Excommunicated women demand changes to Church as child abuse scandals mount

Members of the Roman Catholic Women Priests say the constant string of allegations against male priests is yet another sign the Church must let women and men with children be ordained.

International circle of bishops with Roman Catholic Women Priests call on Pope Francis to act

Marie Bouclin, a bishop with the Roman Catholic Women Priests, presides over a service in her home in Sudbury in 2016. (Leonardo Palleja/CBC )

Though they've been excommunicated by the Vatican, a group of women is demanding changes in the Roman Catholic Church.

Bishops with the Roman Catholic Women Priests are calling on Pope Francis to "establish a council to explore new structures for church leadership and order within the Roman Catholic Church."

They say the constant string of allegations against male priests is yet another sign the Church must begin letting women and men with children be ordained.

The call to action comes on the heels of last month's grand jury report out of Pennsylvania. It found that thousands of children were abused at the hands of hundreds of priests in that state.

Marie Bouclin is a bishop emerita with the Roman Catholic Women Priests.

"Men want to protect their children too, and if they're fathers, they can't be ordained either," explained Bouclin. "So we're saying you need married people as ministers of the Church, you need women in the church, to bring a different perspective, to change this system that has perpetuated itself largely through force and fear."

Bouclin, who is based in Sudbury, said the Roman Catholic Women Priests are essentially forced to the margins as an "underground" organization. She explained she runs small services and prayer circles, often out of her own home.

Marie Bouclin is a Sudbury-based bishop emerita with the Roman Catholic Women Priests. (Supplied/www.romancatholicwomenpriests.org)

The Vatican automatically excommunicates any woman that attempts to be ordained through the movement.

"They've marginalized us, so we can't operate in the local parishes and such," noted Bouclin.

"We've been accused of trying to have access to power, when what we are saying is, 'Look, we could serve.' There's a shortage of priests, we could do this work, we're qualified and we're willing, but there's this fear of change."

Bouclin also spoke about why she and her peers continue to fight to be part of an organization that has not only forced them out, but also continues to be peppered with child abuse allegations.

"This is our Church too," she replied. "There's a lot worth keeping, but there's a lot that has to change. Rather than walk away, it's the hope of trying to salvage the good that can be."

Bouclin added it's a mistake to believe that child abuse at the hands of priests hasn't happened in Canadian cities like Sudbury.