
  7. CatholicMom

    Your weak arguments don’t even start to make one do anything other than..sigh…and wonder what we can do for you….

    October 24, 2010 at 6:42 pm |
    • capnjammer

      @Catholicmom: your only arguments are to say that other people's arguments are wrong, to spew back what you have learned from your church, and to accuse people who make logical, reasoned attempts to explain to you that religion is bad of being hateful and spiteful. Really, you are the one who needs help.

      I accuse YOU of being hateful and bigoted and spiteful and intolerant. You think being ho-mos-exual is a sin, because you listen to your evil overlords. You may say you love the sinner, and hate the sin, but g-ay people aren't se-xually deviant... they just ARE G-AY, which means if you hate their sin, you hate them. You can claim your organization knows better than that, that it is just an excuse, but you are wrong. You wonder why I stand up against religion? I want humanity to be peaceful and happy. I want everyone to live together ion peace. It never will happen as long as a Bronze Age book of mythology is leading our ideals. Science knows better now, that ho-mos-exuality is natural, but as long as you hold on to your superst-itions, the people who are born that way will have to continue to fight to be happy and have equal rights.

      You, CatholicMom, are the hateful one here, not me, and I feel bad for your kids... they will grow up to be just as hateful and intolerant as you, and they will try to hide it under the false disguise of religion like you. They will never know any other way, because you are inundating them with your hatred-disguised-as-love every moment of their lives. It should be considered child abuse...

      October 24, 2010 at 10:03 pm |
    • Reality

      To summarize:

      Catholicism (and Christianity in general) is about the Three B Syndrome i.e. Bred, Born, and Brainwashed in orthodox mumbo jumbo i.e bloody wine, hairy bread, "pretty/ugly wingie, talking/singing, flying, fictional thingies", limbo, ascensions, assumptions, immaculate conceptions, virgin impregnations by theoretical ghostly gods, guilt trips of atonement/mythical sinning-original parents, food/wine replicators, raising bodies only to die again, imminent second comings that never came or will, imaginary wise men, slaughtering innocent children and filicide.

      October 25, 2010 at 12:18 am |
    • Sum Dude

      I think you are forgetting or not seeing just how deeply indoctrinated CatholicMom is. What sort of rational discussion are you going to have with a cult member who has been brainwashed as Catholics often are?
      If you want to listen to her ramble on, go ahead, but you are just feeding the troll.
      She is an old woman who has been living inside a delusion for her whole life. You aren't going to get her to see the light of reason by tossing it at her in a blog.
      The deeply deluded are lost to reason and logic unless it can fit within their delusional belief system.
      It's up to you. Believe me or not. Do what you like. Many of us have gone round and round with her and others like her.
      Just a friendly tip of my hat to you. 😛

      October 25, 2010 at 1:40 am |
    • CatholicMom


      You say that by my saying I love the sinner but not the sin, that means I hate gays because if I hate the sin I hate the gay who is sinning…do I hate the man or woman who fornicates because fornication is a sin? So every person who is living together without marriage and is fornicating….I hate? Every person who is committing adultery…I hate? No, you are wrong…if I know of their sin, I feel sadness for them…how can they be happy in their sinful situations? No, you are wrong…I do not hate them at all. Nobody IS their sin; though sin can become such a powerful addiction that we feel powerless when confronted by it. And so, many think that sin cannot be overcome and so we all should tolerate it so that those who continue in it need not feel guilt or shame.

      Yes, you can accuse me of being hateful..... hateful towards sin of any kind, my own especially. Yes, I adhere to my Church with unwavering love. Spiteful?….I feel no ill will towards you or anyone. I’m intolerant… of what? Bullying, yes…

      You want humanity to be peaceful and happy but you want them to be able to sin against themselves and others and you want all to be tolerant of it. Humanity could be peaceful and happy if people could ignore abortion and have no guilt or shame over it by trying to say that man’s law states that it is a right of a woman to choose to kill her baby and we should be tolerant of it regardless of God’s laws.

      Gay people aren’t s3xually deviant, they are just gay, you say. So, other single persons aren’t s3xually deviant who fornicate, they are just fornicators? So, be tolerant of their lusts then humanity can live in peace and happiness. Marriage is for a man and woman and s3x is for them and no others. The opposite of lust is chast!ty…why not strive for the virtue instead of the sin?

      Capnjammer, my kids are all grown and leading virtuous lives, battling sin just like everyone else is. They do not throw up their hands and say, let’s throw in the towel as it is impossible to fight sin. Marriage does not eliminate sin from entering one’s life; but so many hate ‘living in sin’ so they get married and when the lust wears off they get a divorce. They do not understand what Love is and that it is something you ‘cultivate’.

      No one says life is without issues; so should we just kick back and tolerate it or fight back to make things right and ask Jesus Christ for help? Our bodies are of great importance to Him as each is a temple for the Holy Spirit. Now I know you don’t want to hear all of this because I have gone over that tolerance level for you… so I will just quit here…

      but that does not mean that I have given up on you….

      October 25, 2010 at 8:22 pm |
  8. Universal Life Church

    As a baptized, confirmed and ordained Christian Minister and as the leader for the Christian non-denominational, independent Catholic Universal Life Church, it is stories like this that are music to my ears. Women should have their their equal place with men in all phases of the ministry. We ordain men and women, without question and I hope someday the Vatican follows suit. ~ Brother Michael

    October 24, 2010 at 3:54 pm |
    • capnjammer

      Nice ADVERTISEMENT. I'm an atheist and I have a Universal Life Church ordination just because I can...

      October 24, 2010 at 4:12 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      Universal Life Church,

      Everyone seems to want to call themselves Catholic without being Catholic....they know it is the Church that Jesus Christ started but their pride keeps them OUT of the Catholic Church.

      October 24, 2010 at 4:17 pm |
    • Sum Dude


      Uh, you claim to know that it is pride that keeps them out? Care to revise your statement? 😛

      October 24, 2010 at 4:39 pm |
    • Reality


      Did Jesus really establish the Catholic Church? No he did not!!!

      Jesus like many (e.g. Mohammed, Joe Smith, the Great Babs) was in the right place at the right time. There was a lot of economic-driven assistance and "necessary accessories" without which Jesus would have been just another forgotten Jewish radical.

      To wit:

      Paul of Taurus was first of the "necessary accessories". He recognized early on the great wealth of Roman and Greek Gentiles so he wrote his epistles raising Jesus and his embellished life from the dead and the Gentiles "ate it up". His promise of the imminent second coming was shear brilliance in gathering much silver and gold (the prime necessary accessory). The Romans got jealous ending the life of the first necessay accessory.

      Pilate, although not the founder of Christianity, was another "necessary accessory i.e. he could have easily sent Jesus to the salt mines i.e. no crucifixion and therefore no invented resurrection.

      And of course the authors of the NT are also important accessories creating various non-witnessed versions of great embellished and "mythicized" story that caught on in an evolving world.

      Constantine and his swords finished the "necessary accessory" scenario.

      Adding this to God not knowing the future, eliminates any God involvement in the foundation of Christianity.


      Christianity and the other contemporary religions are the result of human evolution away from the "dark side" with the exception of Islam which still resides in the Dark Ages.

      October 24, 2010 at 5:57 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      Sum Dude,

      If they want to be Catholic ….call themselves Catholic when they are not,…it looks very much like pride to me that would keep them out of the Church; I admit there can be other reasons; it could also be fear of adhering to something that might call them to reject some of their daily practices…perhaps you can name some other reasons….you may want to call to the front the sins of the persons of the Church and say ‘they are way too sinful but should be perfect if Catholic’….but we are not perfect as Catholics as some THINK we profess to be; we do adhere to the Church that IS perfect…Jesus Christ’s Church is the pillar and foundation of Truth; it is without stain, blemish or any such thing ….[unless you don’t believe in the Bible….then you don’t have to deal with those verses]….

      October 24, 2010 at 6:40 pm |
  9. Rose

    *Our Lord

    October 24, 2010 at 11:07 am |
    • capnjammer

      Why is "Our" capitalized, and why was it si important to you that you had to double post? Is that something else your G-od will send you to H-ell for?

