Saturday, March 31, 2012

Palm Sunday/ Homily Reflection by Bridget Mary Meehan, ARCWP

Mary Mother of Jesus Inclusive Catholic Community blesses Palms 

Procession into Church on Palm Sunday

Priest Michael Rigdon holds Palms as Procession enters Sanctuary

Priest Partners and Presiders of MMOJ are:
Left to right
Michael Rigdon, Lee Breyer, Bridget Mary Meehan,
Katy Zatsick

MMOJ Community Gathers Around Altar to  Pray Eucharistic Prayer on Palm Sunday Liturgy/2012

"The Secret of Our Baptism" by Heather Murray Elkins

“Women and Men are Biologically 99.5% the Same” - Catholic Women Priests Part 4 by Diana Milesko

             In the past few decades there have been breathtaking advances in science.  Perhaps one of the most astonishing is the mapping of the human genome, which contains all of a person’s genetic information. This work has shown that every single difference in our physical bodies--our sex, skin color, eyes, teeth, height, bone density, etc. comprise less than one-half-of-one-percent of the human genome. That means all humans on earth, all women, all men and all races, are biologically 99.5 % the same.
            One justly asks, then, what it is about women that so frightens the male Catholic hierarchy; why the Church, for millennia, has gone to such great lengths to diminish and denigrate women. The answer is part culture and part quest for control.  Wise individuals both within the Church and without (in more ways than one,) are trying to change this situation; but inequality between women and men is still pervasive.
            In refusing to recognize women priests today the best argument the Vatican can come up with is it’s 1976 Declaration on the Question of Admitting Women to the Priesthood, which justifies exclusion of women on the grounds that the female body does not resemble the male body of Christ. This is sadly risible.
            Taken literally, it creates an Alice in Wonderland spiral that descends into nonsense.  It says that in Catholicism, one’s physical body is more important to God than one’s spiritual soul. 
            If that is correct, then the 1976 Declaration on the Question of Admitting Women to the Priesthood must be read in one of two ways. First, to channel Christ’s energy, the male body of every priest must resemble the presumably healthy (according to artwork,) body of Jesus.  Thus disabled or impotent men are excluded from the priesthood because their bodies do not resemble the male body of Christ. Further, a blonde man with blue eyes, a Hispanic, Asian, or Black man is excluded from the priesthood because his body does not resemble the male body of Christ, as depicted in artwork. But what if Jesus was Black, being of Middle Eastern descent? If so, then all White men must be excluded from the priesthood because their bodies don’t resemble the male body of Christ.
            Since it is impossible to determine exactly if Jesus was a Black man or a White man, a sexually potent or impotent man, then just to be safe--because the Vatican doesn’t want to include anyone whose body does not resemble the male body of Christ--all men must be excluded from the priesthood.
            But maybe the Church is talking here about genital organs. It has been said that at times men think with them, but that usually refers to concupiscence, not reason or faith. The teachings of Jesus are based on spiritual qualities of compassion, equality, forgiveness, peace and justice. Given these, one’s sex has nothing to do with the priesthood. (We’re not talking about clerical sexual abuse here. Or are we?)
            According to Catholic dogma,“...a priest, by ordination, receives the power to celebrate the Eucharist, to forgive sins, to bless, to preach, to sanctify.” One does not need a male sex organ to perform any of these functions. If truth be told, a male sex organ often gets in the way of the proper performance of priestly tasks. Furthermore, women priests (presbyters), deaconesses, bishops, prophets and abbesses in earlier centuries and today have performed all of these duties.
            In the 1970‘s during communist rule in Czechoslovakia, Ludmila Javorová was one of several Czech women priests ordained by a bishop because the Communists would not suspect a woman of saying mass.  As Javorová says, “A principal reason for our ordination was that in women’s prisons, nuns and other inmates died without priestly support or the sacraments.”
            All humans are 99.5% the same biologically.  But much more importantly, there is no difference in the spiritual relationship of women and men to our loving God. The word, “catholic”, from which the Church took its name, means “all-embracing.”  To live up to it’s name, the Catholic Church must work for common humanity.  A huge step in this direction would be to welcome women priests on all levels of Church Clergy.

Friday, March 30, 2012

“Women Become the Scapegoat” - Catholic Women Priests Part 3 by Diana Milesko

            The meanings of words change over time. For example, the meaning of awful went from ‘amazing’, to ‘terrible’; decimate, from ‘reduce by one-tenth,’ to ‘destroy’; and, cell from ‘a small unit’ to ‘mobile phone’.
            So too has the word, “ordination” changed over centuries. Jesus never ordained anyone. In the early Church, “ordination” meant ‘to confer a role in a community.’ Records exist of ‘ordinations’ of doorkeepers, people committed to the care of books, sacristans, abbesses, etc. While women and men served at the altar as priests and deacons, they were not necessarily ‘ordained’ to do so.
            Not until the 12th century did ‘ordination’ acquire it’s present meaning of ‘bestowing authority.’ Thus, to talk about early Church ‘ordination’ as we think of it today, is to impose a definition developed in the 12th century onto an earlier period. [Gary Macy, The Hidden History of Women’s Ordination.]
            So what, really, was going on in the Church all those hundreds of years?
            The 9th to 14th centuries were a time of great upheaval, and women became a scapegoat for Church troubles. Papal wars with the Italian States created threats to papal authority as the Church became bolder in its claims for power. Other events that expanded the Church’s cruel and misogynistic practices include:

---The Church had become immensely corrupt. Parish priests were illiterate and immoral; high ranking clergy were appointed by and served, powerful lords

---Married priests gave away Church land as inheritances. To end this practice, clerical celibacy was demanded; to ensure celibacy, women were villified  

---In its attempt at reform, the Church worked to remove women from service at the altar

---Crusades put the Church in contact with Aristotle’s faulty reasoning about women

---The Church became centralized and asserted Papal supremacy

---Witches (benevolent healers,) once denied as ‘real’ by the Church, were used to defame women. The Church depicted witches as the Devil’s consorts

---Pope John XXII authorized the Inquisition to prosecute witchcraft

---Church infighting created two popes who ruled simultaneously: Urban in Rome; Clement at Avignon

---Pope Innocent VIII authorized inquisitors to persecute witches. Their manual was published and reprinted for 200 years.

            Tracts against women reflected the tortured souls of men who mendaciously claimed women had sex with Satan and lustfully tried to corrupt men. Through a deliberate, methodical effort, Church hierarchy erased the memory of women priests.
            Yet archaeological evidence in Rome, Italy and Africa shows women were ordained as deacons, priests and bishops. 
             “Women as well as men functioned as prophets and priests.  Among ancient mosaics paintings, statuary, dedicatory inscriptions and funerary epitaphs, scholars have found evidence for women’s leadership.  In the writings of the New Testament, letters, sermons and the theological treatises of the early Church, women’s leadership is well attested.  Where women leaders played prominent roles, male authors muted their contributions by the way they wrote their stories. [Karen Jo Torjesen. When Women Were Priests.]          
            For example, the Virgin Mary prophesied in “The Magnificat” (Luke 1:47-55) “He has put down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of low degree; he has filled the hungry with good things and the rich he has sent empty away.” This resounds across centuries as a prophecy, yet Luke does not call the Virgin Mary a prophet.      
            Inscriptional, canonical, literary and epigraphical evidence validate the fact that there were clearly female deacons and priests in the early Church. Well into the 12th century, women were considered as fully ordained as male clergy. [Gary Macy, The Hidden History of Women Priests.] Even condemnations of women priests by the Church (as in the Synod of Nimes, or Letter of Gelasius,) are ironically, testament to women priests. [Kevin Madigan and Carolyn Osiek, Ordained Women in the Early Church.] They show women priests did exist and they were hated by the institutional Church. Thus the claim that women have never functioned as priests in the Church is simply not true.

Women Priests And Advocates for Women's Ordination Hold Vigil Outside Los Angeles Religious Ed. Congress- Youtube Movie
Los Angeles Religious Ed Congress
Roman Catholic Womenpriests, Call to Action and Women's Ordination Conference witness for women's ordination outside of the Los Angeles Religious Education Conference.  Suzanne Thiel, woman priest from RCWP-USA spokesperson. Film shows support among participants at conference. 

Thursday, March 29, 2012

“The Church View of Women is Based on Ancient Greek and Roman Culture” - Catholic Women Priests Part 2 by Diana Milesko

             To solve a problem, one first must approach it with an unbiased mind. This can be difficult when one has been indoctrinated since childhood about an issue.
            Then one needs to figure out where the problem came from. By tracing the Church back to the Ancient World, one learns that, because of the culture that surrounded it, the Church first accepted and then rejected women priests.
PLATO (427-347 BC)
            Greek philosopher Plato, student of Socrates, laid the foundations of Western philosophy. He wrote that in the Greek society, a women’s function was to produce children, especially sons. "Confined in the parental home until a husband was chosen--at which time she was in her mid-teens and he at least fifteen years older--the woman was transferred to his home to fulfill her principal function of bearing and rearing children. Sons were raised in the family but only one daughter, at most, was reared. Other girls were exposed; if they did not die, they might be picked up by slave dealers and prepared for a life of slavery or prostitution."
ARISTOTLE (384-322 BC)
            Plato’s student, Aristotle, who taught Alexander the Great, also accepted the subordination of women without being able to justify it. He posited that woman's inability to produce semen was her deficiency. (Aristotle’s father was a physician.) Women were 'incomplete' men, because semen contained the whole human being. Science has long proven this false. Both female ova and male semen combine to form an embryo.
THOMAS AQUINAS (1225-1274)
            800 years later, Italian Dominican priest Thomas Aquinas propagated Aristotle’s faulty thinking in his immensely influential 13th century arguments. The society of his time was in great upheaval and the Church sought to secure it’s absolute authority. The Church still sees Aquinas as a model for seminarians. He is considered it’s greatest theologian, despite the fact that his melding of Aristotelian thought with Christianity led to misogynist views of women; views prevalent until the 1960s, when they began to be challenged.
            Most Christians today presume women played little role in the early Church.  But the Church did not spring up suddenly into a well defined organization with buildings, officials and large congregations. In it’s earliest stages it was a social movement. It was informal, often counter cultural, and marked by a fluidity and flexibility that allowed women to assume leadership roles. [Karen Jo Torjesen. When Women Were Priests]
            In the two centuries after Christ’s death, Christians, a hodgepodge of peoples, were disdainfully dismissed as a “third race” by Greeks and Romans. Women priests, (presbyters,) deacons, and abbesses and were persecuted equally with men.  Otherwise, female priests were mostly ignored because they conformed to cultural norms. 
            Christian communities met in “house churches” to avoid persecution. Because women were heads of households, they were pivotal in Christian worship and served as priests (presbyters) and deacons.  As Christianity grew, it’s congregants moved to the public sector and became more visible. When that happened, pressure increased on Christians to follow Middle Eastern practices that decreed women belonged in the home.
            Thus Catholic Church hierarchy was born of politics and culture, not faith; its rules marginalizing women follow those of Middle Eastern and North African cultures in Syria, Egypt, Palestine, Algeria, Armenia, Turkey, Greece, and Italy.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

"How It All Started" - Catholic Women Priests Part 1 by Diana Milesko

           Like organizations everywhere, the Catholic Church began with a passion, energy and devotion to a cause--to spread God’s Gospel of love. And like organizations everywhere, it got long in the tooth. As it aged, it became more interested in holding onto what it had than in promoting the goal upon which it was founded in the first place. That is why the Catholic Church needs to be reformed. We stay vital because of our capacity for renewal.  If the Catholic Church does not regenerate itself, it will calcify and die. The Catholic Church must abandon misogynist attitudes it adopted centuries ago to maintain power; it must follow the teaching of Jesus to love one another and see the sacred in our everyday lives; it must accept women priests as it has in the past. The Church’s mission must be reclaimed.  And women priests will help.
            In contrast to past cultures, women today are educated, independent and make significant contributions to humankind in all fields. Furthermore, we live in a world of instantaneous communication. We can get information we used to go to college for, on the internet in two minutes. This, along with research and education, reveal the true history of Catholic Women Priests. The assumption that women were always excluded from the priesthood is not historically accurate. This is based on at least three foundations:
1 -- Women and men are called equal by God and Jesus as revealed in the Old and New Testaments
2 -- Archaeological evidence confirms women have been priests, (presbyters) bishops, prophets,  and abbesses in the early Church
3 -- Catholic Church misogyny has nothing to do with the question of “who” can serve God at the Church altar.  It has everything to do with the fear and cupidity of clerics who strove for absolute authority
            The Bible, written over 3,000 years ago (1450-465 BCE) in a time spanning 1,000 years by over 40 different authors, unveils a Middle Eastern culture with radically different views of women and men than today’s world. Women were considered inferior; could not be educated; go alone in public; or talk with strangers. Yet the Bible affirms the equality of women and men. Genesis 1:27: " the image of God, God created him; male and female God created them." Jesus confirmed this equality by defying centuries of laws and consistently treating women and men as equal in God’s love. A few examples:
-- He ignored ritual impurity laws and talked with women: Mark 5:25-34.
-- He talked to foreign women: John 4:7 and Matt. 15:22-28.  
-- He taught women: Luke 10:38-42.
-- He treated women as equal to men when he cured a woman and called her a “Daughter of Abraham,” implying equal status with “Son of Abraham,” which respectfully referred to a Jew: Luke 13:16: 5       
-- He embraced women in his inner circle: Luke 8:1-3: 12
-- He appeared first to women after his resurrection: Matt 28:9-10 (4)
            The teachings of Jesus were “radically egalitarian in their day and constituted a social revolution that likely provoked his crucifixion.” [Karen Jo Torjesen. When Women Were Priests.] Only later, as Christianity became more bureaucratic and muscular, did the Church begin to marginalize the role of its women priests.  

