Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Get the facts in order: A history of women's leadership A U.S. Catholic interview
...."You say the church has a hidden history of women in leadership and authority roles. Why is it hidden?
It’s hidden because there was a deliberate attempt to change the understanding of the history, and it was successful. It’s historically documented that women were ordained to leadership roles in the early and medieval church. But it became controversial. By the 13th century, the church was saying women were never ordained. They didn’t say, “Women used to be ordained, but now we’re going to stop it.” They went further and built a series of arguments to prove that women had never been ordained.

An influential canon lawyer, Huguccio of Bologna, wrote that even if you ordained a woman, it wouldn’t take because she doesn’t have the right matter. That argument stuck, and century after century the assumption was that women were never and could not be ordained.

What are some surprising examples of women in church leadership?
There are a few examples that might surprise people. Maybe most surprising are the abbesses of Las Huelgas near Burgos in Spain, who acted as extraterritorial bishops until the 1870s.

They established parishes for the 36 villages under them. They dismantled parishes. They had to give faculties to any priest who heard confessions or said Mass in their diocese. They held their own synods. An abbess did everything a bishop did except ordain priests. She had a miter and crozier. There was an order of clerics that ran the hospital that she was in charge of, and they had to take an oath of obedience to her just as clerics have to take an oath of obedience to their bishop.

After the Council of Trent in the 16th century said, “No more of these extraterritorial bishops; we’re going to get rid of them all,” one of the abbesses of Las Huelgas, Anne of Austria, wrote to the pope. She asked, “How would that apply to us?” He wrote back, “Oh, don’t worry. Don’t worry. It doesn’t apply to you.” She was much too powerful for him to mess with.

Another example is St. Radegund, a sixth-century queen of France. She became queen because the king of France, Clothar I, had invaded her father’s kingdom, killed almost all her relatives, and then took her captive and eventually married her.

Around 550, after Clothar killed Radegund’s brother, she’d finally had it with him and fled to Bishop Médard of Noyen. She said, “Ordain me a deacon.” And he said, “No, the king’s knights are in hot pursuit. I’m in big trouble.” And she said, “Do you obey God, or do you obey man?” He was struck by that, so he ordained her a deacon. She became an extremely powerful abbess as well as a deacon.

Would Médard have believed he was making history by ordaining the first woman deacon?
He would have known it was possible because there was a rite for the ordination of women deacons in the Roman Pontifical, a liturgical book, up through the 12th century. We have all of the ordination rites for women deacons from the eighth through the 12th century.

There’s a wonderful legend about Bridget of Ireland, written hundreds of years after her death, half in Latin and half in Celtic

The story is that St. Mel, who was a bishop, was going to ordain Bridget an abbess. He was so flabbergasted and overtaken with her holiness that he opened the book of rites to the wrong place and ordained her a bishop. And Mel said, “OK, she’s a bishop. That’s it.”

Whoever wrote that story thought that if you ordained a woman a bishop, that it would “take.” In this story Mel said, “And this virgin will be the only woman bishop in Ireland.” So they not only thought you could ordain a woman a deacon, they thought you could ordain a woman a bishop.

Given that that story is a legend, does it have historical significance?
While it may be historically unlikely that this ever happened, it shows the person writing this ninth-century story thought that it was perfectly possible.

The same is true with these ordination rites for women deacons. It’s far too expensive to write these liturgical books and then not use them.

What do the rites say?
For women deacons the oldest rite we have in the West comes from an eighth-century book that was used by Bishop Egbert of York. The Eastern rites are much older. They go all the way back to the third century, and there are lots more of them.

The eighth-century rite is an interesting one because there is a single prayer in the middle of the rite, “The prayer for ordaining a male or a female deacon.” It’s the same prayer. But there are other prayers for blessing male and female deacons in Egbert’s pontifical as well. The prayer for females stresses virginity, while the prayer for males asks for peace and prosperity. But the prayer for ordaining them is the same.

The one with the longest prayer is a 10th-century ritual in the Romano-Germanic Pontifical, and it’s very influential. It has the complete liturgy for the ordination of a female and of a male deacon. The rite for a woman deacon takes place within the Mass and begins with the instructions, “When the bishop blesses the deacon, he places the orarium on her neck. However, when she proceeds to the church, she wears it around her neck so that the ends of the both sides of the orarium are under her tunic.”

