e-mail us

Inside NCR

Perhaps another bishop or two, somewhere in the world, has secretly ordained a woman.

The one we know of, though, was ordained in the secrecy of an underground church during the desperation caused by the extremes of the Cold War in Czechoslovakia. One gets the sense that this was not so much an act of defiance as it was an accomplishment of holiness. So there is an unexpected calm threading through the report beginning on page 36, an exclusive first look at Miriam Therese Winter’s book on the ordination of Ludmila Javorova. This book, to be published next month, is the vehicle Javorova has chosen to tell her story. Previously she has been almost silent about the matter. When our Rome correspondent, John Allen, visited Javorova in her apartment in the southern Czech city of Brno in 1999, she would speak only in general terms. One explanation that she said could be used and appears in Allen’s book, Cardinal Ratzinger: The Vatican’s Enforcer of the Faith, was that her ordination was not a feminist statement but rather a strategy for the pastoral care of women jailed by the communists.

Bishop Felix Davidek, who ordained Javorova, had been imprisoned himself and was held in a place where the exercise yards for men and women were separated by only a wall, Allen writes. “Davidek would say Mass while walking around the yard, jumping up and shouting the words of consecration over the wall so the women could hear. He realized this was inadequate and wanted to prepare a small number of women to administer the sacraments in prison, on the assumption that some of them, since they were active in the underground church, would eventually be arrested.”

What next? It is an intriguing situation. The bishop is dead. The woman simply offers her story, perhaps another step along the way.

Anyone interested in learning more about the program run by Fr. Gerard Valavan for poor children in Bangalore, India (see photo on page 11), can contact him at jeevdaya@blr.vsnl.net.in.

I’ve known Rabbi James Rudin for more than 15 years. He has spent years working to understand the Christian reality and has given enormous energy to bridging the ancient divides between Judaism and Christianity. So I don’t take lightly his caution about the anti-Semitism he detects in the popular culture (see page 20).

Pro sports figures who spout their religious convictions over the airwaves make me cringe. Often they represent Christianity in the most infantile manner, apparently tutored in the faith by those more interested in rubbing elbows with stardom than serious explication of scripture and theology. Now we learn that some athletes are being tutored in hate, digging up long-discredited characterizations of Jews and Judaism.

If religion has become such a large part of athletes’ lives, perhaps the pro franchises should pay more attention to the team chaplains and what they’re teaching.

-- Tom Roberts

My e-mail address is troberts@natcath.org

National Catholic Reporter, May 11, 2001