Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Roman Catholic Womenpriests: Vatican Warns Supporters of Women Priests

Sarasota, FL, United States (AHN) - The Vatican has threatened to excommunicate Catholics who support the ordination of the first women priests and deacon in Florida by an excommunicated former nun.

Response by Bishop Bridget Mary Meehan
First clarification I am not a former nun. While I belonged to a canonical community for ten years, the Immaculate Heart of Mary Sisters (Philadelphia) I now am a Sister for Christian Community which is an independent order of Sisters whose charism is to build Christian community wherever we are and to celebrate all people as God's family. Our prayer is "that all may be one".

Second clarification: We did not receive a letter from the Vatican or from our local bishop before these ordinations as this all headline news article seems to imply.

The good news is that Catholics are not afraid of excommunication!
Pat Ferkenhoff, a member of a local parish in Sarasota, Florida, was quoted in the Herald Tribune article as saying: "Well, I'm not going to get my hed chopped off or be burned at the stake." ( Church Disapproval doesn't deter crowd", Herald Tribune, by Anna Scott, Feb.7, 2010)

An atmosphere of joy permeated the jam-packed church with over 250 supporters of Roman Catholic Womenpriests for the ordinations of three women in Florida despite Bishop Frank Dewane's excommuniation decree. (See pictures and articles below on blog)

Actually, the bishop's threat (Sarasota Herald Tribune article reported by Anna Scott on Feb. 6th, 2010) increased our attendance. Several people told us they came to be in solidarity with the women being ordained and to support our justice movement for women in a renewed priestly ministry in our church. The people of God seem to regard this punishment as a badge of honor.

It is ironic and sad to read about the meeting of the Irish bishops with Pope Benedict this week. None of the Irish bishops were fired for their handling of the horrific pedophilia crisis. Not one bishop in Ireland or elsewhere has been excommunicated for their handling of the pedophilia crisis which has destroyed lives of Catholic children! Yet, the Vatican threatens faithful Catholics who support Roman Catholic Womenpriests with excommunication. I believe Jesus would weep ! In this Lenten season, our church needs major reform and renewal.
The Vatican has a long history of excommunicating, interdicting and punishing people in one century and canonizing them in another century. Pope Benedict canonized Mother Theodore Guerin, an excommunicated nun in 2005, and will canonize Mother Mary MacKillop, another excommunicated nun in 2010. Mary Ward, a foundress of a religious order modelled on the Jesuits, was villified by church authorities. She was imprisoned at one point, and recently has been declared Venerable, a step on the path to sainthood. One, of course, cannot forget St. Joan of Arc, patron of France, who rejected giving assent to church authorities and followed her conscience. She was burned at the stake and later declared a saint! St. Thomas Aquinas, one of the church's greatest theologians, was excommunicated after his death!

So, the supporters of Roman Catholic Womenpriests who attended the Florida ordinations are in good company, and perhaps even on a fast tract to Sainthood! We are not leaving the church. We are leading the church into a new era of justice and equality for women in the church, reclaiming our twelve-hundred year heritage of women deacons, priests and bishops, and following Jesus' example of Gospel equality.

Bridget Mary Meehan, RCWP
Bishop serving Southern region

Roman Catholic Womenpriests reject the automatic excommunication issued by the Vatican.

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