Saturday, August 13, 2016

"With Holy Orders, Hierarchy Can't Have It Both Ways" by Sister Chris Schenck, National Catholic Reporter, Female Deacons, in the early church model, is a no-brainer!

Bridget Mary's Response: If Pope Francis restores the early church  understanding of women deacons as influential leaders in the church with a sacramental ministry of baptizing and anointing the sick, as well as a liturgical role in preaching, celebrating weddings and funerals in communities where they live, then, contemporary women deacons will bring healing and new life to a church in need of women's voices and wisdom.   
The international Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests Movement lives a discipleship of equals model of priestly ministry. We serve in inclusive communities where all are invited to receive sacraments at our liturgical celebrations. All are equal, all are welcome, all are family, all are the Body of Christ, blessed, broken and shared.   Therefore, the full equality of women in the church means that all leadership positions including priests and bishops must be open to women in a church that honors everyone's baptismal equality.  Bridget Mary Meehan, ARCWP,

  • First-century female deacon Phoebe (Romans 16:1-2) preaches in an early Christian house church, in artwork by Laura James. (Courtesy of FutureChurch)

"Ok, here's my take on Pope Francis' new commission on the female diaconate:
It's good.
And here are some reasons why.
For the first time in history, we have a gender-balanced papal commission. When has that ever happened before?
While Vatican spokesperson Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi said Francis' commission idea was a"spontaneous" response to a question at an international meeting of Catholic sisters, I'm not buying it. First, no nun would ever spring a surprise question on the pope, especially in a public forum. Second, papal questions were solicited from the sisters months ahead of time. Francis had already considered his response very carefully before he replied publicly.
As commissions go, the timeline between announcement and selection of commission members was quite short. Names were quickly solicited from Catholic sisters in the International Union of Superiors General and Cardinal Gerhard Müller at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Then Francis, "after intense prayer and mature reflection" appointed a "Commission for the Study of the Diaconate of Women"​ to explore the history of the female diaconate "in the earliest times of the church."
To me, this says Francis is serious about the need to resolve the historical issue, and he wants it done quickly.
What is puzzling is that the heavy lifting on the history of the female diaconate was completed decades ago and Francis probably knows it. Notice he didn't ask the doctrinal congregation itself to set up a new commission. Instead, he said he would "ask them to refer him to some studies on this issue."
It is well-known that Müller opposes ordaining women deacons. Müller says the diaconate is irrevocably linked to the priesthood. If the sacrament of holy orders can't be given to women priests, then it can't be given to women deacons either.
The problem with this position is that in the history of the early church -- the one that Francis is so eager to look at -- priestly and diaconal ordinations were not linked, because ordination meant something quite different in the fourth century than it does today.
For example, in some third- and fourth-century communities, deacons were the administrators of church properties and their authority was second only to that of the bishop.
Ordination was given to members of a Christian community for a particular function in that very community. It wasn't an irrevocable power that could be exercised anywhere else. But in the 12th century, ordination rules changed. Now only ministries relating to service at the altar were authorized and only the orders of priest, deacon and subdeacon were recognized. Priests and deacons could also minister to communities outside the ones in which they were ordained.
Significantly for the questions at hand, Professor Gary Macy tells us, "All of the other earlier orders were no longer considered to be orders at all."
A highly influential late-12th-century Western canonist, Huguccio of Bologna, wrote that even if a woman were to be ordained, it would not "take" because she was biologically female. What is more, because she was biologically female, a woman could never have been truly ordained in the first place. Therefore, all past female ordinations were not ordinations at all, at least according to the new understanding of ordination.
This is essentially the argument that Müller and Fr. Karl-Heinz Menke, a member of the commission, are pursuing today. They are anachronistically projecting backward an understanding of sacramental ordination that didn't exist in the early church.
Given that male ordinations in previous centuries also entailed a different understanding of the meaning of orders, one could argue that male ordinations in the early church didn't "take" either, a point that seems to have escaped our esteemed churchmen.
There is ample evidence that women were sacramentally ordained to the diaconate in the early church -- as sacramental ordination was understood at the time.
So it remains to be seen how this new commission will play out.
Francis did not publicly ask for recommendations about restoring the female diaconate. If he really wants to know the history, the history is already there and the highly competent people on the commission will fill him in. (For ongoing media updates and commentary on the new commission,follow this link.)
Whether this will convince our pope to ordain female deacons today is unclear, but I'm all for it. There is a great need for expanded pastoral care in the developing world, where so many sisters and dedicated laity serve thousands of Catholics suffering from a sacramental famine caused by too few priests.
In the global North, Catholic women and men long to see gender balance on our altars and to hear the Gospel preached through a feminine lens. Women deacons could help meet this critical need.
I cannot conclude this column without addressing the question that Müller and other churchmen seem to be so afraid will arise if we restore our long history of ordaining women deacons.
OMG, we could have women priests!
Our church hierarchy can't have it both ways. If the diaconate and priesthood are not irrevocably linked, as is evident in the early church, there is a strong precedent for ordaining women deacons to serve the church today.
If the hierarchy continues the church's 12th-century precedent of refusing ordination to anyone with a uterus, while irrevocably linking bishop, priest and deacon, this teaching is doomed to fail.
Recently, Fr. Hans Küng reported that Francis "set no restrictions" in his reply to Küng's request to discuss "the dogma of papal infallibility." If it's OK to discuss infallibility, then surely we can also discuss the nondogmatic teaching banning women from the priesthood.
That said, I agree with Phyllis Zagano that this is a completely different kettle of fish than ordaining female deacons.
For one thing, the women priest discussion involves different ecclesial issues that are, in fact, linked to infallibility. In my view, and that of theologians I respect, churchmen inappropriately invokedinfallibility in a misguided attempt to not only squelch discussion of women's priestly ordination, but also to squelch discussion of other urgent issues in the church, such as responsible family planning and homosexual love.
What makes church teaching authoritative and what exactly constitutes the "infallibility of the ordinary and universal magisterium" are very big questions indeed, ones that will require time to mature. Thanks to Hans Küng and Pope Francis, it now looks as if these conversations can be held without fear of reprisal.
In the meantime, reinstating the female diaconate is a no brainer."
[St. Joseph Sr. Christine Schenk served urban families for 18 years as a nurse midwife before co-founding FutureChurch, where she served for 23 years. She holds master's degrees in nursing and theology.]

