A new spiritual uprising is rocking the Catholic Church today.
At the Vatican we see the “Monsignors Mutiny” a tale of betrayal, corruption and power struggles that has the potential of becoming a blockbuster movie that could rival the Da
Vinci Code. One Italian paper even suggested that an unnamed laywoman had secretly
ordered the butler to leak the secret documents which are referred to as the Vati-leaks.
But the Vatican, of course, denies it all ...
In May 2012, hundreds of Irish priests called for an end to mandatory celibacy and for women’s ordination in an unprecedented challenge to the Vatican.
Over 300 priests in Austria have called for “letting non-ordained people lead religious
services and deliver sermons; making communion available to divorced people who have remarried; allowing women to become priests and to take on important positions in the hierarchy; and letting priests carry out pastoral functions even if, in defiance of church
rules, they have a wife and family.”
On Holy Thursday in April 2012, Pope Benedict issued a stinging public rebuke to the
Austrian priests: “Recently a group of priests from a European country issued a summons
to disobedience, and at the same time gave concrete examples of the forms this disobedience might take, even to the point of disregarding definitive decisions of the Church’s
Magisterium, such as the question of women’s ordination, for which Blessed Pope
John Paul II stated irrevocably that the Church has received no authority from the Lord.
Is disobedience a path of renewal for the Church? “
Brother Louis DeThomasis, FSC, a Christian Brother for 40 years and the president of St.
Mary’s University in Minnesota for 20, has written a new book Flying in the Face of
Tradition: Listening to the Lived Experience of the Faithful (Acta) in which he calls for,
among other things, the ordination of women as part of a change in consciousness that
must be brought about in the church. “Is the institutional church dying?” he asks. “Yes, fortunately,” he writes, “Sexual abuse, corruption, authoritarianism, lack of transparency,
and cover-ups have all been collapsing into and on top of the institutional church….The 'tipping point' has been reached, and the moral authority, honor and respect that the institutional church once elicited from most peoples
and secular institutions around the globe no longer exists.”
Like the woman in Luke’s Gospel whom Jesus declared free after being bent over for
eighteen years, the Spirit is a movin’ in the courageous nuns on the bus. In response to
the Vatican’s rebuke of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious for their support
of women’s ordination, reproductive healthcare and gay marriage, the Sisters took a bus
trip to nine states to showcase their ministry to the poor and disenfranchised. Thousands of Catholics have attended prayer vigils and signed petitions in solidarity with the Sisters
in the Nun Justice Project.
One day, I pray that we will have nun priests!
On May 7th, seven Franciscan (OFM) Provinces in the United States released a statement expressing their solidarity with the LCWR and critiquing the Vatican's Doctrinal
Assessment of the Sisters as "excessive". Let us rejoice that the fathers and brothers are
rising up for justice for their sisters.
Women priests remind us that women’s bodies are worthy of consecrating Eucharist because women are equal images of God. Everyone belongs at the Banquet Table of God’s boundless, abundant love. By our baptism we are called to live as sacraments, visible signs of God’s compassionate presence in our world. As the Irish writer, James Joyce, reminded us in Finnegan’s Wake, being Catholic means “here comes everybody.”
In Luke 13:10-13, when the synagogue leader expressed outrage that Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, Jesus called the religious leaders, hypocrites and pointed out that this healing was
for a daughter of Abraham and Sarah, who had suffered for 18 years. So, there are several
take home messages here: 1) Jesus treated women as equals. 2) People have priority over
rules and regulations. Jesus was a rule breaker who challenged the religious leaders of
his time. 3) Sexism is sinful and should always be challenged. 4) Our Compassionate
God lifts up all who are bent over by the burden of patriarchy.
The good news is that the Spirit of God is renewing the church in a spiritual uprising in vibrant, grassroots communities where the liturgical presiders include women priests,
married priests, celibate priests and other leaders. Amazing Grace is at work in our
midst! My own community, Mary Mother of Jesus Catholic Community began with
six people in a small house church and grew to approximately 100 in tourist season
in Sarasota, Florida. Recently, I met with members of three new ecclesial communities
in Lexington, Kentucky, the newly named Resurrection Community in Cincinnati and
the Community of St. Peter in Cleveland. I predict that in the next several years,
hundreds of empowered ecclesial communities will rise up for justice and live the
change they have dreamed of in our church! We are living witnesses to the
transformation, that one day will be affirmed in Vatican III, a Council of the
People of God. Joel describes this passionate, outpouring of divine love on humankind
in these words: “Your daughters and sons will prophesy, your elders will have
rophetic dreams and your young people will see visions. I will pour out my
Spirit even on those in servitude, women and men alike.” (Joel 3:1)
The institutional church is trying to keep women bent over when it refuses to recognize
their call to the priesthood. No longer will we tolerate the Vatican’s practice of sexism,
which is rooted in the misogynist attitude of church fathers like Tertullian who once s
aid that women are the “gateway to the devil” and Thomas Aquinas who defined
woman as a “defective male.”