The orarium is the stole that the deacon or priest wears when he’s preaching. Another place in the ritual they call it a stola. So she gets a stole for reading the gospel and preaching. That’s typical for a deacon and not different from the male ritual. There are other parts of the ritual—the reception of a veil, ring, and crown—that are also part of a ritual used to consecrate virgins.

In the 12th century a rite appears in the Roman Pontifical, but it seems to be a streamlined version of the one in the Romano-Germanic Pontifical.

There’s a wonderful 12th-century gospel illumination of the Annunciation, and Mary is dressed exactly like a woman deacon would have been. She has the orarium tucked under her tunic. It’s almost like the Archangel Gabriel is coming to ordain her a deacon so she could proclaim the gospel, which in her case would be, of course, to bear Jesus.

Can we tell from the rites how women deacons ministered?
The clearest evidence is that they read the gospel, because again and again you’ll see references to that, particularly in the 10th through the 12th centuries.

We also have sources, such as a ninth-century commentary on canon law, that says women deacons instructed Christian women. So they preached—but to women. We know that in the very early centuries they prepared women for baptism when there was full immersion, because the men weren’t going to do that.

Their ministry seems to have been primarily to women. That’s why in these later centuries—the 10th to the 12th centuries—some abbesses were also ordained deacons. A lot of sources from that time will say abbesses are the new deacons, and they’ll say that because the abbesses read the gospel. But there was a whole other ordination rite for abbesses.

These rituals for women deacons exist in the West through the 12th century. Then in the 13th-century Roman Pontifical, that prayer for women deacons is completely gone. It doesn’t get copied. The 12th century is also the last time a reference to a woman deacon, in this case, Heloise of Paris, is made...

Women Priests Call Vatican's Dismissal of Maryknoll Priest Roy Bourgeois Abuse of Power and Cowardly Act /Vatican Letter Attached

 The Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests calls the Vatican's dismissal of Roy Bourgeois an abuse of spiritual power and a cowardly act by a morally bankrupt institution that rejects Jesus' mandate of Gospel equality. We are grateful to Roy Bourgeois, a prophetic priest, whose advocacy for women's ordination has become a lightning  rod that has brought worldwide support for women priests in the Roman Catholic Church.
 Janice Sevre-Duszynska, ARCWP,
            (Fr. Roy attended my ordination on August 9, 2008 in Lexington, Kentucky.)

Press Release: January 8, 2013
From: The Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests
Contact: Janice Sevre-Duszynska, D.Min., 859-684-4247
Bishop Bridget Mary Meehan,; 703-505-0004

 (Dismissal from clerical state and dispensation from clerical duties) 

Protocol Number 270/2008
 The Catholic Foreign Mission Society of America
 Reverend Roy L. Bourgeois
 The Supreme Pontiff, Pope Benedict 16th
 after having heard the relation of this Congregation about the reproachful behavior1 of the above said presbyter of the Catholic Foreign Mission Society of America (that is, The Catholic Foreign Mission Society of America), omitting preliminaries2, with a supreme decision, not open to any appeal, without right to any recourse,
 that for the good of the Church, the dismissal from the said Society must be confirmed, and moreover, also the dismissal from clerical state must be inflicted to the above said presbyter.
 To the same presbyter, [the Pope] also concedes the dispensation from all the duties connected to the Sacred Order according to the following criteria:
 The dismissal and dispensation enter into vigor from the moment of the decision of the Roman Pontiff. 
The Decree of dismissal and of dispensation will be communicated to the presbyter by the competent Ordinary of the place, to whom it is not permitted to separate these two elements.
 The news of the dismissal and of the dispensation will be noted in the Book of the baptized of the parish of the above said presbyter.
 For that which concerns, should the case arise, the celebration of a canonical matrimony, the norms which have been established by Code of Canon Law are to be applied. The ordinary should ensure that the event is managed with caution without publicity.
 The ecclesiastical authority, to whom it pertains to communicate the decree to the above mentioned priest, should exhort him assiduously so that, once [his] proud behavior has been purified, he will participate in the life of the People of God in conformity3 to his new condition, will give edification and in this way will show himself a worthy son of the Church. At the same time, he will communicate what follows:
 a) the dismissed priest, due to this same fact, loses the rights proper to clerical state, the dignities and ecclesiastical offices, he is no longer held to the other obligations connected with the clerical state;
 1 Literally: “grave mode of acting”
 2 Literally: “assuming that all the things that have to be stated, have been stated”
 3 Literally: “according to the criterion of conforming”
The Ordinary of the place, as far as possible, should ensure that the new condition of the dismissed presbyter would not give scandal to the faithful.
 The notification of the dismissal and of the dispensation can happen either personally, through a notary or an ecclesiastical secretary or by registered letters. The dismissed priest must give back one copy duly signed as a proof of reception and at the same time of acceptance of the same dismissal and dispensation, and of the prescriptions, but if he does not do so, the effect of this Decree remain in its entirety4.
 Moreover, at an opportune time, the competent Ordinary should report briefly to the Congregation about the completed notification, and also, should any astonishment take place among the faithful, should give a prudent explanation.
 he remains excluded from the exercise of the sacred ministry, except what is stated in canons 976 and 986, paragraph 2, of the Code of Canon Law and for this reason is not allowed to preach homilies, neither may he have a directive role in a pastoral environment nor serve as a parish administrator; similarly, he may not perform any office in Seminaries and Institutes of the same level. In other Institutes of studies of higher level which depend in any way upon the Ecclesiastical Authority, he may not perform a directive role nor a teaching office; indeed, in other Institutes of studies of higher level which do not depend upon the Ecclesiastical Authority he may not teach any theological discipline;
moreover, in Institutes of studies at lower level which depend upon the ecclesiastical Authority he may not perform a directive role nor a teaching office. The dispensed and dismissed presbyter is obliged by the same law for what concerns the teaching of Religion in Institutes of any kind not depending upon the ecclesiastical Authority.
 Notwithstanding anything which could be contrary [even] minimally. From the seat of the Congregation, on the day 4 of October of year 2012.
 + [signature] Gerhard Ludwig Müller Prefect
 + [signature]
 Aloisius Francis Ladaria, Jesuit, titular Archbishop of Thibica Secretary

 Day of notification:_______________________
 _________________________ _______________________ 

Signature of the Presbyter as a sign of acceptance Signature of the Ordinary

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Democracy in the Catholic Church: Some Popes and Bishops Advocated Democracy in Church/"Rome Has Spoken"

Celestine 1 425 
"No bishop should be installed against the will of the people."

Leo 1, Letter 10, No. 6, c. 450
"The consent of the clergy, the testimony of those held in honor, the approval of the orders and the laity should be required. He who is to govern all should be chosen by all."

Leo 1X, Synod of Rheims, 1049
"Bishops are to be elected by clergy and people."

Nicholas 11, Election Decree 1059
Concerning the election of a Supreme Pontiff:
..."the cardinal bishops ... shall summon the cardinal clerks to them, and then the rest of the clergy and people shalll in the same way come to consent to the new election."
Source: Rome Has Spoken edited by Sr. Maureen Fiedler and Linda Rabben, a must read for all those interested in finding out just how much the Roman Catholic Church has changed throughout the centuries.

Does this sound radical by today's monarchical system of "white smoke" over the Vatican?
It is time for Roman Catholics to embrace the earlier, more democratic, egalitarian practices of our church in selection of bishops and pope. Bridget Mary Meehan, ARCWP,

Sunday, January 6, 2013

"A New Pope, A Truer Church" by Jerry Slevin

The Community is the Celebrant of Eucharist/ Peter Did NOT Serve as Bishop of Rome/ "Keys" Given to Community/Not Just Peter or Pope/Reform of Clericalism and Renewal in Roman Catholic Church

Gary Wills, in his book, What Jesus Meant (p.p.69-70) writes “Nowhere is it indicated there was an official presider at the Christian meal (agape), much less that consecrating the bread and wine was a task delegated to persons of a certain rank. It is a mark of the gospels’ fidelity to the followers’ original status that not one of them mentions a Christian priest or priesthood. When the term “priesthood” finally occurs, in the pseudo-Petrine letters, it refers to the whole Christian community (1 Peter 2.5, 2.9) and the “Peter” of this letter refers to himself not as a priest but as a “fellow elder” to the other elders… “(p.69-70)

Gary Macy in The Hidden History of Women’s Ordination, concludes that women performed priestly functions as leaders of house churches in the early church. He concludes that women were ordained during the first twelve hundred years of the church’s history. In the Catacomb of St. Priscilla in Rome, there is a fresco of a woman breaking the Bread in an early Eucharistic Celebration.

In Christ there is no Jew or Greek, slave or citizen, male or female. All are one in Christ Jesus. Gal. 3:28

1. There were no priests in the first centuries of Christianity. Peter, Paul, and the other apostles were not priests or bishops. Women were apostles Junia (Romans 16:7), and Mary of Magdala, to whom the Risen Christ appeared  and sent on mission to proclaim the core belief of Christianity, the Resurrection.

2. The Catholic scholar Raymond Brown wrote, “Peter never served as the bishop or local administrator of any church. Antioch and Rome included.” St Ignatius of Antioch wrote that there were no bishops in his lifetime and none in Rome until the second century. The Twelve were an eschatological symbol that the Twelve would preside over the reunion of the Twelve Tribes of Israel at the end of time.

3. How about Jesus’ words to Peter: “ You are Peter, and on this rock, I will build my church.” The earliest interpretation of this passage is that Jesus is speaking to all the disciples, the whole community. Mt. 18:18 “In truth I tell you hymin (plural) that whatever you bind on earth, heaven will keep bound, whatever you unbind on earth, heaven will keep unbound.” “St. Augustine concluded that Peter is just ”a representative of the church” and it was the community that had the power to include or exclude members in the early gatherings.” (Gary Wills, What Jesus Meant, p. 81.) Bishop Gumbleton wrote: “So it wasn’t Peter and now the pope that has the full authority and power within the church. It is the whole community, the church. That’s what Jesus said to his disciples and that was the earliest interpretation of this passage... We have to remember that when Jesus first began to preach and to teach, he was gathering a community of disciples. Jesus never developed a church. All this developed over time, so it's changeable. It seems to me and to many in our church today that we need to change. "  (homily given  by Bishop Tom Gumbleton at St. Hilary Parish, Detrot, Michigan) See also Bishop Geoffrey Robinson's book, Confronting Power and Sex in the Catholc Church, Reclaiming the Spirit of Jesus.)

4. Apostolic Succession does not go back to Peter and there is no unbroken line of succession. Three popes claimed to be pope at one time and Council of Constance appointed a different/new pope in 1417. The history of the papacy is triple x rated – popes waged wars, granted indulgences for killing infidels (Crusades), Benedict X: papacy bought and sold for money, Gregory1, “When a woman has given birth she should abstain from entering a church for thirty-three days if she had a boy, sixty-six if she had a girl.” Pope Gelasius wrote “Nevertheless we have heard to our annoyance that divine affairs have come to such a low state that women are encouraged to officiate at the sacred altars and to take part in all matters imputed to the offices of the male sex to which they do not belong.” (Gelasus Letter to the Bishops of Lucania, 494) Sources: Rome has Spoken by Maureen Fiedler and Linda Rabben, and Gary Wills, What Jesus Meant

5. I agree with Gary Wills’ insightful commentary on the negative impact of clericalism in the Catholic Church: “Exclusion returned with the reinstitution of a “Christian priesthood, along with revived holiness codes- consecrated altars and consecrated men and “consecrating fingers,” with the extrusion of the laity (especially women) from altars from secret conclaves, from decision making from control of the believers’ money. The “rood screen” separating clergy from laity was a great barrier in the Middle Ages and it survived for a long time in the “communion railing”. Women returned to the unclean status give them by menstruation under Jewish (and other) law, were not allowed inside the sanctuary of a church- even the altar cloths had to be carried out to the nuns who washed them. For these groups, Jesus cleansed the Temple in vain.” (Gary Wills, What Jesus Meant, p. 85-84.)

6. The Roman Catholic Women Priests’ Movement offers a renewed priestly ministry in a community of equals that is rooted in Jesus’ example of inclusive embrace of all especially those on the margins. We offer a paradigm shift that women are equal images of God, and therefore worthy to preside at the altar. We offer a new model of partnership in an empowered community of equals that is non-clerical or hierarchical. On a deep, spiritual, mystical level we are beginning a healing process of centuries-old misogyny in which spiritual power was invested exclusively in men. We are moving the church toward partnership in a Christ-centered, Spirit empowered community of equals. For some like the Catholic hierarchy women priests are a revolution. 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.

7. Additional resources: ,

Bridget Mary Meehan, ARCWP