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John Wijngaards

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John Wijngaards

Johannes Wijngaards
Born Johannes Nicolaas Maria Wijngaards
(1935-09-30) 30 September 1935
Surabaya, Indonesia
Nationality Dutch
Religion Roman Catholic

Johannes Nicolaas Maria Wijngaards (born 1935, in Surabaya, Indonesia) is a Catholic spiritual author and controversial theologian. Since 1977 he has been prominent in his public opposition to the teaching of the Catholic Church on the impossibility of ordaining women to the priesthood. In 1998 he resigned from his priestly ministry in protest against Pope John Paul II’s decrees ‘Ordinatio Sacerdotalis’ and ‘Ad Tuendam Fidem’ which forbid further discussion of the women priests’ issue in the Catholic Church.

Early years

Wijngaards was born on 30 September 1935 from Dietze van Hoesel en Dr Nicolaas Carel Heinrich Wijngaards, both Dutch citizens, in the Indonesian city of Surabaya. During World War II, his father was made to work on the infamous Burma Railway in Thailand, while John with his mother and three brothers were prisoners of war in Malang, Surakarta and Ambarawa.[1] The family was repatriated to the Netherlands after the war.


John Wijngaards joined the Mill Hill Missionaries and was ordained a priest in 1959. In Rome he obtained the Licentiate of Sacred Scripture at the Pontifical Biblical Institute and the Doctorate of Theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University (1963). His studies focused on The Formulas of the Deuteronomic Creed (dissertation, Brill, Leiden 1963).[2] Further research resulted in The Dramatisation of Salvific History in the Deuteronomic Schools (Brill, Leiden 1969) and a 360 page commentary on the book of Deuteronomy in the well-known Dutch series of commentaries published by Romen & Zonen (Roermond 1971).[3]

Services in India

Wijngaards taught Sacred Scripture at St John's Major Seminary in Hyderabad, India (1963–1976). During that time he was instrumental in founding Amruthavani communication centre, Jeevan Jyoti theological institute for religious women and Jyotirmai, the state-wide planning body for the Catholic dioceses of Andhra Pradesh. He served as part-time lecturer at the National Biblical Catechetical and Liturgical Centre in Bangalore and was, for a number of years, a member of the National Advisory Council of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India. At the same time he produced a number of books on Sacred Scripture including his well-known Background to the Gospels.[4] Research on the ministries convinced him that the exclusion of women must be attributed to cultural obstacles, not to Scripture or Tradition. He urged the Indian hierarchy to start a process of exploring the full ordination of women.[5]

Worldwide responsibilities

After a spell as Vicar General of the Mill Hill Missionaries in London (1976–1982), he became Director of Housetop, an international centre of adult faith formation (1982–2009). He also lectured at the Missionary Institute London which was affiliated to Louvain Catholic University and Middlesex University (1983–1998). During this time he pioneered the ‘Walking on Water’ series of video courses for adult faith formation which were co-produced by 15 countries in all continents. He wrote the scripts for nine half-hour film stories. He also produced the acclaimed 2 ½ - hour film Journey to the Centre of Love of which he was both the scriptwriter and the executive producer (see awards below).

Ministry for women

In 1977 Wijngaards wrote Did Christ Rule out Women Priests? (McCrimmon, Great Wakering) in response to Inter Insigniores (1976), the declaration by the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith in which the Vatican’s reasons for excluding women are clearly spelled out. In the decades that followed Rome stiffened its opposition to women’s ordination, culminating in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis (1995) and subsequent documents by which the freedom of discussion by theologians was further curtailed.[6] In protest, Wijngaards resigned from his priestly ministry on 17 September 1998.[7] His request for official reduction to the status of a lay person was acknowledged by Rome on 21 February 2000. On the 27th of May he married Jacqueline Clackson in a simple Church ceremony.[8] Wijngaards has continued publishing his reasons for advocating the ordination of women to the Catholic priesthood in a series of books, notably The Ordination of Women in the Catholic Church[9] and No Women in Holy Orders? [10] In 1999 he established a website that has grown out to be the largest internet library with documentation on the ordination of women.[11] Traditionalist Catholics decry John Wijngaards as a ‘public dissenter and heretic’.[12] He himself maintains that speaking out does not undermine accepting the teaching authority of the Pope.[13] He firmly opposes the illegal ordination of women outside the established structure of the Church, as is done in the so-called Roman Catholic Women Priests movement.[14]

Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research

Since 2005 John Wijngaards has focused also on other issues needing reform in the Catholic Church. He created a pastoral website to deal with the sexual code.[15] He drafted the Catholic Scholars' Declaration on Authority in the Church which gained international support.[16] His Centre was reshaped to become the Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research.[17]


  • Grand Prix, as scriptwriter for Journey to the Centre of Love, Tenth International Catholic Film Festival, Warsaw 1995.[18]
  • The Bronze Award, for the same film at the Film Fest Houston 1997.
  • The Chris Award, at the Columbus Film Festival 1997.
  • The Marga Klompé Award, 2005.[19]


The Formulas of the Deuteronomic Creed (Brill, Leiden 1963)
The Dramatization of Salvific History in the Deuteronomic Schools (Brill, Leiden 1969)
Background to the Gospels (St Paul’s, Delhi 1970)
God's Word to Israel (TPI, Ranchi 1971)
Did Christ Rule Out Women Priests? (McCrimmons, Great Wakering 1977)
Communicating God’s Word (McCrimmons, Great Wakering 1978)
Reading God’s Word to Others (ATC, Bangalore 1981)
Experiencing Jesus (Ave Maria Press, Notre Dame 1981)
Inheriting the Master’s Cloak (Ave Maria Press, Notre Dame 1985)
The Gospel of John and his Letters (Michael Glazier, Wilmington 1986)
The Spirit in John (Michael Glazier, Wilmington 1987)
God Within Us (Collins, London 1988)
My Galilee My People (Housetop, London 1990)
For The Sake of His People (McCrimmons, Great Wakering 1990)
Together in My Name (Housetop, London 1991)
I Have No Favourites (Housetop, London 1992)
How to Make Sense of God (Sheed & Ward, Kansas City 1995)
The Ordination of Women in the Catholic Church. Unmasking a Cuckoo’s Egg Tradition (Darton, Longman & Todd, London 2001)[20]
No Holy Orders for Women? The Ancient Women Deacons (Canterbury Press, London 2002; Herder & Herder, New York 2006)[21]
The Ordained Women Deacons of the Church's First Millennium (Canterbury Press, London 2011)
AMRUTHA. What the Pope's man found out about the Law of Nature (Author House, Bloomington 2011)[22]


  1. ^ The Tablet 20 August 2005, pp. 14-15.
  2. ^ Reviews in Journal of Semitic Studies 10 (1965) pp. 102-103; Revue Biblique Oct (1965) pp. 605-606; W. Vogels, La Promesse Royale de Yahweh, Ottawa 1970, pp. 29-33. The findings were published in Dutch as Vazal van Jahweh (Bosch & Keunig, Baarn 1965).
  3. ^ Review in Society for Old Testament Study Booklist, London 1973, p. 31.
  4. ^ The 325-page book was first published by St Paul’s Press in Delhi, then by Theological Publications in Bangalore, seeing a dozen English editions in India. It appeared in the USA as Handbook to the Gospels, in the UK as The Gospel Comes Alive. It was republished in Hindi, Telugu, Urdu, Bengali, Canara, Tamil and Malayalam.
  5. ^ “Only honest appraisal in the light of Christ’s Spirit should decide the question of women’s ministry; not convention or personal fancy. After all it is Christ’s priesthood, not ours, we are speaking about.” John Wijngaards, ‘The ministry of women and social myth’ in New Ministries in India, ed. D. S. Amalorpavadass, Bangalore 1976, pp. 50-82.
  6. ^ Responsum ad Dubium (1995), Ad Tuendam Fidem (1998).
  7. ^ “Since I perceive Rome’s ban on women’s ordination as not legitimately founded on Scripture or Tradition, not arrived at after proper consultation in the Church, harmful to ecumenism and highly injurious to the spiritual wellbeing of the faithful, I feel bound in conscience to continue voicing my sincere opposition.” The Times; The Daily Telegraph, both 18 September 1998; The Tablet, 19 September 1998; The Guardian, 24 September 1998.
  8. ^ The indult of laicisation released him from the obligation of celibacy.
  9. ^ Darton, Longman and Todd 2001; Continuum 2001; Media House Delhi 2002; translations in Dutch, French, Italian and Japanese.
  10. ^ Canterbury Press 2002; Crossroad 2006 as Women Deacons in the Early Church.
  11. ^ “It is very up-to-date in presenting its evidence. Following up a reference by consulting the writings of modern theologians would present no difficulty, perhaps, to those with access to a good library. But being able to consult - and print out - the text from John Duns Scotus’s (1266-1308) commentary on the Sentences of Peter Lombard, on the question of ‘Whether the female sex or youthful age should impede the taking of Orders’ - in the original Latin, if one wishes - is quite amazing!”, Bernadette Toal in The Furrow 53 (2002) no 5, May, pp. 316-317; see also Theresia Saers, Communicatie no 195 (2004), pp. 15-17; Juliane Kern, Aachener Zeitung, 11 June 2009, p. 27.
  12. ^ See for example:
  13. ^ “When the Church demands ‘a loyal submission of the will and intellect’, she does not ask for a renunciation of one’s own power to think. The Church demands a much more valuable service, namely the honest attempt to serve the faith with all one’s intellectual powers.” The Ordination of Women in the Catholic Church, p. 20.
  14. ^ “Our purpose is to enable the whole Catholic Church to admit women to all ministries. We will have failed if we do not get our reforms incorporated in all structures and levels of the Catholic Church. Leaving the Church does not serve that purpose. At present we experience a serious brokenness in the Church as half its members are excluded from the ordained ministries. But the new wholeness we desire will be achieved rather through a confrontation with the hierarchy, however painful, than through any step that would remove us effectively from the body of the Church.” Keynote speech at the First International Conference of Women’s Ordination Worldwide, Dublin June 2001.
  15. ^ Advice is given on issues ranging from masturbation to homosexuality.
  16. ^ "The Tablet, 13 Oct 2012".; "The Irish Times, 19 February 2013".; ""Teólogos: Nuevo Papa debe democratizar más a la Iglesia" in Mexican News Forum, 5 March 2013".; "Clerical Whispers UK, February 2013".
  17. ^
  18. ^ The citation read: "The Grand Prix of the Festival is awarded to Journey to the Centre of Love for its profound description of the process by which people of various cultures and nations discover Christian faith, and so come to approach God and his Son Jesus Christ."
  19. ^ “Dr. Wijngaards’ work contributes to emancipation in church and society, which is one of the aspirations of the Marga Klompé Foundation. His plea for the renewal of the priesthood and for the ordination of women in the Roman Catholic Church is a splendid example of patient reasoning about the tasks of Catholic/Christian men and women, within the Church and outside of it. It is a good thing to keep the discussion on this important subject alive, precisely when it has lost its more sensational aspects -- for then the crux of the issue appears more clearly.” Tilburg, Netherlands, 19 November 2005.
  20. ^ More details here:
  21. ^ Read summary in:
  22. ^ More details here:
  • Who’s Who in the World 1996 (Marquis Publications), p. 508.
  • Who’s Who in Catholic Life 2009 (Gabriel Communications, Manchester), p. 391.

External links

  • John Wijngaards life story
  • Women Deacons
  • Publications by John Wijngaards online
  • Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research


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