Catholic Woman Priest Ludmila Javorova
Women's capacity and strength -- frequently underestimated and/or denied -- routinely emerges during times of social trial and instability. Such is the experience of modern day Catholic woman priest, Ludmila Javorova. She was clandestinely ordained by her Bishop, Felix Davidek in December 1970 in Communist oppressed Czechoslovakia. Ludmila Javorova :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: On December 28 in 1970
- Ludmila Javorova, a woman, answers God's call to priesthood and is ordained a Roman Catholic priest by Bishop Felix Davidek in the underground Church during the Communist occupation of Czechoslovakia. Ludmila Javorova The times in Czechoslovakia were dangerous for Catholics. Facing fierce persecution, the Church moved 'underground.' The fact that priests were targets for arrest, imprisonment and other forms of persecution meant that it became difficult if not impossible to deliver sacramental ministry to the Catholic faithful. Appreciating that the status of a celibate man would draw attention and suspicion, courageous bishops responded creatively by ordaining women (Ludmila is one) and married men to serve as priests. Though the ordinations of the married men have since been recognised by the Vatican, the work for recognition of the vocations and service of these courageous women continues to be a project in progress. :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::
August 20, 1968, 200,000 troops and 5,000 tanks from the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact
allies invaded Czechoslovakia marking an end to the "Prague Spring
." The winds of the Prague Spring
(perhaps a precursor to Gorbachev's Glasnost and Perestroika in Russia 1985-1990)
had begun to whisper words like freedom to the country that had been living under communist rule. During this period of political liberalisation which began on January 5 of that year, Czechoslovakian Communist leader Alexander Dubcek launched an 'Action Programme' introducing reforms that began openning doors for personal freedoms -- freedom of speech, press, assembly, access to consumer goods, and the possibility of a more democratic multi-party government.
Dubcek was loved and reknowned. Hopes rose internationally that he would help spread this process of liberation to neighbouring socialist countries. The response of the Communist headquarters in Moscow: If "national" communism was allowed in one satellite, potent was the risk that there would be a chain-reaction throughout the rest of Eastern Europe.
All Czechoslovakian reform work was suddenly brought to a halt by the August 20, 1968 midnight invasion of hostile foreign Communist tanks and troops. Thousands of citizens awoke to the sound of heavy iron colossuses, heavily armoured vehicles and tanks rolling past. Nobody knew what was happening. This was only the beginning of a full-scale invasion of Czechoslovakia.The military 'intervention' of August 20 and 21 began a reversal which was called the "process of normalization". Foreign troops remained on Czechoslovak soil until the situation had stabilized. They were the "help" provided by the Soviet Union in the fight against counter-revolutionary forces. The leaders of Czechoslovakia were forced, having over 200 000 foreign soldiers on Czechoslovak soil, to pledge allegiance to communism. Citizens of Czechoslovakia make fierce resistance to Soviet tanks BBC World News
During the invasion, Soviet tanks ranging in numbers from 5,000 to 7,000 occupied the streets. Warsaw Pact and Soviet troops numbered at at varying times from 200,000 to 600,000. Between August 20 and September 3, 1968, more than 100 Czechs and Slovaks were killed. Hundreds were wounded. Dubcek who called upon his people not to resist was arrested and taken to Moscow. Despite fierce resistance, a protocol was issued within days of the invasion that banned all parties and organisations which "violated socialist principles". Helping the wounded during the '68
invasion. BBC World News
A purge and cleansing was initiated. In April 1969, Dubček was replaced as First Secretary by Gustav Husak, and the period of "Normalization
" began. Dubcek's reforms were reversed. The Czechoslovakian Communist Party was purged of its liberal members. Professional and intellectual elites who openly expressed disagreement with the political turnaround were dismissed from public offices and jobs. Publishing houses and film studios were placed under new direction. Censorship was strictly imposed, and a campaign of militant atheism was organized.
The response of the citizens? Resistance began. The purges of the first half of 1970 eliminated the reformists within the party organization. In the fall of 1970, the ex-communist intelligentsia organized the Socialist Movement of Czechoslovak Citizens
, a protest movement dedicated to the goals of the Prague Spring. Forty-seven leaders of the movement were arrested and tried in the summer of 1972. Organized protest was effectively stilled.
The response of Catholics attempting to continue the practice of faith? The Church moved underground. Amidst the Communist oppression quietly emerged modern women priests cautiously, quietly, and secretly in stealth serving Czechoslovakian Catholics who were otherwise deprived of the sacraments. One of these remarkable women was Ludmila Javorova. Ordained by her Bishop, Felix Davidek, Ludmila is still living today and shares her story.
with love and blessings,
post edited by Sophie - 2009/03/03 06:25:55
RE: Woman Priest Ludmila Javorova
BBC World News http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/4171966.stm
RE: Woman Priest Ludmila Javorova
Soviet tanks remained in
Czechoslovakia until 1991
post edited by Sophie - 2007/09/03 01:16:39
RE: Woman Priest Ludmila Javorova
From the BBC World News August 21, 1968 'Prague Spring': Dozens of people have been killed in a massive military clampdown in Czechoslovakia by five Warsaw Pact countries.
Several members of the liberal Czechoslovak leadership have been arrested, including Prime Minister Alexander Dubcek.
The Soviet news agency, Tass, claims "assistance" was requested by members of the Czechoslovak Government and Communist party leaders to fight "counter-revolutionary forces".
But in a secret radio address, Czechoslovak President Ludvik Svoboda condemned the occupation by Warsaw Pact allies as illegal and committed without the government's consent.
US President Lyndon Johnson said the invasion was a clear violation of the United Nations Charter and that the excuses offered by the Soviet Union were "patently contrived".
"It is a sad commentary on the communist mind that a sign of liberty in Czechoslovakia is deemed a fundamental threat to the security of the Soviet system," he said.
The Czechoslovak authorities have ordered their vastly outnumbered army not to fight and are appealing to the public for restraint.
Czechoslovakia's abortive path to freedom began when Mr Dubcek, a Slovak, became Communist Party leader in January.
A programme of wide-ranging democratic reforms had been gathering pace in the face of Soviet disapproval and the rebirth of social and political freedom became known as the "Prague Spring". Hundreds of youths have been making barricades to obstruct invading tanks Russian troops halt the 'Prague Spring' Resistance
In the capital of Prague today, crowds of people gathered in the streets chanting support for Mr Dubcek and imploring the foreign troops to go home.
Much of the resistance was centred around the Prague radio station. As the day progressed, Czechoslovak youths threw home-made missiles and even tried to take on Russian tanks.
Reports say some tanks and ammunition trucks were destroyed, but Soviet troops responded with machinegun and artillery fire and at least four people were shot dead.
In the Wenceslas and Old Town Squares, hundreds of youths made barricades out of overturned lorries to try and halt the advance.
Soviet and eastern block commanders have now imposed an overnight curfew and are threatening to shoot on sight anyone caught breaking it.
All rail, road and airline routes out of Czechoslovakia have been closed as troops continue to enter the country - now estimated to number nearly 175,000 men. http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/august/21/newsid_2781000/2781867.stm
post edited by Sophie - 2007/09/03 01:16:54
RE: Woman Priest Ludmila Javorova
The Catholic Church in Czechoslovakia 1948 and onward
At the time of the Communist take over in 1948, there were nine major creeds listed in Czechoslovakian censuses: Roman Catholic, Uniate
(Greek Catholic Church; preserving the Eastern rite and discipline but submitting to papal authority), the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren, Lutheran, Calvinist, Orthodox, the Czech Reformed Church (the Hussites
*), the Old Catholic Church, and Judaism. Nearly 6 percent of the population was without religious preference. At the time of the communist takeover, two of every three citizens were Roman Catholics, but within each major ethnic group there was a sizable minority of Protestants: Bohemian Brethren in the Czech lands, Lutherans in Slovakia, and Calvinists among the Hungarians.
*In Prague 1999, despite resistance from the Curia, Pope John Paul II issued a public apology for the execution of Church reformer Jan Hus --burned at the stake for his reform efforts. For more about this, see: RE: John Paul II
post edited by Sophie - 2009/01/25 22:29:44
RE: Woman Priest Ludmila Javorova
The 1950's and 60's
During the Stalinist
trials of the 1950's, more than 6,000 religious people (some old and sick) received prison sentences averaging more than five years apiece. Between 1948 and 1968, the number of priests declined by half, and half the remaining clergy were over sixty years of age. The Catholic Church had already lost a substantial number of clergy with the expulsion of the Sudeten
Germans; it faced significant problems with understaffed parishes and an aging clergy. Protestant sects, less dependent on a centralized hierarchy in the running of ecclesiastical affairs and less prominent because of their minority status, fared better.
Between 1950 and 1968, the Uniate Church was prohibited. Uniates had close historic ties to both the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox churches. The communist regime sought to Russify whatever it could and followed a longstanding Russian policy of opposing the Uniate Church. Soon after coming to power, the party forcibly repressed the Uniate Church (following the earlier example of the Soviet Union) in favor of the Russian Orthodox Church
. The Orthodox had been a distinct minority in Czechoslovakia, but Orthodox priests took over parishes as the Uniate clergy were imprisoned or sent to work on farms in the Czech lands.
The shortage of priests
was so extreme that the party gave a crash course in Orthodox doctrine to "politically mature" teachers in the region and sent them into Uniate churches as replacements. Uniates responded with various forms of resistance, ranging from simply leaving church whenever an Orthodox priest arrived to holding services among themselves. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_Communist_Czechoslovakia
post edited by Sophie - 2009/01/25 22:30:23
RE: Woman Priest Ludmila Javorova
The Late 1960's
Surveys in Moravia
and Slovakia found that "scientific atheism" had not caught on quite as much as the KSČ might have hoped after twenty years of party rule. In the traditionally Catholic Slovakia, only 14 percent were atheists and 15 percent undecided; atheism was highest among people between the ages of 25 and 39. Religious sentiment reflected social background: nine-tenths of all farmers were believers, as were three-fourths of all blue-collar workers and slightly more than one-half of all white-collar employees . Perhaps most disconcerting for the party was the realization that after two decades of denouncing clerics and clerical meddling in politics ("clerico-fascism"), 28 percent of those surveyed thought the clergy should have a public and political role.
In 1968, the situation for the churches brightened briefly. The regime of Alexander Dubček
allowed the most closely controlled of the government-sponsored religious organizations (the Peace Movement of the Catholic Clergy and its Protestant counterpart) to lapse into inactivity. In 1968 the government also promised a prompt and humane solution to the Uniates' predicament (induced in part by the Uniates seizing "Orthodox" churches and demanding their own clergy and rites) and officially recognized the Uniate Church. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_Communist_Czechoslovakia
post edited by Sophie - 2009/01/25 22:30:58
RE: Woman Priest Ludmila Javorova
In the 1970s, the situation of religious groups in Czechoslovakia again deteriorated. The Roman Catholic Church, under the spiritual leadership of František Cardinal Tomášek, Archbishop of Prague, was once more the principal target. Throughout the 1970s, the regime arrested clergy and lay people for distributing religious samizdat
literature. Protestant and Jewish groups were also harassed, but the Orthodox churches and the Czechoslovak National Church were generally spared. In an effort to ensure a group of compliant and loyal clergy, the regime of Gustáv Husák
organized a number of state-controlled associations, including the Ecumenical Council of the Churches of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic and the Czechoslovak Association of Catholic Clergy (more commonly known as Pacem in Terris), with Czech and Slovak branches.
The regime showed a willingness to permit religious groups to practice their creeds as long as the clergy and the faithful did not bring religion into public life. The complication was that the regime counted almost anything as public life and so, for example, disallowed sermons on the high divorce rate or neglected children. Because the state licensed all clergy, it could weed out anyone deemed unresponsive to state requirements. Thus the clergy, who needed state approval to minister at all, were in a vulnerable position. By mid-1986 the regime had prohibited some 400 (of an approximate 3,200) Roman Catholic priests from ministering.
Theology departments continued to operate under strict admission quotas, and staffing problems grew throughout the 1970s. Chief Rabbi Richard Feder died in 1970, leaving the Czech Jewish communities without rabbinical direction until 1984. (Slovakia's rabbi was Samuel Grossman.)
The new chief rabbi for the country, Daniel Mayer, studied for the rabbinate in Budapest. In 1972 the death of three Roman Catholic bishops and the revocation of state approval of a fourth exacerbated the already acute shortage of Roman Catholic leaders. Talks between the Vatican and the regime were sporadic through the 1970s and produced few material gains for Czechoslovak Roman Catholics. The perennial conflict remained: the appointment of regime loyalists in opposition to choices for parish and diocesan posts. In 1986, out of thirteen church offices, nine bishoprics were vacant and two archbishoprics (Olomouc and Trnava) had only bishops holding office.
If normalization after 1968 took a higher toll on the Czechs, the Slovaks have more recently borne the brunt of religious persecution. Slovakia's traditional adherence to [the Roman Catholic faith] and an upsurge in belief and practices in the mid-1980s brought on sustained harassment and atheistic propaganda in Slovakia to a greater degree than in the Czech lands. Although methods differed, religious persecution in Slovakia equaled that suffered by the Charter 77
human rights activists and proscribed writers in the Czech lands. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_Communist_Czechoslovakia
post edited by Sophie - 2009/01/25 22:31:37
RE: Woman Priest Ludmila Javorova
During the 'crackdown'
The situation of Catholic Church in Czechoslovakia during the crackdown
-a precis from wikipedia.org
Because religion offered possibilities for thought and activities independent of the state, it too was severely restricted and controlled. Clergymen were required to be licensed. In attempting to manipulate the number and kind of clergy, the state even sponsored a pro-regime organization of Catholic priests, the Association of Catholic Clergy Pacem in Terris
Abbreviated SKD PiT
or simply PiT
, the Association was a regime-sponsored organisation of Catholic clergy in the communist Czechoslovakia between 1971 and 1989. Its name was taken from Pope John XXIII's famous encyclical Pacem in Terris
SKD PiT's stated purposes were 'peace in the world' and 'friendship between nations.' In fact its raison d'etre
was to control and spy on Catholic clergymen influence the life of the whole church. Its founding assembly was held in Prague on August 31, 1971.
RE: Women Priest Ludmila Javorova
Official policy toward religious groups in the 1980s was consistent with that of the early socialist era, when a series of measures sought to bring organized religion to heel. The state exercised substantial control over clerical appointments, religious instruction, preaching, and proselytization.
Roman Catholics and Uniates were the major targets. The government closed convents and monasteries and strictly limited admissions to the two remaining seminaries.
In late 1980, there were signs of temporary worsening church-state relations. In October a number of students at the Cyril and Methodius Faculty of Divinity in Bratislava began a hunger strike in protest against Pacem in Terris. The state-controlled movement, they said, tried to undermine unity between priests and bishops. In an apparent reply to the incident, Bratislava's Pravda took the opportunity to denounce the resurgence of "clerico-fascist ideology," which, given the growth of socialism (commentators were quick to note), lacked a constituency in Czechoslovakia.
Nonetheless, clericalism acted on "instructions of the church and clerical centers in the capitalist world." The official media were particularly critical of the "secret church," which the Vatican described as "not only the secretly ordained priests and bishops, secret convents and secret printing establishments in the country, but also the existing Catholic organizations and spiritual underground movements, as well as all priests and believers who are working illegally in the sphere of the church."
These, however, were not organized into a single network. The underground church was believed to be particularly strong in Slovakia.
The relationship between the advocates of "scientific atheism" and various religious groups has been uneasy at best. The Czechoslovak Constitution permitted freedom of religion and expression, but in the 1980s citizens were well advised not to take these guarantees too literally. Government-controlled organizations existed for most religious creeds except Jehovah's Witnesses, who were prohibited. The most prominent was the Roman Catholic Church. There were also a variety of Protestant sects, including the Czechoslovak Baptist Church, the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren, the Slovak Evangelical Church, the Seventh-day Adventist Church
, and the Methodist Church
of Czechoslovakia. Also represented were the Czechoslovak National Church, the Uniate Church, and Jewish communities. In 1981 a number of church dignitaries stood before the Czechoslovak minister of culture to take a vow of loyalty to the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic.
A development that was particularly distressing to the authorities was the growing interest in religion on the part of young people in Czechoslovakia.
In 1985, of the more than 100,000 people who took part in celebrations relating to the 1,100th anniversary of the death of Saint Methodius
, Cardinal Tomášek noted that "two-thirds of the pilgrims were young people...." One culprit was seen to be the education system, which did not sufficiently stress a scientific-atheistic education.
A number of policies were aimed at curtailing public religious observance. Known adherence to a religious sect meant limited opportunity for advancement in the workplace. Parents had the right to religious instruction for their primary-school children, but to ask for it was to seriously hamper a child's chances for admission to secondary school and the university. The Ministry of Education issued a series of directives for teachers elaborating the errors of religion (among which were idealism and an inadequate set of ethical directives) and calling it an ideological weapon of the bourgeoisie
. The 1990s
According to the 1991 census, the situation was as follows: Roman Catholics 46.4%, Evangelical (Lutherans) 5.3%, Atheists 29.5%, n/a 16.7%, but there were significant differences between the two constituent republics – Czech Republic
post edited by Sophie - 2009/01/25 22:35:50
RE: Woman Priest Ludmila Javorova
Enter Ludmila Javorova! Ludmila Javorová
(born 1932, Brno) is a Czech Roman Catholic who worked in the underground church during the time of communist rule in Czechoslovakia. She served as a vicar general
of Bishop Felix Davidek
who secretly ordained her a priest.
RE: Catholic Woman Priest Ludmila Javorova
On December 28 in 1970
- Ludmila Javorova, a woman, answers God's call to priesthood and is ordained a Roman Catholic priest by Bishop Felix Davidek in the underground Church during the Communist occupation of Czechoslovakia. Ludmila Javorova The times in Czechoslovakia were dangerous for Catholics. Facing fierce persecution, the Church moved 'underground.' The fact that priests were targets for arrest, imprisonment and other forms of persecution meant that it became difficult if not impossible to deliver sacramental ministry to the Catholic faithful. Appreciating that the status of a celibate man would draw attention and suspicion, courageous bishops responded creatively by ordaining women (Ludmila is one) and married men to serve as priests. Though the ordinations of the married men have since been recognised by the Vatican, the work for recognition of the vocations and service of these courageous women continues to be a project in progress.
RE: Catholic Woman Priest Ludmila Javorova
Women Priests and Deacons during the Communist Era
The 1948 communist takeover of then Czechoslovakia brought vast social changes. It also brought heavy persecution to Catholics who constituted 66% of a population of 16 million. Thousands of people were imprisoned for practicing their religion. Despite the threat of imprisonment, believers nourished a vibrant faith in an underground church that paralleled the government-controlled parish structure.
Bishop Felix Davidek (1921-1988), a brilliant scholar, linguist and medical doctor, was consecrated with Vatican approval to serve the underground church. When a need for sacramental ministry for women in prison emerged as a serious concern, it was clear that a male priesthood could not answer it. Davidek called a secret Synod composed of bishops, priests and laity to consider the ordination of women.
After heated debate, the decision was made to proceed. On December 28, 1970, Davidek ordained the first woman priest, Ludmila Javorova, who served as Vicar General of the underground diocese for 20 years. In 1991, Cardinal Miloslav Vlk of Prague confirmed that up to five or six women were ordained as priests, but only Ludmila has come forward.
Following Vlk's disclosure, a Women's Ordination Conference delegation traveled to Czechoslovakia to find and meet Ludmila. At first, they were warily received, but after hours of deep exchange, were warmly welcomed by her and other representatives of the underground church who had suffered and lived in deep secrecy for so many years. On a second trip in 1996 a WOC delegation invited Ludmila to visit the United States to share her story and to hear stories of American women called to the priesthood.
Bishop Felix Maria Davidek
Under the auspices of the Women's Ordination Conference, she paid a private two-week visit to the United States late in 1997. She was accompanied by three Slovak women, one of whom, Magdalena Zahorska, served as an ordained deacon in the underground church. Ludmila was able to share with Americans her story and the story of the underground church in Czechoslovakia.
Ludmila's story and that of her community is one of people being church under the most oppressive conditions. Felix Davidek, ordained a priest in 1946, was a man who recognized the danger of the communist takeover to people's spiritual, intellectual and physical lives. He acted immediately, organizing an underground university and seminary. When discovered, he was imprisoned in 1950 for fourteen years. Ludmila said that the very day he was released from prison, Davidek was busy rebuilding the system he had begun. Ludmila, a family friend since childhood, was asked to help make the necessary contacts and to assist in the rebirth of the persecuted church.
"It was an extraordinary time," Ludmila recalls. "You cannot understand. For us it was a question of survival. We feared the church would not survive."
Miraculously, Davidek and the underground church had access to the smuggled documents of Vatican Council II. They built a "church community for the future" as Ludmila put it. It is remarkable that a church under such persecution, which needed to have strict security, was so determined and able to implement a model of church that was open and inclusive. Broad consultation in Synod was the hallmark of the underground church's decision-making process!
Felix Davidek led the underground church from 1970 until 1988, the year of his death with Ludmila Javorova serving as his Vicar General during the same period. She was responsible for communication and keeping the community's records for posterity.
Davidek's death came just one year before the collapse of communism in Czechoslovakia. Bishop Jan Blaha took his place as head of the diocese. In 1990, the underground church surfaced. Ludmila felt responsible to communicate to Rome what had been happening during all those underground years. Bishop Blaha alone went to Rome, however, to report on everything.
Ludmila submitted a written report, including the information on all the ordinations, but never received a reply. Ultimately, the ordinations of the women and men were declared invalid by the Vatican and both were forbidden to function, though single men were allowed to be re-ordained and the married men to be re-ordained into the Eastern Rite where marriage is allowed. The women were given no such options. Ludmila accepts that she cannot function as a priest without the official church's mandate, but she clearly maintains the validity of her orders.
Ludmila has committed herself to writing her memoirs. She believes her story and the story of the underground church must be told for the good of all the church.
RE: Catholic Woman Priest Ludmila Javorova
Ludmila Javorová: "Yes, I am a Catholic woman priest!"
This is a translation of a report entitled “Yes, I am a Catholic woman priest!”
by Werner Ertel and Georg Motylewicz in Kirche Intern
vol. 9 (1995) no 11, pp. 18-19. It was the first published account of her ordination to the priesthood.
Translated by Mary Dittrich and published on www.womenpriests.org
with permission of the author and publisher.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Ludmila Javorová
, 65, Vicar-General of the underground Czech Bishop Felix Davidek
(d.1987) in Brno, declares publicly for the first time: “Yes, I am a Catholic priest!”
Stara Osada 23, a small flat on the ground floor of a concrete block in the mellowness of Brno, in the Czech Republic. High pressure over Central Europe means a warm blue sky over the capital of Moravia on this 13 October 1995. Ludmila is standing by her gas cooker in the kitchen, stirs the dill sauce, adds little semolina dumplings to it and garnishes it with a few sprigs of parsley, ready for the plate. The three of us stand around the table. A moment’s hush, and she blesses the meal, making the sign of the cross with her right hand as priests do. The conversation is in Czech, her mother tongue.
Georg, being a Pole and perfectly conversant with all East European languages, translates the essentials from time to time. He knows his way very well round the labyrinthine underground Church of Communist days, is in touch with bishops such as Blaha, Kratky, Zahradnik and repeatedly amazes Ludmila with details from the history of the persecuted Church. We are both eager to hear what the retired Vicar-General of Brno’s underground Bishop Davidek wishes to entrust us with, because this time she has invited us around to a personal interview, not like the time three years ago when we turned up at her home with a camera team, for the “Kompass” European magazine run by the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation ORF.
Ludmila serves hot black Nescafé with home made appelstrudel, and we move over into the living room, directly under a big portrait of Bishop Felix Davidek, who died in 1987. The slightly built, ascetic-like woman with reddish brown hair lights a candle and puts it on the little table. Her clear eyes behind glasses are alert, always a bit cautious, her voice is somewhat restrained, with a warm kindly timber.
Quietly she says that she has long prayed for this meeting, and that she sees in it a stroke of Providence, work of the Holy Spirit. She refers to our last meeting three years ago when, in connection with her activities in the underground Church, I asked her if she was an ordained priest. “Then as the camera was running, I evaded the question, because the matter was not meant for publication. But it kept on worrying me, which is why I invited you here today.” Ludmila, seated, closes the already not very wide open window till it is only just ajar, and draws the curtain a bit more.
It was in 1970 that we summoned a Synod of the underground Church. One of the subjects was the ordination of women. We all had to promise Felix faithfully that we would keep absolute silence on the matter, indeed he demanded that in writing. One group was anxious not to discuss this theme at all; they more or less split off, and they were excommunicated by Davidek. Bishop Dubovsky did annul this excommunication, but up to now there has been no reconciliation with this group.
But in our circle around Bishop Davidek the question of ordaining women continued to be discussed favourably, so that soon the first ordinations of women to the priesthood took place, including my own. One of the principal reasons for this was that in women’s prisons nuns and other inmates had died without priestly support or the sacraments. But it was also clear to us that a woman is much better at dealing with women’s problems than a man is. Just think of the sacrament of reconciliation.
