Friday, April 8, 2011

Czechoslovakia’s Secret Church: Married Priests and Women Priests Were Ordained

Christa Pongratz-Lippitt

"Throughout the 41 years of Communist rule in the former Eastern bloc country, an underground network of groups and individuals kept the Catholic faith alive, even to the point of ordaining married men and women. Last week, their achievement was belatedly honoured It was at a moving ceremony at Vienna’s UN-City Church on Saturday last week, 21 years after the fall of the Iron Curtain, that the largest and best-known underground circle in the former Czechoslovakia – called “Koinótés” and founded by the late Bishop Felix Maria Davidek – received the Herbert-Haag-Foundation Award for Freedom in the Church, which is bestowed annually on persons and institutions “for courageous actions within Christianity”.

"Although a disputed and controversial figure, Felix Maria Davidek’s charisma and his extraordinary gifts have since been recognised by many Catholic churchmen, including bishops and cardinals. Davidek recognised the signs of the times and his response was prophetic. Desperate situations, in this case severe persecution by one of the most relentless atheist regimes, merit desperate remedies and Davidek ordained married men and women to the Catholic priesthood. The survival strategies he undertook illuminate the Church’s potential for reform, which never ends with the death of the reformers. Already before the Communist takeover in 1948, Davidek was fascinated by Teilhard de Chardin’s idea of an evolutionary progression towards greater and greater consciousness. He was convinced that, as well as studying philosophy and theology, seminarians should have a broad university education and also study the humanities and sciences. While he was a seminarian in Czechoslovakia under German occupation during the Second World War, he dreamed of founding a Catholic university. After ordin­ation in 1945, Davidek continued with his university studies. He read medicine and eventually acquired a doctorate in psychology. At the same time, he founded the “Atheneum”, a preparatory course for young Catholics, men and women, who had not been allowed to attend secondary schools during the German occupation, with the aim of preparing them for matriculation and thus enabling them to study theology. In 1948, however, the Communists took power. Davidek continued with his Atheneum courses in secret but soon came under police scrutiny and was imprisoned. Fellow prisoners say he was a particularly audacious and trucu­lent prisoner who frequently rebelled and consequently spent long periods in isolation. During his 14 years’ incarceration he jotted down on bits of lavatory paper his meticulous plans for the Church’s survival in an atheistic, Communist dictatorship. The 1950s were the worst period of church persecution in Czechoslovakia. The theological faculties at universities were closed. Only two Catholic seminaries were allowed to remain open and both were put under state control. The bishops had forbidden seminarians to attend these state-controlled seminaries and soon many of them were imprisoned. One see after another became vacant and the secret police watched all church activities closely. When he was released in 1964..."

"Davidek immediately began to put his plans into action. He was soon able to gather many committed Catholics around him. They called their group “Koinótés” (derived from koinonia, the Greek word meaning community) and met regularly in secret at night and at the weekends as it was compulsory to have a job in the daytime. Davidek taught a wide range of subjects and secretly invited prominent churchmen as guest speakers. Thanks to friends who had smuggled them in from abroad, he was also able to study the conclusions of the Second Vatican Council and the works of Karl Rahner, Yves Congar, Henri de Lubac and other well-known theologians of the time with his pupils. The biggest challenge was to secure a sufficient number of dependable priests who could be relied on not to collaborate with the regime. Up to 1967, candidates were sent abroad to be ordained clandestinely in Germany or Poland."

"Both Archbishop Karol Wojtyla of Cracow, later to become Pope John Paul II, and Cardinal Joachim Meisner of Cologne, then Bishop of Berlin, clandestinely ordained Czechoslovak priests at that time. "Davidek knew he would never get permission to leave the country, so he sent Jan Blaha, a young chemist who attended conferences abroad and was a member of Koinótés, to Augsburg where he was clandestinely ordained by Bishop Josef Stimpfle. "

"A few months later, in Prague in October 1967, Blaha was consecrated bishop by Bishop Peter Dubovsky, a Slovak Jesuit, who had himself been clandestinely ordained. Bishop Blaha then consecrated Felix Davidek. All these ordinations and consecrations have since been fully recognised and declared valid by the Vatican. "

"From then on, Koinótés became the nucleus of a clandestine network of He also ordained married men, at first for the Greek-Catholic rite, where it is the custom. The Greek-Catholic Church had been dissolved by the Communists and forcibly incorporated into the Orthodox Church and both its bishops imprisoned. Many of its ­members became martyrs but some escaped and went underground. Koinótés worked closely with these..." "Later, Davidek also ordained Latin-rite married men as bi-ritual priests who were permitted to celebrate in both rites. He even consecrated one married bishop. One of the chief reasons for these initiatives was that the authorities were highly unlikely to suspect married men of being priests in Latin-rite Catholic Moravia. .." Davidek also went so far as to ordain a small number of women. For some time now, he had been discussing women’s role in the Church at the Koinótés meetings. He was convinced that as women had baptised, distributed Communion to the sick and had their place as women deacons in the Church’s hierarchy in the first millennium, they were only excluded from the priesthood for historical and not dogmatic reasons."

"His main reason for ordaining women was pastoral. Women in women’s prisons, especially women Religious who were imprisoned on a large scale and often exposed to horrible sexual torture, had no one to care for their spiritual needs, whereas in men’s prisons there were usually several priests among the male ­prisoners. In December 1970, he called a special ­“pastoral synod” to discuss women’s role in the Church, but when he put women’s ­ordination to the vote, half of the Koinótés members who attended voted against it. The issue split the community and became a benchmark in its history."

"A few days later, nevertheless, Davidek ordained Ludmila Javorová, a prominent member of Koinotes, and later made her his vicar general, which she remained until his death in 1988. "I remember discussing Bishop Davidek and his ordination of married men and women with the late Archbishop John Bukovsky in Vienna in the late 1990s. Bukovsky, who had by then retired, told me that the Vatican had sent him on a fact-finding mission to Czechoslovakia in the summer of 1977. He had been able to talk with Bishop Davidek for several hours, he said, and knew that Davidek had ordained both married men and women. “I was most surprised to be welcomed by his woman vicar general dressed in white and wearing a cross,” he added. The ordinations were illicit but valid, he underlined at the time, and said that Rome had been fully informed... "

Maryknoll Priest Roy Bourgeois' Letter to Fr. Dougherty, Maryknoll Priest Superior General: A Passionate Call for Justice and Equality for Women

Rev. Edward Dougherty, M.M.,

Superior General

Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers P.O. Box 303 Maryknoll, NY 10545

April 8, 2011

Dear Father Dougherty and General Council,

Maryknoll has been my community, my family, for 44 years, so it is with great sadness that I received your letter of March 18, 2011 stating I must recant my belief and public statements that support the ordination of women, or I will be dismissed from Maryknoll. When I was a young man in the military, I felt God was calling me to be a priest. I later entered Maryknoll and was ordained. I am grateful for finding the happiness, meaning and hope I was seeking in life. For the past 20 years I have been speaking out and organizing against the injustice of the School of the Americas and U.S. foreign policy in Latin America. Over these years I discovered an injustice much closer to home - an injustice in my Church. Devout women in our Church believe God is calling them to be priests, but they are rejected because the Church teaches that only baptized men can become priests. As a Catholic priest for 38 years, I believe our Church's teaching that excludes women from the priesthood defies both faith and reason and cannot stand up to scrutiny for the following reasons: (1) As Catholics, we believe that we were created in the image and likeness of God and that men and women are equal before God. Excluding women from the priesthood implies that men are superior to women. (2) Catholic priests say that the call to be a priest is a gift and comes from God. How can we, as men, say: "Our call from God is authentic, but your call, as women, is not"? Who are we to reject God's call of women to the priesthood? I believe our Creator who is the Source of life and called forth the sun and stars is certainly capable of calling women to be priests. (3) We are told that women cannot be priests because Jesus chose only men as apostles. As we know, Jesus did not ordain anyone. Jesus also chose a woman, Mary Magdalene, to be the first witness to His resurrection, which is at the core of our faith. Mary Magdalene became known as "the apostle to the apostles." (4) A 1976 report by the PontificalBiblical Commission, the Vatican's top Scripture scholars, concluded that there is no valid case to be made against the ordination of women from the Scriptures. In the Episcopal, Methodist, Lutheran, United Church of Christ, Presbyterian and other Christian churches, God's call of women to the priesthood is affirmed and women are ordained. Why not in the Catholic church? (5) The Holy Scriptures remind us in Galatians 3:28, "There is neither male nor female. In Christ Jesus you are one." Furthermore, the Second Vatican Council's Pastoral Constitution on The Church in the Modern World states: "Every type of discrimination ... based on sex. .. is to be overcome and eradicated as contrary to God's intent." After much reflection and many conversations with fellow priests and women, I believe sexism is at the root of excluding women from the priesthood. Sexism, like racism, is a sin. And no matter how hard we may try to justify discrimination against women, in the end, it is not the way of God. Sexism is about power. In the culture of clericalism many Catholic priests see the ordination of women as a threat to their power. Our Church is in a crisis today because ofthe sexual abuse scandal and the closing of hundreds of churches because of a shortage of priests. When I entered Maryknoll we had over 300 seminarians. Today we have ten. For years we have been praying for more vocations to the priesthood. Our prayers have been answered. God is sending us women priests. Half the population are women. If we are to have a vibrant and healthy Church, we need the wisdom, experience and voices of women in the priesthood. As Catholics, we believe in the primacy and sacredness of conscience. Our conscience is sacred because it gives us a sense of right and wrong and urges us to do the right thing. Conscience is what compelled Franz Jagerstatter, a humble Austrian farmer, husband and father of four young children, to refuse to join Hitler's army, which led to his execution. Conscience is what compelled Rosa Parks to say she could no longer sit in the back of the bus. Conscience is what compels women in ourChurch to say they cannot be silent and deny their call from God to the priesthood. And it is my conscience that compels me to say publicly that the exclusion of women from the priesthood is agrave injustice against women, against our Church and against our God who calls both men and women to the priesthood. In his 1968 commentary on the Second Vatican Council's document, Gaudium et Spes, Archbishop Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, said: "Over the pope ... there still stands one's ownconscience, which must be obeyed before all else, if necessary, even against the requirement of ecclesiastical authority." What you are requiring of me is not possible without betraying my conscience. In essence, you are telling me to lie and say I do not believe that God calls both men and women to the priesthood. This I cannot do, therefore I will not recant. Like the abolition of slavery, the civil rights movement and the right of women to vote, the ordination of women is inevitable because it is rooted in justice. Wherever there is an injustice, silence is the voice of consent. I respectfully ask that my fellow priests, bishops, Church leaders in the Vatican and Catholics in the pews speak out and affirm God's call of women to the priesthood.
Your Brother in Christ,
Roy Bourgeois, M.M.
P.O. Box 3330 Columbus, GA 31903 Tell Fax 706-682-5369

We Stand With Fr. Roy Bourgeois, a Maryknoll Priest, Who Stands for Justice and Equality for Women in the Catholic Church

For Immediate Release: April 8, 2011 Contact: Erin Saiz Hanna , Executive Director 202.675.1006 (office), 401.588.0457 (cell) A Roman Catholic priest faces dismissal from the priesthood for his public support of women's ordination. But he is not just any priest. Fr. Roy Bourgeois, founder of the School of the Americas (SOA) Watch, is internationally known for his work to end U.S. government-funded combat training of Latin American militaries. Today, he will risk nearly 40 years of priesthood to end sexism in the Church. On March 29th, 2011, Fr. Roy Bourgeois received a canonical warning from the leadership of his community, the Catholic Foreign Mission Society of America Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers. Fr. Bourgeois has been given fifteen days to recant his belief that women, along with men, are called by God to serve as Roman Catholic priests. Failure to recant before Tuesday, April 12th, will result in a second canonical warning from his superiors, whereupon, Maryknoll leadership will submit their charge for dismissal to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) with a request for removal from the priesthood. "The Maryknoll community prides itself on being a voice for social justice," stated Erin Saiz Hanna, Women's Ordination Conference's Executive Director. "The threat to dismiss Fr. Bourgeois is not only a misuse of church discipline, but a betrayal to all those the Maryknoll community hopes to serve. It will not intimidate those of us who dare to shatter the stained glass ceiling." At 4:30 EST this afternoon, Catholics will join Fr. Bourgeois outside the Vatican Embassy in Washington, DC as he publicly responds to Maryknoll leadership. In his response, Fr. Bourgeois states, "It is my conscience that compels me to say publicly that the exclusion of women from the priesthood is a grave injustice against women, against our Church and against our God who calls both men and women to the priesthood.... In essence, you are telling me to lie and say I do not believe that God calls both men and women to the priesthood. This I cannot do, therefore I will not recant." Read his full repsonse here. An online petition, sponsored by the Women's Ordination Conference, the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests, Call To Action-USA, and Roman Catholic Womenpriests-USA, and endorsed by 15 church-justice organizations, has garnered over 6,000 signatures of Catholics across the globe and will be delivered to the Vatican embassy at today's vigil. "Jesus himself welcomed women as well as men into ministerial leadership," said Jim FitzGerald, Call To Action's Executive Director. "We urge Maryknoll leadership to also stand in solidarity with their brother, Roy, and Catholics across the globe who know that a church with women and men as equals makes for a better church." In 1976, the Pontifical Biblical Commission concluded that there is no valid scriptural reason for denying ordination to women. However, the Vatican ignored this finding and in 1994, Pope John Paul II officially forbade discussion of women's ordination A statement released by the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests and Roman Catholic Womenpriests - USA affirms Fr. Bourgeois as "a true champion of justice for all." "Regardless of personal consequences, he refuses to be cowed by men who support an unjust law that knowingly discriminates against half the Body of Christ. He sees the face of Jesus in his sisters." ### Join Fr. Roy & Church-Justice Community Today, Friday, April 8, 2011 4:30 PM - 5:30 PM Vatican Embassy 3339 Massachusetts Avenue NW Washington, DC 20008-3610 Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests, 8th Day Center for Justice, The Federation of Christian Ministries' Roman Catholic Faith, Community Council, Call to Action USA, Catholic Women's Ordination UK, Hotline Human Rights Bangladesh Trust , Mary Magdala - Germany, National Coalition of American Nuns, New Ways Ministry, Pax Christi Maine, RAPPORT, Roman Catholic Womenpriests, Southeastern Pennsylvania Women's Ordination Conference, St. Anthony's Community-Santa Barbara, Voice of the Faithful-New Jersey,, Women's Ordination Conference, Women's Ordination Worldwide The Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests are ordained women who live and minister in the United States and South America. The Association prepares and ordains qualified women to serve the people of God as priests and uses equal rites to promote equal rights to achieve justice for women in the church. Contact: Janice Sevre-Duszynska: 859-689-4247 Call To Action (CTA) is a Catholic movement working for equality and justice in the Church and society. An independent national organization of over 25,000 people and 53 local chapters, CTA believes that the Spirit of God is at work in the whole church, not just in its appointed leaders. Contact: Nicole Sotelo, Director of Communications, 773.404.0004 x285 Roman Catholic Womenpriests - USA's mission is to spiritually prepare, ordain, and support women and men from all states of life, who are theologically qualified, who are committed to an inclusive model of Church, and who are called by the Holy Spirit and their communities to minister. Contact: Janice Sevre-Duszynska: 859-689-4247 Women's Ordination Conference, founded in 1975, is the oldest and largest national organization that works to ordain women as priests, deacons and bishops into an inclusive and accountable Roman Catholic church. WOC represents the 63 percent of U.S. Catholics that support women's ordination. WOC also promotes perspectives on ordination that call for more accountability and less separation between the clergy and laity. Contact: Erin Saiz Hanna, Executive Director 202.675.1006 (office), 401.588.0457 (cell)

A letter to Fr. Dougherty, Superior of Maryknoll, "Do not abandon your brother, Fr. Roy Bourgeois"

Dear Fr. Dougherty, I am sad and disappointed with the news that you are caving in and not supporting your brother Fr. Roy when he needs the support of his brothers. In the past I have had great respect and admiration for Maryknoll and the great missionary work they have always done to bring the Gospel message of peace and love to the poor and disenfranchised through out the world particularly in South America. I have relatives who belong to Maryknoll and know a number of Franciscans who worked with Maryknoll in South America. There was always a strong bond between both the men and women who worked together to serve the poor. He was there for Sr. Maura Clark and the other women raped and murdered serving the poor. I am sure she would be here for him if she had lived. Fr. Roy has devoted his life to the message of the Gospel. He has been a man for peace and justice. He has been against unjust wars. He served his country in Vietnam and was wounded for it. He protested against war and served time in prison for his support following his conscience. We both know that women have long been treated as second class citizens by a male dominated church. Now when he stands up for equality for women instead of supporting him you are throwing him out of Maryknoll. Even if you don't agree with his opinion you should still support your brother. Is that what Jesus would do? The men ran from Jesus when he needed them. The women stood by Him. Fr. Roy is doing no less than than Jesus. Maryknoll is about to celebrate 100 years of service. I hope and pray that the supporters of Maryknoll don't show up for any of your celebrations and support Fr. Roy a true man of the Maryknoll man and follower of Jesus. Shame on you and the other men of Maryknoll who are cowering when you should be living up to your mission. Sincerely, Bill Taylor

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Roman Catholic Women Priests Association: Movies of Ordination of 4 Deacons in Sarasota, Florida on April 2, 2011

Presentation of Wanda Russell by Daughter Monica http://http//

Clip of Homily by Bishop Bridget Mary Meehan

Litany of Saints Ordination of 4 more deacons in Sarasota

Laying on of Hands

Ordination, Stole, Gospel Book

Presentation of New Deacons to Assembly

New Deacons Set Table/Prepare Altar for Eucharist

Liturgy of Eucharist/Deacon Ordination

Prayer after Communion

Deacon Ordination: Recessional

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Sign the Petition in Support of Fr. Roy Bourgeois- Link,com_chronocontact/chronoformname,form/

Roman Catholic Women Priests Invite You to Stand With Fr. Roy Bourgeois to Resist Vatican Oppression and to Proclaim Equality for Women in the Church

You are Invited to Stand With Fr. Roy This Friday Outside the Vatican Embassy
WHERE: 3339 Massachusetts Avenue NW Washington, DC 20008-3610
WHEN: Friday, April 8, 2011, 4:30 PM - 5:30 PM
Facebook or

Vigil Sponsored by Association of Roman Catholic Womenpriests, Call To Action, Roman Catholic Womenpriests -USA, Women's Ordination Conference

The Pastoral Constitution of the Church in the Modern World 1965 (Gaudium et Spes) states clearly that women and men are equals:
"All women and men are endowed with a rational soul and are created in God's image; they have the same nature and origin, and, being redeemed by Christ, they enjoy the same divine calling and destiny; there is here a basic equality between all, and it must be accorded ever greater recognition. " Sadly, the Vatican and hierarchy in 2011 ignore their own authortative teaching. The call for the full equality of women in church and society is the voice of God in our times and one that the Second Vatican Council affirmed. Roman Catholic Women Priests are visible reminders that all women are images of the divine. I wonder if this is the reason, the Vatican is a state of panic over the Roman Catholic Women Priests Movement. The threat to dismiss Fr. Roy Bourgeois from Maryknoll is a last ditch effort to stop the movement of the Spirit for the full equality of women in the Catholic Church. Like Rosa Parks, who refused to sit in the back of the bus, women in the church today will not accept second class membership any more. We call all to join us in solidarity for justice for women in our church. Jesus calls us not to be afraid. Let us step forward in courage and support Fr. Roy and all those who face the wrath of the Vatican! Bridget Mary Meehan RCWP Roman Catholic Women Priests Association

April 2nd, 2011 Ordinations of 4 more Deacons by Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Roman Catholic Women Priests Statement of Support for Maryknoll Priest Roy Bourgeois

Media Release Roman Catholic Womenpriests USA Inc. and Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests
Contact: Barbara Zeman: 312-305-1053
Suzanne Theil: 503-784-3330
Janice Sevre-Duszynska: 859-689-4247
Bridget Mary Meehan: 703-505-0004,

Roman Catholic Women Priests stand in solidarity with Fr. Roy Bourgeois. We challenge Maryknoll and the Vatican to support Fr. Roy’s prophetic stance rather than dismiss him from his order. Edward M. Dougherty, the Superior General of the Maryknoll order has given Fr. Roy fifteen days to recant his public support of women’s ordination or face dismissal from the order and laicization, labeling support of his sisters in ministry as “contumacy” and accusing him of giving “grave scandal” to the Christian faithful. The behavior of the Maryknoll order and of Fr. Dougherty stand in stark contrast to the Erie Benedictine sisters and their superior, Sr. Christine Vladimirov, who stood behind Sr. Joan Chittister in 2001 when she was directed to refrain from speaking at the first worldwide conference held in support of women’s ordination. When threatened with penalties for disobeying the directive not to speak, Benedictines wrote to the Vatican saying that whatever punishment the Vatican meted out to Sr. Joan should be applied to all of the sisters. The Vatican backed down. It is time for all to speak truth to power! Roman Catholic Women Priests urge everyone of good will to stand with Fr. Roy Bourgeois, a true champion of justice for all. Regardless of personal consequences, he refuses to be cowed by men who support an unjust law that knowingly and persistently discriminates against half of the Body of Christ. He sees the face of Jesus in his sisters. Roman Catholic Women Priests are at the forefront of a model of service that offers Catholics a renewed priestly ministry in vibrant, grassroots communities where all are equal and welcome. As we watch the closure of parishes in a scandal-ridden Church with a shortage of priests, we remain committed to model Jesus and the inclusive Gospel message. Our ordinations are valid because we are ordained in the line of apostolic succession within the Roman Catholic Church. We recognize and claim our right to full equality as members of the church who are entitled to all seven sacraments. The time for asking permission is over! We challenge and have broken Canon Law 1024. This unjust law discriminates against women. The continued refusal to recognize women's calls to priesthood is an issue of sexism, oppression and gender discrimination. The time for renewing our beloved Church is now! The voice of the Catholic people----the sensus fidelium---has spoken. Catholic people accept us as their priests and continue to support us as we grow from the seven bold women first ordained on the Danube River in 2002 to over 100 worldwide. Ordained women now minister in over 25 states. We are here to stay. We are not going away

Monday, April 4, 2011

Dr. Patricia Fresen: Prominent Roman Catholic Woman Bishop Will Speak in Sarasota on April 9th, 2011, "Transformed by Compassion"

As part of U.S. tour-- Roman Catholic Woman Bishop and Theologian to speak on "Transformed by Compassion" Sarasota, Florida –

Roman Catholic Bishop Patricia Fresen, one of three bishops ordained by a male Roman Catholic bishop with apostolic succession, will deliver a lecture at St.Andrew United Church of Christ on Sat. at 4:00 PM.

Bishop Fresen, who was involved in helping to end apartheid in South Africa, will show that compassion can break down political, dogmatic, ideological and religious boundaries. Releasing the energy of compassion into our world is possibly the most important calling each of us has, whoever we are and whatever our life situation may be. The principle of compassion is at the heart of all religious traditions and is a spiritual resource for healing polarization. A Dominican sister for 45 years, Fresen was ordained as a Catholic bishop in 2005. After teaching in convent high schools, Fresen moved to Rome, studying theology at the University of St. Thomas and at the Gregorian, where she earned a Licentiate in Theology. She has served on the faculty of the National Seminary in Pretoria and the Catholic University in Johannesburg, and earned a doctorate in theology at the University of South Africa. When Dr. Fresen was ordained a Roman Catholic priest in 2003, she was forced to leave the Dominicans and leave her position at Catholic University. She also moved to Germany, where she lives today and serves as theologian and advisor for Roman Catholic Women Priests Worldwide. Fresen’s visit is sponsored by Mary Mother of Jesus Catholic Community in Sarasota.

Location: St. Andrew United Church of Christ, 6908 Beneva Rd. Sarasota, Florida 34238,
April 9th, 4 PM -5:30 PM.

Her talk will be followed by a liturgy of Mary Mother of Jesus Catholic Community at 6:00 PM
For more information, email: Bridget Mary Meehan, RCWP at, 941-955-2313

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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