Commemoration of Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by Janice Sevre Duszynska ARCWP

This August 6 – 9th, Max Obusewski and I took part in events to commemorate the 71st anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Twenty-five of us gathered on Pennsylvania Avenue near the White House on August 6th from 8–9 a.m. At 8:15 a.m. we became silent as this was the time the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. Mr. Toshijuki Mimaki, a Hiroshima Hibakusha (A-bomb Survivor) was pleased that President Obama was the first US President to visit Hiroshima. However, he was disappointed because President Obama did not issue an apology. Nevertheless, he was presented with an Apology Petition crafted by Art Laffin of Dorothy Day Catholic Worker and Scott Wright. The Petition had 555 signatures.

“We apologize to the people of Japan – and to the survivors of the bombing, the Hibakusha – for our country’s bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and we ask forgiveness for these atrocities. We repent for the continued proliferation of nuclear weapons at the expense of unmet human needs. Further, we offer repentance for threatening to use nuclear weapons and keeping many of them on a first-strike hair-trigger alert. We firmly resolve, with God’s grace and mercy, to reject the false idols of nuclear weapons, and to embrace the life affirming work of abolishing these weapons of terror.”

After the completion of the vigil, Max and I went over to Lafayette Park to congratulate the two anti-nuclear weapons protestors for their persistence.
Max  Obusewski
The following evening we gathered to commemorate Hiroshima in Baltimore on 33rd Street near Johns Hopkins University and were joined by 40 people who held anti-nuke and anti-war signs. Also protested were JHU’s weapons contracts, including killer drone research.