Ludmila moves into the present, and tells us that recently Czech television had shown a discussion between women and the spokesman of the Bishop’s Conference, Peter Fiala, during its “Arena” programme. A sociologist reproached Fiala, maintaining that celibate males can know nothing at all about women’s problems, whereupon he answered that he knew everything, because women came to confess to him too, telling all. “But it stands to reason”, commented Ludmila on this, “and the sociologist thought so too, that a women, badly treated by a man, is not going to confide all her misery and her problems to a male pastor.”
Her priestly ordination unfortunately met with mistrust on the part of her male colleagues in office. At Eucharistic celebrations, she says, she only concelebrated, and she was never the principal celebrant among male priests. But she is certain that women are suited to the priesthood, since Christ speaks to humanity through priests, irrespective of whether they are men or women. The telephone rings outside. Ludmila goes out for a moment.
Georg regrets that we are not getting concrete replies to our interposed questions on how her ordination as a woman priest took place in practice. Evidently Ludmila wants to keep a secret of the precise details of time, place, and ordaining bishop. She does not confirm conjectures that this could have been the Greek Catholic Bishop Krett, a member of the Basilian order, who ordained a number of women. As she told us later, she herself set forth the circumstances of her ordination in a letter to Pope John Paul II, to which she never received a reply.
The talk with Ludmila that afternoon in Brno is not like an interview. She wants to tell us something, wants to share with us the evidently most important phase of her life - and she lays down how far she wants to go.
During our conversation it becomes increasingly clear what problems and difficulties Ludmila as a woman priest has - particularly - nowadays too. In effect she says she is rather lonely: people come to her, come to a church service and go away again. She cannot count on solidarity from her male colleagues, or on help from them. “On the surface they accept it, because they know that I am ordained, but internally they can’t cope with it. That’s the two thousand year old tradition of a male church, which can’t be changed overnight.”
Nevertheless, Ludmila is sure of herself and of her vocation to the priesthood. The children in her family were numerous, and at the age of fifteen she was already asking her father if she could become a priest. She felt the first person to understand her in this was Bishop Felix Davidek who “tackled it properly as soon as he was released from his fifteen year imprisonment.”
And so the 1970 Synod was the firm foundation for ordaining women. The sun is by now very low in the sky. Ludmila draws the curtain closer. “Formerly we all had to sit on the floor when we aired the room” said Ludmila, remembering the era of the catacomb church. “I was always expecting arrest. The Secret Service knew too, about us women priests.”
It is unlikely that the source of the leaks will be found. There are rumours that Sokol, now Bishop of Tyrnau, was an informant of the Secret Service. It is a fact, confirmed by Ludmila, that when investigating the matter of women priests, Sokol’s first question was about money: “How much did you earn from Mass offerings?”
Ludmila knows names and addresses of other ordained women who now live in Slovakia. “I would like to get in touch with them”. One, at any rate, is working as a nurse in the Brno area. At the forthcoming Synod of the underground Church, early in November, she hopes to meet some of her women colleagues-in-office. For her work as Vicar-General and priest in the underground Church she gets neither thanks nor recognition, nor payment of any kind. So, in her mid sixties, she has to earn her living teaching in state schools. “Recently two girls in the school asked me spontaneously if they could become women priests. Both are from completely atheist families, which allows me to hope that the ordination of women will still be a subject for the next generation.” She regards herself as someone who has to offer her life in this cause: “In battle the first line always falls, so that the second line can get through.”
It is now late in Stara Osada. We accompany Ludmila to an evening dedication and opening of a youth centre in an outlying Brno parish, the one where three years ago she was allowed to celebrate the Liturgy of the Word. Nowadays Ludmila will no longer be allowed to stand at the altar “in full canonicals”, at least not at the altar of a parish church in which a man is the boss. Today she suffers the destiny of the underground Church exactly as when Communism prevailed: she must hide, must not admit to what she really is, may not officially exercise her true function. The only difference from past times, when she had to live in constant fear of arrest by the State Secret Service, is that the Vatican does not send agents to render her harmless. But should she receive any recognition in this life, that is more likely to come from the world of Western feminist theologians than from the Czech Republic, a country which tends to think it can put aside the confessors of the underground Church “like rubbish on the roadside” (Bishop Jan Blaha in Kirche Intern 10/95).
RE: Catholic Woman Priest Ludmila Javorova
In 1995 published the astonishing news that some Catholic women had been ordained priests in the Czech Republic during the Communist regime. Ludmila Javorová was one of them. It was the first published account
of her ordination to the priesthood.
What follows is a translation of a recent interview with Ludmila entitled “We must fight patiently for the ordination of women
” by Rudolph Schermann in Kirche Intern
vol. 13 (1999) no 6, pp. 10-11.
It was translated by Mary Dittrich and published on www.womenpriests.org
with permission of the author and publisher.
If you have questions, please let me know.
with love and blessings,
Interview with the Czech national Ludmila Javorová, ordained by the Roman Catholic confessor Bishop Felix Davidek
during the Communist dictatorship as the first Roman Catholic woman priest, and appointed his Vicar-General by Davidek. The interviewer was Father Rudolf Schermann Ludmila Javorova
Fr. Schermann: Mrs. Javorova, the exclusive KIRCHE INTERN report in which in November 1995 you first acknowledged your priestly ordination - till then it had only been surmised - went round the world. Did this report cause you problems?
Javorová: And how! Certainly, not only negative stuff. I was overwhelmed by innumerable letters and invitations from all over the world. So that I just couldn’t cope with it. In the end I had to stop going into it all.
Fr. Schermann: I am bringing you an invitation from women in Austria and Germany to let them visit you nevertheless and discuss in the light of your experience prospects for the diaconate for women or priesthood for women.
Javorová: I’m happy to accept this invitation, but I do see great difficulties in the path to the priesthood for women, simply because the social background is lacking. That’s the main difficulty. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t fight for this aim, but my own experience tells me that in time one burns out. As always in life, pressure causes counter-pressure. If one wants to force an issue, opposition to it grows. During my trip to the States I saw that there women have a different place in society. Over there one gets ahead in such matters faster. Here in Europe things are not the same. Maybe men, too, should engage with much more conviction in these matters.
Fr. Schermann: In ordaining women to the priesthood Bishop Davidek set a prophetic marker which, because this ordination took place under the knout of godless repression, acquired enormous authenticity and outstanding symbolism; but Rome, we most unfortunately find, is blind to this. So you, an ordained woman priest and former Vicar-General to Bishop Davidek, can help us a great deal from your experience.
Javorová: I am aware of the endeavours of the various groups. Only I don’t believe that one can force a thing through, especially outside the Church. That, I feel, would be the wrong way. The fundamental question is: How does the Church - both its leadership and the people - accept the pastoral involvement of women? Are women respected in this regard in your circles?
Fr. Schermann: Apart from a few exceptions, there is widespread acceptance. The diaconate for women is very much on the horizon, and ordination for women an ongoing topic. We just have to press on.
Javorová: Of course we can’t just wait. To me, the problem is acceptance. In theory much is possible, but in practice things look different. When we women were ordained, that was simply accepted. For thirty years nobody objected. When at last we obtained our freedom many people changed their minds.
Fr. Schermann: This problem of acceptance, which is, rather, a psychological one, is also present in secular society. There, too, women are far from being accepted everywhere as human beings of equal value to men. Thus the Anglican Church, too, had great difficulties over ordaining women. Many Anglican priests sought asylum in the Roman Catholic Church, the last stronghold of fear of women. By now many have reviewed their attitude and realised that ordination cannot be made to depend on a person’s sex.
Javorová: As for fundamental acceptance by the people of God, I’m not worried. The difficulties tend to be in the hierarchy.
Fr. Schermann: For how long did Rome set its face against women altar servers, even though they had long been accepted by people! But thanks to persistent discussions we have at least reached a point where girls are put up with, even at Papal Masses. Well, women managed, even in the Roman Catholic Church, to get as far as the steps of the altar. So we must firmly fight on for women’s ordination too.
Javorová: That’s right, and its good. With us, consciousness must first be awakened that all of us are the Church, that each of us must contribute to it. Here we are still far from the goal.
Fr. Schermann: What motivated Bishop Davidek to ordain women to the priesthood?
Javorová: Necessity. Bishop Davidek saw the need, and saw no difficulty in ordaining women. He saw in that a sign of the times. Communication with Rome was not possible. He acted according to his conscience.
Fr. Schermann: Once freedom was achieved, why was Davidek’s process suddenly openly criticised, even by former underground bishops?
Javorová: When Bishop Davidek summoned a pastoral synod in 1970, and brought the ordination of women into the discussion, a number of people broke away from him. Interestingly enough, in the preparatory body there had been no dissenting voices. When it came to the vote, some people turned away and no longer collaborated with Bishop Davidek. I tried to mediate. Davidek issued pastoral letters and suspended initially these bishops he had ordained, who were only auxiliary bishops; however, three months later he revoked the suspension. The group, backed by Peter Dunovsky, did not wish to resume working with Davidek. And up to his death they did not visit him.
Fr. Schermann: Recently a book by Ondrej Liska on the Czechoslovak underground church came out. What do you think of it?
Javorová: Liska is a young politology student. He paid me a brief visit, but was not interested in matters of detail. All the archives were opened up to him, so that he was able to have a look at documents which even the people involved were still unable to see. Some events are correctly described. But he draws hasty conclusions pretending almost 100% certainty. Many details are missing, or presented wrongly. The book - which, incidentally, was sent to all priests - is on the whole misleading.
Fr. Schermann: But you were Bishop Davidek’s Vicar-General, were you not?
Javorová: Yes. It was a very interesting task. But of course one can’t compare it with today’s circumstances.
Fr. Schermann: How are your relations with the present Bishop of Brno?
Javorová: Favourable. But that is all one can say on that subject.
Fr. Schermann: Mrs Javorova, thank you for this talk.
RE: Catholic Woman Priest Ludmila Javorova
Bishop Felix Davidek is the courageous Bishop and faithful servant of God who, committed to his people, ordained Ludmila Javorova. Wikipedia provides this information about him:
In an article from our www.womenpriests.org online library, author Magdalena Eliasova tells us more about this courageous agent of change. with love and blessings, ~Sophie~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Felix Maria Davídek (January 21, 1921 - August 18, 1988) was a bishop of the Roman Catholic Church. He was born in Chrlice in what today is the Czech Republic. He was ordained a priest on June 29, 1945 in the diocese of Brno. He was arrested by the Czech secret police and was in prison from 1950 to 1964. He was secretly ordained a bishop by Bishop Jan Blaha, under appeal to pontifical privileges granted from 1951 to 1989 to bishops in communist countries, on October 29, 1967, and was given the assignment to pastor the underground Church in Communist Czechoslovakia. He died from complications of an accident in which his skin was badly burned.
Bishop Felix Davidek
Interest in Davídek greatly increased when it was disclosed after his death that, by the account of Ludmila Javorová and others, he had administered the sacrament of Holy Orders to Javorova and perhaps several other women.
Bishop Felix Davidek of Czechoslovakia by Magdalena Eliasova New Women New Church
Autumn 1999, pp. 7-8. New Women New Church is the official newsbulletin of the Women’s Ordination Conference. WOC National Office, PO Box 2693, Fairfax, VA 22031-0693; tel. (703) 352-1006. Subscribe! Read also the article by Jan Peters which helped Bishop Davidek make up his mind to ordain women as priests!
Felix Maria Davidek. Who is this man whom we have never heard of, making a confident proclamation? And who and what gives him the authority to issue such a daring statement?
“Society needs the service of women as a special rument for human sanctification. ”
The place was eastern Europe and the time was 1948. The Soviet Union had acted on a moral obligation to subjugate the small poor countries by force in order to save them from demonic Western societies. Successful politics was based on majority prosperity under any circumstances and any opposition group was forced to go underground. The Church was a potential enemy. And the Church, once again, wore two faces.
Felix Maria Davidek - a priest ordained on July 29, in Brno, former Czechoslovakia - while working in small village parish had been studying science, medicine, philosophy and psychology in Brno University and making plans to establish “Atheneum” - a theological prep school. The year 1948 interfered, but it did not stop Davidek’s organizing, and finally in 1950 his Atheneum was illegally instituted.
“The Church in the whole world has an obligation to reflect kairos - the right moment”
Felix Maria Davidek 1950
Felix M. Davidek was arrested and in 1952 sentenced to 14 years in prison for high treason for his defiance of state-imposed restrictions on his academic activities. In prison he had enough time to sort out his thoughts and ideas about the continuation of Antheneum and the establishment of a community - to be called Koinotes - which would serve as a model for the local Church under totalitarianism in order to guarantee the continuation of the apostolic mission. He was released two years early in 1964 and one of his first acts was to contact Ludmila Javorová whom he had known since childhood, and other people who had been excluded from traditional seminaries.
Koinotes started functioning soon after under his leadership. On Oct. 29,1967 Davidek was made a bishop. That meant self-sufficiency for Koinotes.
By 1970 Bishop Davidek had decided to call a synod to discuss an urgent need of the local Church. He was convinced that the “kairos” had come - the “kairos” to ordain women. The synod was convened at Christmas time, only after his careful study of Vatican II documents convinced him of the right of the local Church to do so. The synod was attended by about 60 people, including various clergy, among them a few bishops and order sisters, and lay people. It had been preceded by weeks of preliminary hearings. The issue of women’s ordination generated considerable controversy. The synod consisted of lectures and presentations on this theme. The following is from one of Davidek’s presentations:
- “From the exegetic point of view we don’t have any convincing arguments for the exclusion of women from priestly functions.
- The exclusion of women from clerical functions was an outcome of historical developments and that is why this fact loses all absolute implication.
- The Christian approach to authority as a charismatic mission and service which enters places of judicial approach, urges the quest for the participation of woman in clerical office and in order to formulate the question of whether woman could function in a broader and more biblical aspect. . ."
Davidek also mentioned the letters of St. Paul where, according to him, Paul insisted on the equality of women with men.
In the early morning of December 12, the group gathered for a secret vote. The result was surprising. Half the people present expressed the conviction that the ordination of women was the right thing to do. But the final decision was not made until a year later, when Bishop Davidek took the ultimate step and started preparations for the ordination of women to the diaconate and the priesthood.
According to Peter Fiala and Jiri Hanus, in the following years several women received the diaconate and at least one woman was ordained to the priesthood. The Bishop was fully aware of the implications of his actions and that they were at variance with canon law. But Davidek believed that anything once created contributes to the continuing evolution of this world, and that the time had come for women to become priests and that regardless of personal risk he was called to be a catalyst.
It is unknown how many women were ultimately ordained during Davidek’s years of involvement with Koinotes, which ended with a series of personal accidents and Davidek’s death on August 16, 1988.
Only one, his old friend Ludmila Javorova, has come forward to identify herself.
Indeed, the Vatican responded, not by denying the ordinations had taken place, but by denying any females ordained the right to perform priestly duties.
Davidek’s vision of equal rights for women in the Church is a vision of justice. It can be criticized, dismissed, overlooked, but it can never be silenced.
It is not important that it happened decades ago in a different part of the world. The fact that there were, and still are, validly ordained women priests in the Roman Catholic church points toward the changing status of women in the church.
The following text is taken from Davidek’s presentation during the synod in 1970.
...Today mankind needs and is literally awaiting the ordination of women. The Church should not oppose it. This is the reason why we have gathered here. This fact leads us to the need for prayer and the need for sacrament. Nothing else. Society needs the service of women. If we characterize it psychologically then we recognize that society is missing something. It needs the service of women as a special instrument for the sanctification of the second half of mankind. As matters stand, contemporary sanctification of the world would be insufficient. We want nothing but ‘CONSECRATIO MUNDI’ - A SANCTIFICATION OF THE WHOLE WORLD.
This article first appeared in Equal Writes and is reprinted with their permission and that of the author.
Magdalena Eliasova, a native of the Czech Republic, is a member of the Philadelphia Catholic Worker and a supporter of SEPA/WOC. She has used previously untranslated material as the source for this article.
RE: Catholic Woman Priest Ludmila Javorova
Davidek: Mad or a genius
by Christa Pongratz-Lippitt
March 8th, 2003
Published with permission The underground Catholic Church in Czechoslovakia ordained married men and at least one woman. Our Vienna correspondent reflects on a new study
I HAVE been absorbed in a new book on the clandestine Catholic Church in Czechoslovakia under Communist rule, and how its clergy have fared since the fall of the Iron Curtain. Bishop Felix Davidek
Every Time is God’s Time: the underground Church in Czechoslovakia
– which is how I translate the German title – is by Ondrej Liska, a young graduate who studied political science and comparative religion at Brno University. It is mainly concerned with Bishop Felix Maria Davidek, one of the most disputed and controversial figures in the underground Church, who not only ordained married men and consecrated married bishops, but also ordained at least one woman. The German translation of the Czech original, which was presented in Berlin in January, has two prefaces, one by the Archbishop of Prague, Cardinal Miloslav Vlk, and the other by Cardinal Karl Lehmann, president of the German bishops’ conference, which sponsored the German translation. Both cardinals are highly appreciative, which gives the book a certain stamp of authority. Such approval is the more unexpected as the author comes to the conclusion that Davidek was not mad, as many have insisted up to now, but rather a charismatic, extraordinarily gifted personality who recognised the signs of the times and had some prophetic things to say. (Almost all the bishops in the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Austria I have spoken to about Davidek since the demise of Communism have until now been quick to emphasise that he was “quite mad” and that therefore nothing he said or did should be taken seriously.) Liska’s book thus throws an important new light on a man who believed that the Church’s pastoral methods, not only in Czechoslovakia but generally, had outlived themselves and needed reforming.
Liska says that in the light of new revelations about the former underground Church, he has attempted to place Davidek and the clandestine circle he founded in a broader spectrum than previous publications were able to. He has shown how Davidek’s group compared and interacted with other clandestine associations in Czechoslovakia, how they variously assessed Alexander Dubcek’s “socialism with a human face” which brought to birth the “Prague spring”, how they viewed the Vatican’s Ostpolitik
, or policy towards the Eastern bloc, and how they reacted to the fall of the Soviet empire. In this way Liska has indeed succeeded in filling in a few more, but by no means all, of the missing pieces.
Most of what Liska tells us about Davidek’s early life is not new. At school he was known for his remarkable memory. As a seminarian in the Second World War, he frequently clashed with his superiors and found it difficult to conform. He was ordained in 1945, and despite protests from his bishop, who thought he ought to concentrate more on parish work, he continued to study medicine, philosophy and psychology, acquiring his doctorate in the latter in 1948. Liska says his intellectual powers were extraordinary and “bordered on genius”. It was Davidek’s dream to found a Catholic university. By this time, however, the Communists had taken over Czechoslovakia.
Davidek was soon in trouble with the authorities, and in 1952 was sentenced to 24 years in prison. There he made plans for the survival of the Church, jotting them down on bits of lavatory paper.
As soon as he was released in 1964, Davidek began to implement his plans for an underground university. Now his clandestine circle, “Koinotes”, was born. The only two seminaries in the country were controlled by the Communists, and several bishops had forbidden seminarians to attend.
Davidek organised regular evening, night and weekend clandestine seminars, chiefly, but not exclusively, for candidates for the priesthood, where he taught a wide range of subjects, and was often able to obtain prominent churchmen as guest lecturers. Although it was exceedingly difficult to get hold of contemporary theological works, Davidek managed to keep up to date. He obtained the decrees of the Second Vatican Council and works by Yves Congar, Henri de Lubac, Raimundo Panikkar and Karl Rahner from friends who smuggled them in from abroad.
In his earlier years, Liska tells us, Davidek was a convinced Thomist, but was later greatly influenced by the work of Teilhard de Chardin. Those of Davidek’s writings that have been published up to now have received very conflicting appraisals. As Liska rightly points out, a proper assessment by qualified theologians will not be possible until all his work has been edited and published.
The structure of Koinotes was meticulously planned. Davidek worked out in minute detail how the small cells could communicate with the centre, and how news of meetings and liturgies could be efficiently spread in absolute secrecy so that it would not fall into the wrong hands. This system of “maximum rationalisation” was also applied to the spiritual life of the community, with each member required to direct every action towards the realisation of God’s kingdom. Liska says that from Davidek’s lectures and pastoral letters it is clear that he regarded the Koinotes community as a part of his vision of the Church of the future, a model on the local level of what he thought the universal Church should be like.
For Davidek, hesitation of any kind was counterproductive, as it allowed evil to take command. This is one explanation, Liska says, why he was so quick to put radical ideas – such as ordaining married men and even women – into practice. He wanted to speed up church reform, as he was convinced that the Church’s pastoral structure was outdated and could not cope with the threat of total secularisation. “The Church, although it has the keys, just rattles them like a jailer but won’t open up. It must open up, however, even if this means that it might make mistakes”, he wrote in the Sixties.
Towards the end of that decade, several of Davidek’s seminarians were ready to proceed, but he could not find a bishop in Czechoslovakia who was prepared to ordain them clandestinely. He managed to send five candidates to Eastern Germany for the purpose, but it was exceedingly difficult for any of them to leave Czechoslovakia. So he made plans to have one of his own men consecrated as bishop. As he could not leave the country himself at the time, he sent Jan Blaha, a young Koinotes layman, to Germany in 1967 to be ordained priest by Bishop Josef Stimpfle of Augsburg. The circumstances under which Blaha was consecrated bishop later that year at the hands of Bishop Peter Dubovsky, a Slovak who had himself been clandestinely consecrated, are still not completely clear and probably never will be, but the ceremony took place in Prague on 28 October 1967. Liska says that it is “not improbable that certain people in the Vatican indirectly supported Blaha’s consecration”. Only one day later Blaha consecrated Davidek. Liska tries to shed a little more light on what exactly the Vatican knew or did not know about Davidek, a matter that has been the subject of heated debate since the demise of Communism, but as it is so often the case of one person’s word against another’s, it all remains very confused. What is important is that the Vatican eventually, even if possibly reluctantly, recognised both Blaha’s and Davidek’s consecrations.
Davidek began to ordain priests that same year. After Soviet tanks had put an end to the Prague spring in 1968, Davidek feared that persecution of the Church would once again increase and that priests might be thrown into prison or deported.
Now in 1968 he ordained the first married members of Koinotes. Although he was in favour of keeping mandatory celibacy for the Latin rite, he saw no reason why there should not be an alternative path, as there was in the Greek-Catholic Church. For him, ordaining married men was a “creative, further development of tradition”.
Moreover, pastoral help for the Greek-Catholic Church, which was severely persecuted under the Communists and most of whose priests were in prison, had been on the Koinotes programme from the beginning. Such ordinations of married men – and, as we shall see, of women – were also convenient because their priestly identity would be less suspected by the Communist authorities and police. Davidek’s married priests were first incardinated into the Greek-Catholic rite. Normally Vatican permission is required for a change of rites, but under special circumstances (the so-called “special faculties” authorised by Pius XII in the Fifties and sometimes practised in Czechoslovakia since then), bishops could allow it. Blaha and Davidek were convinced that their mandate included such special faculties. “We understood that the papal faculties gave us complete authorisation to permit people to change from one rite to another. We – that is, Davidek and myself”, Blaha told the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 1991.
Liska devotes several pages to the synod on the position of women in the Church which Davidek held in 1970. He says that in his lectures Davidek had already for a considerable time been paying special attention to women’s role in the Church, convinced that women were only excluded from the priesthood for historical and not dogmatic reasons. For him women had the same right to become priests as men, and the Church should not prevent this development but encourage it.
Another reason for ordaining women was that they would be able to administer the sacraments to women prisoners – hundreds of nuns were imprisoned in Czechoslovakia at the time. When he put women’s ordination to the vote, however, half the synod members voted against it. The issue split the community and was a benchmark in its history. This did not prevent Davidek from ordaining Ludmila Javorova, a prominent member of Koinotes, to the priesthood. She later became his vicar general.
Liska and both cardinals in their prefaces regret that Davidek’s ordinations and consecrations, particularly those of married men, married bishops and women, have always been sensationalised, especially by the “the foreign press”, when in fact they were not the chief focus of his activities. That is surely a little harsh. What adjective other than “sensational” should one have applied to the news that a Roman Catholic bishop, whose consecration has been declared valid by the Vatican, ordained married men, consecrated married bishops and ordained women?
As to why the media concentrated chiefly on this aspect of Davidek’s activities, it must be said in their defence that very few details about Davidek other than his ordinations and consecrations were available until recently. As Liska himself emphasises, his writings have yet to be edited and published. So how could the foreign press know what role the ordinations played?
In the late Seventies, Davidek was approached by members of the Dvorak clandestine group, a community about which little has come to light up to now, who were also convinced that the Church’s pastoral methods were in urgent need of updating worldwide. One of the most important and urgent reforms in their eyes was for priests everywhere to have civilian jobs so that they could reach out to more people. Their priests were ordained clandestinely in Germany by Bishop Joachim Meisner (now Cardinal Archbishop of Cologne), among others. They asked Davidek to ordain six of their married men, and later he consecrated two bishops for them. This led to protests not only from within the Dvorak group but also from Meisner and other bishops in Germany, and those who did not approve left.
Like many priests in Czechoslovakia at the time, Davidek was deeply suspicious of the Vatican’s Ostpolitik
, sure that there were now Communist spies in the Vatican. Liska describes in considerable detail various efforts on the part of the Vatican authorities to contact Davidek at this time. It would seem that while certain people were convinced that his consecration as bishop was invalid and that he must be stopped from ordaining and consecrating, others had been told by Pope Paul VI personally that his consecration was valid. Again it was a case of one person’s word against another’s. Davidek himself always insisted that the Pope knew how things stood as far as he was concerned. His consecration was in fact declared valid by the Vatican in writing in 1992, but he did not live to see that. He died in 1988.
After the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989, many clandestine priests and bishops hoped that their ordinations and consecrations would be recognised by the Vatican, and some even hoped that they would get permission to form a personal prelature like Opus Dei. It took years to sort out their ordination status and most of them had to agree to be conditionally “re-ordained” – in case their ordinations were not valid.
Permission to form a personal prelature was refused by the Vatican, on the ground, according to Liska, that such a step would deepen divisions in the Czech Catholic Church and that moreover no suitable leader for a personal prelature could be found.
When he presented the German translation of Liska’s book in Berlin in January, Cardinal Vlk said the problems of the former clandestine Church had now to a large extent been solved. Solved as far as canon law is concerned, perhaps, but from the human point of view? I remember talking to a married priest in the mid-Nineties who said the Church had told him that he could only remain a priest if he left his wife and four children, moved to a parish where it was not known that he had been married, and proceeded to live a celibate life. He was a broken man.
One day, perhaps, when further material on the clandestines is published, we will learn more about the multiple charisms that seem to have been at work in the Czechoslovak Catholic Church under Communist rule. It is to be hoped that those priests who were prepared to be conditionally “re-ordained” and are now working as clergy in the Latin-rite or Greek-Catholic Church have been able to make use of the invaluable experience they gained in their pastoral work in the underground. They need it. For today the Czech Republic is one of the most secularised countries in eastern Europe. Read also:
RE: Catholic Woman Priest Ludmila Javorova
Letter from Ludmila Javorová to www.womenpriests.org Ludmila Javorova Brno February 25, 2007 To the www.womenpriests.org network (*)
I take this occasion to express my personal thanks to you for your manifold services because of what you offer through your internet website. What you do is encouraging not just for me but especially for all those who sense the needs of our day. If the practice of Christianity is to be productive, it has to be built up from our Christian roots - something that cannot be done without your service. What I say applies to all Christians but, in my view, even more to women. From my own experience I can confirm that there exists a real hunger for the kind of information that opens to women insight into their own Christian history.
The bishop who ordained me, the deceased Bishop Davidek
, often called attention to the fact that ‘society needs the ministry of women as a special tool for the sanctification of humankind’. He meant by this the priestly ministry of women. Women are permanently disenfranchised in this area and need help both on a human and a spiritual level. I am very grateful for your service.
May God accompany you with the fullness of her love, and give you the inspiration you need, together with all the gifts you need in order to perform your service.
Also in your personal life, may God’s grace constantly travel with you. Ludmila Javorová
* The letter was carried to us by hand from Brno and delivered on 16 March 2007.
A photocopy of the letter written by Ludmila on her own typewriter follows.
RE: Catholic Woman Priest Ludmila Javorova
The Warsaw Voice Polish and Central European Review
The Church's Underground Foundation
28 January 1996
People who sustained Catholic forms of Christianity during communist-era persecutions find the Vatican won't recognize them.
Priests, bishops and lay workers of a so-called "underground church"-set up when the Roman Catholic Church was outlawed by Czechoslovakia's communist regime in early postwar years-are now struggling with the Vatican itself as they seek its recognition of their parishes. The underground Catholics say they formed their own hierarchy under a papal directive to battle communism, but the Vatican is now insisting that they take steps to adhere to standard Roman Catholic doctrine-including rejection of women priests.
The issue dates back back to 1949, when Pope Pius XII excommunicated anyone found collaborating with communists. Czechoslovakian bishops, under the leadership of Prague Archbishop Josef Beran, treated the Vatican instruction seriously and threatened to excommunicate Catholics participating in Catholic Action, an organization approved by the communists.
State authorities responded to the Catholic Church's stance as a declaration of war. The church was subjected to state supervision and within two years all monks, most bishops and hundreds of priests were either imprisoned or sent to labor camps. Without priests, the country's Roman Catholic Church would have died out. In 1949 the Vatican ordered bishops to be consecrated in secrecy in Czechoslovakia, so that they could then ordain priests. Communist authorities immediately arrested six of the seven bishops consecrated. The seventh bishop managed to escape from the Czechoslovakian security service and fled to Rome.
The Vatican's attitude toward the communists changed in the mid-1950s, when a new policy allowed some administrative compromise with Central Europe's communist authorities. But change was slow: It was only in 1965 that Agostino Cassaroli-a special papal envoy who later became a high-ranking cardinal-was able to rescue Beran from house arrest in Prague and bring him to Rome. Beran was replaced by the more moderate Frantisek Tomasek, one of those consecrated in 1949.
The Vatican did not, however, completely renounce its line of resistance. In 1967, Jan Blaha, an engineer from Brno, was secretly consecrated bishop with the Vatican's consent. He was ordained priest in Augsburg, West Germany and made a bishop in Czechoslovakia.
In 1973, a compromise was finally worked out, under which Czechoslovakia's communist authorities allowed the Vatican to consecrate four priests as bishops. Three were Slovakian and the fourth was Josef Vrana, who was (and remained after his consecration) the head of the communist-recognized priests' organization Pacem In Terris. Many Czech Catholics were outraged. One joke making the rounds said that Vrana should give blessings with the sign of the hammer and sickle rather than the cross.
Religious and lay workers, many of whom had languished in prison for a considerable part of their lives for obeying Pius's original order of defiance, ignored the officially-recognized Catholic Church. Their church became known as "underground church." Its head and symbol was Bishop Felix Davidek, who had spent 15 years in prison. About 200 priests are estimated to have been ordained in secret-and at considerable personal risk-throughout the communist era. Many were married, family men holding secular jobs. In 1969, after the Warsaw Pact's intervention to crush the Prague Spring liberalizing movement, Fridolin Zahradnik, a father of three, was consecrated bishop. According to Ludmila Javorova, a Czech woman now aged 85 who admitted having been ordained (in an interview for the Austrian Catholic newspaper Kirche Intern), five other women were ordained priests as well.
With the fall of communism, the Roman Catholic Church's Czech Episcopate faces a dilemma. Under a Vatican instruction, it summoned the underground church's priests to test their theological knowledge with the goal of being reordained. But few agreed. Most priests in the underground church also reject the possibility, proposed by the Episcopate, of setting up a Greek-Catholic diocese, which would recognize Rome's authority but would permit married men to remain priests. "We want to establish our own prelature under which bishops, priests and worshipers would remain independent instead of under the respective [Vatican-recognized] diocesan bishops," Zahradnik said in an interview with Lidove Noviny. "We also want to live the way we did during the persecutions-working in factories and offices, having families, and at the same time preaching the Gospel."
The debate over the way the Roman Catholic Church should carry out its mission in Central Europe is not confined to the Czech Republic. Last autumn in Germany, an inititiative, "We Are the Church," organized a petition drive demanding democratic reforms, the free choice of celibacy for priests and the rights of women to be ordained. The demands were supported by 1.8 million of Germany's Catholics.
Both the Vatican and the Czech church's Episcopate categorically reject the possibility of women priests. They have declared the underground ordinations invalid. They also refuse to recognize Davidek's legacy. And in doing so, the Catholic Church is being seen to support the line of Vrana-although, to many of the faithful, that puts it squarely on the side of communism's collaborators.
RE: Catholic Woman Priest Ludmila Javorova
Secret No More
Discovering a female Catholic priest behind the Iron Curtain.
BY: Arthur Jones
A quarter-century ago Ludmila Javorova was a secret locked inside another secret. She was an ordained Roman Catholic priest inside the secret underground church in Czechoslovakia.
The underground church, known as Koinotes--from koinonia, a Greek word for a tightly knit group of believers--operated at great risk, barely beyond the repressive gaze of the Czech communist authorities.
In the 1970s and '80s, Javorova's story was as remote as information buried in a time capsule. In a sense, that's what the secret was. Javorova did not want it revealed. Yet over the course of one decade, the 1990s, American enterprise and determination--and chance--decided otherwise.
In 1990, NCR staffer Tim McCarthy was in the Czech Republic to write about the sweeping changes taking place in Central and Eastern Europe. In September of that year, in a lengthy article datelined Bratislava, Czechoslovakia, McCarthy revealed that married men had been ordained priests secretly in that country from the 1960s on. Even more startling, informants told McCarthy that Bishop Felix Maria Davidek had ordained at least one woman. But McCarthy's sources did not know who or where she was, and their story "could not be confirmed."
Despite McCarthy's first twist on the time lock, the secret remained. The woman at the center, Ludmila Javorova, did not want it revealed. She had her reasons, though she had no doubts about her priesthood. She knew she had been legitimately ordained, in part because of the circumstances of the time, by Davidek, a legally instituted and recognized Roman Catholic bishop.In December 1991, The New York Times picked up on the story and reported that three Czech women had been ordained.The next twist on the time lock had taken place.
Ruth McDonough Fitzpatrick, then national coordinator of the U.S. Catholic Women's Ordination Conference (WOC) put together a small delegation to travel
to the Czech Republic. Before they left, she learned there was a former Koinotes priest in the United States and contacted him. He knew one of the women: Ludmila Javorova. Her name was out.
The delegation, which included Quixote Center's co-director Dolly Pommerlau and others, went to Prague, then Brno. In Brno, 18 local people gathered to listen to the visitors during a discussion about the church in the United States. Javorova, unidentified, was present. Later that evening, Javorova decided to be introduced to the Americans. They urged her to go public with her story. She declined.
Four years later a second delegation went to Brno and invited Javorova to the United States for a private visit. The delegation was co-sponsored by the Women's Ordination Conference and the Quixote Center, a faith-based social justice center in Washington. In October 1997, Javorova visited for two weeks. She was accompanied by an ordained woman deacon from Slovakia, the deacon's sister and an interpreter. Not a word of this visit leaked out.
Among events lined up for Javorova was a gathering of Future Church in Cleveland. Seventy minutes flying time away, in Hartford, Conn., Sr. Miriam Therese Winter, composer, professor and director of Hartford Seminary's Women's Leadership Institute, was invited to the meeting by her friend, St. Joseph Sr. Chris Schenk, the executive director of FutureChurch. There Winter met Javorova, a tall woman, perhaps 5-foot-7, slender, quiet, "deeply introverted but centered, very present to the moment."
Winter, with her work at Hartford in mind, took some notes, some photographs and flew home. She typed up the notes and put them away. A week later, Winter rode the Amtrak to Philadelphia. After its New Haven, Conn., stop, the train was packed. Even so, Winter could hear people talking in a language she did not understand, yet recognized--she'd been listening to it the previous weekend.
There, across the aisle in the same car, was Javorova and her traveling
companions. "Ludmila shrieked in delight, she was so grateful to see a familiar face," said Winter. "They were on their way to Washington, but they wanted to make a quick stop in New York, just to see it. They were babes in the wilderness. They had bags and purses and coats, and I said, 'Omigod, getting off in New York you're going to be dog meat.' So I got off with them, got their gear into lockers, but couldn't stay." Winter went on to Philadelphia. Not longer after, in Detroit for the Call to Action meeting, Winter was talking to the then-executive director of the Women's Ordination Conference, Andrea Johnson, who said she'd been trying to convince Javorova to tell her story. They were pressing, but not too hard. The American women tried to convince Javorova to at least put her story down on paper. They explained that if she did not, after her death it would all disappear as if it had never happened. Winter advised Johnson to contact Crossroad, the publishing house that publishes Winter's books. "The one thing I believe absolutely essential," Winter said, "is that when Ludmila tells her story, she needs to tell it to someone who receives it in such a way they treat it as sacred."
As Winter candidly said to NCR later, "Look, I had a concern about our feminist agenda. I'm a feminist. Honestly and sincerely, if you're about your task, you try to do it objectively. Even though there's a certain feminist filter, you try to watch over it. I also think, even without manipulation, you hear things differently if your primary objective is to lift up or pursue women's ordination which is, of course, critically important. "But sometimes," Winter said, "how you ask the question determines how you get the information. "When I'd been With Ludmila [in Cleveland]," she said, "I'd sensed something very deep there. I couldn't put it into words. I simply said she can't just go ahead with one European male writer who's close to the Czech Republic who comes in and says tell me your story. I'm so used to women's work. You need to have a safe circle of supporters as you tell the story."
Winter returned to her duties, but the task she'd laid out stayed with her. A couple of days later she woke up in the middle of the night and said, "I have to do this story." That morning she called Michael Leach (then at Crossroad, now at Orbis), and told him, "You won't believe want happened last night." He replied, "You won't believe what happened this morning." At their meeting they'd said, "If only we could get M.T. Winter to write this book." In August 1999, during six days of conversation conducted through two interpreters, Winter learned a little of what it meant to be a secret locked inside a secret. "When you've lived 40 years under totalitarian rule, World War II Nazis and then the communists, everything is secret," Winter said "Then you have this underground church movement. It has to be very guarded. You don't tell anybody anything they don't need to know. "And these are life patterns," said Winter. "Even when your psyche wants to override it. There were so many things in her life she'd never talked about, never said aloud even to herself. There was no sense of now we start at the beginning and go on to the end. Her recounting was all over the place. Many times I'd asked evocative questions to try to get to the narrative, and not just theory. Even dates. I had to do a lot of external work on the time line: If German bombs fell on Brno this year, Ludmila was a little girl and probably that age."
In March 2000, Winter was back in Brno again. She decided to write the first draft while living and working in the culture. In May 2000, she was in Brno for a five-week writing stint. Halfway through came word that Winter's mother was dying. She made it home just in time, but could not return to the Czech Republic. "Thank God for e-mails, and that we found two wonderful interpreters/translators," said Winter. In December 2000, Winter was back with Javorova checking the facts. Up until that point Javorova still had not agreed to publication in her lifetime. "I'd sensed in the fall that she might," said Winter, "and in December she agreed."
Oddly, that is not the end of the account that leads to Winter's book, reviewed on this page and excerpted on page 39. In Winter's view, the process of telling the story changed Winter, changed Javorova, and changed the context in which women's ordination is discussed. Winter explains. "It is not easy to put Ludmila in a box, which we'd like to do. A stereotype--`She's a woman priest, therefore...' She crosses back and forth. She was doing things that were post-Vatican II way back when, behind the Iron Curtain, it just blows you away. And she has this deep, deep loyalty to the institutional church, and to the importance of fitting within that tradition: not as an exception. She has always understood herself as being within the flow of that full tradition, and that what they did [in ordaining her] was right for the circumstances in which they found themselves."
Winter continued, "Ludmila says, `If the bishop says I do not have faculties'--the right to perform priestly functions--'then I don't.' I pushed her on that. 'Do you really think they took the priesthood away from you?' 'Absolutely not,' she replied, 'I am a priest forever!' "There's a difference, you see," said Winter, "between faculties and priesthood. Ludmila has distinguished between the sacramental--the gift from God, the call, the vocation--and the canonical, the authoritative. She says the bishops and Rome have the right to rescind her faculties, but they can never take away her priesthood. "To me, in an age where these distinctions are often lost, it's kind of refreshing to see," Winter said. "And also heartbreaking to see that the tradition does not see how fortunate that she's the one who was ordained. Because she's been very circumspect.
In Koinotes, Javorova secretly concelebrated Mass with male Koinotes priests, but never presided. Most Koinotes members did not know she'd been ordained. Secrecy was essential for many reasons. Lives and personal liberties were at stake for all underground Catholics during that time. Today, as for more than a decade, she works as a catechist in her local parish and teaches religion in a local school. Yet her life has changed. "I sensed a feeling of relief in her once she'd made the decision to publish," said Winter.
Winter's life has changed, too. The Medical Mission sister, who entered the order in 1955, who published 15 albums of church music since her first, "Joy is Like the Rain," in 1966, and whose Crossroad books include "Women of the Bible" and "The Gospel According to Mary," notes what happened. "Ludmila's story for me--though her priesthood is the entree--is in the power of her spirit. In her deep spirituality. I think what she contributes to the dialogue of females being eventually ordained--you see the male model, male priests, did not, could not work for her--is the way in which her deep dialogue with God is constant in helping her to discern what is her pact with God." "She contributes a real depth to priestly ministry," Winter said, "a depth we don't often refer to anymore in our anxieties about delivering the services priests need to deliver, given the diminishing numbers. She brings it right back: What is it but a call from God? A gift. And that God uses whatever you have, whoever you are, with all your limitations. And Ludmila speaks honestly through that. I found that spiritually very stirring." With Winter's book, the secret is out. http://www.beliefnet.com/Faiths/Christianity/2001/05/Secret-No-More.aspx