Saturday, July 24, 2010
Toni Tortorilla, ordained in the Roman Catholic Womenpriests ...
"A Portland woman, ordained in the Roman Catholic Womenpriests movement three years ago, says the Vatican announcement earlier this month listing pedophilia and women's ordination as grave offenses is an insult to clerical abuse victims and women seeking ordination.
"The sexual abuse of children is morally reprehensible by any possible standard," says Toni Tortorilla, 63. "The ordination of women has been happening for decades in many denominations." She says pairing the issues in one statement "shows how out of touch with reality the Vatican really is."
Friday, July 23, 2010
"Claiming Equal Rights By Using Equal Rites: A Response to Rosemary Radford Ruether" by Patricia Fresen
From left to right:
Bishops Ida Raming, Patricia Fresen,
and Gisela Forster
at Pittsburgh, first US ordinations
July 31, 2006.
Twelve women were ordained
in first ordinations in
U.S. in Pittsburgh
-8 priests, 4 deacons
Claiming equal rights by using equal rites:
a response to Rosemary Radford Ruether
by Patricia Fresen
Rosemary Radford Ruether has recently written a very scholarly paper, comparing the form of ordination in RCWP with that which will be used by the MMACC community for the ordination of a new womanpriest later this month. In the paper, she puts forward good arguments against apostolic succession.
As I read Radford Ruether’s paper, I feel impelled to point out that she has missed the main reason why we our do RCWP ordinations in the way we do - and why we emphasise apostolic succession.
The main point about our claim to be ordained in apostolic succession is not that we believe that apostolic succession actually goes back to the apostles, nor that it passes on in some mechanistic way the power to ‘confect’ the Eucharist and not even that it is the only possible valid form of ordination.
The main point from the beginning of RCWP was, in fact, to claim equality for women in the church and to bring about change in the R.C. church with regard to the ordination of women. This meant, from the beginning, that we needed to be ordained in exactly the same way as the men. It is the official church that regards ordination by a bishop in apostolic succession as the only valid form of ordination in the R.C. church - and therefore there was the need to use the same process if we were to claim equality with male priests and validity of Orders. Therefore it has been important that we be ordained, like the men, by a bishop ordained in apostolic succession. Our insistence that ordination does indeed ‘take’ in a woman, despite all the traditional and contemporary arguments against this (so well described by Radford Ruether) has clearly made some impact on both the hierarchy and the people - which would not have been the case, we believe, if we had bypassed the traditional, canonical teaching about a bishop being the minister of sacred ordination.
If we had used a different form of ordination, not recognizable as the rite of priestly ordination in the R.C. church, I think we would have been much more easily laughed off or ignored by the hierarchy. Doing it their way has been the main point, first in order to claim validity of ordination and therefore equality with men in the church and secondly to bring about reform - and this certainly seems to be working. Further, the impact we are having on the
And the church’s claim that only men who share Christ’s maleness have the power to ‘confect’ (dreadful word!) the Eucharist is loudly and clearly contradicted by people’s experience, in the assembly, of ordained women presiding at Eucharist, or by the images of them on television screens, on You-tube and on photographs.
I know of several women who have been ordained, in the last ten years or so, by a community laying-on of hands without the presence of a bishop. None of these ordinations has had the slightest impact on the
I believe that, rather than our RCWP claim to apostolic succession being ‘faulty’, it has been necessary in the context of claiming equal rights for women in the church:
we claim equal rights by using equal rites! Radford Ruether’s arguments against apostolic succession, showing the confusion and the faulty teaching about it, assume that RCWP subscribes to the official view. This is not necessarily the case for many of us within RCWP. But that is the path we have needed to take, given the circumstances. It is, I am convinced, a valid path to ordination and priesthood. But we too question the theology and the faulty claims about the historicity and traditions regarding apostolic succession.
One more point: Braschi is not the bishop to whom we are referring in the statement cited by Radford Ruether taken from the RCWP website, although it would be easy to read the text in that way. Braschi did not ordain our first women bishops, but we cannot reveal the identity of the bishop who did.
Working out, within RCWP, the way forward with the MMACC community will be our next challenge and I am convinced that, together, we will find it.
"For women across the globe, it is so much more than this. It is a statement of profound spiritual violence against half of the human race already routinely victimized on the basis of their God-given anatomy. .."
..."This latest act of codified violence against women leads me to ask: Why shouldn't Catholic women allow God to act to God's fullest potential in them? Why shouldn't they seek ordination or create lay-led eucharistic communities that will truly nurture anyone who seeks the peace, community, sacramental nourishment, and social justice that is sorely lacking both in our society and in our church?"
[Jamie Manson is a lay minister who has worked extensively with New York City's homeless and poor populations.]