We then walked to nearby Homewood Friends Meeting House where we listened to dulcimer music performed by Joe Byrne of Jonah House and poetry by Dave Eberhardt. Mr. Mimaki gave a Power Point presentation including photos taken the devastation and suffering caused by the atomic bomb blast. The Hibakusha’s greatest fear is that when they are gone, the memory of Hiroshima and Nagasaki will disappear and nuclear weapons will be used again. After words, we enjoyed ourselves at Niwana, a Japanese restaurant. Max presented Mr. Mimaki with a blue peace scarf from Afghanistan. Mr. Mimaki said he would take the scarf and show it to the mayor of Hiroshima.
Janice Sevre Duszynska ARCWP and Sister Megan Rice
On the 9th, I took the MARC train to Washington, D.C. to stay overnight with Sr. Megan Rice and the other sisters at their convent, a lovely Georgian-style house near Catholic University. Before our supper, we prayed together. Later, I shared that this was the 8th anniversary of my ordination. The next morning we were up at 5 a.m. to witness in the free speech zone at the Pentagon from 7 – 8 a.m. Many employees passed by us on their way to work as we recited a Litany of Repentance, the Gospel Transfiguration reading from Mark 9:2-10, and reflection by Marie Dennis. We were not allowed to take photos. I read Daniel Berrigan’s poem, “Shadow on the Rock”:

At Hiroshima there’s a museum
and outside the museum there’s a rock,
and on the rock, there’s a shadow.
That shadow is all that remains
Of the human being who stood there on August 6, 1945
when the nuclear age began.
In the most real sense of the word,
That is the choice before us.
We shall either end war and the nuclear arms race in this generation,
Or we will become Shadows On the Rock.

Art concluded our vigil with the poignant ballad, “I Come and Stand”

I come and stand at every door
But no one hears my silent prayer
I knock and yet remain unseen
For I am dead, for I am dead.
I am only seven although I died
In Hiroshima long ago
I’m seven now as I was then
When children die they do not grow.
My hair was scorched by a swirling flame
My eyes grew dim, my eyes grew blind
Death came and turned my bones to dust
And that was scattered by the wind.
I need no fruit, I need no rice
I need no sweets nor even bread
I ask for nothing for myself
For I am dead, for I am dead.
All that I ask is that for peace
You work today, you work today
So that the children of this world
May live and grow and laugh and play.

That evening we gathered again at Homewood Friends Meeting House in Baltimore for a Nagasaki Commemoration potluck dinner. There was a recognition that gun violence is an unrelenting epidemic in Baltimore and the USA. Firmin DeBrabander, a professor of philosophy at the Maryland Institute College of Art and author of Do Guns Make Us Free, offered some possible solutions to the gun violence epidemic.

Friday, August 12, 2016

"Pope Meets Victims of Prostitution" and" Irish Theologian Criticizes Irish Bishops Absence at Fr, Sean Fagan's Funeral"

Estimates hold there are 46 million people around the world who are being bought, sold and treated as slaves, and recent statistics show that the number is not decreasing but sky-rocketing.

According to Hanley, Fagan's constant mission was to help people understand the prodigal love of God -- "we all matter, we are all loved by God without reference to privilege or status."
"He told me there were times he wept after hearing confessions in the past, to see the damage done by the church to people's sense of self, the poor moral development and the desperate scruples than many suffered," she said. "Sean had no tolerance for clerical privilege. ... He rarely wore the black suit and Roman collar. He had a deep distaste for episcopal robes and pomp and circumstance."
A prominent Irish theologian has strongly criticized the absence of Irish bishops from the funeral Mass of moral theologian, Marist Fr. Sean Fagan, who was censured by the Vatican in 2008, and who died on July 15.
Augustinian Fr. Gabriel Daly, 88, wrote in a blog on the Association of Catholic Priests' website that the presence of a bishop at Fr Fagan's funeral would have been "a golden occasion to express metanoia and the readiness to respond more sensitively to the message of the Gospel" and it would have meant so much to the Marist priest's family.
The Augustinian, who recently published The Church -- Always in Need of Reform, said the presence of a bishop at Fagan's funeral would have given witness to the triumph of Gospel values over institutional church attitudes. "Regrettably no bishop was present," he wrote. "I believe that this omission was not personal; it was institutional."
"It is highly probable that many bishops knew that the Roman Curia had behaved in a thoroughly unjust and unchristian fashion when it attacked six Irish priests who were giving admirable and enlightened service to God's people," he continued. "No bishop expressed public disapproval of what was happening, or came to the defense of priests who were being treated so appallingly by men who would have described themselves, somewhat implausibly, as Christians."