      October 24, 2010 at 4:10 pm |
  10. Rose

    Jesus is Risen! These people will do anything to discredit out Lord, but they will never win. The person you mention wants to do away with religion anyway. Just another poser spreading his own theoy. What else is new?!

    October 24, 2010 at 11:07 am |
  11. Dindy.....

    when God want to bring a sinner into salvation ..God is equal to everyone. God is compassionate. Every human can be better through lord"s divinity only. If anyone can speak what holy spirit reveal them to say....it is beautiful and giving courage to others. On Pentecost day God"s spirit came upon everyone despite of gender. Head of all the churches is Jesus. (Revelation) All the others are Priests if they tell good news and serve god with whole heart. Every one must become an ambassador to God . Do not judge others. Let God handle the case. May the peace of God be with you all.

    October 24, 2010 at 11:04 am |
  12. Maryann

    well women are not sapose to be any kind of preacher according to the bible but there are ALOT of hyprocrits in EVERY religion I myself am NOT religous but I do know it says that in the bible SOOOOOOO if you are going to go by the bible isnt that a bit hypricitical?

    October 23, 2010 at 8:37 pm |
  13. CarmenS

    "Fifty-eight million American Roman Catholics call him “Holy Father” (in violation of Matthew 23:9). He is revered as the head of the church on earth (though Christ possesses all authority, in heaven and on earth, and is the exclusive head of the church – Matt. 28:18; Col. 1:18).

    Devotees of the Catholic religion assert that he is the successor of “Saint Peter,” and they contend that his authority is derived from the fact that the church was founded upon Peter. World leaders drool at his feet. The United States has an ambassador (supported with tax revenues) to his little “state” of 108 acres, the Vatican. We are speaking, of course, of the Roman pontiff, John Paul II.

    The doctrine of the primacy of Peter, and the papal authority supposedly derived from the Lord’s apostle, is the very foundation of Roman Catholicism. The system, however, is barren of any semblance of biblical support. . . .

    As a matter of fact, the term “pope” is not even in the New Testament

    "The Apocalypse of Peter, probably among the latest writings discovered at Nag Hammadi (c. 200-300), tells how dismayed Peter was to hear that many believers "will fall into an erroneous name" and "will be ruled heretically." [95] The risen Christ explains to Peter that those who "name themselves bishop, and also deacon, as if they had received their authority from God," are, in reality, "waterless canals." [96] Although they "do not understand mystery," they "boast that the mystery of truth belongs to them alone." [97] …

    October 23, 2010 at 5:50 pm |
    • CatholicMom


      You said, ‘As a matter of fact, the term “pope” is not even in the New Testament’….

      Neither is the term ‘Holy Trinity’ but ALL Christians believe in the use of this term to mean= The Father, The Son, and the Holy Spirit. It was an established term set at a Council by Catholic Bishops.

      October 23, 2010 at 11:49 pm |
    • Reality


      The risen Christ?? Not so fast!!

      As per R.B. Stewart in his introduction to the recent book, The Resurrection of Jesus, Crossan and Wright in Dialogue,

      "Reimarus (1774-1778) posits that Jesus became sidetracked by embracing a political position, sought to force God's hand and that he died alone deserted by his disciples. What began as a call for repentance ended up as a misguided attempt to usher in the earthly political kingdom of God. After Jesus' failure and death, his disciples stole his body and declared his resurrection in order to maintain their financial security and ensure themselves some standing."

      The physical resurrection of Jesus as per currernt theology teachings at many large Catholic universities-

      "Heaven is a Spirit state or spiritual reality of union with God in love, without earthly - earth bound distractions.

      Christ 's and Mary's bodies are therefore not in Heaven. For one thing, Paul in 1 Cor 15 speaks of the body of the dead as transformed into a "spiritual body." No one knows exactly what he meant by this term.

      Most believe that it to mean that the personal spiritual self that survives death is in continuity with the self we were while living on earth as an embodied person.

      The physical Resurrection (meaning a resuscitated corpse returning to life), Ascension (of Jesus' crucified corpse), and Assumption (Mary's corpse) into heaven did not take place.

      The Ascension symbolizes the end of Jesus' earthly ministry and the beginning of the Church.