Thursday, July 22, 2010
Roman Catholic Womenpriests Walk in Solidarity with Maryknoll priest Roy Bourgeois and the School of the Americas Watch - Peace and Justice Community
Fr. Roy gave homily at
Fr. Roy lays hands on Janice
during ordination rite.
peace and justice community
Contacts: Janice Sevre-Duszynska, firstname.lastname@example.org Bridget Mary Meehan, 703-505-0004
July 22, 2010 --
The feast day of St. Mary Magdalene, "the Apostle to the Apostles," first witness to the Resurrection and the apostle who was commissioned by the Risen Christ to spread the Good News.
Yesterday, SOA Watch announced that “Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers [a Roman Catholic religious order], which has contributed $17,000 annually to SOA Watch, will not support our efforts for peace and justice in the Americas this year. Their decision is due to SOA Watch founder Father Roy Bourgeois’ personal belief that women, as well as men, should be able to be ordained into the priesthood.”
Roman Catholic Womenpriests (RCWP) believe that the Vatican has put pressure on the Maryknoll community to end their financial support of SOA Watch, which Fr. Bourgeois, a Maryknoll priest for 38 years, founded in 1990. It is cruelly ironic that the Vatican and the Maryknolls would take this stand when they know very well that Fr. Bourgeois and SOA Watch have been nominated for the 2010 Nobel Prize for Peace. Today as women and men gather around the world to celebrate the feast day of St. Mary Magdalene, Roman Catholic Womenpriests walk in solidarity with Fr. Bourgeois and the School of the Americas Watch peace and justice community. (See www.SOAW.org)
Roman Catholic Womenpriests encourage Catholics to stop giving money to our institutional Church until it reforms unjust laws and practices which discriminate against women. RCWP suggest that Catholics donate instead to peace and justice organizations, and to other non-profits whose members also live the Gospel.
On August 9, 2008 in Lexington, Kentucky, Fr. Bourgeois participated in the ordination of SOA Watch former prisoner of conscience Janice Sevre-Duszynska and gave a prophetic homily supporting the ordination of women. Soon afterward he was called to Maryknoll headquarters to recant his support of women priests – which he refused to do. Fr. Bourgeois continues to give talks around the country advocating that the U.S. Army School of the Americas be closed and that the Roman Catholic Church ordain women called to the priesthood. Sunday, July 25th, is the fifth anniversary of the first North American ordinations of Roman Catholic Womenpriests. The growing RCWP movement now includes about 100 ordained women, and more in preparation for priesthood.
St. Mary of Magdala, Apostle
(Used with permission of BASIC)
Current tallies show that 350 celebrations are planned including at least 30 outside the US (12 in Canada, six in Ireland, five in New Zealand and one each in Australia, Columbia, Finland, France, Kenya, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, South Africa and Zambia). This is the largest number of international celebrations we have ever had. (Future Church Reports)
In Falls Church, we celebrated liturgy on Sat. July 17th and today, July 22nd, her feast day.
As Peter rejected Mary of Magdala's witness long ago, so too women priests face the condemnation by our male church hierarchy.
In all four Gospels Mary of Magdala is the first messenger of the good news of the Resurrection of Christ to the disciples. Mark's Gospel affirms that Mary of Magdala was the "first" to the encounter the Risen Christ. Christ chose Mary, not Peter to be the herald of Christianity' greatest proclamation: "Jesus is risen." The male disciples reacted with disbelief when she announced the good news. Yet, Mary of Magdala was the "apostle to the apostles", and the role that she played as prominent leader and close companion to Jesus cannot be denied. However, Peter expressed hostility toward Mary when he said: ""How is it possible that the Teacher talked in this manner with a woman about secrets of which we ourselves are ignorant? Must we change our customs, and listen to this woman? Did he really choose her, and prefer her to us?" Levi responds to Peter and said: "Peter, you have always been hot tempered, and now we see you repudiating a woman, just as our adversaries do. Yet if the Teacher held her worthy, who are you to reject her?... Let us grow as he demanded of us, and walk forth to spread the gospel without trying to lay down any rules and laws other than those he witnessed."
"Levi's advice to Peter, treat women the way Jesus did, preach the gospel, and don't make up any laws or man-made rules that Jesus didn't make, is great advice for the Pope and Vatican today!"
What do you think Mary of Magdala would say to the Vatican who has created a new law demonizing women priests, placing us in the same category of "serious crime" as pedophiles?
Bridget Mary Meehan, email@example.com 703-505-0004
Religion Dispatches Magazine/Mary Hunt
"Vatican Equates Ordination With Priest Pedophilia"
"First, the institutional church recognizes that women are being ordained both by the Roman Catholic Womenpriests initiative and in other congregational settings...
...Second, since its male priests are among those who will be sanctioned, the Vatican is obviously worried that the tide has turned against it inside as well as outside. Maryknoll priest Roy Bourgeois participated in a women’s ordination celebration in 2008 and was told to recant his actions... More likely, it is a warning to other priests who might break clerical ranks and stand with feminists in ministry...
