Saturday, May 21, 2016

Homilia: Fiesta de la Trinidad; Homily on the Trinity in Spanish by Christina Moriera ARCWP

Article on Interview with Roman Catholic Women Priests Jen O'Malley and Suzanne Thiel on Women Deacons and Link to CNN Interview with Bridget Mary Meehan ARCWP

Article Featuring Roman Catholic Women Priests in Christian Century
CNN Interview with Bridget Mary Meehan

Womenpriests on the prospect of female deacons

"There’s the Pope Francis buzz. And then there’s reality. 
Last week news outlets reported that Pope Francis would form a commission to study the issue of female deacons in the Catholic Church. The predictable reverberations began immediately. Within days, the phrase “female priests” wormed its way into the headlines. While some hailed the pope’s progressive stance and remarked on potential changes in the Catholic Church, others pointed out the lack of historical precedent for female deacons serving in the same role as their male counterparts. More in-depth analyses and clarifications soon followed.
One group in particular remains highly skeptical that any real changes will occur: the women already ordained as Roman Catholic priests.
Roman Catholic Womenpriests began in 2002, when two bishops ordained seven women on a boat in international waters on the Danube River. Today the group has its own bishops to perform ordinations. With more than 225 priests and candidates ministering to more than 75 worship communities throughout the world, RCWP is creating change on its own terms. As Suzanne Thiel, ordained priest and board officer for RCWP-USA, told me, “We are not going away and we are growing.” 
Training for the priesthood through the RCWP program is as rigorous as it is for men. Candidates must earn a master of theology, a master of divinity, or an equivalent degree. Since womenpriests are generally volunteers, most have other jobs.
Yet even after completing their official training, the path for womenpriests remains bumpy. Their ordination violates Canon Law 1024, which states rather simply that “a baptized male alone receives sacred ordination validly." Still, only a relative few have been formally excommunicated (a reversible process, by the way, intended to facilitate repentance). Some Catholic sisters are ordained using an alias. At least one woman lost her job at a Catholic parish simply for expressing an interest in RCWP’s program, but a more common scenario is being quietly shunned by members of the establishment.
Womenpriests might perform many allowable duties under one male priest at a parish, only to be told a few years later by a less progressive priest that their services are no longer needed. Or, a womanpriest ministering to her own faith community might be told by a male priest in the same town that he can’t collaborate or even interact with her. 
“So why don’t they just become Protestants?” my husband asked, somewhat indelicately. The women I spoke with, and others who have publicly answered this question, all say more or less the same thing: Catholicism is my tradition. “It’s who I am,” offered Jennifer O’Malley, a priest and president of the RCWP-USA board. “I’ve looked into the possibility of becoming something else, but the rituals and Catholic social teachings are really inspiring to me.” 
Despite their commitment to their faith tradition, many RCWP priests are skeptical about a sea change at the Holy See. As O’Malley said: “It’s not just about ordaining women. It’s about ordaining women in a renewed Catholic Church. It’s about including people who are currently excluded—the divorced, the remarried, the members of the LGBTQ community.”
Thiel echoed her sentiments: “It’s a much bigger picture than just the ordination of women. It’s about the oppression of women, a renewal of the whole church, and a return to gospel issues.” 
Like others, these women are doubtful that we’ll even see ordained female deacons any time soon. Helen Weber McReynolds, a relatively new RCWP candidate, said the pope’s statement “is a glimmer of hope, but I’m not getting my own hopes up about anything concrete happening any time in the near future.” 
There’s the Pope Francis buzz, and then there’s the reality. The pope’s commission will study female deacons. And the number of ordained female priests will continue to grow. "

Mary Mother of Jesus Inclusive Catholic Community, Feast of the Holy Trinity, May 21, 2016, Cheryl Brandi, Katy Zatsick ARCWP, Mindy Simmons-Music

Statue representing Holy Trinity in Marsa, Malta

Co-Presiders Katy Zatsick ARCWP and Cheryl Brandi

Gathering Song: #519 Holy Wisdom, Lamp of Learning -all verses.
Co-Presiders: In the name of God Creator of all, Jesus-our Brother and our Way, and the Holy Spirit Sophia, Love in action. Amen. 
Opening Prayer
All: Holy God, Holy Mighty One, you have created all things and you continue to call us to new life. Teach us to reverence in one another the gift of life we share. Give us a hunger for your Word, and let us walk in union with your Spirit all the days of our lives. We are called to be mystics and experience the depth of God within us and throughout the universe. Glory to you, Source of all Being, Eternal Word, and Holy Spirit, forever and ever. Amen.
Litany of Peace and Healing
Our sung response is “Let us be your peace”
1.      God of all creation…let us be your peace
God of every Nation…let us be your peace
2) God beyond our knowing, let us…
God who walks among us, let us
3)God of great compassion, let us…
God of tender mercy, let us…
4)As we work for justice, let us…
With our hands and voices, let us…
5) With hope and healing, let us …
With light and loving, let us …
6)Here and all times, let us…
Now and forever, let us (adapted from Dan Schutte)

First Reading: Proverbs 8:22-31 ...the Word of God All: thanks be to God.
Responsorial Psalm 8 All: How great is your name, O Holy One, through all the earth.”
Second Reading: A reading from Julian of Norwich (Showings, p 183)
I saw that (God) is everything which is good, as I understand. And in this (God) showed me something small, no bigger than a hazel nut, lying in the palm of my hand, as it seemed to me, and it was as round as a ball. I looked at it with the eye of my understanding and thought; What can this be? I was amazed that it could last, for I thought that because of its littleness it would suddenly have fallen into nothing. And I was answered in my understanding: it lasts and always will, because God loves it; and thus everything has being through the love of God The inspired word of Julian. All Thanks be to God.
Alleluia (sung)
Cheryl Brandi, Co-Presider

Gospel: A reading from the Gospel of John 16:12-15
(music during reflection)
Shared Homily 
What were you earliest images/ideas of the Trinity?
When/how have your images of the Trinity changed?
Has your image/idea of the Trinity changed since you attend MMOJ?
What has changed in your relationship to God until today. How is this new understanding reflected in your image/your symbol of God.
We Believe
All: We believe that God’s kindom is here and now, stretched out all around us for those with eyes to see it, hearts to receive it, and hands to make it happen. 
We believe in one God who is Love and the Energy of Evolution, a divine mystery beyond all definition and rational understanding, the heart of all that has ever existed, that exists now, or that ever will exist. 
We believe in Jesus, God’s Word made flesh, bringer of God’s healing, heart of God’s compassion, bright star in the firmament of God’s prophets, mystics, and saints. 
We believe that we are called to follow Jesus as the Way of God’s love, a source of God’s wisdom and truth, and an instrument of God’s peace and justice in the world. 
We believe God's Spirit Sophia will grant us the courage, fidelity and wisdom to bring God's kindom into reality in our time and place. Amen.
Prayers of the Community 
Co-Presider: We your community gathered in faith believe in the power of prayer. We know we are all connected in the Oneness which is God. We are always mindful of God’s unconditional love and care for all of us. And so, we bring our needs to our compassionate and gracious God.  
Response: All: God of Love, hear our prayers.
Co-Presider: Healing God, you faithfully listen to our prayers. We ask you to strengthen us in our caring for one another and in our works for justice, equality, and peace in a world without violence. As always, we make this prayer in the name of Jesus the Christ our Brother Amen. 
Preparation of the Gifts 
Song for our offering: #361 Seed Scattered and Sown, verses 1 & 3
Co-Presider: Blessed are you, God of all creation. We gather into one loaf of Community for worship through your Love for us. Through your goodness we have this bread to offer. This loaf is a symbol, like the hazel nut of Julian, it is our trust in the Mystery which creates, sustains and receives us. It will become for us the bread of life.
All: Blessed be God forever
Co-Presider: Blessed are you, God of Love for all creation. Through your goodness we have this wine to offer, this fruit of the vine that human hands have made. Through this wine offering we always give thanks for being your Beloved sons and daughters and experiencing life to the fullest. It will become for us our spiritual drink. All: Blessed be God forever.  
All: O Holy One, You dwell in each of us and all of us. You accept our gifts and worship as we gather in our faith community. We do this in memory of and in union with our brother, Jesus. Amen.
Eucharistic Prayer 
Co-Presider: The Holy One, Shekinah, Source of all life, is with you. All: And also with you. 
Co-Presider: We lift up our hearts. All: We lift them up to the Holy One, the Love of our Hearts. 
Co-Presider: We give thanks and praise to our compassionate God. All: It is right to give the Holy One thanks and praise. 
Voice 1: O Divine Flame of Love, your glowing embers dance in our hearts. Your passionate presence kindles our souls. You purify us with the searing truth that ignites our spirits. As the glowing embers of a fire penetrate the cold around us, so your tenderness sets our hearts aglow. We celebrate your nearness this day as we remember your Pentecost miracles. 
Voice 2: The wind of your Holy Mystery has blown across our world in the gentle breezes and thunder storms of your vision in your prophets and visionaries among us. We praise and exalt you forever with grateful hearts as we sing: 
Holy Holy Holy – Karen Drucker
We are Holy, Holy, Holy…You are Holy, Holy, Holy,…I am Holy...We are Holy (3 times)
Voice 3: O Subtle One, you kindle your fire of enthusiasm within us. You speak to us with assurance and excitement and reveal to us the infinite, boundless, depths of your love for us through the attraction of the Energy of Evolution every drawing us deeper into the Mystery you are.
Voice 4: Beloved, awaken us to your promises to be always present in our lives, no matter what the obstacles or setbacks we experience. You consume us with such a hunger and thirst for justice that our words and actions inflame others to become signs of your justice. You give us eyes to see human need, hearts to care for our sisters and brothers and hands and feet to lighten others burdens.
 Invocation of the Holy Spirit (extend you hand in blessing)
Co-Presider: You bless us O Holy One Sofia and you enliven all that exists. You transform these gifts of bread and wine, and our lives, by boundless grace that nourish and sustains us on our journey. 
All: On the night before he faced his own death, Jesus sat at the Seder supper with us his companions. He reminded us of what he taught and bent down and washed our feet. Jesus returned to his place at the table, lifted the Passover bread and spoke the blessing, and then broke the break with these words: Take and Eat, this is my very self. 
Co-Presider: Jesus then raised high the cup of blessing, spoke the grace, and offered us the wine with these words: 
All: Take and drink of the covenant made new again through my life for you and for everyone. Whenever you do this, you remember me. 
Presider: Let us proclaim the Mystery of Wonder in our midst: 
All: Christ of the Cosmos you are the spark of love in whom we believe; the Wisdom of Sophia in whom we trust; and the desire for justice that attracts and motivates us.
Voice 5: As we celebrate the memory of Jesus, we remember our political and religious leaders, especially Pope Francis, and our Bishop Bridget Mary and all ARCWP bishops. We remember the communion of saints and all who have inspired and loved us both living and dead. (pause to mention names).  
Voice 6: May our hearts be merry as we dream Sofia inspired new dreams and see new visions. May we recognize Christ present in every person everywhere. May we, like Jesus become Spirit Fire, as we fan the flames of your evolutionary Love throughout the entire cosmos, 
(Co-Presiders hold up bread and wine.} 
All: For it is through living as Jesus lived, that we awaken to your Spirit within, moving us to glorify and praise you, O Holy One, today and always.
Great Amen (sung)
 Prayer of Jesus
Co-Presider: Let us join hands, and sing together the prayer that Jesus taught us as we live in the Mystery of Love who is God. 
Sign of Peace  
Prayer for the Breaking of the Bread 
Co-Presider: Please join in praying the prayer for the breaking of the bread: 
All: God of gods, You call us to live the Gospel of peace and justice. We will live justly.   
God of Healing, You call us to be Your presence in the world. We will love tenderly. 
God of Wisdom, You call us to speak truth to power. We will walk with integrity.
Co-Presider: Our Eucharistic celebration is all-inclusive. Each of us is a spark of the Divine and nothing can separate us from God’s love. All are welcome to receive at this friendship table.  
(Presiders hold up bread and wine) 
Co-Presider: Let us pray our communion prayer together. 
All: What we have heard with our ears, we will live with our lives; as we share communion, we will become communion, both Love’s nourishment and Love’s challenge.
Communion Song: after all have received.
You are the face of God, I hold you in my heart, Your 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.
Thanksgiving and Announcements 
Closing Prayer:
Co-presider: We ask safe travel for all of our MMOJ members on your journeys over the summer. . We ask that your summer will be a time of relaxation, renewing yourselves and ties to family and friends. We ask that wherever you travel you know God is with you and before you. We wait expectantly to see each other again on your safe return to MMOJ.
Final Blessing  with hands raised
All: O Compassionate One, we rejoice that you are our Father, and we rejoice that you are our Mother. Give us the faith and courage to believe deeply in the absolute truth of your tender mercy for us, for all humanity and the earth itself. We ask this in the name of Jesus, our Savior and Brother Amen.

Recessional song: #635 God, whose glory reigns eternal Verses 1 and 2.  

Adapted from: Bridget Mary Meehan, Mary Theresa Streck and Jay Murnane

More on Atonement Theology: "Incarnation Instead of Atonement", CORPUS REPORTS, May -June 2016 by Richard Rohr OFM

"Franciscans never believed that 'blood atonement was required for God to love us. Our teacher, John Duns Scotus (1266-1308) said Christ was Plan A from the very beginning (Colossians 1:15-20, Ephesians 1;3-14) Christ wasn't a mere Plan B after the first humans sinned, which is the way most people seem to understand the significance of the death and resurrection of Jesus. The Great Mystery of Incarnation could not be a mere mop-up exercise, a problem solving technique, or dependent on human beings messing-up."

"In Franciscan parlance, Jesus did not come to change the mind of God about humanity; Jesus came to change the mind of humanity about God. This grounds Christianity in pure love and perfect freedom from the very beginning. It creates a very coherent and utterly positive spirituality, which draws people towards lives of inner depth, prayer, reconciliation, healing and even universal "at-one-ment," instead of mere sacrificial atonement. Nothing changed on Calvary, but everything was revealed as God's suffering love- so that we could change!" 
Most of us were taught that God would love us if and when we change. In fact , God loves you so that you can change. IT IS THE INHERENT EXPERIENCE OF LOVE THAT BECOMES THE ENGINE OF CHANGE. "RICHARD ROHR OFM
(CORPUS REPORTS, pp. 14-15, May/June 2016)

Thursday, May 19, 2016

"It's time to be Honest About Pope Francis and Women" by Jamie Manson, National Catholic Reporter

..."Here are a few choice quotes from Francis' conversation with the UISG (with additional commentary from me):
Because women look at life through their own eyes and we men cannot look at it in this way. The way of viewing a problem, of seeing things, is different in a woman compared to a man. They must be complementary, and in consultations it is important that there are women.
Here, the pope, for the umpteenth time, declares his unwavering belief in complementarity, the idea that, by creating male and female bodies differently, God shows us that God intends for men and women to have separate roles and purposes in the church and in the family.
Francis then reinforced the ban on women homilists and women priests, saying:
There is no problem for a woman -- religious or lay -- to preach in the Liturgy of the Word... . But at the Eucharistic Celebration there is a liturgical-dogmatic problem, because it is one celebration -- the Liturgy of the Word and the Eucharistic Liturgy, there is unity between them -- and He Who presides is Jesus Christ. The priest or bishop who presides does so in the person of Jesus Christ. It is a theological-liturgical reality. In that situation, since women are not ordained, they cannot preside.
In other words, in any liturgy where the Eucharist will be consecrated, a woman's body renders her illegitimate to speak the words of a homily.
Francis further noted:
But it is necessary to differentiate clearly: one thing is the preaching in a Liturgy of the Word, and this can be done, but another thing is the Eucharistic Celebration; here there is another mystery. It is the mystery of Christ's presence and the priest or the bishop who celebrate in persona Christi.
Francis is delicately saying that because women do not have a phallus, they cannot "image" the body of Christ. In what is surely a great cosmic irony, a woman's God-given body prevents her from transforming bread into Christ's body.
Francis then told the UISG women what kind of image they can be for the church -- and what kinds of images they cannot be:
The consecrated woman is an icon of the Church, an icon of Mary. The priest is not an icon of the Church; he is not the icon of Mary; he is an icon of the Apostles, of the disciples who were sent to preach.
Yet again, Francis is reminding women that their bodies determine their destiny in the church. So, in what is surely the greatest cosmic irony, this means that if Mary, who gave birth to the body Jesus, were on Earth today, even she could not consecrate bread and wine into his body and blood. And Mary Magdalene, who was first to preach the Good News and whom John Paul II called the "Apostle to the Apostles," could not offer a homily at Mass.
Francis then tells the women that, like the church, they are called to the role of wives:
The Church is woman ... she is a woman married to Jesus Christ, she has her Bridegroom, who is Jesus Christ... . And a woman's consecration makes her the very icon of the Church and icon of Our Lady. We men cannot do this. This will help you to deepen, from this theological root, a great role in the Church. I hope this does not elude you.
It's hard to imagine that this nuptial symbolism, used so frequently by Pope Francis and his intellectual forbearer John Paul II to reinforce women's fixed place in the church, has eluded any of these sisters. But it was thoughtful of Francis to make sure they understand.
Francis concludes by warning women religious against "the temptation of feminism," saying:
We must not fall into the trap of feminism, because this would reduce the importance of a woman.
In case it eluded you, the "importance of woman," is what Pope Francis (quoting John Paul II) calls "the feminine genius." That is, the reality that God, by giving us uteruses as well as genitalia that "complement" the male anatomy, has called women specifically to be wives and mothers, receivers and nurturers.
I am belaboring these quotes from the pope's conversation with women religious in order to make this point: Francis' theological imagination makes it impossible for women to achieve equal decision-making power and sacramental authority in this church. And it's time we faced it.
Pope Francis believes that women cannot assume these leadership roles in the church because of our bodies. He believes the God simply cannot work through the female body in the way in which God works through the male body. He believes that, when it comes to consecrating the Eucharist, the female anatomy somehow renders God powerless.
I realize that, among progressive Catholics, the source of hope for Francis comes from a place of love -- a love for the church, a desire to see it serve its people well, a longing for it to be more fully a force for good in our world.
But no one is served from only reading sound bites that seem to offer an inkling of hope, while downplaying or ignoring altogether the words from the same statement that demonstrate clearly the injustice that women are facing with this pope.
After the enthusiasm exhibited by so many last week, some may have been led to believe that sacramentally-ordained women deacons are a fait accompli. But the Francis' own words suggest that women are far from being recognized as genuinely equal and that there is still so much work to be done. These sounds bites and headlines have only expanded the myth of Francis' revolutionary attitude toward women.
From early in Francis' pontificate, criticism of the papacy and the Vatican seemed to fall out of favor. This widespread refusal to cast a critical eye on the pope's understanding of women is simply irresponsible -- and it has an especially perilous impact on poor women.
Why? Because the Roman Catholic church still has inordinate power over the bodies of women in many parts of our world. Pope Francis' unshakeable belief that the purpose of women is to be mothers, nurturers and "complements" to men does not only reinforce the ban on women's decision-making and sacramental power in the church -- these beliefs are also tied directly to the church's teachings on sexual and reproductive health, especially contraception and abortion.
For example, Pope Francis' understanding of women is part of the same ideology that led to the creation of Draconian anti-abortion laws in El Salvador as well as countless Catholic-sponsored movements to keep contraceptives out of the hands of women, particularly poor women, whose need to manage the size of their families is a matter of life and death.
This same ideology keeps women, day after day, sacramentally powerless and banned from pulpits in Catholic churches, while the people of God long for ordained ministers who can offer meaningful baptisms and funerals, thoughtful homilies, and comforting last rites.
We can wax on about "tiny steps forward" and "slow pace of the development of doctrine." But the beliefs about women that are espoused by Pope Francis are causing untold suffering to women, to families, and to the life of the church itself.
After years of pain and division caused by previous popes, there is little wonder that so much hope has been placed in Francis' papacy. And there are some good, concrete reasons to have hope in him. But we must be honest about the limitations that Francis places women's bodies and women's power, and we must not be afraid to let our prophetic voices rise up about it.
The lives of countless women and the future of the church itself depend on it."
[Jamie L. Manson is NCR books editor. She received her Master of Divinity degree from Yale Divinity School, where she studied Catholic theology and sexual ethics. Her email address is]

Posters Approved Near the Vatican to Celebrate Jubilee for Women Priests in June,Please Donate and Spread the Word!
In exciting news, we have also received a permit from the City of Rome to cover the neighborhoods surrounding Vatican City with huge posters (three examples seen to the right) calling for women's ordination. Every poster costs an additional $10 to print and legally post, above our original budget

Can you help us with these additional costs? Your donation of $10 or more today will ensure that our Jubilee of Women Priests has an enormous impact in Rome and around the world. You can help us transform the Vatican's Jubilee for Priests into a positive witness for women's equality.

For equality,

Erin Saiz Hanna and Kate McElwee
Co-Executive Directors

P.S. If you have already recently donated, thank you for your support!

To make a charitable donation by check, please mail to:  WOC  PO BOX 15057 Washington, DC 20003.  The Women's Ordination Conference (WOC) is a registered 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Your donation is tax-deductible to the extent allowed by the law.

Banners in Rome Promoting Women's Ordination in 2001

Homily at Holy Spirit Catholic Community, Trinity C, Beverly Bingle RCWP

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity.
Last week I went down to John XXIII parish for a daily Mass
and heard Fr. Herb Weber comment
that Trinity Sunday inevitably brings
the worst homily of the year, every year.
I think I know why.
The doctrine of the Trinity puts God in a box.
We've heard the explanations.
Three persons in one God.
Like a triangle with three sides, still one triangle.
Like a chicken egg, with a shell, a yolk, and a white, still one egg.
Like an apple, with skin, flesh, and seeds, still one apple.
Like water as ice, as liquid, and steam, still H2O.
And, of course, like the three-lobed leaf of a shamrock…
thank you, St. Patrick!
Doctrines like the Trinity develop from an experience of the divine,
an original encounter with God that a person tries to talk about.
We memorize the doctrine,
but we can't let the understanding
of one person or one time period
become the litmus test of our faith.
Our faith will falter
if we try to rely on somebody else's description
of their experience of God's presence.
It's not enough.
It's not ours.
As our understanding of the world grows,
as our time in history changes,
as our life situation develops,
so must our understanding of God
grow and change and develop.
What really matters is
not how they described their experience of God
but how we experience the presence of God.
That's not to say that we can't learn from our ancestors in faith.
We do.
Hearing how they have experienced the divine
can help us recognize God in our own experience.
Take the Sign of the Cross, our declaration of trinitarian faith:
in the name of the Father, and of the Son,
and of the Holy Spirit.
That's foundational.
But we experience God's presence
in more ways than that trinitarian formula.
One of my favorites is Luke 13:34,
where Jesus laments over Jerusalem, saying
“ many times I yearned to gather your children together
as a hen gathers her brood under her wings….”
So we may experience God as a Father… and a Mother,
as the source of all being, gracious mystery, creator,
the almighty one, sustainer, nurturer,
divine presence, perfect love.
We may experience Jesus as the Son of God… and as the Christ,
our brother, teacher, friend, healer,
judge of the living and the dead, Messiah,
companion on the way, love.
We may experience the Holy Spirit as the giver of life…
and as Paraclete, helper, advocate, consoler, inspirer,
enlivener, breath of God, indwelling love.
I find it telling that, in all of the Hebrew scriptures,
the word “father” for God is barely a whisper,
used just ten times.
And the word “trinity” is not found anywhere in the Bible.
The first recorded use of "trinity"
was by Theophilus of Antioch in the late 2nd century.
He defined the Trinity
as God, God's Word, and God's Wisdom Sophia
in the context of a discussion of the first three days of creation.
Half a century after that
came Tertullian's defense of the Trinity
against the Praxean heresy
that said Jesus was the Father incarnate.
But Tertullian's argument against Praxeus suggested
that the Son was subordinate to the Father,
which was later judged to be a heresy of its own.
The struggle over the Trinity went on.
By the 12th century, people were commonly describing God
as both father and mother,
notably the abbot Bernard of Clairvaux in the 12th century
and the abbess Julian of Norwich in the 15th.
Some of Julian's views were not typical.
She wrote of the Trinity as a family,
with God as the father
and Jesus as both brother and mother—there's that hen again!
Discussion went on and on over the centuries,
eventually giving us what we have now,
the requirement of Roman Catholicism
that we believe in the doctrine of the Trinity.
It's pretty obvious from that bit of history that doctrine develops.
How that fits
with the teaching that revelation is over
is instructive.
St. Thomas Aquinas taught—back in the 1200s—
that revelation ended with the death of the last apostle,
about the year 100 AD.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church unequivocally states that,
after that time, “There will be no further Revelation.”
What we don't usually hear about is that the Catechism,
in the very next sentence, goes on to state that
“even if revelation is already complete,
it has not been made completely explicit;
it remains for Christian faith
gradually to grasp its full significance
over the course of the centuries.”
So we continue that age-old quest for the living God.
Revelation is not over.
God is not dead.
Each time we read and ponder the scriptures,
each time we pray,
each time we reach out in love to another person,
we see God revealed anew,
among and within us,
here and now.
Glory be to God!

Holy Spirit Catholic Community
Saturdays at 4:30 p.m./Sundays at 5:30 p.m.
at 3925 West Central Avenue (Washington Church)

Rev. Dr. Bev Bingle, Pastor
Mailing address: 3156 Doyle Street, Toledo, OH 43608-2006

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

"Pope Francis Has Painted Himself Into A Corner on Women Deacons" by Mary Hunt

"Talk of Roman Catholic women deacons threatened
 to push Donald Trump off center stage for a nanosecond. Pope Francis’ seemingly spontaneous remarks in Rome on May 12, 2016 at the triennial meeting of the International Union of Superiors General (UISG) about setting up a commission to study women deacons sparked wide ranging responses but no promises of equal treatment of women.
Some clerics got their chasubles in a twist, their stoles in a knot, over the horrifying thought of women becoming deacons. Can a woman pope be far behind? No, in all likelihood, gentlemen, probably not. Some longtime proponents of women’s ordination cheered as if it were a done deal and they just needed to be measured for their vestments. Not likely, friends, and be careful what you pray for.
Let me offer a perspective that casts the whole question in a very different light.
First, there is precious little clarity as to what constitutes a deacon of the female variety. While there is widespread agreement that women have functioned as deacons when needed by the church, the issue is whether they were ordained or not, and if they were, if their ordination meant the same thing as men’s ordination. The term ‘deaconess’ is bandied about, a clearly feminine diminutive that might eventually, God forbid, give Francis a way out of a tough situation. All this before the bathroom wars. Who knew?
In the early 1970s Pope Paul VI asked the International Theological Commission (ITC) to study the question of women deacons. Decades later, bits and pieces of their work saw the light of day, then were suppressed, and now are being brought back for scrutiny. Women deacons are obviously a theological hot potato since they involve ordination.
Even Pope Francis confessed recently to the nuns that he was a bit foggy on the question. During his U.S. visit, he noted that the role of deacons was essentially made up by the church to fulfill certain needs. Women were allegedly involved in the baptism and care of other women and children when baptism was by immersion. Someone had to help women on and off with their clothes and deal with their naked bodies, hence the presence of women deacons. But as sprinkling holy water replaced the bath-like approach, women’s role shrunk like jeans in hot water.
Phyllis Zagano, a tireless researcher and lecturer who promotes the diaconate as an inside-the-box strategy for changing the Church, has parsed the various arguments and has recently publishedtranslations of some of the scholarly articles that ground this work.
According to Dr. Zagano:
“While ITC member Cipriano Vagaggini published research on the diaconate in an Italian journal in 1974, the ITC didn’t produce its own work on that subject until about 1997. Along with Vagaggini, that ITC document affirmed what Bishop Imesh had denied years earlier: history supports the argument that women could be sacramentally ordained. Yet while news reports appeared about the document, it was never published by the Vatican. Rumors abound that it had even been assigned a Vatican document number when publication was stopped.
Some years later, a new, longer version of the study document was published: “From the Diakonia of Christ to the Diakonia of the Apostles.” Its conclusions are rather different. Here the ITC concluded that “deaconesses” are not the same as deacons, that the priesthood and episcopacy are distinct from the diaconate and, finally, that the question of women deacons should be left to the “ministry of discernment which the Lord has left to his church.”
In other words, women are welcome to serve per usual, but not become priests or bishops with decision-making responsibility. The whole matter was left to “discernment” which is to say it was left for the clerics to decide.
While the Eastern Church has kept a fairly consistent line on deacons including women in some cases, the Western Church had a change of tune over time. After centuries of the diaconate as one of the major orders, namely deacon, priest, bishop in ascending rank, what is called the transitional diaconate, Pope Paul VI instituted something called the permanent diaconate. In a 1967 Apostolic Letter entitled “Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem: General Norms For Restoring The Permanent Diaconate In The Latin Church,” the same pope who nixed birth control responded to the shrinking clergy pool by calling for the ordination of men, many of them married, to preach, baptize, preside at marriages, etc., but not to celebrate the Eucharist or hear confessions. They were invited to be part of local committees but jurisdiction, that is, decision-making, was still reserved to priests.
Women were mentioned in the document only insofar as they pertained to their husbands’ fitness for ministry, a patriarchal ploy writ large. Married men are “not to be admitted unless there is certainty not only about the wife’s consent, but also about her blameless Christian life and those qualities which will neither impede nor bring dishonor on the husband’s ministry.” (par. III. 11.).
Moreover, only married men “who while living many years in matrimony have shown that they are ruling well their own household and who have a wife and children leading a truly Christian life and noted for their good reputation.” (par. III. 13) are eligible. In practice, this has resulted in many women participating in the very same diaconal training as their husbands. However, when it comes to the finale, they are permitted only to carry their husbands’ stoles in the processions leading to the men’s ordination. The notion that women with or without “blameless Christian” husbands would become deacons was never on the table.
The permanent diaconate has evolved in fifty years with 40,000 plus men (many of them in the U.S.) engaged in ministries of Word, liturgy, and charity. In real terms, this ranges from deacons as glorified altar boys in some places (for example, Argentina where Francis showed less interest in deacons than he appears to have now) to deacons running parishes, albeit not usually with the title of pastor. The functions necessary to be fulfilled seem to determine the role of the male deacon. Where there are still plenty of priests, deacons are relegated to decidedly second-class status. Where there is a priest shortage, they and women who cannot be ordained are put to work.
The pope’s “feminine genius” conundrum
Parallel to the diaconal growth is the steady increase in the number of women engaged in ministries of all sorts. Whether in campus ministry or prison work, in parishes where they now outnumber priests in the U.S., in religious communities or religious education, women around the world do an increasingly large share of the Roman Catholic Church’s ministry without being ordained or having decision-making power. No wonder it occurred to the nuns to mention this contradiction in conversation with the pope.
When Pope Francis met with the superiors general of thousands of women’s religious groups, he was faced with a reality that many in his institution prefer to ignore: rank sexism without reasonable explanation. The women raised rational and respectful questions with regard to their work and status. It is unclear if they spoke also on behalf of women not in religious communities, though one hopes so. Since they are doing ministerial work of the diaconal sort (prevented from priestly work by Canon Law), it was logical that the women would inquire about the obvious differences between their role and status and those of men, especially as it affects their ministerial effectiveness. What surprised some people was the frankness of the discussion. The tone, perhaps more than the content, is what is new. Women expect to be taken seriously and even popes have to listen.
They asked Francis about women preaching, something that deacons do. He replied that in prayer services, or Liturgy of the Word, it is not a problem. But when the Liturgy of the Word meets the Liturgy of the Eucharist and they become a Mass, it is another question because then Jesus is the presider and only men can image Jesus. The Church is female, the priest male. It is sort of like egg meets sperm and sperm wins. He seems to believe that the symbols work that way, a kind of primitive anthropology in this day and age. Good heavens. No wonder the women suggested that he set up a commission to study the question.
Though the soccer-loving pope joked that he felt like a goalie fielding questions from all sides, it is a good bet that he had indeed seen the questions in advance. In fact, the latter part of the conversation was based on written materials, adding evidence that he had indeed probably thought about all of his responses. It remains to be seen if and when the commission will be set up, who will be on it, and when it will deliver some response. Francis has been to enough meetings to know that the fastest way to slow something down is to appoint a committee. So he did, knowing that this slippery slope to women’s ordination is virtually inevitable unless the church wants to persist in contradiction.
My guess is that this matter will get fast-tracked for several reasons.
First, the Vatican knows it has a huge market-share problem related directly to its treatment of women. Imagine this or any pope three years from now meeting with these 900 nuns, much less with 900 of their closest secular (that is, not nuns) friends, and being asked the same question about women deacons and having no substantial answer. A pope could get away with that in the last century, but today’s ease of communication allows no such luxury. Besides, even in Rome there is now a dim realization unto healthy fear of women’s growing confidence and expectations of justice.
Second, the research on women deacons is largely done. What remains is the theo-political wrangling over which way the administrative matter of ordination will go. Zagano et al have pored through the evidence and concluded that it’s a good bet that women were deacons. Scriptural evidence in Romans 16:1 and I Timothy 3:11 has been worked over thoroughly. Phoebe was not a Girl Scout but a deacon. Consensus is elusive, but church laws have been made on flimsier data. Further study is unlikely to yield new information, simply more opinions about history. As investment brokers say, past performance is no guarantee of future results. So it is in the Roman Catholic Church.
Third, the real question at hand is whether women deacons will be ordained as men are, both to the transitional and to the permanent diaconate, or whether women will be siphoned off into a spurious order of deaconesses who have a title but no authority. Think of it as parallel ladders, one of which, ordination to the diaconate, is a direct route to the presbyterate, episcopacy, and, de facto, the papacy. The other, naming women as deaconesses but giving them no authority or jurisdiction, is the ladder that goes nowhere.
