KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- A woman is planning to defy the Roman Catholic Church and become a priest -- the first to do so in Kansas City, Missouri.
The Kansas City Star reports
that 67-year-old Georgia Walker knows she will be excommunicated from the church, but that doesn't faze her because she doesn't accept the legitimacy of the excommunication.
The church in turn will not accept her ordination, scheduled for Jan. 3. Under canon law, only men can be priests.
"That's their problem," Walker said of the church.
Walker is part of a movement called the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests. Instead of leaving the church, they hope to change it from within. There are nearly 200 women priests, all but about 50 of them in the U.S.
Walker has worked as a sociology professor at the University of Missouri, a financial officer and a hospital manager. She converted to Catholicism at midlife and became a Sister of St. Joseph, though she did not take final vows. She is working on a graduate degree in theology.
Walker also is a peace activist. She works to former prisoners reintegrate with society. As a priest, she plans to establish a regular schedule to visit prisons in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph to bring the sacrament to inmates.
She also wants to build a small community of worshippers while remaining a member of St. James Parish in Kansas City.
Canon Law 1024 of the Roman Catholic Church says that only baptized men may be ordained as priests, based on Jesus calling only men to be his disciples.
A decade ago, Pope John Paul II issued an apostolic letter affirming that the priesthood was for men only. Pope Francis had raised hopes that he would bring more flexibility to the church, but he made it clear last year that women cannot be priests.
Walker said those rules "have been made by men who seemingly forget that the first person that Jesus appeared to after his resurrection was a woman. Did he make a mistake? Mary Magdalene was the first one to see him. She was the first one to start spreading the good news of his resurrection."
The Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph said in a statement that since Walker's ordination "does not involve the participation of any validly ordained Catholic clergy, the diocese does not see a reason to comment any further."
Walker said the diocese explicitly warned her she would be excommunicated if she continued with her plan. She plans to do so anyway, with the ordination performed by Bishop Bridget Mary Meehan, who travels the country ordaining women priests and deacons -- 25 of them in 2014.