Third, by drawing attention to women’s ordination, even if it is a tactic to distract attention from the pedophilia crimes and cover-ups, the Vatican is signaling its own desperate situation. Rumors of internal dissention in the Vatican ranks are rampant... "
Vatican Document Linking Women's Ordination with Pedophilia:
The Vatican and Women: Casting the First Stone
By Tim Padgett Monday, Jul. 19, 2010
"Rome's misogynous declaration, tossed into its new guidelines on reporting clerical sexual abuse, did more than just highlight the church's hoary horror at the idea of female priests — or its penchant of late for sticking its papal slippers in its mouth every chance it gets. It also pointed up an increasingly spiteful rhetoric of bigotry."Read more: http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,2004702,00.html#ixzz0uPxeYcDS
Editorial: Vatican needs to stop demonizing women
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
"Four years ago on July 31, eight women defied Roman Catholic Church teachings and were the first in the United States to be ordained at a ceremony in Pittsburgh conducted by a group called Roman Catholic Womenpriests.They included Joan Houk, a 66-year-old married mother of six and grandmother of five who helped run two Roman Catholic parishes that did not have priests..."
Among the new priests was Eileen McCafferty DiFranco, a Philadelphia grandmother who celebrated Mass in the chapel of a Methodist church in Lansdowne at the invitation of an Old Catholic of the Beatitudes pastor who rented the space... DiFranco was determined to hold her own Roman Catholic faith to a higher standard of inclusion, despite the Vatican’s resistance...
“Vatican officials should spend less time demonizing women and more time ensuring the prosecution of pedophiles. They are a danger to children of all faiths.Bridget Mary's Reflection:
Excellent editorial! Indeed womenpriests are serving inclusive grassroots communities and promoting partnership, justice and equality, core values of Jesus in the Gospels.Today we celebrate the feast of St. Mary of Magdala, apostle to the apostles. It is time for the Vatican to follow Jesus' example of Gospel equality. In all four gospels, Mary of Magdala is the first witness to encounter the Risen Christ who chose her to share the central message at the heart of Christianity. The Vatican should stop demonizing women and hold bishops accounable who transferred pedophile from parish to parish, devastating the lives of children. This is the real crime, not faithful women serving the church as priests. Bridget Mary Meehan, RCWP, firstname.lastname@example.org, 703-505-0004
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
NEW YORK — "The Rev. William R. Callahan, a Roman Catholic priest and self-described “impossible dreamer’’ whose vociferous and organized opposition to Vatican policies prompted Jesuit officials to expel him from their order, died July 5 in Washington. He was 78...
He aggravated church officials during the American tour of Pope John Paul II in 1979 by imploring priests to refuse to help the pope in celebrating Mass. Father Callahan’s hope was that more laywomen would then have to be enlisted to assist at the services...
In 1971, Father Callahan helped found the Center of Concern, an organization devoted to social justice issues. In 1975 he started Priests for Equality, to work for the ordination of women. He started the Quixote Center in 1976 with Dolly Pomerleau, who became a work partner of his for many years. They married days before he died."
"We are often labeled dissenters," he once told an interviewer, "but we care profoundly about the church..."
In 1979, he was warned by Father Pedro Arrupe, then worldwide head of the Jesuits, to sever ties with the Quixote Center and to "refrain from any public advocacy of priestly ordination of women..."
Bill, may the angels lead you into paradise, and may the holy women bless you for your courage as a prophet who spoke truth to power and who advocated justice for women in the church including women priests. As we celebrate the feast of St. Mary of Magdala tomorrow, we will remember you, Bill ,and all our "holy ones" who have departed this earth who have stood in solidarity with the marginalized in our church and world. Presente!Bridget Mary Meehan, email@example.com, 703-505-0004
"Most of us are pretty convinced of the injustice and cruelty of pedophilia. But have we understood the depth of the injustice and cruelty of the debasement of women -- misogyny? The silencing of women in religious leadership sends a clear message to the rest of society: It’s OK to belittle women. They’re not as important. They’re not as smart. They are naturally humble, so it’s OK for men to maintain their privilege and power.
What does this say to the developing world? What does it say to those who believe women are chattel? What does it say about God’s relationship with women?..."
..."The Vatican does not like that the world knows the extent to which its own bishops betrayed Catholic children. The Vatican does not like that many practicing Catholics are declining to support the Church financially. The Vatican does not like that the number of female priests is growing as male vocations flounder. The Vatican doesn't like that people like me, who love the Church and who lack neither the capacity nor the inclination to look to its leadership for wisdom, no longer care what the Vatican thinks about the ordination of women. The women's ordination genie is out of the bottle; no pope can stop it. Perhaps most frustrating for the Vatican is its growing awareness that for many Catholics of strong faith, the threat of excommunication means nothing..."
"...So what should Catholics do? Many will answer, "Leave." I don't think Catholics should leave, but I do believe we Catholics must protest, with mouths, pens, keyboards and -- most of all -- wallets."
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Its members will have gone to churches that have women priests and whose ... the policies of The Roman Catholic Church impact no one but Roman Catholics, ...
..."With bizarre pronouncements such as this, the Catholic Church will soon have few members to receive the ministry of either men or women. Its members will have gone to churches that have women priests and whose hierarchy does not protect abusers. "
SISTER MARY KAY LAMPERT Southeast Portland
St. Louis Female Priest Responds to Vatican Equating Women ...Riverfront TimesCurious as to what one of St. Louis' three female Catholic priests thought of ... "I think it will garner us (women priests) a lot more support," she says. ...
"We find it very repugnant and extremely misogynistic," says McGrath, who was ordained in 2007 at a ceremony in a St. Louis synagogue after the St. Louis Archdiocese refused to sanction the event. "At the same time it's kind of interesting that they would be so unaware of the world to put such a statement out there. It's more of the same with the Church viewing women and children as second-class citizens. It's still all about protecting male priests." In McGrath's view, the Church's decision to increase the statute of limitations for pedophile priests is also disingenuous. "They didn't change anything," she says. "Anyone who knows or works with people who've been sexually abused knows that the suffering doesn't go away after 20 years. Sometimes it's repressed for that long. [See this week's RFT feature Sins of the Father for more on that.] Besides, the criminal prosecution is still up to local authorities. No, they're not doing anything really to understand the impact on people. They're certainly not being pastoral."
Roman Catholic Women Respond to Vatican Condemnation Publically and Privately/New Catholic Times/Canada
Patricia Fresen, Michele Birch -Conery(left to right, Ordinations in Canada 2008)
"Roman Catholic Women Respond to Vatican Condemnation Publically and Privately" by Michele Birch-Conery
"...I publically admit that this recent Vatican pronouncement brought me to the deepest pain I have experienced since my ordination in Gananoque in 2005. It was not pain for me only but for the Roman Catholic Church and what I see as a deep wounding of the People of God.
There is strong historical resonance in the pronouncement. When I first heard it, images from the length of centuries arose in me. They came from our inquisitional past in a medieval time which included torture and execution for crimes against the Church. These were defined by the hierarchical leadership and driven the educated Inquisitors for the sake of the salvation of the uneducated peasantry. It was as if a window onto the past opened and the breath of Ruah rushed through me in one swift insight..."
"This Vatican document with its bizarre twinning of ordained pedofiles and ordained women shows a stupidity and absence of sound moral judgment probably unequalled in church history. To equate as "grave crimes" pedofilia and ordination of women has caused a great negative outcry from fair-minded men and women and an abundance of sharp criticism in op-eds, editorials, and letters to the editor..."
This document shows the clericalism that is at the heart of our church's problem. The official church doesn't see women as equal to men! Remember JPII when he refused to acknowledge the existence of Sister Theresa Kane when she addressed him. And now putting ordained women in the same bag as ordained pedofiles! ...
Bridget Mary's Reflection
Thank you Monsignor Harry Byrne for speaking truth to power, for idenitfying clericalism as the major problem and for standing for justice and equality for women in the church. I applaud your courage!
Bridget Mary Meehan, 703-505-0004
Site Name: New Catholic TimesSite URL: http://www.newcatholictimes.com/
"Let me get this straight: According to the Church, for a woman to respond to a perceived call to ordination from the Holy Spirit, for a woman to strive to serve her community as priest, for a woman to take a leadership role within the Roman Catholic Church is a ...crime? And this crime is of the same magnitude (delicta graviora) as to transgress against the very dignity of a child in all their vulnerability by subjecting them to sexual abuse?
The Vatican has trumped itself once again. Just when we thought they could not top their own sexism, just when we thought their arrogance was at its peak, just when we thought their ignorance could grow no more, they surprise us with a twist so palpably naïve, so tangibly disordered, so blatantly sinful, you couldn't make it up..."
with a known history of child sexual abuse"
The Elephant in the Sanctuary
John Greenleaf URL: http://wp.me/pSvU4-4I
I agree. The Vatican must address the issue of bishops accountability. One example to note is Cardinal Law who played a major role in the coverup of horrific sex abuse cases in Boston. The Vatican protected him and rewarded him with a prestigous post as titular head of St. Mary Major in Rome as well as a seat on some powerful committees in the Vatican.
Instead of placing the ordination of female priests, who are serving the people of God ,in the "serious crimes" category along with pedophilia and rewarding bishops like Cardinal Law , the Vatican should be adapting Roman Catholic Womenpriests' agenda of a renewed priestly ministry in a community of equals" that is open, inclusive accountable and people empowered. The global sex abuse crisis demonstartes that the abuse of power in a closed clerical system of cover-ups has damaged the moral credibility of the hierarchy. The Vatican needs women leaders including womenpriests in decision making positions to change the clerical culture and to being about badly needed reform and renewal of the Catholic Church. Catholics should stop giving until the Vatican starts listening. Bridget Mary Meehan, 703-505-0004, firstname.lastname@example.org
Monday, July 19, 2010
St. Catherine of Siena, a courageous reformer and doctor of the church lived at a time when three men, each claiming to be pope shook the church to its foundation.
Catholics today live in a time where a grave, global sex abuse scandal is rocking the church.
Now is the time for Catholics to follow the example of St. Catherine of Siena whose rallying cry was:
"cry out as if you had a million voices, it is silence the kills the world."
Sisters and brothers in the Catholic community, it is time to cry out, speak up, and stop giving until the Vatican makes the changes that will transform the church into a people-empowered partnership where equality and justice for all are a reality for all.
Let us say no to sexism and second-class citizenship for women in our church.
Let us say yes to the full equality of women in all positions of leadership including Holy Orders.
Let us say" no "to the abuse of power by our church hierarchy who protected pedophiles who raped and molested children and youth.
Let us hold the bishops and Vatican accountable for failing to intervene and stop the shuffling of predators from place to place, country to country.
Let us support survivors of sexual abuse on their path to justice and healing.
Let us reflect Christ's love and transparency in all our actions.
Sometimes, it takes "tough love" to effect change, I believe, faithful Catholics, this is one of these times! All those who believe in justice and equality for women, unite, take action, and be a catalyst to transform our church!
Send the message , better yet, be the message, that womenpriests have your support. Continue to call forth women to serve your communities. We will endure the Vatican's toughest sanctions and whatever persecution they cook up, and one day, with God's help and your support, triumph! Then Catholics will be served by male and female priests, and the Vatican will promote womenpriests!
Bridget Mary Meehan, RCWP
"Roman Catholic Womenpriests are responding to the Vatican's position by demanding they affirm women's equality in the church including the ministry, said Mary Kay Kusner, the first ordained womanpriest in Iowa. Kusner was ordained June 13."To me, this feels more like a fear tactic," she said. "Fortunately or unfortunately, it causes us to lessen all the more the authority of the church."
Right on Mary Kay!
Shame on the Vatican for linking female priest with horrific crimes like pedophilia. The church hierarchy has indeed undermined its own authority by such a ridiculous association. Female priests are serving God's people. We offer the church the gift of a renewed model of priestly ministry united with the people we serve in a community of equals. We are serving an inclusive, people-empowered Catholic Church in grassroots communities where all are welcome.
Roman Catholic Womenpriests are on the margins with the marginalized Catholics ( divorced and remarried, gays and lesbians, women who will not tolerate second class status etc) who are, according to demographics, the second largest "denomination" in the U.S. Female priests, like the early women leaders of house churches, who presided at Eucharistic liturgies, are offering hope to millions of Catholics who are invited to receive sacraments in our inclusive grassroots communities. Like Martha and Mary who invited Jesus into their home, Roman Catholic Womenpriests welcome all to God's banquet table of love. We, the people of God, are the Body of Christ. Each of us is gifted by the Holy Spirit with gifts to share for the blessing and growth of the community. Bridget Mary Meehan, RCWP, 703-505-0004
Catholics angry as church puts female ordination on par with sex abuse
Women's groups describe Vatican's decision on female ordination as 'appalling'
Sunday, July 18, 2010
by Carolyn Gage, 07/16/2010
"Rome Fiddles, We Burn" By Maureen Dowd/NY Times/Women Were Ordained for Twelve Hundred Years/Bridget Mary Meehan
"Letting women be priests — which should be seen as a way to help cleanse the church and move it beyond its infantilized and defensive state — is now on the list of awful sins right next to pedophilia, heresy, apostasy and schism."
Bridget Mary Meehan's Response:
The Vatican is acting as if women priests are its worst nightmare . Instead the Vatican should let go of its fear of Roman Catholic Womenpriests , stop demonizing us, and adopt a partnership of equals to create a more people-empowered, open, inclusive, transparent church modeled on Jesus' vision of Gospel equality. Instead of condemning womenpriests, placing our faithful ministry to the people of God on the toxic sin list with pedophilia, heresy, apostasy and schism, the hierarchy should affirm womenpriests as prophets leading the church into its future now.
Catholics in the pews should stop giving until the Vatican starts listening! The church is the people of God. All of us together are the church, not just the hierarchy alone. It is time for major reform and renewal. It is our responsibility to move the Vatican to embrace meaningful reforms to deal with clergy sex abuse. The hierarchy, including the Vatican, must be held accountable by the Catholic community for shuffling pedophiles from parish to parish, country to country.
Women have served faithfully in our church in many leadership roles including ordained ministry. Roman Catholic Womenpriests walk in this sacred tradition. It is time for the Vatican to do so too.
Reflect on the overview from history in which scholarship supports women were ordained for twelve hundred years.
Bridget Mary Meehan, RCWP
History Supports Women Priests in the Catholic Church: A Brief Overview/Summary
In 1976, the Pontifical Biblical Commission concluded that there is
no biblical reason to prohibit women’s ordination. (So the Vatican's own scholarship supports our position and contradicts the current Vatican's condemnation of women's ordination)
According to recent scholarship, women were ordained for the first twelve hundred years of the church’s history. (Source: Gary Macy, The Hidden History of Women’s Ordination)
Roman Catholic Womenpriests are reclaiming our ancient tradition of women in ordained ministry.
Roman Catholic Womenpriests walk in solidarity with our women apostles, prophets, teachers, virgins, widows, deacons, priests, abbesses, and bishops in the early church. We affirm the saintly women and men in our Catholic tradition whose words and lives give testimony to the vision of Jesus. They are our companions on the journey to a transformed Roman Catholic Church in which a discipleship of equals is a reality in all areas of the church’s life.
In 1976, the Pontifical Biblical Commission concluded that there is no biblical reason to prohibit women’s ordination. Women and men are created in God’s image and both may represent Christ as priests. In the image of God, God created humankind, male and female God created them. (Genesis 1:26-27) Jesus did not ordain anyone. Deacons, presbyters (elders) and bishops are not mentioned in the Gospels. Jesus had male and female disciples, who became apostles by being sent away (from Greek apo, away and stello, send) by being told to “Go and tell.” Jesus chose the Samaritan woman to announce the good news to her entire village. The Samaritans accepted Jesus as Messiah because of her testimony.
Within our faith tradition and Sacred Scripture we discover evidence of a history rich in the call and participation of women in all dimensions of ministry:
Mary of Magdala, the first witness of the resurrection, was commissioned by Jesus to be the apostle to the apostles. (John 20:1-18)
- Pope Hippolytus, who lived from 170 to 236 AD, addressed the role of women in early Christianity in which Jesus made a resurrection appearance to certain women such as Mary Magdalene, and "sends them out on the apostolic mission as the first gospel messengers." (Brock, pp. 43-49): "Lest the female apostles doubt the angels, Christ himself came to them so that the women would be apostles of Christ and by their obedience rectify the sin of the ancient Eve . . . Christ showed himself to the (male) apostles and said to them: . . ..’It is I who appeared to the women and I who wanted to send them to you as apostles.’ ”
- Gregory of Antioch (d. 593) (Brock, 15), in Oratio in Mulieres Unguentiferas XI, PG 88, 1863-64: "Portrays Jesus as appearing to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary at the tomb and saying to them: 'Be the first teachers to the teachers. So that Peter who denied me learns that I can also choose women as apostles.' "
- Phoebe, the deacon, was praised by St. Paul for her leadership of the church of Cenchreae. (Romans 16:1-2)
- Mary, the mother of John Mark, led a congregation. (Acts 12:12)
- In Romans 16:7 St. Paul identifies Junia as a senior in the faith to himself and labels Junia and her husband, Andronicus, as “outstanding apostles”. It is the only time that Paul refers to anyone other than The Twelve or himself as apostles. (St John Chrysostom, 4th century bishop, recognized Junia as a member of the apostolic circle. (The Homilies of St. John Chrysostom, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series 1, 11:555 Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1956)
- The Louvre possesses the mummy tag of an Egyptian woman, Artemidora, a Christian living between approximately 250 and 350 AD. The tag describes her as a “presbyter,” that is, priest. For photo, see Irvin, Calendars.
- A burial site for Epikto, on a Greek island, Thera, from the third or fourth century calls her a "presbytis" which means "priest or presbyter". (Eisen, pp. 123-4)
- In the Catacombs of Priscilla, Rome, the fresco “Fractio Panis” shows a group of women "conducting a Eucharistic banquet". Catholic theologian, Dorothy Irvin believes that the red background and location of this fresco indicates a date close to 100 A. D. “The slope of the shoulders, feminine postures and jaw lines, earlobes, breasts and upswept hair-do’s with forehead curls attest to the femininity of all those seated around the table. (Irvin, Calendars)
- A fifth century inscription carved on the sarcophagus of Leta Presbitera describes "Leta Presbitera" and states: "Of blessed memory Leta the Presbyter lived 40 years, 8 months, 9 days whose husband prepared her burial she departed in peace the day before the Ides of May.” Ides 15th –1 = May 14th. (Irvin, Calendars)
- A Sicilian 4th or 5th century inscription calls Kale the "presbytis" or elder. (Irvin, Calendars)
- A fourth century floor mosaic covering the tomb of Guilia Runa is located in the cathedral at Annaba acknowledges: "Guilia Runa, woman priest". This cathedral was made famous by St. Augustine of Hippo. (Irvin, Calendars)
- In the catacomb of St. Januarus in Naples, Bitalia, a woman priest, is depicted attired in a red chasuble and celebrating the Eucharist. She has two cups on a white cloth in front of her, one is wine one is water to mix with the wine as is still done today. Above her are two open books with markers and on each of the four pages the name of an evangelist is written. (Irvin, Calendars)
- On the ceiling in the Chapel of the Veiling in the Catacomb of St. Priscilla, is a fresco, dated about 350 A.D. that depicts a woman deacon in the center vested in a dalmatic, her arms raised in the orans position for public worship. On the left side of the scene is a woman being ordained a priest by a bishop seated in a chair. She is vested in an alb, chasuble, and amice, and holding a gospel scroll. The woman on the right end of this fresco is wearing the same robe as the bishop on the left and is sitting in the same type of chair. She is turned toward the figures in the center and left, watching the woman deacon and priest. “These attributes”, comments Dorothy Irvin, “indicate that she is thought of as a bishop, while the baby she is holding identifies her as Mary…Women’s ordination, however, was based on succession from the apostles, including women such as Mary, the mother of Jesus, Mary from Magdala, Phoebe, Petronella, and others about whose status among the founders of the church there could be no doubt.” (Irvin, Calendars)
- Bishop Theodora, mother of Pope Paschal 1, is depicted in a group portrait standing next to St. Praxedis and the Blessed Virgin Mary in a mosaic in a side chapel of the church of St. Praxedis in Rome. (Morris, 4-6, Eisen 200-205). Theodora, about 820 A. D. and St. Praxedis who lived seven hundred years earlier are depicted as standing together, wearing their episcopal crosses. They witness to a conscious connection between women church office holders and Mary, Mother of Jesus. (Irvin, Calendars)
- “While the preponderance of evidence for female deacons is in the East,” scholars Kevin Madigan and Carolyn Osiek conclude in their scholarly book on women in Holy Orders that, “ the evidence for women presbyters is greater in the west.” (Ordained Women in Early Church, p. 3.)
- Giorgio Otranto, director of the Institute of Classical and Christian Studies, University of Bari, Italy believes evidence of women priests is found in an epistle of Pope Gelasius I (late 5th c). In 494 AD Pope Gelasius wrote a letter to the bishops of three regions of southern Italy complaining about the practice of women presiding at the liturgy:"Nevertheless we have heard to our annoyance that divine affairs have come to such a low state that women are encouraged to officiate at the sacred altars, and to take part in all matters imputed to the offices of the male sex, to which they do not belong."
In summary Otranto concludes, “we may infer from an analysis of Gelasius's epistle that at the end of the fifth century, some women, having been ordained by bishops, were exercising a true and proper ministerial priesthood in a vast area of southern Italy, as well as perhaps in other unnamed regions of Italy.”
(Otranto, Notes on the Female Priesthood in Antiquity, Section 2, http://www.womenpriests.org/traditio/otran_1.asp)
- The Irish Life of Brigit describes the episcopal ordination of St. Brigit of Kildare by Bishop Mel of Ardagh in fifth century Ireland. Brigit was consecrated by Mel, who, “being intoxicated with the grace of God there, did not know what he was reciting from his book, for he consecrated Brigit with the orders of a bishop.” (Davies , p.33.)
- The evidence in the Celtic Church indicates that women and men were equals in preaching the Gospel, presiding at Mass and at the other sacraments. In the sixth century, three Roman bishops at Tours wrote a letter to two Breton priests Lovocat and Cathern, expressing their outrage that women were allowed to preside at Eucharist. “You celebrate the divine sacrifice of the Mass with the assistance of women to whom you give the name conhospitae* …While you distribute the eucharist, they take the chalice and administer the blood of Christ to the people… Renounce these abuses…! *(mixed houses or double monasteries where men and women lived together and raised their children in the service of Christ) (Ellis, pp.142-144)
- In double monasteries, men and women worked as equals. However, the overall authority within a double monastery often resided with an abbess. St. Brigit selected Conleth to help her administer Kildare, and they governed “their church by a mutual, happy alliance.” Meehan, p.14.)
- The tradition of a Christian seeking a spiritual guide, mentor, soul friend or anam cara (Gaelic) was a prevalent Celtic custom. Women as well as men served as spiritual friends. This custom eventually influenced the entire Church and led to the institutionalizing of private confession. These are stories of spiritual seekers coming to Saint Ita and Saint Samthann to reveal their sins and to receive forgiveness and guidance. (Meehan, p. 15)
- In the tenth century, Bishop Atto of Vercelli wrote that because of the needs of the church, devout women were ordained to lead worship and to preside over the church. Church historian Gary Macy writes, “For over 1200 years the question of the validity of women’s ordination remained at least an open question. Some popes, bishops and scholars accepted such ordinations as equal to those of men, others did not. (Gary Macy, Theological Studies, September, 2000. p. 3.)
- St. Therese of Lisieux, a Doctor of the Church, wanted to be a priest. She cut up her mother’s wedding dress after her father’s death to make a chasuble. (See Autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux, The Story of a Soul.)
- St.Therese of Lisieux said, in 1897: "God is going to take me at an age when I would not have had the time to become a priest . . . If I could have been a priest, I would have been ordained at these June ordinations. So what did God do? So that I would not be disappointed, he let me be sick: in that way I could not have been there, and I would die before I could exercise my ministry."