His criticism was echoed by another censured Irish priest, Redemptorist Fr. Tony Flannery, who toldNCR, "It is a matter of shame for Church authorities, both in the Vatican and Ireland, that he was treated so dreadfully in his later years."

"Women deacons? Yes. Deacons? Maybe" by Thomas Reese SJ, National Catholic Reporter

Bridget Mary's Response:
Opening up the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick to deacons, in my view, would be a compassionate response to a major pastoral need. 
Catholics would welcome the presence of a deacon's ministry when seriously ill. 
Thomas Reese cites Phyllis Zagano's scholarship that historical evidence supports women deacons anointing the sick in the early Church. 
 I believe that women deacons could be a stepping stone to the full equality of women, including priesthood, in the Catholic Church. We need a complete renewal of ministry for ordained ministry in a non-clerical, community of equals model. 

"When I was asked by a reporter last week whether I favored women deacons, I hesitated and finally responded, “If there are male deacons, there should be female deacons.”

The media is interested in this issue because Pope Francis appointed a papal commission to study the question of women deacons, including as a member our esteemed NCR colleague, Phillis Zagano.

Zagano has shown in her many writings that there were ordained women deacons in the early church. They disappeared in the West around the same time as male deacons. If there were women deacons in the past, the arguments goes, there is no reason we could not have women deacons today.

I find that argument convincing, but frankly, even if there were not women deacons in the past, I would still argue for ordaining women deacons today, just as I would argue for ordaining women priests. True, Jesus did not pick any women for the Twelve Apostles, but he did not pick any gentiles either. We would really have a priest shortage today if the priesthood was limited to Jewish Christians.

The church today does many things that Jesus and the early Christians did not do. For example, they would not recognize the Eucharist as we celebrate it today, nor would they understand why we are doing it in churches rather than in homes, and they would be appalled by all the statues (idols) in our churches. Before statues were accepted, the church went through a very ugly Iconoclastic Controversy. And during the Reformation, this controversy broke out again.

Even today, the Catholic church has a difficult time dealing with change. During the last two papacies, all discussion of serious change was suppressed. Today, the window closed after the Second Vatican Council has been reopened. This does not mean that every new proposal should be accepted, but it does mean that we should be open to serious conversation and debate on change in the church, especially on the role of women in the church. This debate should occur without name-calling but rather as friends in the Lord seeking what is best for God’s people.

Back to deacons.

You will notice that I said I hesitated when asked whether I supported women deacons. My hesitancy is not with women deacons, but with the whole idea of deacons as currently practiced in the United States.

The renewal of the diaconate was proposed at the Second Vatican Council as a solution to the shortage of native priests in missionary territories. In fact, the bishops of Africa said, no thank you. They preferred to use lay catechists rather than deacons.

It was in the United States where the diaconate took off. Of the approximately 45,000 permanent deacons in the world, around 18,500, or about 40 percent, are in the United States. Almost 80 percent of these deacons are in active ministry, according to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, but only one out of six of these active deacons are financially compensated for their ministry. Thus, most U.S. deacons are part-time ministers and/or unpaid.

I find this odd. The U.S. church has lots of paid, lay ministers working full time while at the same time it has ordained deacons working part time, most of whom make a living doing secular work. Why are we ordaining part-time ministers and not full-time ministers?

Please note. I am not saying that deacons do not do good work for the church.

But the truth is that a layperson can do everything that a deacon can do.

A layperson can preside over a Scripture service or a funeral, things that deacons commonly do.

True, a layperson cannot give a homily after the Gospel at Mass. But that is simply a rule of canon law, which can be easily changed. There is no need to ordain people so they can give homilies. Just change the law.

True, deacons can baptize, but so can laypeople. I was baptized by a Sister of St. Joseph in the hospital when they thought I would die shortly after birth. That is why my middle name is Joseph. Baptisms by laypeople have always been recognized by the church.

True, deacons can witness weddings, but in Catholic theology the ministers of the sacrament of marriage are the two people getting married. The priest or deacon simply “assists” (Canon 1108). There is no reason a layperson could not perform this function, in fact Canon 1112 permits it under certain circumstances.

The truth is that we have deacons for the same reason we have auxiliary bishops, because they get more respect. Clericalism is so engrained in the Catholic soul that people will give greater deference to a deacon than a layperson; priests and people will give greater deference to an auxiliary bishop than to a priest, even if the priest is a vicar general. Ordination gives status beyond the actual competence of the person.

There is, however, one way to save the diaconate. Give it a ministry that serves a real need, one that laypeople cannot do -- anointing of the sick.

Today, if someone in your family is dying and you call the parish office after hours, you are more likely to get voicemail than a priest. Your chances of being anointed on your deathbed are miniscule in America. If you are lucky, you might be in the hospital when the priest makes a periodic visit. Or you might live in a parish that anoints elderly or sick people once a month at a weekday Mass. Otherwise, good luck.

Allowing deacons to anoint the sick would give them a sacramental ministry that meets an important pastoral need in our country.

There is not much historical evidence that male deacons anointed the sick, but interestingly, there is evidence that women deacons anointed sick women, just as women deacons anointed women at baptism. “Epiphanius says it, and Jean Danielou, among others, affirms it,” according to Zagano.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the historical actions of women deacons provided the precedent for allowing both male and female deacons to anoint the sick? This is another reason I hope that the church allows women deacons."

[Jesuit Fr. Thomas Reese is a senior analyst for NCR and author of Inside the Vatican: The Politics and Organization of the Catholic Church. His email address is]

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A Celtic Woman for All Times: Nano Nagle: Mystic, Prophet, Educator, Advocate Founder of Presentation Sisters by Lee McCoy

Special thanks to Lee McCoy for sharing her project for a Global Ministries University Course on Celtic Holy Women by Bridget Mary Meehan ARCWP

Reference List:

Dowley, M., Grant, S., & Quinn, C. (2009). The Life of Nano Nagle [Pamphlet]. Cork, Ireland: Presentation Sisters.

Earle, M. C. (2011). Celtic Christian spirituality: Essential writings-- annotated and explained. Woodstock, VT: SkyLight Paths Pub.

Flanagan, B., Lanzetta, B., & Tillman, J. (2013). Embracing solitude: Women and new monasticism. Eugene, Oregon: Wipf and Stock.

Fox, N. (2016). A dream unfolds: The story of Nano Nagle. Blackrock, Dublin, Ireland: The Columba Press.

Maguire, A. (2013). Praying with Christian mystics. Blackrock, Dublin, Ireland: The Columba Press.

McColman, C. (2003). Complete idiot's guide to Celtic wisdom. Indianapolis, IN: Alpha.

Meehan, B. M., & Oliver, R. M. (2003). Praying with Celtic holy women. Liguori, MO: Liguori/Triumph.

Rev. Sister Immaculata. (1968). Nano Nagle: Lover of Children, Friend of the Poor[Pamphlet]. Tallaght, Dublin, Ireland: Folens & Co. Ltd.

Sister Nora Delaney, PBVM [Personal interview]. (2015, August 15).

Waal, E. D. (1997). The Celtic way of prayer. New York: Doubleday.

Walsh, T. J. (1959). Nano Nagle and the Presentation Sisters. Dublin: M.H. Gill and Son.

Wyse, C. (2006). Not words, but deeds: Nano Nagle's daring venture and the founding of the Presentation Sisters. St. John's, NL: Flanker Press.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

"Ordination of a renegade priest: 'I am ready’" Judy Dahl RCWP by Ross Anderson

Jefferson County resident Judy Dahl (left), with Bishop Olivia Doko of the Roman Catholic Women Priests, on Aug. 5 at Cape George, where Dahl was ordained. Photo courtesy Leah Mitchell

Roman Catholic Women Priests is an international group of devout Catholics founded in Germany in 2002 for the purpose of defying and changing a fundamental Catholic Church doctrine. Here, Bishop Olivia Doko (center, red) and members pose with newly ordained Judy Dahl (to Doko's left). Photo courtesy Leah Mitchell

As a devout Catholic schoolgirl in the 1950s, Judy Dahl was certain that she had been called to become a priest.

She was, of course, dreaming the impossible dream. For centuries, the Catholic Church has insisted that the priesthood is restricted to men. Even Pope Francis, the popular reformist, has made it clear that “the door is closed” to women.

Last weekend, however, Dahl’s dream was fulfilled when she stood at the front of the Cape George Colony clubhouse and, in a solemn and ancient ceremony, was ordained a priest by nearly 200 friends, neighbors and fellow Catholics.

When formally asked if she was prepared for her mission, she grinned and announced to her congregation: “I am ready. I am so ready!”

Dahl is under no illusions that her ordination will be recognized by the Catholic Church – “probably not in my lifetime,” she says. Nor will any of the other nearly 200 women in the United States and Europe who have been ordained by Roman Catholic Women Priests (RCWP), an international group of devout Catholics founded on a boat in Germany’s Danube River for the purpose of defying and changing a fundamental church doctrine.

But it’s safe to say that, with or without Vatican recognition, few priests in the U.S. or across the globe have been ordained with the knowledge, experience and credentials Dahl brings to the vocation. Over her long career, she has served as a cloistered nun, earned a doctorate of divinity from a prestigious seminary, served 30 years as a full-time pastor in the U.S. and abroad, and much, much more.

Judy Dahl is a passionate 68-year-old perhaps best-known for a beatific smile that appears to have been painted by a Renaissance master.

A Port Townsend resident for nearly a decade, she set off on her spiritual journey half a century ago in Phoenix, where she grew up in a staunch Catholic family. She attended Catholic schools and then joined a Benedictine convent in Minnesota.

“I was there three years,” she says. “It was a cloistered convent. We wore the habit and lived in total silence, except for 30 minutes a day when we were permitted to speak to our fellow novices – but to nobody else.”

Eventually, she decided the convent was not her calling. She left and worked as a flight attendant for more than a decade.

Meanwhile, she came out as a lesbian. “That led to real upheaval,” she recalls. “My family disowned me.”

Based in Southern California, Dahl found her way to the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC), a nondenominational church that ministers primarily to gay and lesbian communities. There, she says, she was able to answer her childhood calling. She earned a master’s in divinity from Iliff School of Theology in Denver, became a student minister and, in 1979, an ordained minister at MCC.

She soon was promoted to district coordinator, overseeing 37 churches with 85 clergies across the Southwest.

“These were hard years,” she recalls. “Many states still had sodomy laws on the books. The AIDS epidemic was at its height. There was a parade of funerals, and I lived with that for nearly 15 years – a struggle for people to simply keep living while trying to maintain a spiritual center.”

Dahl worked with the church for 30 years, served on its governing board, worked with Cuban refugees and eventually served as director of a global program that reached out to LGBTQ people in Africa and Asia.

She continued her studies and earned her doctorate of divinity from San Francisco Theological Seminary. Meanwhile, she and her partner adopted two young children.

Ten years ago, Dahl retired and moved to Cape George, just west of Port Townsend, with her partner, Carol Wood, a retired Los Angeles lawyer. Dahl has stayed busy as a hospice volunteer, a singer in the Community Chorus of Port Townsend and East Jefferson County, and much more.

The Catholic Church she grew up with seemed like a distant memory, she says. But she never desired to leave the church. “The church left me by prohibiting me from pursuing my calling.”

Three years ago, however, she visited her daughter in California, and a friend handed her a videotape of “Pink Smoke over the Vatican,” a documentary about efforts to open the priesthood to women. (The film has been shown at the Port Townsend Film Festival and is available in the PTFF library.)

“I thought about it, and initially all I could think was, ‘No, No, No! That’s not me.’”

But she stayed in touch with leaders in RCWP, which has now ordained 43 women in western states, including 15 in the Pacific Northwest.

“It was the same calling I’d heard for so long,” Dahl recalls. “Sometimes God calls, and sometimes people call. But it was the same call I’d heard when I was 8 years old. And, at some point, it comes down to being true to yourself and honoring God’s presence outside yourself.”

She drove down to Olympia and met with two RCWP women who live and work there. And she decided to proceed.

The RCWP is hardly a radical organization. The group is composed mostly of middle-age and older women, many of them married with children and grandchildren. Their stories are not unlike Dahl’s – lifelong Catholics who decided their church was deeply wrong on a number of issues, and especially the role of women.

They argue that women served as priests from the earliest days of the church, beginning with Mary Magdalene, and that men monopolized leadership for economic reasons that had nothing to do with scripture. And even as women have taken leadership in virtually every other Christian denomination – not to mention government – the Vatican continues to insist on barring half the world’s population from the priesthood.

The movement gurgled silently for some time until 2002, when seven women were ordained in a traditional service aboard a ship cruising the Danube River. The women were promptly excommunicated along with the Argentine bishop who presided over their ordinations. But this set up a “line of succession” that, in their view, empowered those women to ordain others.

Applying was merely the beginning of a process of preparation at least as rigorous as the church’s own. Dahl was subjected to a thorough background check and a psychological evaluation conducted by a former priest turned psychologist. She was required to complete 10 units of theological study.

Dahl was resistant. She’d been there, done that. Her partner asked why “an old lady” would want to subject herself to such a test.

But she did, ultimately leading to the two-hour ceremony on Aug. 6 in a waterfront clubhouse usually used for neighborhood potlucks, yoga classes and quilting bees.

It became a neighborhood event. Dozens of friends stepped up to help decorate, host receptions, catch and cook Dungeness crab and open their homes to visiting RCWP priests from across the West. Then they sat in folding chairs to take part in an event few of them had ever imagined.

The liturgy was the same that is prescribed by the Vatican, with the exception of the gender pronouns, and the addition of gluten-free bread for the Eucharist. Dahl was escorted down the center aisle by a cadre of robed priests. As a visiting soloist chanted the names of saints, Dahl lay prostrate before Bishop Olivia Doko, a tall, regal Californian with a whimsical pink wisp in her white hair to assure her friends that she doesn’t take herself too seriously.

Later, Dahl sat as friends and supporters from Port Townsend and beyond filed past, reverently laying their hands on her head, an ancient gesture of spiritual support.

“It is with great joy,” Doko finally announced, “that I present to you our new priest, Judy Dahl.”

The hall erupted in applause. Doko and Dahl presided over the Communion service. And the deed was done.

Dahl doesn’t know what she will do next. “I’m an old lady,” she says. “It’s not about me. It’s about making the way for others, walking side by side with people trying to make a better world.”

Other people are working to change the Catholic Church from within, and Dahl respects those efforts. But she still feels called to do more. At a time when women around the world are taking their rightful places in churches and business and politics, her mission is to address “one of the last bastions of misogyny on the planet.”

And she is ready.

(Ross Anderson is a Leader contributor and retired Seattle Times reporter. He lives in the Cape George community, where Judy Dahl is a neighbor and friend.)

Video Clip: Donnieu Snyder, RCWP; A Message to Pope Francis

Articles on women priests, debate on celibacy and gay priesthood. and more

Irish Times: Letter of Support for Roman Catholic Women Priests

This  letter by Brendan Butler raises the issue of spiritual, theological and pastoral preparation of Irish priests . View link to People's Catholic Seminary to see our online courses. I believe that priestly preparation should prepare mystics, prophets and sacramental ministers in an empowered community of equals, a non-clerical approach.
230 is the number in our worldwide RCWP Movement.
ARCWP is one of the  branches of the international Roman Catholic Women Priests Movement.

An Irish welcome for group of women priests

Sir, – It was wonderful to read of an Irish woman, Bridget Mary Meehan, who is both an ordained priest and bishop in the 230-strong worldwide Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests, being welcomed back to Ireland (News, August 8th) Maybe the Irish hierarchy might welcome this organisation to train our aspiring priests in Maynooth and Rome. – Yours, etc,
Malahide, Co Dublin.

Bridget Mary Meehan ARCWPt, Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests