Janice Sevre Duszynska's ordination to the priesthood on
Aug. 9, 2009 in Lexington, Kentucky, USA
Link to interview with Janice Sevre-Duszynska on radio; http://www.weku.fm/tib.htm
Finally a chance to reflect about the UN experience (53rd session of the Commission on the Status of Women - March 2-13, 2009). Dorothy Irvin and I were designated reps of St. Joan's International Alliance, a 98-year old Catholic feminist group. There were 2,000 registered participants and 5,000 gave input into the process.
The primary topic was "equal sharing of responsibilities between women and men, including caregiving within the context of HIV/AIDS."
We attended meetings of the CSW in which statements were given by the 45-member states that are part of the Commission as well as many parallel events held across the street at the Church Center. The latter were informative talks given by permanent missions at the UN as well as NGO organizations from around the world. Some of the talks we attended included the relationship between religion and reproductive rights, disarmament, research on HIV/AIDS, caregiving in the context of HIV/AIDs, gender equality, preventing violence against women, human trafficing and engaging men in sharing responsibility. What I want to emphasize is that many NGOs (women and men) are making the connections between sexism and religion and violence.
It was important to attend morning briefings, NGO caucuses and evening coordinating caucuses. Our days started very early and ended quite late. We organized and reviewed our efforts during our morning conversation on the bus, sometimes at lunch at the UN or at dinner.
Each day during the session, I gave out and posted information about RCWP and our book, the Fact Sheet on Women's Ordination and Top Ten 10 reasons to Ordain Women from Women's Ordination Conference (WOC), the postcards in which people pledge not to contribute another dollar to our Church until it ordains women and the address list for Church leaders. While I am familiar with the UN's legal efforts to promote women's rights as human rights and have had discussions about it over the years, the article by Kate Childs Graham in WOC's latest New Women/New Church about women's ordination, gender equality and international law was helpful as a summary of the process. RCWP Michele Birch Conery has also followed the advancement of gender equality and universal rights at the UN and is knowledgeable about the connections. Archaeologist and theologian Dorothy Irvin, a longtime member of St. Joan's International Alliance -- which has had NGO status at the UN since 1951 -- has repeatedly talked about the importance of women's groups to become NGOs at the UN to challenge the Vatican's discriminatory practices against the ordination of women and other critical issues affecting women, children and men.
Whenever the opportunity arose, I took the mike to speak about the movement. The response was enthusiastic. People clapped, some hugged me and asked for material -- which I always carried with me. (I made copies several times). When the women at the Latin American caucus did not show up, I started talking about the movement to the women who were gathering. They told me to take the mike. I spoke for about 10 minutes, answered a couple of questions and they all wanted the handouts.
At the Sunday Ecumenical Church service I waited until after the women who were scheduled to tell their stories had finished. Then before the song, "We got big ovaries," I hurried up to the front, took the mike, asked forgiveness for my big ovaries, and told the people gathered that I was an ordained RCWP and that the movement for women priests in the Roman Catholic Church had begun. I kept it short; people clapped enthusiastically and many asked for information. At the reception I walked around to chat and give out information. The women were eager to talk about our church and RCWP, ask questions and take the handouts.
On two occasions two different African women told me I was not a Roman Catholic because I was not following the Pope. I said I was not following the Pope because he does not follow Jesus. I also talked with a couple of women from Europe who asked why I would want to be a priest in the present Church. I explained to them that our movement didn't just add women and stir but rather that we incorporated the reforms we had talked about for so many years: We don't take vows of obedience to a bishop like male priests do but rather try to live with an informed conscience. We practice a servant priesthood (not a cult); we are worker priests. All are welcome at our table. We are a discipleship of equals and make our decisions in a circle. We are not a hierarchy.
I met reps from the School Sisters of Notre Dame, the Maryknolls, Sisters of the Good Shepherd, The Grail, and others. We exchanged email addresses with many NGOs At lunch we talked with UN government employees from all over the world..
