Saturday, October 24, 2015

An Open Letter to Pope Francis: "Lift the ban on women priests!" by Roy Bourgeois

royby Roy Bourgeois
Dear Pope Francis:
In 2012, after serving as a Catholic priest for 40 years, I was expelled from the priesthoodbecause of my public support for the ordination of women. My expulsion from the priesthood by Pope Benedict came just five months before you became our Pope.
As Catholics, we are taught that men and women are created equal: “There is neither male nor female. In Christ you are one.” (Galatians 3:28). Pope Francis, why can’t women be priests?
Catholic priests say that the call to be a priest comes from God. As a young man serving in the military in Vietnam, I felt God calling me to be a priest. I was accepted into the Maryknoll Fathers and was ordained in 1972. In my years of ministry, I met many devout Catholic women who told me about their calling to the priesthood. They were all rejected because of their gender.
Pope Francis, who are we, as men, to say our call from God is authentic, but God’s call to women is not? Isn’t our all-powerful God, who created the cosmos, capable of empowering a woman to be a priest?
Let’s face it. The male hierarchy’s problem with ordaining women is not with God but with an all-male clerical culture that views women as less than men. The problem is with men who see women as a threat to their power and privileges.
Sexism, like racism, is a sin. And no matter how hard we try to make God our partner in discriminating against others because of their gender, race, or sexual orientation, in the end, it is not the way of a loving God who created every one of equal worth and dignity.
When there is injustice, silence is complicity. The exclusion of women from the priesthood is a grave injustice against women, the Catholic Church and our God, who calls both men and women to be priests.
Pope Francis, please break your silence and lift the ban on women’s ordination!
Roy Bourgeois
Columbus, Georgia

Mary Mother of Jesus (MMOJ) Inclusive Catholic Community: Celebration of Priesthood, October 24, 2015, Imogene and Michael Rigdon Presiding, Mindy Lou Simmons, Music Minister

MMOJ Co-Presiders Imogene and Michael Rigdon
Gathering Song: #628 We Are Called, verses 1&3

Presider: In the name of God our creator, and of Jesus our brother, and of the Holy Spirit our wisdom. All: Amen.
Presider: God is with you. All: And also with you.

Opening Prayer. Let us pray: O God, your people gather with hopeful hearts. We gratefully acknowledge that you call all of us, through our priesthood of the people of God, to minister to those in need. And we thank you for those you call to ministry and leadership without regard to gender, marital status, or sexual orientation. May we all be faithful to our call to ministry. May the universal Church accept and support the ministry of all those you call. In Jesus’ name we pray. All: Amen

General Absolution by Community.  All, with hand extended in prayer: O God of all mercy, through his life Jesus revealed that nothing can separate us from your love. May God give us pardon and peace, and may we forgive each other our failures to care for one another and for our earth, in the name of Abba God, and of our brother Jesus, and of Spirit Sophia. Amen

A reading from Paul’s letter to the Romans.
Response to each: #377 Here I am, God. Is it I, God? I have heard you calling in the night. I will go, God, if you lead me. I will hold your people in my heart.
A reading from Paul’s letter to the Galatians. Response.
A reading from missionary bishop Koop’s Intervention at Vatican Council II. Response.
Two readings from the gospel according to John. Response.
Shared Homily

Profession of Faith. All: We believe in God, the creator of all, whose divinity infuses life with the sacred. We believe in Jesus the Christ who leads us to the fullness of humanity. Through Christ we become new people, lifted to the fullness of life. We believe in the Holy Spirit, the breath of God on earth, who keeps the Christ vision present and infuses energy into weary spirits. We believe in God who is life. Amen to courage, to hope, to the spirit of truth, to wholeness, to the partnership and equality of women and men in God’s plan. We believe in justice and peace for all. We surely believe in all this!

Presider: Always mindful of God’s love and care for us, we bring the needs of the people to our loving God. Response: God of abundance, hear our prayer.
Presider: Energize us in our works for justice, equality, and peace. We pray this with Jesus our brother. All: Amen

Collection and Procession of Gifts to the table.
All Sing: #361 Seed Scattered and Sown, verses 1&3

Eucharistic Prayer. We invite all to gather around the table for our community meal.
All Sing: We are holy holy holy (x3) We are whole. You are holy holy holy (x3) You are whole. I am holy holy holy (x3) I am whole. We are holy holy holy (x3) We are whole.
All: Merciful God, send your Spirit now to settle on this bread and wine, and fill them with the fullness of Jesus.
And let that same Spirit rest on us, converting us from the patterns of this passing world, until we conform to the shape of Jesus whose food we now share. Amen
We remember Jesus. All (hand extended in blessing):
On the night before he died, while at supper with his friends, Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke the bread and gave it to them saying, “Take this, all of you, and eat. This is my body which will be broken for you.” (Pause) In the same way, Jesus took a cup of wine. He said the blessing, gave the cup to his friends and said, “Take this all of you and drink. This is the cup of my life-blood. Do this in memory of me.”