Therese spoke those words to her sister, Celine Martin. Celine also testified (at the 1910 beatification diocesan tribunal) that "the sacrifice of not being able to be a priest was something Therese always felt deeply . . . (H)er regret . . . was caused by a real love of God, and inspired high hopes in her. The thought that St. Barbara had brought communion to St. Stanislaus Kostka thrilled her."
Therese said: "Why must I be a nun, and not an angel or a priest? Oh! What wonders shall we see in heaven! I have a feeling that those who desired to be priests on earth will be able to share in their honour of the priesthood in heaven."
In her Story of a Soul (Day, ed.,p. 187) Therese stated (in a prayer to Jesus): "If I were a priest, how lovingly I would carry you in my hands when you came down from heaven at my call; how lovingly I would bestow you upon people's souls. I want to enlighten people's minds as the prophets and doctors did. I feel the call of an Apostle. I would love to travel all over the world, making your name known and planting your cross on a heathen soil."
· Joan of Arc : From Heretic to Saint : Our Role Model of Holy Disobedience
When St. Joan of Arc was asked whether she was subject to church authorities, she replied "yes, but our Lord must be served first." (See Marina Warner, Joan of Arc: The Image of Female Heroism cited in Ellsberg, pp.136)
There were holy women in religious orders who were at some point excommunicated (Bd. Mary McKillop, Bd. Anne Marie Javouhey and Bd. Theodore Guerin). Read their stories in Robert Ellsberg, Blessed Among All Women). Some women faced opposition and even persecution in their struggle to live their vocations, “-especially if this involved any kind of innovation”- from male authorities who “were only too eager to inform them that their visions or desires contradicted the will of God.” Some, like the Beguines, a new model of religious life in Medieval times were suppressed and effectively written out of history. Mary Ward, founder of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary, was imprisoned and condemned as a “heretic, schismatic and rebel of the Holy Church.” (Ellsberg, p.299.) Others like Angela Merici prevailed. But more than a few could share the motto applied to St. Angela Merici, founder of the Ursuline order: "A Woman Faced with Two Alternatives. She Saw and Chose the Third." (Ellsberg, pp. 16-17)
Prophetic women, like Catherine of Siena and Birgitta of Sweden confronted the corruption and abuses of the institutional church. Acting on her “authority as God’s messenger” Birgitta insisted that the pope leave the comforts of Avignon and return to his proper seat in Rome.” One time, she denounced the pope as ‘a murderer of souls, worse than Lucifier, more unjust than Pilate, and more merciless than Judas.” The pope did not respond to her calls for reform of the church, but he did approve the Rule of her new religious order, The Brigettines, or Order of the Most Holy Savior. (Ellsberg, p. 135.)
Like Joan of Arc, and these courageous women who endured condemnation and excommunication during their lifetimes by the church for their holy disobedience, Roman Catholic women priests will one day be affirmed as faithful daughters of the church who created new models of discipleship in 21st century. Let's hold up the holy women in the history of our church who were excommunicated and continued to shine like the stars in heaven as our role models. Like them, may we be witnesses to true discipleship.
There is reason for hope that more contemporary church officials will follow the teaching of Cardinal Walter Kasper, who said, "Some situations oblige one to obey God and ones own conscience, rather than the leaders of the church. Indeed, one may even be obliged to accept excommunication, rather than act against one's conscience.” (CORPUS REPORTS Nov./Dec. 2005)
“We must admit that there cannot be a participatory church with gender justice as long as the church retains the assumption that female humanity is ontologically different and secondary to male humanity.” (Brother Verghese Theckanath, in a speech to a National Conference of Religious Superiors in India, source: Union of Catholic Asian News, Jan. 30, 2006)
To this end we state in our constitution Article I 1. (to be found on our website: www.romancatholicwomenpriests.org)
1.The goal of the group: "RC Womenpriests" is to bring about the full equality of women in the Roman Catholic Church. At the same time we are striving for a new model of Priestly Ministry. W
In her address: “Prophetic Obedience: The Experience and Vision of Roman Catholic Women Priests to the Southeast Pennsylvania Women’s Ordination Conference in March, 2005, Bishop Patricia Fresen, D.Th said: “Now we in the Church are on another 'long walk to freedom', this time freedom from sexism, from unjust discrimination against women in the church, freedom from oppression by the privileged clerical caste in the church. Once again, we need to stand together in protest, to break the unjust laws because we cannot wait forever, and we need, at least at the beginning, to move into the structures that exist and change them”
Women priests remind us that women are equal symbols of the holy and therefore should preside at the celebration of the sacraments. Like Rosa Parks, whose refusal to sit in the back of the bus ignited the civil rights movement, Roman Catholic women priests are leading the Catholic church into a new age of equality for women in the church. Like Jesus, inclusivity will be our hallmark as we welcome all to God’s table of plenty at the Banquet of love. Inspired by our ancient sisters who have gone before us as apostles, deacons, priests, bishops and leaders in the church, we embrace our call to live Christ’s vision of Gospel equality in the 21st century.
Bridget Mary Meehan, RCWP