“A Justice- Seeking Woman in the Gospels Inspires Justice Seekers Today”
By Bishop Bridget Mary Meehan, ARCWP
Today we celebrate a justice-seeking woman in scripture. Today we celebrate justice-seeking ordinands in the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests. We will not relent until Gospel equality and justice is a reality in our church and world.
In Luke’s Gospel we encounter a justice-seeking widow badgering a corrupt judge until he relents and does the right thing. According to scholars, this widow is a courageous woman without resources or family members to assist in her appeal for justice. During this time and culture, a male relative would have accompanied a woman in a court case. In this story of Gospel equality and social justice, a courageous woman wins justice by her persistent effort. Unafraid to confront a corrupt judicial system slated against her, she refuses to quit, until justice is done. Neither will we!
The persistent widow is a role model for all who are seeking justice within our church and society.
As Isaiah reminds us, we are called to be God’s compassion to those in need of comfort and liberation. Like deacon Phoebe, whom Paul praised as an outstanding leader in the church, we are called to lead our church today into a new era of Gospel equality and partnership, one with the community of the baptized.
Today we rejoice as we ordain 4 justice seekers.
Rita Lucey of Orlando, a member of Pax Christi, has been married for 63 years. She is a mother of four, grandmother of six and great-grandmother of three. As a justice-seeking woman and human rights activist Rita spent six months in federal prison to close the U.S. Army School of the Americas. Because of her witness for justice issues and her experience in prison she advocated for women in prison and served as a Hospice Volunteer for 25 years. As a priest, Rita will celebrate sacraments in the homes of Catholics who feel alienated from the Church.
Kathryn Shea of Sarasota, is a mother of two children and grandmother of two grandchildren. She has been married nearly 30 years to Stephen, an ordained minister of the Disciples of Christ. As a justice-seeking woman, Kathryn protested US nuclear arms build-up and interference in Central America, and was arrested and jailed for civil disobedience numerous times. Kathryn, who is the president and CEO of the Florida Center for Child and Family Development in Sarasota, FL, is a passionate activist for the healthy development of young children, especially children at-risk. As a deacon, she will serve Mary Mother of Jesus Inclusive Catholic Community in Sarasota, Florida as a member of the liturgical ministry team.
Jim Marsh of Albany, NY and St. Petersburg, FL has served his local church communities as Parish Councilor, Lector, Eucharistic Minister, and Religious Educator. In the early 1980s, as a gay man, he was involved in establishing a local DIGNITY Chapter in the Capital District region of NY where he served as a sacramental coordinator. As a justice-seeking man, he worked to create a viable Eucharistic community for those of many faith traditions who were “on the margins” of society and called “disordered” by church authorities. As a deacon, Jim will continue his ministry of service with others in promoting inclusive, egalitarian, justice-seeking communities of faith, inspired by Sophia-Wisdom.
Mary Catherine White of Gorham, New Hampshire, has been married to her soul mate, Adam White, since 2006. She has two adult daughters and a five year old grandson. For nearly twenty years, Mary wore many hats in her local Catholic faith community: Director of Religious Education; Spiritual Director; RCIA Coordinator; Small Faith Community Coordinator; Minister of Communion who presided at Communion Services in the pastor's absence; Liturgical Dancer, and Choir member. As a justice-seeking woman, Mary is a member of a blossoming inclusive Catholic community that has called her to serve as its priest. She looks forward to her ministry with the people of New Hampshire's North Country.
The good news is according to polls, close to 70% of U.S. Catholics support women priests. Even Cardinal O’Malley in his 60 Minutes interview with Norah O’Donnell, said he favors women priests: “If I were founding a church, I’d love to have women priests. But Christ founded it, and what he has given us is something different.”
Let’s examine the evidence in the bible and Vatican scholarship,
First, Jesus was not a priest, nor did Jesus ordain anyone a priest. The apostles were not priests or bishops. Jesus called women and men to be disciples, and treated them as partners and equals. In all four gospels, Mary Magdalene was the primary witness to the central event of Christianity — Christ’s resurrection.
Second: in early Christianity, scholars conclude that women served as deacons, priests and bishops. (See Gary Macy, The Hidden History of Women's Ordination and Dorothy Irvin's archaelogical researach)
Third: in 1976, the Vatican’s own Pontifical Biblical Commission stated that there is no theological basis to exclude women from the priesthood.
Fourth: according to Vatican II, Gaudium et Spes, #29) “every type of discrimination … based on sex … is to be overcome and eradicated as contrary to God’s intent.”
Does a teaching that states women can receive six sacraments and men can receive seven sacraments indicate that discrimination is a core issue here?
The bottom line is: the church cannot continue to discriminate against half of its membership, and blame Jesus for it.
When the institutional church prohibits ordination and fails to treat woman as spiritual equals at every level, it thereby, gives permission to the rest of the world to oppress and dominate women. We must make the connection between discrimination against women in the church and abuse, violence, and gender injustice the world.
In the church’s recent Synod on the Family, women were not only missing from the all male, celibate voting bishops, but also, missing in the final document on church teachings that will affect women’s lives around the globe.
Journalist Angela Bonavoglia writes the following stinging critique of the Synod on the Family in an article entitled “Where Are the Women? “There were passing references to violence against women in the family and in the world in the final Synod document, but nowhere do the Church fathers make a moral case for protecting women from such violence in their own homes and supporting them in leaving such relationships… This omission is doubly concerning coming from a church that forces childbirth on unwilling women by supporting laws that block access to birthcontrol…” (Where Are the Women? By Angela Bonavoglia | November 20, 2014 http://www.womensmediacenter.com/feature/entry/the-synods-final-document-where-are-the-women#.VHKOmUJZXtg.email
In order to be credible, the Synod on the Family must reflect women’s experiences. They could check in with some of our women priests who are mothers and grandmothers! We are faithful Catholics who love our church and are offering it a renewed model of priestly ministry that is non-clerical and non-hierarchical, one with all in the community of the baptized.
Our movement began with 7 courageous women who were ordained on the Danube River in 2002. In 2003, our first women bishops were ordained by a male bishop with apostolic succession. Therefore, our ordinations are valid, but we are disobeying an unjust male-made canon law that discriminates against women.
There are now 200 in the international women priest movement in 10 countries, including 160 in the U.S. serving 60 communities. We celebrate inclusive liturgies with feminine as well as masculine images of God. All are invited to our Eucharistic table including LGBTs, and divorced and remarried Catholics. Like Rosa Parks in the Civil Rights movement we are breaking an unjust law in the Catholic Church and leading the church into living Gospel equality now.
In conclusion, I will offer a few examples of how our ARCWP priests are seeking justice with other justice seekers in the Body of Christ:
At Mary Mother of Jesus Inclusive Catholic Community in Sarasota, women priests and married priests gather around the altar with the entire community to pray the Eucharistic Prayer. Each week there is a dialogue homily.
In Albany NY, the Inclusive Catholic Community is offering a spiritual home to many who have walked away from the institutional church. They are studying scripture scholarship that focuses on the life of Jesus and the central message of the Gospel. And, they are embracing a theology of blessing that requires restorative justice and equality for all.
On Nov. 15, 2014, five of our women priests gathered with hundreds at the gates of Ft. Benning GA. to celebrate a Eucharist of the People on the 25th anniversary of the Martyrdom of two women coworkers and 6 Jesuits at the University of Central America in El Salvador in 1989.
Georgia Walker, who was ordained a priest on Jan. 3, 2015 in Kansas City, crossed the line at the old nuclear bomb parts plant in South Kansas City to protest the toxic waste dump there. Hundreds of workers either died or are suffering from major chronic illnesses due to exposure to chemicals at that site. For her non-violent, justice-seeking action, Georgia was convicted of trespassing and was sentenced to one-year of unsupervised probation by the Municipal Court of Kansas City.
Today we celebrate the ordination of Rita, Kathryn Jim, and Mary Catherine, four prophetic witnesses to Gospel equality.
Like the persistent widow, our women priests’ movement is a holy shakeup rising up for justice in the Catholic Church!
Bridget Mary Meehan, D.Min., a Sister for Christian Community, was ordained a Roman Catholic priest in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on July 31, 2006. She was ordained a bishop on April 19, 2009. Dr. Meehan is currently Dean of the Doctor of Ministry Program for Global Ministries University, and is the author of 20 books, including Living Gospel Equality Now: Loving in the Heart of God, The Healing Power of Prayer and Praying with Women of the Bible . She presides at liturgies in Mary, Mother of Jesus Inclusive Catholic Community in Sarasota, Florida. Dr. Meehan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and www.arcwp.org