Much has been written to critique the Catholic church's position on the ordination of women based on arguments from scripture and tradition. However, there has been little local research on how South African women experience the consequences of this exclusion from ministry. In this article Ralphs and Kretzschmar set out, from an ethical and feminist theological position, to show the effects of this exclusion both on women and on the church. Through a study of the literature and interviews with 60 Catholic women from the diocese of Johannesburg, they attempt to explain what lies behind the Catholic church's position on women, and to describe it's negative consequences. The authors conclude that whilst many women are aware of the negative effects of exclusion, they are unable to name the structural forces which reinforce this exclusion, and that theological and pedagogical processes are required to shape a different consciousness among women.