      Only Luke's Gospel records it. The Assumption ties Jesus' mission to Pentecost and missionary activity of Jesus' followers The Assumption has multiple layers of symbolism, some are related to Mary's special role as "Christ bearer" (theotokos). It does not seem fitting that Mary, the body of Jesus' Virgin-Mother (another biblically based symbol found in Luke 1) would be derived by worms upon her death. Mary's assumption also shows God's positive regard, not only for Christ's male body, but also for female bodies." "Heaven is a Spirit state or spiritual reality of union with God in love, without earthly - earth bound distractions.

      Amazing how this agrees with Professor Crossan and the Jesus Seminarian's conclusions based on attestations and stratums.

      See http://wiki.faithfutures.org/index.php/017_Resurrection_of_Jesus for added details

      October 24, 2010 at 1:20 am |
  14. Magic

    Traditionally, over the eons, males have held the esteemed position of Witch Doctor, Shaman and Priest; but there are many instances of female Fortune Tellers, Sorceresses and Witches.

    October 23, 2010 at 3:30 pm |
  15. A Case For Women In Scriptures

    Jesus said the church was ALL people, honey child, and that includes us women! So, Blah,Blah,Blah to you too,

    October 23, 2010 at 3:14 pm |
  16. ICEMAN

    BLAH,blah,blah i agree with most of what catholicmom is saying, blah,blah,blah and @ a Case for women in scriptures lol, honey child please....blah,blah,blah,

    October 23, 2010 at 2:54 pm |
  17. Bertha

    This woman wanting to be a priest is just another product of how society has told women ‘they have no role in society unless they can take one from a man (CatholicMom)

    Jesus appointed the apostles as men to preach to the people back then, because women would not have been able to handle the dangers that may have oc-cu-rred. They have to go into rough and dangerous territories and could have even been killed.
    That did not mean that forever, preaching was only for men. Jesus tells ALL to proclaim the gospel, no references on gender.
    The whole concept of the Bride and bridegroom, taken by the RCC, needs to be understood, so the Pope and councils don't keep trying to make it a male-female thing. It is not about that.

    October 23, 2010 at 2:47 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      You said, 'Jesus tells ALL to proclaim the gospel, no references on gender.'

      And we ALL hopefully do prolaim the gospel!

      October 24, 2010 at 4:30 pm |
  18. A Case For Women In Scriptures


    It is simple, Jesus is the Bridegroom, the Church is the bride. (It's all over the bible). Priests are male because they stand in Persona Christe. They too, 'marry' the Church and become spiritual Fathers, in the image of Christ. Marriage cannot occur between a bride and a bride. Despite popular opinion, you need a bride and a bridegroom. Thus women cannot 'Marry' the Church in the image of Christ

    By Rome’s own admission, the symbolism of the Bridegroom and the bride is no more than an ‘argument of congruence’. And, as Thomas Aquinas (1224 – 1274 AD) pointed out, “a theology based on symbols does not prove anything”.(33) Moreover, our reflections have shown that the symbolism, in its s-e-x-u-a-l application, does not have a valid scriptural basis and does not make sense.

    Rome often mentions the bridegroom ‘argument’ in one breath with the argument based on acting in persona Christi which we discussed in the previous chapter. It clearly attempts to present the traditional argument in a new garb. But even with this face lift the argument fails. Women can represent Christ, as validly and as fully as men can.


    October 23, 2010 at 1:58 pm |
  19. A Case For Women In Scriptures


    Postscript: there is more to the Catholic world than the Roman Church, folks. Anglicans are Catholic. Episcopalians are Catholic. I think the people of the Roman Church need to get over their arrogance and realize they are not the only game in town.

    Absolutely! Well Said!

    October 23, 2010 at 12:30 pm |
  20. A Case For Women In Scriptures

    @TLH....Thats a good question! There is nothing wrong, or against Gods word, that I have found, that is against it. We can't live in 2010, by the standards of a culture that existed back in Old Testament times. Otherwise instead of driving cars we would be rolling around in carts with stone wheels. Todays traffic rules would certainly not apply to those.
    Jesus reformed the old ways of the Old Testament, thus giving us the New Testament.
    Now all we have to do is get some of churches to recognize it, and stop using it to control thru ancient ways.

    October 23, 2010 at 12:29 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.