About Me

My photo
United States
Eminence, the emeritis cardinal archbishop of HGN

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Bishop Joan Houk - Womanbishop
Speaks at Vanderbilt Divinty School

UPDATE -- February 19, 2010 -- Video of Bishop Joan Houk's talk at Vanderbilt University Divinity School

I was at Bishop Joan Houk’s talk last evening at Vanderbilt. It was really my first up close experience with the issue of the ordination of women in the Roman Catholic Church. I came away very impressed.

Bishop Joan impressed me, first of all, as a woman with both feet firmly planted on the ground. She seems to have done all things well. She is still very happily married celebrating fifty years with her husband. She talked about her six children and grandchildren and now two great grandchildren. She has taught grade school. She has been involved in the mission of the Roman Catholic Church working in priestless counties in Kentucky. She has the academic qualifications expected of priesthood candidates today.

I think I was most impressed when she departed from the prepared text and talked of her own passion for the equality of women. She spoke of her experience working in a women’s shelter with battered, abused and raped women. She linked this experience to the Roman Catholic Church and the many ways in which the church directly and indirectly treats women as inferior. The church is complicit in the abuse of women.

Bishop Joan seemed challenged and said she would think about a comment made to her from a man in the audience who is a lawyer suggesting she needed to get tougher in her approach to the church. You know, maybe knocking the bishop’s hat off. She offered that this was not her approach. What she did say, and what resonated with me, is that what really needs to be done is to get the story out. Bishop Joan and the other womenbishops and womenpriests are doing a ministry rooted in the gospel.

This is what also impressed me. Bishop Joan talked about how she already was doing the things a priest would do before she was ordained. Those things were rooted in her day to day experience, like the day she went to visit one of her sick sixth grader’s in the hospital and prayed for him and laid hands on him even though a “real” priest was in the background. She is the one who had the personal connection with the student. I think our present idea of ordination and who can do priestly things is too constricted.

Benedict and some of his bishops can try to build higher and higher walls to keep women like Bishop Joan Houk out. I see a rising tide against all these walls. I’d like to call it grace or the work of the Holy Spirit. This was a very good, even historic evening, at least for me.


  1. Joan attended my ordination as a RCWP on 2/6/2010 in Sarasota FL. I find her to be loving, compassionate, concerned for all the women and men in our movement and an excellent homilist and speaker. You are blessed to have heard from our Bishop Joan.

  2. Mrs. Joan, served our Hispanic community in Ky.
    The most impressive about it was that she connected with the people with out speaking Spanish, I guess that she has always "something" to teach some leaders, and why not some priests can learn from her.

    Thanks Mrs.Houk
    Bety Davidson

  3. Katy,

    I appreciate your comment about Joan being an excellent homilist. On occasion I sit in the pews and want and need to be nourished spiritually. The parish where I usually do this has gone from a Vatican II pastor and excellent homilist to a JP2 pastor who aggravates me with his appeals for money and talking to us about cutesy Catholic things as if we were all grade school kids.

  4. Anonymous,

    I am happy for you that Bishop Joan was a wonderful minister to you even though she did not speak Spanish. I would like to try that myself since I do not speak Spanish.