All: Remember, gracious God, your Church throughout the world. Make us open to receive all believers. In union with all people, may we strive to create a world where suffering is diminished, and where all people can live in health and wholeness.
Thru Christ, with Christ, in Christ, in union with the Holy Spirit, all glory is yours, gracious God. Amen (sing)
Mindy Lou Simmons, Music Minister at MMOJ
Prayer of Jesus (Sing “Our Father and Mother”)

Group Sign of Peace: #503 Let there be peace on earth. Presider: Let us offer one another a sign of peace.

Presider: This is Jesus who liberates, heals and transforms us and our world. All are invited to partake of this banquet of love.  All: We are the Body of Christ.
All Sing: Holy gifts for holy people; come, you hungry, and believe. Come and take Christ’s body offered, come and be what you receive. (Repeat x2)

Communion: Instrumental music (Mindy)

Prayer of Thanksgiving (Didache, Instruction, 100CE)
Men: For the thanksgiving, give thanks this way: First, for the cup: We thank you, Abba God, for the sacred vine of David your son, whose meaning you made clear to us through our brother Jesus, yours ever be the splendor.
Women: And for the bread fragment: We thank you, Abba God, for the life and wisdom whose meaning you made clear to us through Jesus, yours ever be the splendor.
All: As this fragment was scattered high on hills, but by gathering was united into one, so let your people from earth’s ends be united into your single reign, for yours are splendor and might through Jesus Christ down the ages.

Individual prayers of thanksgiving
All Sing the final blessing (hands extended over community): You are the face of God, I hold you in my heart, You are a part of me, You are the face of God. You are the face of God, I hold you in my heart, You are my family, You are the face of God.
Presider: Go in the peace of Christ, may our loving service to all continue! All: Thanks be to God!

Closing song: #377 Here I Am, God, verses 1,2,&3

Readings for Our Liturgy

After each reading sing #377 refrain.

1.    A reading from Paul’s letter to the Romans.
I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church at Cenchreae. Give her a welcome worthy of saints, and help her with anything she needs. She has looked after a great many people, myself included.
My greetings to Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked death to save my life. I am not the only one to owe them a debt of gratitude, all the churches among the pagans do as well. My greetings also to the church that meets at their house.
Greetings to those outstanding apostles Andronicus and Junias, my compatriots and fellow prisoners who became Christians before me.     The Word of God.

2.    A reading from Paul’s letter to the Galatians.
You are all daughters and sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.       The Word of God.

3.   A reading from missionary Brazilian bishop Koop’s Intervention at Vatican Council II.
I want to start with a clear announcement that, to save the Catholic Church in Latin America, a married clergy has to be accepted as soon as possible.  I therefore propose that the Council consider ordaining qualified laymen who have been married at least five years. That solution also exists in the Orthodox Churches, which have at their disposal dignified and apostolic priests.  Their matrimony, their exemplary life and their socioeconomic status will undoubtedly contribute to the effectiveness of their ministry.       The Word of God.

4.   St John Chrysostom and later St Thomas Aquinas used this reading from the Gospel of John to name Mary of Magdala “the apostle to the apostles.”
It was very early on the first day of the week and still dark, when Mary of Magdala came to the tomb. She saw that the stone had been moved away from the tomb and came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved. “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb” she said “and we don’t know where they have put him.”
St Peter set out with the other disciple to go to the tomb. They ran together, but the other disciple, running faster than Peter, reached the tomb first. He bent down and saw the linen cloths lying on the ground, but did not go in. Simon Peter who was following now came up, went right into the tomb, saw the linen cloths on the ground, and also the cloth that had been over his head. Then the other disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in; he saw and he believed. Till this moment they had failed to understand the teaching of scripture, that he must rise from the dead. The disciples then went home again.
Meanwhile Mary stayed outside near the tomb, weeping. Then, still weeping, she stooped to look inside, and saw two angels in white sitting where the body of Jesus had been, one at the head, the other at the feet. They said, “Woman, why are you weeping?” “They have taken my Rabbi away” she replied “and I don’t know where they have put him.” As she said this she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, though she did not recognize him. Jesus said, “Women why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and remove him.” Jesus said, “Mary!” She knew him then and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbuni!”—which means Master. Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, because I have not yet ascended to Abba God. But go to the sisters and brothers, and tell them: I am ascending to my Abba and to your Abba, to my God and your God. So Mary of Magdala went and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord and that he said these things to her.     The Good News of salvation. (Inclusive Bible Translation)

5.   A reading from the Gospel according to John. Jesus washes his disciples’ feet at the Last Supper.
It was before the festival of the Passover, and Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to pass from this world to Abba God. He had always loved those who were his in the world, but now he showed how perfect his love was.
They were at supper, and the devil had already put it into the mind of Judas Iscariot son of Simon, to betray him. Jesus knew that God had put everything into his hands, and that he had come from God and was returning to God, and he got up from table, removed his outer garment and, taking a towel, wrapped it round his waist; he then poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel he was wearing.
He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Jesus, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus answered, “At the moment you do not know what I am doing, but later you will understand.” “Never!” said Peter “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus replied, “If I do not wash you, you can have nothing in common with me.” “Then, Rabbi,” said Simon Peter “not only my feet, by my hands and my head as well!” Jesus said, “No one who has taken a bath needs washing, he is clean all over. You too are clean, though not all of you are.” He knew who was going to betray him, that was why he said, “though not all of you are.”

When he had washed their feet and put on his clothes again he went back to the table. “Do you understand” he said “what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Sovereign, and rightly; so I am. If I, then, your teacher and Sovereign  have washed your feet, you should wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example so that you may copy what I have done to you. Now that you know this, happiness will be yours if you behave accordingly.”       The Good News of Salvation. (Inclusive Bible Translation)

