Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Homily by Roberta Meehan, RCWP

Christmas Homily – 1999 – revised 2005 – revised 2008 – revised 2009 – revised 2010

I Isaiah 62:1-5

Acts 13:16-17, 22-25

Matthew 1:1-25

II Isaiah 9:1-6

Titus 2:11-14

Luke 2:1-14

III Isaiah 62:11-12

Titus 3:4-7

Luke 2:15-20

IV Isaiah 52:7-10

Hebrews 1:1-6

John 1:1-18

The theophanic crescendo of the Christmas story begins humbly and prophetically with the vigil liturgy.

Theophany – the manifestation of God…. That is what this Christmas story is all about – the story about how God came to be with us.

Indeed, this is the story of the beginnings of how we came to be known as the People of God. Four separate liturgies (vigil, midnight, dawn, day) are used to tell our Christmas story and each liturgy becomes more intense than the preceding liturgy, building – crescendo-ing, as it were – until we reach the gospel of the final liturgy and we are told without any doubt who this Jesus – this Babe of Bethlehem – really is.

The liturgy of the vigil establishes the claim of Jesus – a prophecy from the Book of Isaiah, followed by an explanation of Jesus as the rightful heir of David from the Acts of the Apostles, and culminating in a legal genealogy of Jesus – a point of utmost importance to Matthew's Jewish audience. Yes, there could be no doubt. Jesus was the rightful heir; his claim was valid!

The liturgy at midnight tells the story of the birth of Jesus – a prediction from the Book of Isaiah, followed by an explanation of the meaning of Christmas from the letter to Titus, and concluding with Luke's beautiful story of the birth of Jesus. We feel we are there with the shepherds as they hear the angels’ message and the crescendo of the heavenly music – “Glory to God in the highest!”

The liturgy at dawn explains that Jesus was the timelessness of the Savior – another prophecy from Isaiah, another description from Titus, and finally the story of the shepherds and what they did after hearing the angels. The shepherds went to Bethlehem to find this infant who was wrapped in swaddling clothes – the clothes of royal infants! – and lying in a manger.

The theophany culminates with the liturgy of Christmas Day – a poetic exhilaration from Isaiah, followed by a prosaic wonderment from the Letter to the Hebrews, and at long last the prologue from the Gospel of John – a hymn pronouncing the Messianic message from the beginning of all time.

Allow me to use these four scriptural sequences (transitioned and paraphrased slightly for clarity's sake) to retell the story of the beginnings of our salvation.

CHAPTER I - Our God will not be quiet until the vindication of Jerusalem shines forth and until her victory is like a burning torch. This is the glorious crown in the hand of the Lord, the royal diadem held by our God. But, we state, as did Paul, "Israelites and you others who are God-fearing, listen. As it is written, 'I have found David, son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will carry out my every wish.' And it is from David's descendants that God has brought to Israel a savior – this man Jesus." Who is this Jesus and what right does he have to claim this throne? His genealogy, his legal heritage, is clear from Abraham on through Jacob, the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary and of Mary was born this Jesus, this long awaited Christ.

CHAPTER II - This child is born unto us and upon his shoulders dominion rests. His name is Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace. His dominion is vast and forever peaceful. This is the appearance of the glory of our great God; this is the savior, Jesus the Christ. Even the shepherds have been told that in David's city a child is born – the Christ - and they are not to be afraid.

CHAPTER III - These holy people, to whom this child is born, they are redeemed by God. We are these people. This God has saved us through the bath of rebirth and renewed us by the Holy Spirit. When the shepherds saw the child, they made known the message and all who heard the message were amazed. CHAPTER IV - The excitement is unbounded. We must break out in song. God has comforted the people and redeemed Jerusalem and it is known that all the ends of the earth will behold the salvation of our God. He accomplished purification from sins and he took his seat at the right hand of the Majesty on high. And he can trace his inheritance to that moment before the timeless eons began. Because… In the beginning was Wisdom* and Wisdom was with God and Wisdom was God. Wisdom was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through Wisdom, and without Wisdom nothing came to be. What came to be through Wisdom was life and this life was the light of the human race, and the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. And Wisdom became flesh and dwelt among us. And we saw Wisdom's glory, the glory of God's Wisdom, full of grace and truth. From Wisdom's fullness we have all received grace, and grace and truth come through Jesus the Christ! And Jesus the Christ is the enfleshment of the Wisdom of God. Merry Christmas!!

*Wisdom -- Sophia as transliterated in Greek, a word of the feminine grammatical gender in the ancient languages -- is the feminine aspect of the one God and is personified as a woman in the Bible.
Jn 13:35 – Roberta M. Meehan, ARCWP

Huffington Post Rates Roman Catholic Women Priests #5 on Ten Greatest Finds of 2010, TIME Rates RCWP #6 Top Religious Story

Bishop Bridget Mary ordains First Latin American Woman Priest
on Dec. 11, 2010
#5 Roman Catholic Women Priests
For centuries, Roman Catholic women have been robbed of the opportunity to ... The amount of ordained womenpriests has grown considerably since that time,
TIME selected Roman Catholic Women Priests as #6 top Religious Story of 2010.
Bridget Mary's Reflection:
We give thanks for the the growth of Roman Catholic Women Priests our movement for justice and equality for women in our church. Thanks to all of you who support us by your presence, prayers and gifts of time, treasure and talent.
Bridget Mary Meehan, RCWP

Thursday, December 23, 2010

No direct abortion at Phoenix hospital, theologian says/Will Bishop Olmstead Rescind Decision to Strip St. Joseph of "Catholic" Identity?

National Catholic Reporter:
'Mother and fetus were both in the process of dying
'Dec. 23, 2010
Jerry Filteau
The controversial operation on an 11-week pregnant mother at a Phoenix hospital last year that caused the local bishop to excommunicate a Catholic woman religious and led him this week to declare the hospital no longer Catholic was not a direct abortion, according to a moral theologian called in to review the case. "
"The mother and fetus were both in the process of dying … It was not a matter of choosing one life or the other. The child's life, because of natural causes, was in the process of ending," wrote theologian M. Therese Lysaught in a 24-page analysis of the medical procedure performed by St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center in November 2009."
"The only morally good thing that can be chosen here is to save the life of the mother,'" wrote Lysaught, who reviewed the case at the request of Catholic Healthcare West, a three-state system of mainly Catholic hospitals to which St. Joseph's belongs."
Bridget Mary's Reflection
Will Bishop Olmstead rescind his decision to strip St. Joseph of its "Catholic" identity and the automatic excommunication of Sr. Margaret McBride? Let's hope so! Otherwise, at risk is the moral credibility of the hierarchy. But, no matter what the bishop decides to do, the public can continue to trust St. Joseph's Hospital as a health care facility that is dedicated to the highest moral and ethical principles that the Catholic Church espouses.
However, this case raises a host of questions on a number of life and death issues.
Bridget Mary Meehan, RCWP

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

"Catholic Health Association Back Phoenix Hospital" Will Pregnant Women Feel Safe in Catholic Hospitals Run By Bishops?

Catholic Health Association backs Phoenix hospital
Dec. 22, 2010
By Jerry Filteau - NCR Online
"St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix acted in accord with Catholic directives on medical ethics when it performed an abortion last year to save the mother’s life, the head of the Catholic Health Association of the United States said Dec. 21."
..."In November 2009 the woman was admitted to St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center with worsening symptoms. Tests revealed that she now had life-threatening pulmonary hypertension. The chart notes that she had been informed that her risk of mortality was close to 100 percent if she continued the pregnancy. The medical team contacted the Ethics Consult team for review. The consultation team talked to several physicians and nurses as well as reviewed the patient’s record. The patient and her family, her doctors and the Ethics Consult team agreed that the pregnancy could be terminated, and that it was appropriate since the goal was not to end the pregnancy but save the mother’s life.”
..." The Arizona Republic, learned that Olmstead had been told about the abortion and had privately informed the head of the ethics committee, Mercy Sr. Margaret McBride, that in approving the abortion McBride had incurred automatic excommunication from the church. "
At the time it was revealed that the woman in question was in the 11th week of pregnancy, had four other young children, and had resisted abortion as an option until it became clear that both she and the unborn child were in imminent danger of death if she tried to continue her pregnancy."
"Olmsted contended that the hospital violated Directive 45 of the bishops’ “Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services,” which says, “Abortion – that is, the directly intended termination of pregnancy before viability or the directly intended destruction of a viable fetus – is never permitted
..." The hospital contended that it was not in violation of that directive but rather was following the modifying principle in Directive 47, which says, “Operations, treatments, and medications that have as their direct purpose the cure of a proportionately serious pathological condition of a pregnant woman are permitted when they cannot be safely postponed until the unborn child is viable, even if they will result in the death of the unborn child.”
Although by episcopal decree St. Joseph’s can no longer call itself Catholic, the hospital said, “St. Joseph’s will retain its name and our Catholic heritage will always be at the core of who we are. Our mission and values will not change.”
Bridget Mary's Reflection:
The bottom line is St. Joseph's Hospital is still in spirit a "Catholic" hospital, but no longer under the control of the bishop) because it is following the Gospel mandate of Jesus to show compassion and its decision in this case reflects the long-standing moral teaching of the Catholic Church. The general public, including Catholic women, can breathe a sigh of relief that St. Joseph's will continue to offer health care that does not put their lives at risk. Like St. Joseph, who stood up for Mary when her life was at risk, so too, St. Joseph's Hospital will continue to work to save the lives of pregnant women and their unborn children.
On the other hand, if Catholic hospitals follow Bishop Olmsted's directive- that abortion is never permitted under any circumstances including when a woman's life is at risk- then, pregnant women may no longer feel safe in Catholic hospitals.
Bridget Mary Meehan, RCWP
Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Bishop Olmsted Withdrew "Catholic" Church Affliation from St. Joseph's Hospital in Phoenix: Will this lead to Independent Catholic Hospitals?

Associated Press
PHOENIIX - "The Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix stripped a major hospital of its affiliation with the church Tuesday because of a surgery that ended a woman's pregnancy to save her life. Bishop Thomas Olmsted called the 2009 procedure an abortion and said St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center -- recognized internationally for its neurology and neurosurgery practices -- violated ethical and religious directives of the national Conference of Catholic Bishops."
21 December 2010

Bridget Mary's Reflection:

The decision by the Bishop Olmsted raises the question once again, who owns the church? Are the people of God, including the hierarchy, all the "baptized" the church or is the hierarchy alone the church? In this instance, the bishop removed the "Catholc " identity "because of a surgery that ended a woman's pregnancy to save her life." This decision sends a chilling message to women that our lives are expendible. It also raises the question can a pro-life church be a pro-woman church? Catholic moral theology upholds the primacy of conscience. The Ethics Committee , includng Sr. McBride, made a difficult decision that reflected the moral principles that Catholics have used for decades. Ultimately, this decision appears to be about power and control.

Will St. Joseph's Hospital "own" its identity as an independent "Catholic" hospital not under the bishop's jurisdiction? Could St. Joseph be a trend-setter that other Catholic hospitals, universities and institutions will follow? This could lead to more independence from the hierarchy. Religious Orders of nuns could do likewise. This would enable these entities to live their "Catholic" identity without being controlled by the bishops. Hmm, it might not be a bad idea, given the amount of friction, turmoil, and disagreement that we witness today in our body politic. It is certainly worth a serious conversation at this point!

Bridget Mary Meehan, RCWP

Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests

Media Contact:David J. Nolan 1 202 986 6093

A Sad State of Affairs in Phoenix, Arizona

Jon O’Brien, president of Catholics for Choice, issued the following statement today after Bishop Olmsted of Phoenix, Arizona, declared that a local hospital could no longer describe itself as Catholic.

“The decision by Bishop Thomas Olmsted to declare that St. Joseph’s Hospital may no longer be considered Catholic is a sad one.

“It’s sad that Bishop Olmsted is so intransigent that he cannot accept that the people seeking medical care at the hospital may need access to services that he finds unacceptable, even though he, and we, know that Catholics use contraception and access abortion services at rates similar to the population as a whole.

“It’s sad that people seeking care and working at the hospital will no longer be able to hear mass in the chapel at St. Joseph’s.

“It’s sad for the people of Phoenix that the local bishop has created such a spectacle over this issue, from the moment he sought to excommunicate Sister Margaret McBride for sanctioning a life-saving operation to the threats issued to St. Joseph’s down to today’s punishment – announced via press release.

“All of the people who work at the hospital know that their actions are driven by their consciences, from the doctors, nurses and other medical personnel right through to the administration and support staff. They all acted in good conscience. Can Bishop Olmsted say the same thing?

“The only possible silver lining also relates to people seeking medical services at the hospital. Now that Bishop Olmsted will no longer be influencing decisions about their medical care, perhaps people seeking services at St. Joseph’s will be able to access the services they need in a timely manner – after consulting with their doctor and without concerns about whether the local bishop is influencing medical decisions. Ultimately, when a bishop stops pretending to be a doctor, the whole community benefits.”

Monday, December 20, 2010

Pope Benedict Addresses Pedophile Crisis, Needed a Renewed Priestly Ministry in a People-Empowered Church

Dec 20, 6:56 AM EST
Pope: Church must reflect on what allowed abuse
By NICOLE WINFIELD Associated Press

"He said the underlying ideology of such rampant excesses stemmed from the 1970s, when "pedophilia was theorized as something that was in keeping with man and even the child,"...

Bridget Mary's Reflecton:
What! I never heard this theory before and I doubt many Catholics have either! A secretive clerical, all-male hierarchy, is the underlying ideology that perpetuated the sex abuse scandal. Until Pope Benedict deals with clericalism and the abuse of power that led to the rape, sodomy and sexual abuse of thousands of youth, the church will fail to deal with the systemic roots of this crisis. Needed now, a renewed priestly ministry in a community of equals. We need a people empowered church in partnership with the people. Roman Catholic Women Priests are already at work renewing the church in grassroots communities.
Bridget Mary Meehan, RCWP
Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Honor Women as Moral Decision-Makers- Vatican Must Promote Condoms to Save Women's Lives- Needed Women Priests

Bill Schuch writes:
"Some observations on several of the Bishop of Toledo's statements in the article published December 19, 2010 in the Toledo Blade: If it is true that "consistent condom use has not reached a sufficiently high level … to produce a measurable slowing of new infections in the generalized epidemics of Sub-Saharan Africa", then the Vatican's hard line against the use of condoms to prevent the transmission of HIV within discordant couples is at least partially responsible. "

"The bishop places " condom orthodoxy" (his term) at odds with the suffering people of Africa and their values, their love for children and family. The fact is that when monogamous women are infected by their HIV-positive spouses/ partners, many, who progress to AIDS for lack of lifelong access to anti-retroviral drugs, leave behind orphans who are often abandoned by their fathers and those women who refuse the demands for sex from their infected spouses/partners are subject to violence, ostracism and destitution for themselves and their children. "

"Bishop Blair joins the numerous hierarchs who, ever since the Pope's recent interview in which he mused that condoms might play a role in HIV prevention, have been assuring us that there has been no change and will never be any change in the intrinsic evil of condom use which is synonymous with intended contraception rather than intended disease prevention in their non-pastoral orthodox minds. Not one of these men has the courage to give public consideration to the plight of these women at the mercy of their HIV-positive husbands, most of whom are not very keen on using condoms. The Vatican's hardline against the use of condoms simply reinforces their strong disinclination to use condoms. "

"The bishop points out that one in four of the 33 million AIDS patients worldwide is being cared for by the Catholic Church. That includes almost half of the total treatment efforts in Africa, where two-thirds of those afflicted with AIDS live. U.S. Catholic Relief Services and Caritas Internationalis care for Catholic and non-Catholics alike - their failure to provide condoms and instructions as to their proper and consistent use as a moral imperative if abstinence is not a realistic option for discordant couples clearly is counter-productive to the efforts of other NGOs working to address the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Africa. Would it not make good Christian common sense to provide condoms where necessary to protect these innocent women? These women, Catholic and non-Catholic, are not only the victims of their male-dominated ( often polygamous) cultures but of our male-dominated Catholic church as well."

Bridget Mary's Reflection

This issue illustrates a major reason women priests are needed in the Roman Catholic Church. Women are capable moral agents and decision-makers in moral issues that impact their lives. Sometimes, I wonder what planet these male bishops live on? The Pope opens the door a crack to a more compassionate view for condom use to save lives, and here come these bishops who continue to uphold the ban on condoms. Why? Millions of women have died because their partners infected them! Protecting the lives of women should be a priority in a church that professes to be pro-life.
It is time for the bishops to affirm women's lives as much as they affirm fetal life. But, sadly, the male-dominated patriarchal mindset continues to exert a negative effect on the lives of millions of women who suffered from HIV AIDS as a result of their partners refusal to use condoms. This is insanity and has nothing to do with the Gospel of Jesus Christ who treated women and men as equals and partners. The Roman Catholic community needs to challenge Bishop Blair and members of the hierarchy who support the ban on condoms. We need to stand together in solidarity with our sisters in Africa and elsewhere. They deserve our support.
Bridget Mary Meehan RCWP
Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests.