• Video: Women Priests?
Jane Via, of San Diego, is nervous as she performs mass in front of a full congregation at a San Diego church. Outside, a crowd has gathered to protest the notion of women becoming Catholic priests. They are carrying signs that say, "Jesus called Peter, not Paul."
Via is worried they'll come in the church and disrupt the mass. However, they end up staying outside, telling FOX News producers that women have no business defying the rules of the Catholic Church to become priests.
Allyson Smith, a devout Catholic, says "Women who set themselves up falsely as priests are being disobedient to the churches."
Via is one of at least 15 Roman Catholic women in the United States now facing excommunication for secretly being ordained as a Catholic priest. Many have already received notice from their diocese — warning that they'll be banned from the church and refused the sacraments — but Via and her supporters remain undaunted and say they'll keep moving forward.
"It's my way of trying to call the church to the radical inclusivity of Jesus, and to do something that maybe 50 years from now — or a 100 years from now — will move the church to change,” says Via.
The movement began when five sympathetic European bishops managed to secretly ordain several women into the priesthood. Their identities were allegedly notarized, put into a bank vault, and kept under wraps to protect their standing within the church.
The women went on to ordain other women, and the domino effect began. But religious scholars insist the church will likely never accept women in the role of priests.
"The ultimate argument is that in the original text, the life of Jesus, and sayings of Jesus, He was a man," says Lisa Bitel, professor of Religious Studies at University of South Carolina. "His followers were men and therefore ministers, the ones to whom He gave his job on Earth must be men."
However, polls continue to show that both Catholics and non-Catholics support the idea of women becoming priests.
In a 2000 poll of rank-and-file Catholics, by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University, 70 percent said they were in favor; another 17 percent said they were opposed. Still, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has yet to take a formal position on these recent female ordinations.
So far, the Vatican has excommunicated seven female priests in Europe, but that hasn't scared off what are reportedly dozens of women here in the U.S. who are already preparing to take to the altar.
Via knows she faces the most severe form of punishment from the church for her actions, but says her faith is guiding her to do what she believes in her heart is right.
"I consider what I am doing religious disobedience, comparable to civil disobedience, and it's really important to break unjust laws in order to demonstrate their injustice."
• E-mail Anita Vogel
Anita Vogel joined FOX News Channel as a Los Angeles based correspondent in October 2001. Click here to read her complete bio.
Anita Vogel joined FOX News Channel (FNC) in 2001 and currently serves as a Los Angeles based correspondent.