My expectation—and I have longed to be proven wrong by the kyriarchal church but it has not happened—is that Pope Francis will steer women up the ladder that goes nowhere in terms of decision-making or jurisdiction. That would be consistent with his vapid statement about not judging LGBTIQ Catholics and his tinkering with annulment processes that have not led to substantive changes in teaching. In so doing, he will be seen to be acting kindly toward women when in fact he will effectively coopt women’s ministry in the name of a dubious “feminine genius” that he insists is so valuable to the church. He will succeed in keeping women busy doing the daily maintenance tasks of the community, thus freeing up men to preach, teach, and make decisions. The pattern is predictable.
It is highly probable that even these crumbs will be given only to women in canonical religious communities—that is to sisters—who have already signaled by their vow of obedience some willingness to cooperate with the current system in exchange for public status as religious. This is a nightmare scenario insofar as it will divide women from one another. I regret to say it is not out of the question, but I urge women to guard against it by rejecting any offers that come only to some and with strings.
Fourth, the Pope has painted himself into a corner from which he wants to escape. As recently as the meeting with the UISG, Francis warned against “the danger of clericalism in the Church today” which problem he would only exacerbate by adding women to the clerical ranks. Having raised the question and promised a study on women deacons, the pope is on thin ice to step back from some substantive reform related to women. I doubt it will come on birth control or abortion. If he names women deaconesses and does not ordain women to the diaconate and eventually presbyterate, he proves himself to be yet another Catholic patriarch bent on keeping women in their place. If he ordains women to the diaconate and presbyterate, he reinforces and reinscribes the very clericalism he disdains. This is the conundrum he faces.
In for a dime, in for a dollar
If he asked my advice, I would say in for a dime, in for a dollar, Francis. I would urge him to take a step back from the gender question and return to the matter of function. Ministry is a function, something every baptized Christian is expected to do by virtue of baptism, not by virtue of ordination. There is ample evidence that the current hierarchical structure of ministry and decision-making is woefully inadequate to meet the needs of a global church. The clerical sex abuse crisis and its cover-up is all one needs to examine to make that case. But everything from poor quality sermons to lack of pastoral care shows the need for change.
Francis would be well advised to put a moratorium on ordaining anyone, male, female or beyond the gender binaries. He would do well to set up a series of discussions on ministry and ecclesiology around the world. These would include well informed theologians, active ministers, committed church members a majority of whom would be young people, to imagine and construct together some new models of church to be lived out locally for a decade and then be evaluated. In the meantime, ministry, including Eucharist, would be the responsibility of the whole community.
Those churches could be linked virtually, governed democratically at the local level, and be seen as catholic in the fullest sense of the term. How ministry and decision-making are handled would be up to local groups according to their needs. The Vatican would find that many of its current functions are unnecessary so the institutional church could save precious resources on a bloated bureaucracy. Those could be redirected to feed, clothe, and shelter people with plenty left over for structural change work on a global scale.
To do so would bring about a new Pentecost and open a new chapter in catholic (lowercase “c”) history. Go for it, Francis. There is nothing to lose and a world of good to be gained."
Bridget Mary's Response:
I agree with Mary Hunt that the scholarship of the Vatican and theologians like Phyllis Zagano supports women deacons and that clericalism is a major concern of  Pope Francis. It is a major concern of mine too.  I believe that baptism makes us all spiritual equals and all are equally beloved and have a place at an open table. I also affirm that  a community calls forth its spiritual and liturgical leaders and ordination is not required to celebrate sacraments. There is no evidence that anyone was ordained in the early house churches.  
I don't agree that Pope Francis will stop ordaining men in order to fix this contradiction. I see the ordination of women deacons as a possible first step to the full equality of women including priests and decision-making. His worst choice is a second rate "deaconess" model that is not an ordained ministry. Thousands of women right now are serving the church, doing everything a future deaconess does, including many nuns!
The international Roman Catholic Women Priests Movement is making a bridge between the institutional church clerical model  and a  community of equals model of ministry. Our ordinations are prophetic acts of justice that witness Gospel inclusivity and equality. 
Bridget Mary Meehan, ARCWP,,