Julianne from Belgium (originally from Belgian Congo) arrived for the second week. She will be the new president of St. Joan's International Alliance. She has prior experience with the UN at conferences in Geneva and in New York. She talked about what has been happening over the years in the Congo, the Sudan and elsewhere in Africa. She and a number of the European women are in in communication with African-based NGOs and are aware of what is happening to the people at the grassroots level. As she talked I asked myself why we in the U.S. are not as in touch with what is happening with our South American sisters and brothers.
Dorothy, Julianne and I held a preliminary caucus and then a regular one during the second week entitled "Religions (starting with your own) and Violence Against Women." We had a good gathering for each session: Presbyterians, Anglicans, Methodists, Roman Catholics and others. We shared stories and they expressed their support for RCWP. We were interviewed by UN Radio.
Dorothy and I learned the CSW process by asking questions and going through the experience as we were unable to be at the March 1st Orientation Day, which some of the women attended. Next year we will be better prepared to do advocacy with the U.S. Caucus as well as work on the draft outcomes document. In its final form, it is called the Agreed Conclusions and contains a set of recommendations for Governments, intergovernmental bodies, civil society actors and relevant stakesholders to be implemented at the international, national, regional and local levels. I hope others from our community will be with us at the next session in March 2010. To acquaint yourself with this process, visithttp://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/csw/53sess.htm
By the way, on the first day I collected many UN publications which have the latest research on women's issues.These were offered to us free. I got a box, filled it up and mailed it home from the U.S. Post Office at the UN. These documents will be useful as references.
While I did not get to read my 3-minute statement to the entire CSW Commission, I did read it to several hundred NGO delegates at our morning briefing. They clapped and came up for copies of the statement which follows. Another version is up on the WEKU. FM website for Women's History month and their "This I believe" program. Bridget Mary's essay is also up on their website.
Since he was out of the country, I did not meet Miguel d'Escoto, friend of Roy Bourgeois', suspended Maryknoll priest and President of the UN General Assembly. However, I did make contact with his assistant and had delivered to him a letter for d'Escoto with our various materials in the envelope, including SOA Watch's newspaper, "Presente." On p. 14 Roy speaks to the people of the SOA Watch Movement about his trouble with the Vatican and his support for women priests -- which he says is as important to him as closing the School of the Americas.
Many thanks to Gabriella Velardi Ward for all of her thoughtfulness. She introduced us to her community at a Saturday workshop she invited Dorothy and me to give. Dorothy showed photos on her computer from her calendars and spoke about the archaeological evidence for women's leadership in our church and I talked about my journey to the priesthood. Dorothy has asked Gabriella to be the St. Joan's rep in New York and she has accepted. This means she will be able to attend monthly meetings at the UN and affect the Economic and Security Council. This is an important opening for us.
Before I arrived in New York, I was in correspondence with Catholics for Choice and received an informative and useful press release from their president, Jon O'Brien. In it he points out the Holy See's status at the UN as a Non-member State Permanent Observer and how "the Holy See's claims to statehood change depending on the circumstances." (See O'Brien's essay on Bridget Mary's blog for further information especially in regard to the sex abuse cases in the United States). "This status allow the Holy See to have some state privileges at the UN, such as being able to speak and vote at UN conferences. No other religious body is granted this elevated status; instead other religious bodies participate at the UN as nongovernmental organizations."
What this means, as we well know, is that the hierarchy represents its views at the UN which do not reflect the views of the world's billion-plus Catholics. Said O'Brien: "The Holy See's opposition to policies that promote reproductive health, including especially its opposition to the use of condoms to prevent the spread of HIV, overshadows the work that many members of the church do. The impact of these policies is enhanced by the political role that the Holy See plays in the world."
