Monday, April 4, 2011

Roman Catholic Women Priests Association: Ordination of 4 More Deacons/ Homily "Let's Shine a Light on Justice and Equality for All"

By Bridget Mary Meehan, RCWP

Today, let’s shine a light on justice and equality for all. Today, Diane Dougherty of Newman, Georgia, Adele Jones of San Antonia, Texas, and Miriam Picconi and Wanda Russell, both of Palm Coast , Florida are being ordained as deacons by the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests. They are walking into history in solidarity with our sisters and brothers throughout the world who are rising up to shine a light on human rights. Women’s rights in the church are human rights. Our motto is justice for all, justice for the poor, justice for women, and justice for women in the Catholic Church. Like the blind man in the Gospel, RCWP have been “thrown out’ of the Temple. In July 2010, the Vatican placed Roman Catholic Women Priests in the most serious crime category, “delecta graviora”, right along with the pedophiles. The only difference is that the Vatican excommunicated the women priests, but not the pedophiles. This week we learned that the Vatican is pressuring the Maryknoll Order to dismiss Fr. Roy Bourgeois for his support of Roman Catholic Women Priests. Perhaps, the response of the Pharisees fits the Vatican too: “You are not calling us blind, are you?” Sadly, our religious leaders are blind to women as equal images of the divine. Jesus challenges us, including the Vatican, as he challenged the religious leaders long ago, not to limit God. The Holy One of Endless Surprises is not bound by man-made rules, like canon law #1024, which mandates only men can be ordained. No matter what punishment the Vatican metes out to our movement, RCWP are blessed beyond measure as more candidates come forward to join us. Adele Jones, who will be ordained today decided that the latest Vatican punishment was the last straw. So that is why I say, the Vatican is the gift that keeps on giving! In the Hebrew Scripture today, we read that Jesse presented seven of his eight sons but God chose only David, the one Jesse did not present. The lesson is clear no one can control God’s call. Unfortunately, the Vatican does not get it! The institutional Roman Catholic Church limits God’s call to men for ordained ministry. But now a new day is dawning, God is calling women to a renewed priestly ministry in which we see our world with the eyes of the heart, listen to and affirm women’s and men’s experiences, share our experiences as women, promote women’s rights as human rights in all areas of life and society. Who are the pope and hierarchy to say that men only have a call to priestly ministry? The Pope and hierarchy cannot limit God’s call with religious decrees, and rules like canon law. If they do, they will remain blind? As St Paul reminds us we are called to live as children of the light. This means that in Christ, we are the light. We are called to reflect the Christ vision of Gospel equality in our thoughts, words and actions. Like Rosa Parks, who refused to sit in the back of the bus, Roman Catholic Women Priests demonstrate by our actions of prophetic obedience to the Spirit that an unjust law must be broken in order to be changed. We are disobeying an unjust law that discriminates against women. Sexism is the root cause of the institutional church’s exclusion of women from priesthood. The Vatican teaches that it has no authority to ordain women priests as if God is suddenly impotent before women. This discrimination against women contradicts the Second Vatican Council document, The Church in the Modern World that states “Every type of discrimination… based on sex is to be eradicated as contrary to God’s intent.” The tragedy is that sexism is a major factor in the physical, emotional and spiritual abuse of women and too often leads to violence against women worldwide. In 1975, an international group of Catholic Scripture scholars, the Pontifical Biblical Commission, concluded that the ordination of women could not be excluded on the basis of Scripture. The church’s ban on women priests contradicts its own scholarship. In the Gospel Jesus calls us to shine the light of justice, equality and love on all: to see with the eyes of faith, to contemplate God’s call anew with a fresh spiritual vision. Jesus demonstrated Gospel inclusiveness because he chose women and men from the margins and from the–in group to be his disciples. According to all four Gospels, Mary of Magdala was the only one who was present at both the cross and tomb. The Risen Christ appeared first to Mary of Magdala and called her to “go and tell” the good news to the others. For centuries, Mary of Magdala was known as the apostle to the apostles. Therefore, it is time for the institutional Catholic Church to follow the example of Jesus and treat woman as equals in all areas of church life including ordination to the priesthood. According to scholars Gary Macy, Ute Eisen, and Dorothy Irvin, women served as deacons, priests and bishops in the early church’s history. There is a fresco depicting a woman deacon and a bishop laying hands on a woman priest in St. Priscilla Catacomb in Rome. Apparently the Pope and hierarchy have not seen it! Perhaps, we should suggest a pope mobile tour of the many tomb inscriptions, mosaics, and frescoes of ordained women leaders in Rome and Southern Italy. Then, will the light dawn on them as it did at St. Paul’s conversion?! Remember, there is always hope! It gives us great joy to share that The Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests is shining a light for justice and equality for women in South America. On March 20, 2011, I ordained Martha Lulita Soto a priest at an ecumenical center for justice and peace in Latin America. The priest director who welcomed us, pointed to the large painting behind our makeshift altar that revealed haunting faces of the many women and men who were killed during the time of holocaust in war zones as indigenous farmers protected their land. Many nuns, priests, missionaries and lay ministers were among them. In this sacred space, the first Latin American woman was ordained. As Martha stepped forward to serve her people as a priest, our movement joined in solidarity with the holy people of Latin America who had given everything in the pursuit of justice and human rights as a constitutive dimension of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We are on a long march to freedom from sexism in our church with the wind of the Spirit at our backs. Let us rejoice that inclusive women priest led communities are shining a light for justice and equality. People are responding enthusiastically to the birthing of a renewed Catholic Church that is open, inclusive and ecumenical, where all are always welcome to receive sacraments. Some of our grassroots communities have partner priests, married priests serving vibrant communities. Some minister in an ecumenical setting like Mary Mother of Jesus here at St. Andrew and Good Shepherd Ministries in Ft. Myers, a ministry to the homeless and poor supported in part by Lamb of God Episcopal-Lutheran Church. Our women in the Association of RCWP serve communities on the margins, the homeless, Gays, Lesbians and Transgendered, hospitals and hospices, peace and justice ministries and elder care. Our goal is to serve in a renewed priestly ministry united with the people with whom we serve. The following are a few more hopeful signs that the light of justice and equality is growing stronger, like the stars that suddenly appear and glow in a night sky: - Roman Catholic Women priests began with 7 brave women in 2002 who were ordained on the Danube, we are now approximately 120 and growing. - - After our ordination in South America, we met with five women who expressed interest in our movement. They have years of experience as pastoral leaders serving the poor. - –Some of our brother priests are indeed co-celebrating with us. For example Oblate of Mary and peace activist Karl Cabot co-presided with one of our women priests, Janice Sevre Dusynska at the Catholic Worker retreat in Chicago last spring. And, Franciscan peace activist Jerry Zawada co-celebrated with her at the School of the Americas Watch gathering at Ft. Benning last November. Maryknoll priest Roy Bourgeois continues to talk up women priests whenever he speaks to grassroots communities. We ask our other brother priests to join us! - Recently, over 200 German theologians signed a public statement that included women priests on the list of reforms needed in the Catholic Church. I wonder how well that recommendation went over with Pope Benedict! – - Bishop Christine Mayr Lumetzberger, one of the Danube 7, who was ordained in 2002, presided at two funerals in Austria with Catholic clergy as co-presiders in a Catholic Church. - We heard that a Latin American Archbishop responded to a young woman’s question about women priests stated that the groundwork was being laid and that she could see it in her lifetime! Now it is time to let the light of justice and equality shine for all who are here to support our ordinands today: Today we rejoice that courageous women, like Adele, Miriam, Wanda and Diane, are pastorally prepared to serve as deacons from years of experience serving the people of God in grassroots communities. My sisters, you are crossing the church’s line to let the light of justice and equality shine for all. You are breaking an unjust church law, not to LEAVE the church you love, but to LEAD our beloved church into a new era of justice and equality for women in the church. You will be excommunicated. Like St. Joan of Arc, who was burned at the stake for following her conscience, and later canonized by the church who had earlier condemned her, Adele, Miriam, Wanda and Diane, you are following your consciences. When questioned whether one had an obligation to obey the church, St. Joan of Arc, replied that we must obey God first. Obeying God always trumps obeying the Pope or Church Law. Let us rejoice that Pope Benedict canonized two excommunicated nuns, Mother Theodore Guerin from the United States and Mother Mary MacKillop from Australia. One could claim that our pope has made excommunication a new fast tract to canonization! Vatican II reminds us of the primacy of conscience. According to official church teaching “the final authority in any moral decision-making must always be one’s conscience, even if said decision is contrary to church teaching. (Vatican II, Gaudium et Spes GS 16,41) Together with the man born blind, let us affirm the Christ-vision that opens us to limitless possibilities as prophetic witnesses to the Gospel. Today, Miriam, Wanda, Adele and Diane, God is doing magnificent things in our midst as your consecrate yourselves as deacons, women of faith, in service of God’s people in renewed, vibrant Catholic communities. Bridget Mary Meehan, D.Min., a Sister for Christian Community, was ordained a Roman Catholic priest in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on July 31, 2006. Dr. Meehan is currently Dean of the Doctor of Ministry Program for Global Ministries University, and is the author of 20 books, including "Praying with Women of the Bible”, and “Living Gospel Equality Now”. She presides at liturgies in Mary, Mother of Jesus Inclusive Catholic Community in Sarasota, Florida and in N.VA. She was ordained a bishop on April 19, 2009. Dr. Meehan can be reached at The website
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