In a modern day inquisition, the Girl Scouts are facing an official inquiry by the United
States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The problem is their association with groups like Doctors Without Borders, Oxfam, and the Sierra Club because these organizations support contraception and family planning. We challenge the bishops for their unjust attack and
stand in solidarity with the Girl Scouts for their program of empowerment of girls.
Let us feast on Girl Scout Cookies often!
If women priests were decision-makers in our church, women’s health care including contraception and universal health coverage would be major justice issues.
We believe women have the divinely human right to make reproductive decisions
on their own behalf --without consulting male priests or bishops. 98% of sexually-
active Catholic women have used a method of contraception banned by the U.S. bishops. According to a 2005 poll, 78% of U.S. Catholics said that birth control should be
allowed in the church and when asked if they were more likely to follow their
consciences on ethical issues or papal teaching, 74% stated that they would follow their
own conscience. The majority of American Catholics and non-Catholics support
insurance coverage of preventive care of women including family planning. Their
religious freedom is under attack in the current bishops’ campaign to uphold
Vatican teaching on contraception and make church teaching public policy.
On the contrary, these statistics indicate that Catholics practice primacy of conscience
in issues of reproductive health care. They are in clear violation of official church
teaching which has never been affirmed by the majority of Catholics, the sense of
the faithful. In fact, Pope Paul VI went against his own commission, who supported
a change in the church’s ban on artificial birth control, because he feared that it
would undermine his authority. In order for a teaching to be authentic, it must
reflect the belief of the church over the ages. The ban on artificial birth control
was rejected by the world’s Catholics. The toothpaste cannot be put back in the
tube. One could argue that Vatican II opened the windows to new freedom of
thought that challenged blind obedience to religious authorities, and life has
never again been the same in the church. “All the faithful, both clerical and
lay, should be accorded a lawful freedom of inquiry, of thought and of expression.
Guadium et Spes #62.
“A spiritual uprising in theology is evident today in the thinking of brilliant theologians
like Elisabeth Johnson, author of Quest for the Living God Mapping Frontiers in the
Theology of God, and Sr. Margaret Farley, author of Just love, A Framework for
Christian Sexual Ethics. Both books have been denounced by the hierarchy.
After the pope censured Farley’s book, which is a contemporary ethical approach
to same-sex relationships, masturbation, remarriage after divorce, it soared from
obscurity to the top of Amazon.com’s best-seller list - six years after it was published.
In her book, Sr. Farley argues that same-sex marriage “can also be important
in transforming the hatred, rejection, and stigmatization of gays and lesbians.”
She wrote that “same-sex relationships and activities can be justified according
to the same sexual ethic as heterosexual relationships and activities.”
Women are silent and invisible and subordinate no more! We are speaking truth to
power and the ministry of irritation is our forte!
Roman Catholic Women Priests Janice Sevre-Duszynska and Ree Hudson and
Deacon Donna Rougeux went to Rome last October to support Fr. Roy Bourgeois
who four years ago stood here to witness for justice at Janice’s ordination.
As you remember that resulted in big trouble for Roy, which has played out like an ecclesiastical soap opera!
My favorite scene is the one where the Roman police are instructed NOT to
arrest the women priests dressed in liturgical attire. The Italian police blocked
Janice, Ree and Donna from entering the Vatican, but they did not haul them
off to the police station like Fr. Roy and Erin Hanna of the Women’s Ordination
Conference. Once again, as the world press recorded every minute of the drama,
I was reminded that the Vatican is the gift that keeps on giving! Fr. Roy has
recently published his story in a booklet entitled: “My Journey from Silence
to Solidarity” which can be read online www.roybourgeoisjourney.org
(for copies call: 706-682-5369)
I believe that on a deep spiritual, mystical level women priests are beginning a
healing process of centuries-old deep misogyny in which spiritual power was invested exclusively in men. For some like the Catholic hierarchy, women priests are a
spiritual uprising. For millions of people the time has come for a holy shakeup
that will bring new life, creativity and justice to the church and beyond.
Bridget Mary Meehan, D.Min., a Sister for Christian Community, was ordained a
Roman Catholic priest in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on July 31, 2006. She was
ordained a bishop on April 19, 2009. Dr. Meehan is currently Dean of the
Doctor of Ministry Program for Global Ministries University, and is the
author of 20 books, including Living Gospel Equality Now: Loving in the Heart of
God, The Healing Power of Prayer and Praying with Women of the Bible.
She presides at liturgies in Mary, Mother of Jesus Inclusive Catholic Community
in Sarasota, Florida and celebrates liturgies with groups in N.VA. Dr. Meehan
can be reached at email@example.com and http://www.arcwp.org
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