“The Pope, the Church, Rabbis, & Women” by Rabbi Arthur Waskow and at

"Should Rabbis speak out about the subordination of women in the Catholic Church and Catholic theology -- or is it entirely an internal Church question?
From the moment Pope Francis issued the encyclical on the climate crisis and the actions we need to take about it, The Shalom Center stood shoulder to shoulder with him.
But we are deeply critical of the Church's and even this Pope's basic theology and practice toward women.
We stand with him on the climate crisis precisely because Laudato Si went beyond the looming disaster for our Mother Earth to look at its deep causes. The Pope described gross inequality of wealth and power and grossly selfish arrogance toward other-than-human life as the deep issues behind the climate issue. The Rabbinic Letter on the Climate Crisis (signed by 400+ rabbis), which we issued a few days before the Encyclical, spoke of "Corporate Carbon Pharaohs" to describe this reality.
We condemn the Pope's and the Church's ideas and actions in regard to women precisely because it reverses their theology toward the Earth. It accepts oppressive male power and arrogance toward women as legitimate -- even obligatory.
We strongly disagree with Catholic theology about the whole question of the moral agency of women to make their own decisions of conscience concerning birth control and abortion; about the ability of women to serve in all aspects of the Church; and about deeply related questions of sexuality, including the nature of same-sex sexual expression.
Those issues are arising right now as a Synod -- an assembly of bishops -- meets in Rome to consider Catholic theology and practice in regard to the family. One gay Vatican official who spoke up on the eve of the Synod for a change in the Church's behavior toward gay people was summarily fired for "creating public doubt and confusion about the holding of the Church."
Then Archbishop Paul-Andre Durocher of Gatineau, Quebec, urged the Synod to consider fuller inclusion of women in the spiritual life of the Church -- specifically, ordaining women as deacons (a first baby step).
I joined in a petition supporting him. And then a rabbi wrote me in Facebook that this is a purely internal issue of the Catholic Church, and rabbis should not be getting involved in it.
His comment made me think through the questions involved in my original visceral response. And I conclude this:
There are three reasons why rabbis are not only permitted but obligated to urge that the Roman Catholic Church commit itself to the full equality of women, within and beyond the Church.
1. We are commanded, "Tzedek tzedek tirdof -- Justice, justice, shall you pursue. As Martin Luther King and many others have said, "A denial of justice anywhere undermines justice everywhere." I protest against the denial of women's equality by the Wahhabi branch of Islam and its results in the practices of the Saudi Kingdom. Since this is an "internal" Muslim matter, should I refrain from criticizing it?
2. Assertions of the indivisibility of justice are no mere rhetoric. They are, rather, a practical truth. In fact, the patriarchal structure of the Roman Catholic Church has resulted in its putting a great deal of money and political effort into subordinating women and gay men in American society way beyond the borders of the Church:
  • Preventing the legalization of same-sex marriage;
  • Opposing and trying to undermine the legality and availability of "artificial" contraception even while 96 percent of American Catholic women use it;
  • Trying to outlaw abortion even when the life of the mother is at stake, and deliberately burdening the choice of abortion so as to make it unreachable for women who legally have the right to choose it;
  • and more broadly, treating the moral agency of women in making their own conscientious choices based on their own religious perceptions, as of no account when their choices differ from male-only top-down theology.
All this is the result of the impact of a large utterly patriarchal Church on our entire society. I would certainly not outlaw such a Church, but I certainly undertake to criticize that aspect of it, seek to persuade it to change, and support those Catholics who challenge it.
3. This male-chauvinist theology of the Church has its roots in misinterpretation of Torah 2,000 years ago among some in the emerging rabbinic community that included early followers of Jesus, even before "Christianity" existed.
To the extent that ancient rabbinic misinterpretation contributed to that result, rabbinic thought and action in our own day is obligated to correct the mistake -- among Jews and among Christians.
That misinterpretation began with misconstruing the parable of the Garden of Eden. One major aspect of that story can be summarized this way:
God (YyyyHhhhWwwwHhhh, the Breath of Life), speaking for and about Reality, says to the human race: "There is amazing abundance all around you. Eat of it joyfully -- but with some measure of self-restraint. From this one tree, do not eat!"
But the human species refuses to restrain itself, and its arrogance brings on two deadly disasters:
One disaster is that the abundance vanishes, so that humans must toil with the sweat pouring down their faces to wring just enough to eat from an Earth that brings forth thorns and thistles.
The other is that human arrogance turns inward also: Hierarchy comes into the world, in the form of "Men shall rule over women."
Hardly anyone has ever seen the first disastrous consequence as a command. If it were, we would be forbidden to invent tools to ease our labor or to shape a society at peace with the Earth.
But a great deal of Jewish and Christian theology has till recently seen the second disastrous consequence as a command: Men must rule over women.
But that is not the point of the story. The point is to warn us of the sad future that will arise as a result of the human race's arrogance toward the earth and its unwillingness to restrain itself from gobbling up all Earth.
And the Eden parable, together with the parables pf Manna and the Song of Songs, are also intended to inspire us to move toward healing and transformation.
The Eden story is about a childish human race growing up into rebellious adolescence, and then into an adulthood of drudgery and hierarchy. But growth is not supposed to stop there. The real goal of the Bible is for the human race to grow up into a maturity that is joyfully at peace with the Earth and in which women and men are joyfully at peace with each other. The vision is embodied in the Song of Songs -- Eden for a grown-up human race.
But much of Rabbinic theology, as well as Early Christian theology, did view the subordination of women not as a disastrous consequence but as a command.
In the last generation of Judaism, we have gone a long way to correcting that dangerous, unjust, and destructive misinterpretation of Torah. (We have not yet fully fulfilled the obligation.) So have many branches of Christianity. But not yet the Catholic Church.
I believe it behooves us as Jews and especially as rabbis to do teshuva -- turn our ancient mistake into today's transformation -- for the way in which our forebears had a hand in misshaping what became Catholicism.
In a nutshell, if it is desirable for us to applaud the Church when it tries to move beyond arrogance toward the Earth, then it is desirable -- even obligatory -- for us to criticize the Church when it encourages arrogance toward women."

Archbishop Durocher Addresses Violence Against Women, Empowerment , Study of Women Deacons in Church at Family Synod

..."Turning to the status of women in the church, Archbishop Durocher described the challenge of “clericalism” and said, “If we have power and decision-making structures where women are not included, then the message is sent that somehow women’s voices are not important to the decision-making process.”He said that every priest, bishop, and national conference could “identify roles and ministries open to women right now” and then ask: “Do we have women in these roles or not? And when we do, do we treat them as equal partners?” The archbishop said he also supports further study of ordaining women to the diaconate. “It’s not a closed issue,” he explained. “There has been no dogmatic statement saying that women cannot be ordained deacons.

Friday, October 23, 2015

"Ordination and Excommunication Sunday: A Mormon woman reflects on the ARCWP Ordination in Salt Lake City, Utah.

This is a deeply touching article by a Morman woman who faces similar challenges in transforming patriarchal structures in her church. She attended the ordination of Clare Julian Carbone as a priest in the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests on Oct. 18th in Salt Lake City.  We are in solidarity with our sisters' struggle for equality for women in the LDS Church. Bridget Mary Meehan, ARCWP
Link to article on women and priesthood in Mormon Church.

Ordination And Excommunication Sunday

Ordination of Clare Julian Carbone
Ordination of Clare Julian Carbone
As the procession of women entered the church I swallowed a gasp. I knew I was attending the ordination of Clare Julian Carbone to the Roman Catholic priesthood (unsanctioned by the Vatican). I knew that those ordaining the first female Catholic priest in Salt Lake City would be women, previously ordained through a priesthood lineage they trace back to Jesus Christ. But I didn’t know. I only imagined what it would be like to have women presiding and officiating in ordination rite. The surprise of women dressed in robes of service and devotion, leading in a holy space overwhelmed me with joy.  Tears spilled out as I looked up at a stand and podium presided over by women (with a talented man playing the piano).  
I marveled at how different the scene before me was compared to the LDS Sacrament service I attended a few hours earlier. In my LDS ward I looked up at a stand full of men in suits with a woman leading the music and a woman at the organ. The LDS scene communicated to me that women are the accompaniment. Men are the main story. The opening hymn for my LDS Sacrament meeting was Hymn 59, Come O Thou King if Kings. I choked as I sang verse four:
Hail! Prince of life and peace!
Thrice  welcome to thy throne!
While all the chosen race
Their Lord and Savior own,
The heathen nations bow the knee,
And ev’ry tongue sounds praise to thee.
Was I the chosen race that owns their Lord and Savior? Or am I of the heathen nation bowing the knee? I felt keenly, “I do not belong here. This is a space for white men. Not me.” No more sound came out of me after the word “race.” I could not sing the words, “Heathen nation.”
In contrast, the sight of male and female congregants smiling in fellowship as we looked up to female presiding leaders astonished me with feelings of peace and well being. As I looked at female bodies, dressed in white robes that remind me of my temple clothes, I felt like I belonged. Then we sang an opening hymn:
Let us build a house where all are named,
Their songs and visions heard
And loved and treasured, taught and claimed
As words within the Word.
Built of tears and cries and laughter,
Prayers of faith and songs of grace;
Let this house proclaim from floor to rafter:
All are welcome, all are welcome, all are welcome in this place.
Waves of happiness and delight washed over me as I joined in singing these words of inclusion and belonging. I pondered on the lyrics, “Where all are named” and recalled the hour I spent earlier in my LDS Primary during the singing portion of Sharing Time.  A sleepy three-year-old curled up on my lap, gently snoozing as all around him boisterously memorized the names of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles to the tune of The Books of the Book of Mormon (Children’s Songbook, #119). Loud and soft, then fast and slow, we repeated 15 male names. We erased names from the white board as the children learned the song and quickly mastered the names of fifteen men in order of ecclesiastical seniority. As much as I enjoyed the cozy exuberance of a warm child in my lap and children singing, I felt a sting pain as I questioned, “Who are the women whose names we memorize in the LDS faith?”
As part of the ordination ritual, Clare Julian prostrated herself upon the ground while a litany of saints was called upon to bless her. Many female saints were named. Men and women read liturgies as part of the meeting. Men and women named other holy men and women we could look to for guidance and example.
Clare Julian prostrate on ground as Sainta re called upon to bless her.
Clare Julian prostrate on ground as a litany of Saints  are called upon to bless her.
Bishop Bridget Mary Meehan in her introductory remarks reassured the congregants that no man could cancel our baptism in Jesus Christ. I looked to my right and saw Kate Kelly sitting in the pews. I said a prayer that every person unrighteously excommunicated while honestly standing for truth might have the same surety as Bishop Meehan. As I considered what excommunication means in the LDS faith, I was humbled by the boldness and bravery of Clare Julian, entering ordination with the full knowledge that the act of her ordination instantly excommunicates her from her Roman Catholic faith. Bishop Meehan shared the story of two formerly excommunicated nuns, Mother Theodore Guerin and Mother Mary MacKillop, canonized in recent years by Pope Benedict. She cheerfully summarized,
Excommunicated today, canonized tomorrow. Excommunication is the new fast track to canonization.
Praying for Clare Julian in her new calling.
Praying for Clare Julian in her new calling.
In the faces of the excommunicated women on the stand, I saw no fear of being separated from the love of Jesus Christ. No doubt in his grace. This forty year old movement of Catholics seeking female ordination showed me what equality looks like. After the ordination the congregants were invited to come forward and lay hands upon Clare Julian and pray for her in her new calling. I joined with a man and two women as we silently prayed together for our sister, Clare Julian. 
Seeing women leading, feeling their power. It was not in the robes or words of my faith, but I felt so welcomed and incorporated into the body of Christ. I looked over at Kate Kelly again and thought about how she was excommunicated for asking our leaders to pray about women’s ordination. She asked publicly. She asked with the wrong tone. I considered the daring of my brothers and sisters in the Catholic faith.
On December 28th, 1970, Bishop Felix Davidek ordained Ludmila Javorova a priest. In 1991, Cardinal Miloslav of Prague confirmed that five other women were also ordained as priests. Now, over 220 women have been ordained as priests. Catholic women are not asking Pope Francis to pray about whether or not they might be ordained. They are asking him and all of the Vatican to recognize their ordinations. They are ordaining and being ordained. They are excommunicated. They are living the truth their leaders must acknowledge: women are equal in the sight of our loving God. Equal in faith. Equal in power. They should be ordained. 
IMG_20151018_161332As I witnessed the ordination of Clare Julian I felt a deep shift within me as to how I perceive excommunication. The moment she was ordained she was excommunicated. But as she sat a few pews over from me with her palms turned upward and head bowed, meditatively preparing for her ordination and excommunication, I could see my sister in Christ was preparing to be more tightly bound up in the body of Christ. I thought of my own hands turning upward in the LDS temple to receive the mercy of God.
Excommunication from her faith did not sever Clare Julian from Faith or from our Lord Jesus. I began to consider, what if excommunication draws me closer to God and divine love? What if being excommunicated is not to be feared as spiritual death, but welcomed as a consequence of doing what is right and letting the consequence follow? Maybe for LDS women, excommunication is the fast track to authentic living in the light of Christ. Maybe it is the fast track to exaltation.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Homily of Bridget Mary Meehan ARCWP for Ordination of Clare Julian Carbone in Salt Lake City, Utah Oct 18, 2015

Photo by Steve Griffin of Salt Lake City Tribune



Today we rejoice as we ordain Clare Julian Carbone the first Roman Catholic Woman Priest in Salt Lake City Utah.


Photo by Steve Griffin, Salt Lake City Tribune
Clare Julian brings the contemplative spirits of St. Clare of Assisi and Blessed Julian of Norwich to an interfaith ministry of faith-filed women working for deeper understanding, reconciliation and healing from the Jewish, Muslim and Christian religions.
Photo by Steve Griffin, Salt Lake City Tribune

Photo by Steve Griffin, Salt Lake City Tribune
Clare Julian reflects on her calling in the following words:  “As I reflect about what my life in God is about I believe God calls me in various ways to be a bridge of sorts.  This calling first expressed itself years ago in a desire to  weave together the beauties of our spiritual tradition with the psychological components of Depth Psychology and the insights of Carl Jung.  Then after 9/11 I felt compelled to learn about Islam and find ways of encountering one another in the Abrahamic traditions via  Interfaith dialogue, prayer and friendship. Now as I embrace a new role as a Hospice Chaplain, once again I am aware of this "bridge" calling  as I learn about the realities of the Afterlife and companion others as they make their transition from this earthly existence into the next.   Finally, I feel my role as 'priest' will be another aspect of this calling to be a bridge, especially in living out our inclusivity and reconciliation with all creation within the realm of our Sacramental/Catholic tradition.
Photo by Steve Griffin, Salt Lake City Tribune
In our scripture reading today, the story of the woman who anoints Jesus is told in all four gospels.

In Mark and Matthew, the anointing occurs in the home of Simon the leper in Bethany. In Luke, the place is the home of  Simon, a Pharisee. In John, the location is the home of Martha in Bethany.

In Mark and Matthew, the head of Jesus is anointed, in Luke and John the  feet are anointed.
According to Mark, Matthew, and John, the meaning of the story is the anointing of Jesus’ body before burial.

Photo by Steve Griffin, Salt Lake City Tribune
There are three different women in these accounts.
In John’s Gospel, the woman is identified as Mary of Bethany, a close friend of Jesus. Luke changes the identity of the woman from disciple to a sinner and the focus is on forgiveness of a sinful woman.

The passion narrative of Mark’s Gospel provides the context for the story of the woman who anoints Jesus. It takes place two days before the Passover. It is evident from Mark’s perspective that the male disciples don’t comprehend that suffering and rejection is part of the mission of Jesus. Its significance escapes them.  In the end they abandon or betray him. However, the female disciples who have journeyed with him from Galilee to Jerusalem become the true disciples of Jesus.

They are faithful, loving present during  his execution and death on the cross, and the women are the first witnesses to Christ, Risen and glorified. They are apostles sent to announce the good news of the Resurrection, the core teaching of Christianity. Mary of Magdala was known as the apostle to the apostles. In Romans 16,:7, St. Paul introduces us to another woman apostle, Junia, who with her husband Andronicus, were his mentors. So, there were more than 12 apostles. Therefore, Christianity must follow the example of Jesus and treat women as equals in  every ministry including ordination.


 In our Gospel today, Jesus affirms the anointing woman’s prophetic gesture for all time, “Truly, I tell you, wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world what she has done will be told in remembrance of me.” (Mk. 14:9)

The assumption that the woman who anoints Jesus’ feet in Luke7:36-50 is a public sinner, cannot be verified. In her commentary, feminist scholar Miriam Therese Winter observes: “While the passage illustrates the integral connection between the loving and forgiveness of sins and the preceding text calls attention to the fact that Jesus associates with sinners, the woman’s sin may be no more than that associated with her status or a pattern of behavior unacceptable to the male ruling class.” (Woman Word, p. 71.)

So what is the take home lesson from the Gospel stories of the anointing women?
 I believe that she challenges us to listen to the urgings of the Holy Spirit in our lives, for the Spirit does at times move us to take unpopular, public actions in response to our call to live the Gospel. When he overthrew the tables in the Temple and set the animals free, Jesus angered the priests in charge of ritual sacrifice. 

Our Roman Catholic Women Priests Movement makes the connections that poverty, violence and abuse of women in the world is related to sexism in the church. Like the anointing woman, we are breaking through centuries of Vatican opposition to women priests by disobeying an unjust church law that discriminates against women.

Like the anointing woman, women priests anoint the Body of Christ who suffers, dies and rises in women and men in our churches and world today. We are offering sacraments to everyone especially those who are broken and on the margins of church, such as gays, lesbians, transgender, the divorced and remarried and women who feel abandoned by their church’s exclusion.

I asked Clare Julian to share her reflection on the anointing women in the Gospel. She writes; “For these women to step forward and courageously take on that role to anoint Jesus in the face of the apostle's criticism, and for Jesus to accept this and affirm these women and their inner guidance, is so reminiscent of what we are doing in the women's priest movement  - trusting our inner guidance and stepping forward to express our profound love of Christ and the Christ in others.  The entrenched patriarchal criticism towards us is there, but like Mary and the other woman who anoint Jesus, our anointing, expresses our love. We live into Christ’s call for us to be "One". Nothing else really matters.”

Today we are also walking in the footsteps of pioneer visionaries like St. Clare of Assisi and reclaiming the rich treasury of the mystical tradition of divine love for our modern era
In her third letter to Agnes of Prague, Clare, who wrote the first Rule for Women Religious, said; “Place your mind before the mirror of eternity! Place your soul in the brilliance of glory. Place your heart in the figure of the divine substance and through contemplation, allow your entire being to be transformed into the image of the Godhead itself, so that you may feel what friends feel, and taste the hidden sweetness that God has reserved for …Lovers.”

In evolutionary spirituality, we glimpse the wisdom of St. Clare and St. Francis coming alive, for contemporaory spiritual seekers of all religions and no religion, in the writings of Franciscan Sister Illia Delio. She invites us to contemplate the depths of God’s boundless love in creation. “God is not the prime mover of a static cosmos but the dynamism of love swelling up in space-time through the process of evolution and rise of consciousness…The God of love appears in Jesus of Nazareth. A God who gets radically involved in the messiness of the world to be God for us…Love is not a concept but a powerful, transforming energy that heals, reconciles, unites and makes whole… love seeks to empower the other for the flourishing of life.” (Sister Illia Delio, The Unbearable Wholeness of Being, pp. 74, 83-84.)

This passionate movement of love that permeates our cosmos reflects the entire world giving birth to God in a deep awareness of our mystical oneness with all in the embrace of God. Everything is in process of evolving, growing, changing, dying, and birthing new life. 
After the Synod of Bishops on the Family in 2014 rejected his plans for a more pastoral approach to homosexuals and the divorced, Pope Francis told the bishops that God is not afraid of new things. Amen, Pope Francis!
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I believe that the worldwide movement for women’s equality in all religious traditions is a new work of the Spirit rising up in our times. I believe that the international women priests movement is a new work of the Spirit rising up for justice in the Roman Catholic Church. As we follow Jesus’ example of Gospel equality and walk in the footsteps of the women who ministered to Jesus, and who served as deacons, priests and bishops in early Christianity, I believe that a new day is dawning for a more egalitarian, inclusive, flourishing church now.
Jesus called women and men to be his disciples. According to Luke 8: 1-3 among his followers were Mary of Magdala, Susanna, Joanna and many others. Jesus did not ordain anyone male or female at the Last Supper or at any other time.

For 1200 years women were ordained. Gary Macy, in his highly acclaimed book, The Hidden History of Women’s Ordination reminds us that “References to the ordination of women exist in papal, episcopal and theological documents of the time, and the rites for these ordinations have survived.” (In the early centuries of Christianity, ordination was the process and the ceremony by which one moved to any new ministry (ordo) in the community. By this definition, women were in fact ordained into several ministries. A radical change in the definition of ordination during the eleventh and twelfth centuries not only removed women from the ordained ministry, but also attempted to eradicate any memory of women's ordination in the past.”Gary Macy, The Hidden History of Women’s Ordination)

Sadly, the history of the church is marked by many centuries in which women were treated as second class citizens, and the ordination of women was prohibited.

In 2002, seven courageous women were ordained on the Danube. Then, anonymous male Roman Catholic bishop ordained two of these women -Gisela Forster and Christine Mayr Lumetzberger -bishops. In 2006, 12 women were ordained in the first U.S. ordination in Pittsburgh. I was ordained a priest. Janice Sevre Duszynska was ordained a deacon at this historic ordination. In 2009 I was ordained a bishop in California.  Therefore, our Holy Orders are valid because a male bishop with apostolic succession ordained our first women bishops.

The international Roman Catholic Women Priests now numbers around 220. Our worldwide movement has branches in Western Europe, Eastern Europe, Canada, U.S., South America and South Africa.  Women Priests are now ministering in grassroots inclusive Catholic communities in over 36 states in the U.S.

In the Roman Catholic Women Priests Movement, there are two international RCWP groups: ARCWP and RCWP-USA. Our common mission is a renewed priestly ministry in an inclusive church. Like two religious orders, we each have our own administrative structure and preparation program. We have worked together on retreats, liturgies and workshops at major conferences such as Call to Action and Women’s Ordination Worldwide.

In 2008 the Vatican issued a decree of  automatic excommunication against Roman Catholic Women Priests. Church officals have punished priest supporters like Roy Bourgeois, forcing his dismissal from his religious order: Maryknoll. They have disciplined Jesuit Bill Brennan (now deceased) and Franciscan Jerry Zawada because they co-presided at liturgy with Janice Sevre Duszynska. People who publically support us and work for the church can lose their jobs, However, no punishment can cancel our baptism.  We affirm, as St. Paul teaches in Galations 3;28, “in Christ, there is neither male nor female, all are one.” Our baptism makes us spiritual equals in Christ.

One could argue that, when Pope Benedict XV1 canonized two excommunicated nuns, Mother Theodore Guerin and Mother Mary MacKillop, he made excommunication the new fast track to canonization! So our motto could be "excommunicated today, canonized tomorrow."

Women priests are visible reminders that women are equal images of God and that all the baptized, the body of Christ, are called to celebrate Eucharist. We preside at sacraments in inclusive, Catholic communities, where all are welcome to receive sacraments. In our liturgies, we use inclusive language and often have dialogue homilies. We invite the community to pray the words of consecration together. In our model of a renewed priestly ministry, we call forth the gifts of the people in a circle of equals as a companionship of empowerment.

I have seen women weep with joy at our liturgies. Like our sisters in other faith traditions, we are a movement of hope that gender equality will become a reality in all areas of ministry and leadership in our church.

Today, in the spirit of the anointing women in the Gospels, Clare Julian will bring healing and wholeness to the suffering and dying and affirm the spiritual equality and oneness of all in the embrace of God. Let us rejoice that a new day is dawning for the people of God in Salt Lake City as the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests ordains Clare Julian a Roman Catholic Woman Priest!