I made a point of sitting in the Holy See's seat in Conference Room 2 at the UN, where we gathered for morning briefings. While in the General Assembly, I also took note of their seat. Plenty of thoughts ran through my mind, especially the figure that came up often in discussions of the predicted 25 million African children with HIV/AIDS by 2015.
O'Brien calls for the "United Nations and other bodies to start treating the Vatican for what it is: the government of a religious institution."
As we were working on the draft outcome document, I read two paragraphs that were added by the Holy See. That day at the meeting of the U.S. Caucus I took the mike, identified myself as an RCWP and said that the Holy See does not speak for Roman Catholic women...we speak for ourselves. To be emphatic I asked a question: "Isn't this the 53rd Session of the Commisssion on the Status of Women"?
I strongly urge our community to apply for NGO status. (I am willing to do the paperwork). Our presence and voice at the UN is crucial to connect the dots for women's leadership in our Church and to end the discrimination of the Vatican. The 1979 Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Beijing Platform for Action are laws which connect women's decision-making and leadership as human rights issues.The latter also points out the horrific consequences of patriarchal religions that affect us all:
"Religion, spirituality, and belief lay a central role in the lives of millions of women and men...The right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religions is inalienable and must be universally enjoyed...However, it is acknowledge that any form of extremism may have a negative impact on women and can lead to violence and discrimination."
What is crucial now is to contact our senators and representatives to get CEDAW passed. Only eight of the 192 UN member states have not ratified CEDAW, including the U.S. We must campaign for this important ratification.
Peace and All Blessings,
Here is the statement I read at the UN. The first web publication of this statement adapted for a general audience can be found at http://www.weku.fm/tib.htm
as part of Women's History Month, "This I believe" program.
The connections between sexism in the Roman Catholic Church and violence in our world.
We are the people of God. However, if you are a Roman Catholic woman, the Mystery of God never looks like you: "He" doesn't have a body like yours. "He" doesn't give birth or breastfeed. God is always referred to as "He", "Him" or "Father". The people who interpret what "He" is about -- who celebrate the sacraments -- who interpret the meaning of the Gospels and who preach the Word from the altar, are males.
As Mary Daly said: "If God is male, male is God." The results: Men become empowered, women marginalized and oppressed. Dominance and militarism prevail and our world community -- of women, children and men -- suffers.
Although theologians say we have had women priests, deacons and bishops through the 12th century, the Vatican says if we are women, we do not and cannot image the Sacred -- the imago Dei -- on the altar. Yet our world cries out for us women to interpret the meaning and significance of the Gospels from our everyday lives -- from our womanly living and dying.
Sexism, like racism, is immoral.
In the sinfully sexist Roman Catholic Church, the voices of women are not named. Therefore, our needs are not heard and the world suffers.
We women of Saint Joan's International Alliance say here today that the Roman Catholic Church, the men at the Vatican and our male bishops do not speak for Roman Catholic women -- or any women.
We speak for ourselves. We are making the connections between sexism and religion. Sexism and militarism. Sexism and nationalism. Sexism and racism. Sexism and colonialism. Sexism and capitalism. Sexism and homophobia. Sexism and disrespect for Mother Earth. Sexism and violence of all kinds.
We as women choose to live with an informed conscience and choose to control our own bodies.
How can we counter patriarchal religions, including the Roman Catholic Church?
We need our children -- including our boys -- to be taught in schools every day from kindergarten on, in classes that teach non-violence, mediation, equality, and sexual responsibility as well as parenting.
For men to mature spiritually into adulthood, we need media campaigns to teach equality, shared responsibility and decision making between women and men, and people in relationships.
The 1979 UN Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, especially Articles 5 and 7, grants women equality in decision-making and leadership of governmental bodies and non-governmental orgnizations. I ask all of you who work here at the UN to help us. Women's freedom and women priests are a human rights issue.
My name is Janice and I am an ordained Roman Catholic Womanpriest.http://www.romancatholicwomenpriests.org/