Thursday, March 13, 2008

Archbishop Burke excommunicates Womenpriests from St. Louis

On March 12, 2008 Archbishop Burke excommunicated Rose Marie Hudson and Elsie McGrath. The decree was delivered by a courier at their respective homes. Rose Marie and Elsie were ordained priests in a Jewish Synagogue in St. Louis. (CRC: Central Reform Congregation) Rabbi Susan Talve and her congregation hosted the ordinations as an act of hospitality reflecting the tradition of Abraham and Sarah in the Hebrew scripure. Over 600 people attended including people from Jewish and other Christian churches.

Roman Catholic Womenpriests reject the penalties of excommunication, interdict, and any other punitive actions by church officials against Roman Catholic Womenpriests. Roman Catholic Womenpriests are loyal members of the church who stand in the prophetic tradition of holy disobedience to an unjust law that discriminates against women.

We hold up heroic women in the church’s tradition like Hildegard of Bingen, Joan of Arc and St. Theodore Guerin who obeyed God, followed their consciences and withstood hierarchical oppression including interdict, excommunication and death.

The Catholic Church teaches that a teaching or law of the church is authoritative only if it is “received” by the sensus fidelium, the community of faith. If the community of faith does not accept the law, it has no effect on us. All people have a moral obligation to disobey an unjust law. St. Augustine taught that an unjust law is no law at all. Since 70% of U.S. Catholics favor women’s ordination and a growing majority of Catholics worldwide also favors women’s ordination, we do not “receive” or accept the Church's prohibition against the ordination of women and the church’s continued reliance on sexist metaphors, beliefs and assumptions for denying ordination to women.

Pope Benedict XVI, written when he was Cardinal Ratzinger, in the commentary section of the Doctrine of Vatican II, volume V, page 134, stated: "Over the Pope as the expression of the binding claim of ecclesiastical authority, there still stands one's own conscience, which must be obeyed before all else, if necessary even against the requirement of ecclesiastical authority.”

Roman Catholic Church laws are often contradictory. In this instance, canon 1024 limits sacred orders to men, while canon 849 states that baptism is the gateway to the sacraments. Scholar Bishop Ida Raming, doctor of theology, points out a prior church understanding: “some medieval canonists hold that not maleness but baptism is the pre-requisite for valid ordinations: “After being baptized, anyone may be validly ordained.” (The Exclusion of Women from the Priesthood: Causes and Background)

Recent scholarship affirms that women were ordained in the first twelve hundred years of the church’s history. The first half of the church’s history provides us with images and accounts of the inclusion of women in Holy Orders that contradict the later prohibition. The evidence provides a tradition we reclaim.

“Roman Catholic Womenpriests are leading the way to a renewed Roman Catholic Church in which the full equality of women will be a reality,” commented Bridget Mary Meehan, U.S. media spokeswoman. “Like Mary Magdalene, apostle to the apostles, and the women deacons, priests and bishops who served in the early centuries of our church, we are offering a model of a renewed priesthood in a community of equals.”

CONTACTS:Bridget Mary Meehan: 941-953-5948 (703) 283-2929 (cell),