Thursday, August 4, 2016

Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests Responds to Pope Francis' Commission on Women Deacons - Invites Dialogue and Lifting of Excommunications

PRESS RELEASE: August 4, 2016

From the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests (ARCWP)

Contact: Janice Sevre-Duszynska, D.Min. media, 
Bishop Bridget Mary Meehan,, 
(Contact Bridget Mary by email as she is in Ireland and will celebrate Eucharist in Dublin on Aug. 7th at Rialto Community Center.The liturgy will be at 10am on Sunday in the Rialto Community Centre, 468 South Circular Road, Dublin  8. 

On May 31st, women priests Christina Moreira of Spain and Janice Sevre-Duszynska from the U.S. met with a Vatican official at the Curia who promised to give Pope Francis our international women priest petition to lift our excommunications, punishments against our supporters and begin a dialogue with women priests.
A major focus of their discussion was the history of women’s leadership in Early Christianity. They were following up on Francis’s May 12 “yes” to women religious who asked for a commission to study women deacons.

True to his word, Pope Francis has appointed a gender-balanced commission of six women and six men to begin the study. The gender balance and makeup of this Commission is a positive first step in the study of female deacons in the Roman Catholic Church.

“It is our hope that this study could lead to a deeper appreciation of our earlier tradition of women deacons, priests and bishops in leadership roles in the church, and to the full equality of women as priests, bishops, and decision makers in a more inclusive, egalitarian church,” said Bridget Mary Meehan, a bishop in ARCWP.

Phyllis Zagano, who was appointed to the Pope's Commission. argues: "There is overwhelming historical evidence that women were ordained deacons by bishops intending to perform a sacrament. If women were sacramentally ordained deacons and the diaconate shares in the sacerdotal priesthood … then women have already shared in the sacerdotal priesthood,” Zagano wrote for America magazine in 2013. (2003)

“The humanity of Christ overcomes the limitations of gender, and no church document argues an ontological distinction among humans except documents that address the question of ordination,” she continued. “This view is not likely to dampen growing worldwide enthusiasm for women deacons,” Zagano said.

Once the Commission that Pope Francis called for delves into the scholarship, they will have a lot to share.

First, according to the 1976 Pontifical Biblical Commission's Report, the Vatican's own scholarship, there is nothing in scripture that supports a ban on women's ordination...."It does not seem that the New Testament by itself alone will permit us to settle in a clear way and once and for all the problem of the possible accession of women to the presbyterate."

Second, the Ordination Rite that was used to ordain women deacons was identical for men and women.  
See outstanding scholarship cited below on the comprehensive website quoted below:
“Women deacons have been documented extensively for the first nine centuries especially in the Eastern part of the Church.” See Romans 16: Paul praises Deacon Phoebe and commends her leadership in the local church.

"Women deacons assisted in the baptism of women which required anointing and immersion of the whole body. 

We know the exact ordination rites that were used. They involve the imposition of hands by the bishop, the invocation of the Holy Spirit to impart the diaconate and the imposition of the diaconate stole.

Three, there is no evidence whatsoever, that ordination was required to preside at house church Eucharistic celebrations in early Christianity. 
Four, the history of ordination evolved and was understood differently in the first centuries of the church's history than in medieval and contemporary times. See Gary Macy, The Hidden History of Women's Ordination.

So our advice to the Vatican Commission is check out the Pontifical Biblical Commission's report in 1976, visit the women priests website quoted above that cites years worth of scholarship by John Wijngaards, and read: No Women in Holy Order? The Ancient Women Deacons by John Wingaards, Canterbury Press, 2002. 

No doubt the hard liners in the Vatican Curia are irritated by opening up this topic for study. They fear that it could lead to women priests!

Our Roman Catholic Women Priests Movement has been ordaining women deacons, priests and bishops to serve in grassroots, inclusive faith communities, thus renewing the church on the margins, one renewed community at a time.

Our international movement is calling on Pope Francis to dialogue with us, lift excommunications, and honor primacy of conscience. We are over 225 members on 5 continents, in 13 countries, serving 81 faith communities in 34 states in the United States.

The Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests is working to transform the clerical, dominator approach of the institutional church to a community of equals model where all are welcome to celebrate sacraments at the Banquet of God’s infinite love. See our vision, mission, values statement on our website:

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