"Pink Smoke Over the Vatican" Stirs Student Debate in Marquette Over Ordained Women---Woman Priest Janice Sevre-Duszynska Leads Discussion
by Andrea Anderson
"The 58-minute film and attached academic event was sponsored by Marquette’s Women’s and Gender Studies Program and shared the views of men and women who encourage the ordination of women, along with those who oppose it. Janice Sevre-Duszynska, one of 12 women ordained in 2006 on the waters outside of Pittsburgh, was at the screening and shared her story with the audience and partook in the question-and-answer session after.
“Pink Smoke Over the Vatican” shares the stories of men and women who are working to put an end to the “underlying misogyny and outdated feudal governance that is slowly destroying the Roman Catholic Church,” the video’s website said. The name comes from supporters’ actions on April 17, 2005 when they released pink smoke in front of several U.S. cathedrals in an attempt to call churches to open doors fully to women participation.
At the beginning of the documentary the narrator continuously repeats the question, “Where are the women’s voices?” and then cites the 1024 Canon Law that says only a baptized male can be ordained.
Dr. Dorothy Irvin, a Roman Catholic theologian, explained in the film that the woman’s role in the church was eradicated after the Roman Empire made Catholicism its official religion. Before this, women were ordained and practiced the sacraments, all proven by the discovery of mosaics in South Africa and pictures in catacombs across the world..."

Bridget Mary's Reflection:
Way to go Marquette's Women's and Gender Studies Program Educators- Faculty and Students!
What a great opportunity to share the vision of an inclusive priestly ministry in a community of equals with college students! 
Bridget Mary Meehan, ARCWP

The Eucharist Dilemma by Joan Chittister

"The major problem of eucharistic theology in our century is not that people do not understand and value the meaning of Eucharist. The problem is that they do.

The Eucharist, every child learns young, is the sign of Christian community, the very heart of it, in fact. And who would deny the bond, the depth, the electrical force that welds us together in it? Here, we know, is the linkage between us and the Christ, between us and the Gospel, between us and the Tradition that links us to Jesus himself and so to the world around us. No, what the Eucharist is meant to be is not what’s in doubt.

What’s in doubt is that the Eucharist is really being allowed to do what it purports to do—to connect us, to unify us, to make us One. The truth is that as much as Eucharist is a sign of community it is also a sign of division. For the sake of some kind of ecclesiastical political fiascos centuries ago between the East and West, we close the table between Orthodox and Uniate—though the faith is the same and the commitments are the same and the vision of life and death are the same.

...."What’s in doubt, too, is that the divisions posited between baptized men and baptized women can possibly witness to what we say is the faith: that men and women are equal; that women are fully human beings; that God’s grace is indivisible; that discipleship is incumbent on us all; that we are all called to follow Christ.

At the end of one presentation after another, women make it a point to continue the discussion with me. ‘I used to be Catholic,’ they begin. ‘I was a Catholic once,’ they say. ‘I’m a recovering Catholic now,’ they announce. It’s a sad litany of disillusionment and abandonment by a Church they once thought promised them fullness of life and then let them know that it is their very persons that deny them that. They are to get out of the pronouns and off the altars of the Church, they read in its latest dictums. They may want to follow Jesus but Jesus, they’re told, does not want to be followed by them.

Call it ‘holy’ communion if you want, they tell me, but it’s not. Not like that. Not under those conditions.

So they go away to where Jesus waits for them, arms open, in someone else’s Christian church. There’s something about it all that simply defies the lesson of Mary Magdalene or the Woman at the Well or Mary of Bethany or Mary of Nazareth. They go where every minister at the altar, every bishop, every lawgiver, every homilist, every member of every Synod on the planet is not male. They go where they can see ‘the image of God’ in themselves in another woman. They go where eucharistic theology, which we’re told makes us one, is palpable.?"
– from “Eucharist” by Joan Chittister, Spirituality Magazine. Volume 18, March-April 2012, No 101. Dominican Publications: Republic of Ireland. 

Bridget Mary's Reflection
Women today are finding a spiritual home in women-priest led communities. Two weeks ago, a woman participated in our inclusive Mary Mother of Jesus Catholic Community liturgy in Sarasota, Florida. Sandy is typical of so many that I have met. She cried tears of joy throughout the liturgy. Afterwards, she told us that all her life she felt that God was calling her to be a priest and she now knew that this was a possibility for her! During our Christmas liturgy this past year, a woman shared how much she felt at home and that she wished that all Catholics could experience our Christmas liturgy. Women priests communities use inclusive language,welcome all to the Eucharist, and are inclusive so both women and men can and do preside at the table. In our community, we have two married priests partners and two women priests. 
So, if you are interested in women priest led liturgies, check out our web sites in the Untied States:
Bridget Mary Meehan, ARCWP

Monday, March 26, 2012

"Former Dominican Sees Church's Demise As Blessing in Disguise" Interview of Matthew Fox by Jamie L. Manson/NCR
"It has been 20 years since Matthew Fox was expelled from the Dominican order after a 12-year battle with then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. In the decades since, Fox has continued writing, teaching and ministering to various communities. In 1994, he was welcomed into the Anglican Communion as an Episcopal priest. Fox has authored 28 books, the most recent being The Pope's War: Why Ratzinger's Secret Crusade Has Imperiled the Church and How It Can Be Saved. "

"In The Pope's War, you have a chapter called "Treasures from the Burning Building: What is Worth Saving?" What from the Catholic tradition do you most want to rescue?
Certainly the mystical and prophetic figures: Hildegard, Aquinas, Eckhart, Julian of Norwich, Francis of Assisi. All these great mystics were really reformers, too. Also, the great 20th century souls, from the whole base community movement South America, Bishop Casigalida, Bishop Camera, Leonardo Boff, Dorothy Day, Bede Griffiths, Teilhard de Chardin, Thomas Merton, Thomas Berry. There is a lot of richness that needs to be taken along, but we have travel so much lighter in the 21st century. We can't carry basilicas on our backs."

So the church should be not only post-denominational, but post-institutional, too?
We have to move away from looking at religion as primarily a sociologically institutional vestment and start seeing it as yeast within society that raises up justice, compassion, healing, celebration, forgiveness and, of course, creativity. Leonardo Boff talks about "ecclesiogenesis," or "birthing church." What kinds of communities are we birthing? And what kinds of nonsense are we standing up to? There are forms of fundamentalism arising throughout Christianity and they are hijacking the real spirit that Jesus unleashed. We have to save Jesus from the church.

Do you think people must begin seeking church outside the walls of the institution?
Definitely. It's so clear that the institutional version of the church is melting before our eyes. I began The Pope's War with a quote from Fr. Bede Griffiths, who said to me at the very end of his life, "Don't even think about the Vatican. Don't look over your shoulder. It'll all come tumbling down one day like the Berlin Wall. Keep using your energy to grow new shoots."
..."We have to stand up to ideology, which is like idolatry. It freezes up hearts, minds and souls. We have to listen to the Holy Spirit. She elects to make things new. The Holy Spirit has always been biased in favor of creativity...

[Jamie L. Manson received her Master of Divinity degree from Yale Divinity School, where she studied Catholic theology and sexual ethics. Her columns for NCR earned her a first prize Catholic Press Association award for Best Column/Regular Commentary in 2010.]

Sunday, March 25, 2012

" Sexual Abuse Case Clouds Pope's Visit to Mexico" by Rachel Donadio/ New York Times
..."After complaints of sexual abuse were filed against Father Maciel in 1998, Benedict, who was then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, quashed a Vatican investigation. He reopened the case in 2004, ultimately finding that Father Maciel had led a double life and had raped seminarians, fathered several children and abused drugs while leading a charismatic organization known for producing priests. Critics say that he was part of an institutional culture that protected the Legionaries of Christ because of Father Maciel’s close ties to high-ranking officials in John Paul II’s papacy... Father Athié said. “What we are asking of Pope Ratzinger is, recognize your responsibility. It is the root of Christian experience. You can come back from wherever you are, as long as you recognize and want to come back...It is the incompatibility between "Pope Ratzinger" on the one hand, and "recognize your responsibility", also known as "human conscience", which is "the root of Christian experience", on the other. It is for all, not for the many, that Father Athié asks this Pope, "Do you want to come back?". To us, to our Church, not yours!The answer? The guilty silence of one Pope."