by Patricia Monaghan, Ph.D.
One of the most thrilling moments of the first national ASWM conference in April, 2010, was the world premiere of the documentary “Pink Smoke Over the Vatican” by California filmmaker Jules Hart.
Four years in the making, this surprising and moving film traces recent developments within the Roman Catholic Church. Catholicism holds that priests must be ordained “in apostolic succession,” meaning that each priest is ordained by a bishop whose heritage can be traced all the way back to the original apostles of Jesus Christ—a two thousand year link to the founding fathers of the church.
Given the historic opposition of the church to women serving as priests, it would seem unlikely that women could gain ordination. Yet because of several courageous bishops, women are now indeed being ordained—in apostolic succession, their heritage tracing all the way back to St. Peter. Indeed, three bishops have now been ordained through this process, making it possible that the ordination of women can continue, as it takes three bishops to consecrate a bishop, and only bishops can consecrate new priests.
The women featured in the film have often sacrificed greatly to achieve their callings. All have lifelong histories as devout and engaged Catholics, some as nuns, some as active laywomen. All described their desire to serve as priests as a true vocation, one that could not be denied. All have been defamed and rejected by church hierarchy, yet have continued their ministry despite this. Their stories, as told in the film and placed in the context of church policies, are profoundly moving to any viewer interested in women’s role in religion.
The audience at ASWM included some women brought up in the Catholic tradition, most of whom had parted company with their church-of-origin over oppression of women within the organized church. Others had no personal connection to the church in question. But there was no question that the bravery and commitment of the women featured in the film reached out to the ASWM participants. The audience, which began with quiet interest, soon became a call-and-response to the film’s speakers. Spontaneous applause broke out several times, there were occasional cat-calls, and tears were seen on many faces. At the end of the showing, the audience rose to its feet in a surge of loud approval. Jules Hart, who had traveled from her home in Carmel, CA, for the premiere, was visibly delighted with the response.
You can read about Hart’s work on her website: http://www.eyegoddess.com/. For more on the movement to ordain women within Roman Catholicism, see the following site: