|Janice Sevre Duszynska ARCWP,Des Moines Register|
A Des Moines Catholic group has been told it can no longer host Mass after allowing a woman to perform sacramental services in December.
Bishop Richard Pates of the Diocese of Des Moines ordered the Catholic Worker House to cease holding services in a letter dated May 5. An article explaining the ruling appeared in the August issue of "The Catholic Mirror," the diocese's monthly newspaper.
"This matter has been reviewed by the Presbyteral Council of the Diocese of Des Moines," the letter reads. "Members expressed great offense at this action of a rite that is so precious to them and others."
The council of priests voted unanimously to strip the Des Moines Catholic Worker House of its authority to hold Mass "for the time.”
The Rev. Janice Sevre-Duszynska, who presided over the Eucharist service, was ordained as a priest in Lexington, Ky., by the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests in 2008. The independent group is not recognized by the Vatican.
Roman Catholic canon law dictates only men may become ordained priests and give the sacramental rite of communion or perform liturgy services.
Frank Cordaro, a co-founder of the Catholic Worker House in Des Moines, called the bishop’s actions bullying.
The Catholic Worker House focuses on peace and social justice issues. It operates four homes in the Des Moines area that provide food, clothing and shelter to people in need.
While the group is known for speaking out against traditional Catholic teachings, Cordaro said the Mass wasn’t meant to draw attention or cross a line. The organization has worked for 40 years to bring light to social issues within the church, specifically women’s rights in leadership, he said.
“It’s really a bullying position that doesn’t do the Eucharist service,” Cordaro said. “I wish our bishops would see their teaching authority in a more positive light than when people disagree with them, (to) punish them.”
A spokesperson for the diocese did not return a call seeking comment.
Sevre-Duszynska is one of 124 female priests and 10 bishops around the world, according to the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests website.
She said she performs Eucharist services in Lexington and surrounding areas, and is often asked to be a guest at organizations across the country. Most recently, she performed Mass at the St. Francis Catholic Worker House in Columbia, Mo. The bishop there gave the group a verbal reprimand, but did not take away its privileges to perform Mass, according to Steve Jacobs of the St. Francis Catholic Worker House.
The actions of the Des Moines bishop are not in line with Jesus’ teachings, Sevre-Duszynska said.
“I don’t believe he was demonstrating the compassion and the attitudes that Jesus taught us, which are about calling us to transform unjust structures that cause poverty, abuse and inequality in our world,” she said. “I think Jesus teaches us that he’s doing a paradigm shift from domination and subordination to a circle, emphasizing more compassion and justice than emphasizing rules and rituals.”
According to a February 2014 survey by the Pew Research Center, 68 percent of Catholics said women should be allowed to become priests. That’s in sharp contrast, however, to what Catholics think will happen. Only four of 10 said the church would actually change its stance on women priests in the next decade, according to the survey.
Cordaro said his Catholic Worker ministry plans to gather this weekend to file an official response and determine how it will proceed with Mass in the future.