Reasonably Catholic: Keeping the Faith

“I wanted them to look like popes”

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In the Oct. 30th episode of Reasonably Catholic: Keeping the Faith, photojournalist Judith Levitt talks about her photographic portraits of women priests, which ran in the Sept. 30th New York Times Sunday Review section. See the full gallery here.

Listen now:

One of the many interesting aspects of Levitt’s photographs is that, contrary to what you might expect, the women are not shown performing such priestly actions as consecrating the Eucharist at Mass. Rather, the portraits channel the spirit of Renaissance art, with the women seated, holding a book and wearing robes and stoles in front of a deep blue velvet backdrop.

To see the women in such traditional regalia may bring comfort, says Levitt, to those like herself who have fond memories of having grown up Catholic but who find it hard to feel at home in the Church today.

Bishop Patricia Fresen. Photograph by Judith Levitt

Bishop Patricia Fresen. Photograph by Judith Levitt


Bishop Patricia Fresen, formerly of South Africa, now of Germany, was a Dominican nun and university professor—who trained male seminarians how to be priests!—before becoming a Roman Catholic priest herself in 2003, resulting in her being forced to leave her community. In Germany, bishops involved in the women-priests movement asked her to become a bishop and bring the movement to the United States so it could grow. As priest Gabriella Velardi Ward, whom Fresen ordained and who is a subject of an upcoming Reasonably Catholic episode, tells it, the bishops explained, “The women in the United States are well-educated and not easily intimidated by Rome.”

Fresen, photographed in her home in Germany, has since ordained many women priests and is a shepherd of the movement.

One thought on ““I wanted them to look like popes”

  1. Hi Maria,

    Another awesome conversation. I’d like to go to one of these women’s masses. Who are the Bishops who ordain them, and aren’t they then defrocked? Just curious about all this. Fascinating. I look forward to the interview with Bishop Dana Reynolds.

    Peace and Love, Evelyn

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