Dear Pope Benedict:
In your speech to the United Nations, you spoke eloquently about human rights as a path to equality, however, sadly, the Roman Catholic church discriminates against women . Church law bars women from ordination and patriarchal structures have colluded with the sexual abuse and violence against women that occurs in all religions, nations, and cultures throughout the centuries . Violence against women threatens the lives of more young women thancancer, malaria or war," said Annie Lennox, the British singer who presents the series of investigative reports. "It affects one in three women worldwide. It leaves women mentally scarred for life, and it is usually inflicted by a family member." The National Catholic Reporter wroe about the failures of the Vatican to respond to the clergy sex abuse and explitation of nuns and woman in Africa, Europe and North America. In one instance, a priest impregnated a nun, drove her for an abortion, and after she died, presided at her funeral. The Roman Catholic Church needs to address the issue of violence against women and acknowledge the role that its patriarchal structures have played in the exploitation of women throughout history.
As I watched the magnificent papal Mass at Nationals Park in Washington DC, the clear message was that women are second-class citiznes in the Roman Catholic Church. Not even a glorious liturgy on this historic occasion on a warm April day can remove the sting of the exclusion of women at the altar. No female acolytes or eucharistic ministers were at the altar. In many parishes, girls and women serve in these ministries weekly. In fact, women do most of the work Catholic parishes in the United States. According to surveys, 80% of lay ministers are women. Yet women were missing in action at the altar during the papal Mass. Women are good enough to do most of the ministries including, serve at the altar and distribute communion in their local churches , but when you come, it is the old boys' clerical club only, no women allowed! Do you think this is what Jesus would do?
Jesus offered an example of Gosepl equality. He called both women and men to be his disciples. According to all four Gospels, Mary of Magdala is the first witness to the Resurrection and is the apostle to the apostles. Luke 6 tells us that Jesus' disciples included many women. According to scholars, women were ordained for the first twelve hundred years of Christianity.
Roman Catholic Womenpriests are offering the church, Pope Benedict, a gift of a renewed priestly ministry as we reclaim this ancient tradition. We are shaping a more inclusive, Christ-entered church of equals in grassroots communities where all are welcome including the divorced and married, gays, lesbians, bisexual, transgendered and women who are treated like second-class citizens.
Womenpriests are addressing issues of domestic violence and the abuse of women in church and society.
However, the institutional church must change its structures so that women's equality is a reality in the Catholic Church and women are decision-makers in all areas of church governance including the top jobs at the Vatican Curia.
Yes, Pope Benedict, human rights is the path to equality not only in our world, but also in our church and women's rights are human rights. Next time you come, I hope Roman Catholic womenpriests will be at the altar with you, and partnership and equality will be a reality in our church and world. May Christ, our hope, inspire us to work together for peace, justice and equality for all.
Bridget Mary Meehan
Sister for Christian Community and Roman Catholic Womanpriest