By: Jesús Castro
Saltillo, Coah.- A Catholic woman from Saltillo, Coahuila, entered a woman with a determined air and facing upwards . Her hair was tucked up and she had glasses on her head. He crossed the central aisle looking at the nape of the present, who had filled all the benches that evening, as if it were Sunday mass, but now there were a group of nuns in the front rows.
When he reached the front and was a few meters from the altar, he turned and smiled. Everyone's eyes narrowed strangely. The woman's upper garment was ecclesial, with a white staff like the one worn by the priests, but she wore a skirt. And her eyes opened when she revealed to them, "I am a priestess."
The same nuns present there saw it with strangeness, but with acceptance. They were looking at the female version of the priests whom they are accustomed to serve and help, only with a skirt and a little lip.
On that day the woman priest was not there to consecrate bread and wine, but to speak of the dignity of women in religion. Her name is Amparo Lerín Cruz, and she is one of the first two Mexicans ordained by the Mexican Communion of Reformed and Presbyterian Churches.
But they are not the only priestesses in Mexico, they are also of other religious denominations, like the Anglican Church, that counts almost 10 Mexican women ordained priestesses, as many deaconesses and could even have a Bishop.
Since 1994 some churches, such as the Anglican, the US Episcopalians or the Lutherans of Sweden and Germany, have already recognized their ecclesial dignity and not only female priests, also bishops, ordain.
According to figures from 2010, that year more priests were ordained than priests: 290 women compared to 273 men. Since 2000, some 500 new male priests have been ordained each year, but some 300 have retired and as many leave the ministry.
In Mexico as in other parts of the world they have not had it easy. While the Anglican women arrived on the way, other religious denominations worked against the tide. This is the case of Amparo Lerín, who belonged to the National Presbyterian Church of Mexico.
She herself was a speaker during the Council on the Ordination of Women in December 2011, but the Presbyterians refused to validate the female priesthood. And she along with seven other members managed to find the way to make the female priesthood a reality.
While that happens in other religious denominations, in the Catholic Church the subject goes slow. There was an attempt 15 years ago at a world-wide meeting of theologians requested by the Vatican to study the female priesthood, which was attended by the Dominican friar Julian Cruzalta.
And now, Pope Francis created a special commission to study the possibility of granting the diaconate to women. Julian Cruzalta says that the path in the Catholic Church is slow and if something happens it will be in 30 years.
On the altar, two brown hands spread and take bread. Whoever officiates the Eucharist, solemnly adorned with multicolored ornament, pronounces the words that Jesus Christ said 20 centuries ago. "This is my body given to you. Take and eat all and all of it. "
The rite continues to raise the wineglass and offer it to the assembled ones at the table of the Lord. The ecclesial community is gathered and waiting for the moment to share the bread. And she does, yes, she, the woman in black skirt who has just blessed bread and wine is the one who presides.
His name is Amparo Lerín Cruz and he was born in the capital of Oaxaca. His father was originally from the region of La Cañada and his mother from Etla. His mother was of Pentecostal religion, while his father declared himself an atheist, although he was the son of Catholics.
"We were sometimes dropped off at Sunday school, going eventually. My paternal grandmother was Catholic, my aunts too, then they took me to mass, taught me to pray, my mother taught me to pray. I prayed, "says Amparo.
But at the end of his adolescence decided to follow the evangelical religion and began to attend the Presbyterian Church. He participated in missions carrying food, clothing and medical brigades to rural communities. Little by little he fell in love with the service, and that is when the vocation arises.
One day, while in a youth camp, he spoke with one of his pastors and confessed that he felt the call of God to serve. The answer was that he keep praying to ask God for direction, so that he can confirm the call. And so he did.
"There was a time when I told my pastor 'I'm ready. I have something saved and I want to go to Seminary. ' And I said 'I do not know if they accept women'. Let me speak to the Presbyterian Theological Seminary of Mexico. He talked and then he said 'yes they do accept women', he recalls.
The next thing was to tell his parents. When they were confessed, they told him that he was very young, that he first studied a university career, had his house, his car, which he had exercised. That is why he entered the career of Business Administration, from which he graduated at age 22.
"Those four years of the race, my parents thought I would forget. On the contrary, I affirmed it. I asked the Lord that if it was not His will to tell me in some way, but it was not. I worked, I exercised; I still exercise as an administrator, but the passion for service, for the apostolate, continues, "Amparo said.
So when he finished the race he went to work and made some savings to go to the Seminary. When he had enough, he returned with his parents to inform him that he was going to Mexico, that he was already enrolled in the Seminary and that he would dedicate his life to God.
There began the problems. Amparo stops a little. Some tears peek out of her eyes as she tells her parents to tell her to register without her permission. He told them that she was of age and could decide for herself.
They thought differently, theirs was a very conservative home, where the parents decided on the children's lives. Amparo interrupts the interview again by a knot that has been made in her throat. And then he talks choppy.
"Then my mother told me 'we do not know you as a daughter. We disown you. ' I know it was not much that touched me, but it did hurt me a lot, but I said 'well, I already decided', continues the story wiping tears.
He told them that it did not matter that they disinherited her, that they did not know her, that she was leaving. And despite the refusal, they accompanied her to deliver it to the Seminary and did not see them again until three months later, when her mother returned one day, she asked her forgiveness, told her that she loved her very much, that she missed her and forgot what she said Before, that she would always be part of the family.
UNTIL YOU ARRIVED
In the Seminary he studied the Master in Divinities and when he finished he found what all the women who studied Theology in the Presbyterian Church: that they do not pass from there. They could be teachers of children or women in their community, but they could not access the pastoral ministry.
The most they could access was to help the pastor of the community. And Amparo did it, because she was married to the shepherd Rubén Montelongo, with whom he fathered two children. But it was not the same thing, she exercised as an assistant, but the dignity of the ministry was his.
Then she and other members of the Community, men and women, began to work to show the need to give women priestly ordination. They knew that since 1985 they had ordained women deaconesses and others as elderly women of the Church.
But the general assembly of the Presbyterian National Church of Mexico did not know them. Even at some point they wanted to do a rite to remove the ordination, but they could not, did not know how to do it and chose to just ignore them.
Later, those working for the ordination of women or for this to take place within the Presbyterian Church organized a council in Chonacatlan in 2011 to be heard by the authorities of the Presbyterian Community.
At that time Amparo took the microphone and said that as a reformed church, when they were received in full communion for the sacrament of baptism, men and women enjoy the same rights, privileges, and responsibilities, so there should be no second class members.
"If the Church is the body of Christ, can we exclude some of its members? Can we exclude a part of the body of Christ that women are? No, it is not possible to do such a thing, it is not possible to side with women, because we are part of the body of Christ, "said December 2011.
He then laid out biblical and theological foundations to prove that the ordination of women was not against divine design, but quite the contrary, it was precisely a divine design instituted in the early church, which men then adjudicated.
But at the end of the Council they were vetoed, they were told that the issue would no longer be discussed, then the majority vote denied the possibility of female ordination. And some time later, the seven priests who fought the most for this cause excommunicated them.
"The women did not do anything to us, because we are not worth it. They do not see us, they do not see us, they can not do anything to us, but we do not recognize that excommunication, we do not recognize their power to get you out of the Lord's table, "Lerín Cruz said.
CISMA AND FEMALE ORDINATION
Before this panorama they decided to form a new Religious Association. They ignored the excommunication of the Presbyterian National Church of Mexico and formed the Mexican Communion of Reformed and Presbyterian Churches. It consisted of seven priests, two women with aspiration to ordain priestesses and seven communities or parishes.
And once constituted as AR they decided to order priestesses to Amparo Lerín and to Gloria González the 28 of October of the 2012, in the City of Mexico. Then to Margarita Islands, who already passed away.
"I was ordained a priest. I am a priest of the Word of the Lord, "proud Amparo says. He was 40 years old and had two children, one of 16 and one of 11. In that priestly ordination, there were his parents, who now support the ministry of women. And her husband, also a priest, accompanied her.
He explains that the denial of the churches to ordain women is due to men's fear of women entering a field that has been their territory for centuries. Fear of losing and competing. It is the machismo of the churches, fear that women have the same opportunities.
"But I start thinking, that's something divine. It is not something that men give us or not, it is something God calls us to be, and we can not say no to God, because they say no, that can not, "said the now priestess.
She said that in her case she has demonstrated as a priestess to give the same ministerial service that men perform in the Community of Faith People New, Zibacantepec, municipality of Almoloya de Juárez, in the State of Mexico, where she currently resides.
She exercises only two sacraments: Baptism and the Eucharist. They also minister weddings, but not as a sacrament, but as a blessing to couples. In the case of the breaking of the bread, they do so according to biblical custom, very similar to the one performed by Jesus Christ at the last supper, in which, Amparo assures, he was not only accompanied by 12 men, but also many more people.
"We have gone with the idea of the image of Da Vinci, where Jesus is at a table with the 12. But the table of the Lord was very inclusive. It was celebrated at the feast of the Passover, and the feast of the Passover was fully inclusive. They had to be the children of the house, the girls, the women, the whole family; The servants, the foreigners, the neighbors, "he says.
JESUS DID NOT ORDER PRIESTS
In the above, the Catholic theologian and friar Julian Cruzalta, who has been teaching Theology for more than 25 years, agrees. He is also co-founder of the Fray Francisco de Victoria Human Rights Center, which is the center of the Dominicans in Mexico.
"That idea we have of 12 men with Jesus at the last supper is a symbol of the 12 tribes of Israel. Of course there were more than 12, and there were women included, "says Cruzalta. However, the Church has been concerned with erasing that image by this macho patriarchal tradition.
Declares that today it is known that in the 1st and 2nd century there were no ministries as they exist now, there were no priests, they were communities of faith, they broke bread into houses, there were no temples, and the home was always a women's affair, while That the public land was of men.
Thus, in the early church women also made the breaking of bread, they also baptized, they also evangelized to the same degree of equality as men. There were women apostles and even some with more responsibilities than men.
"Jesus was not a feminist because that did not exist then. He was an inclusive being. It included men and women, could read the scriptures, and in them men and women were created in the image and likeness of God. It is a community of brothers and sisters, in this community women count just like men, "says Cruzalta.
There Cruzalta and Amparo again coincide. During the interview with Amparo Lerin, she quotes the Bible, especially chapter 16 of the Letter to the Romans, in which the apostle Paul speaks of the existence of deaconesses and other women founders of primitive churches, such as Corinth.
"I recommend to Phoebe, our sister, the deaconess of the church of Cencreas ... to Prisca and Aquila, my collaborators in Christ Jesus ... to Mary, who has worked hard for you, to Andronicus and Junia, distinguished among the apostles ... to Trifena And Trifosa, who have labored to serve the Lord ... to Persides, who labored much in the service of the Lord ... Philologus and Julia, Nereus and his sister, as well as Olimpas and all the saints who are with them, "says the text.
Cruzalta adds that Paul's letters speak of women prophets, deaconesses, who had many ministries women, because they did not have the current hierarchical structure. That the early church did not know it, it was the service, it did not give prestige, it was to serve, that's why there were many women serving their communities, breaking bread or baptizing, like men.
"There was no Eucharist. There was not what we have now, there was no ordained ministry, there were no priests, no men, no women. That is later. Jesus did not ordain any priest, no apostle, "declares the Catholic theologian.
Both Cruzalta and Amparo affirm that the primitive apostolate comes from the example given by Jesus, contrary to what they have tried to make us believe. There were women among the apostles and disciples of Jesus.
"Fundamentalists say no, that Jesus only ordained males; Did not order women. Well, Jesus never ordered anyone: neither men nor women, "says Amparo. What is a fact, he points out, is that Jesus had disciples, as the Gospel of Luke says, who followed him, 12 but also Juana, Susana, María and the other women, one of them the wife of Herod's administrator.
But there is something else. Jesus gives a woman the privilege of being the one who announces the most important event of her mission on earth: the resurrection. It is neither Peter nor any of the male apostles to whom Christ first appears once resurrected. Choose Mary Magdalene.
"She is the apostle apostolorum, the apostle over the apostles, because it was sent by Jesus Christ Himself. Jesus does not choose a man to tell them that I have risen, choose Mary. And an apostle means the envoy, the sent one, and being a priest is to be an envoy to preach the Word, "says Amparo.
Cruzalta also points out that Mary Magdalene is a disciple who becomes a spiritual teacher of the community, in the same rank as the rest of the apostles of Christ. And the rest of the women had the same dignity of ministerial service as the men.
The problem was when the Church left the houses and the worship was made public. Then the men dominated. Therefore, from the third century, when there were temples and public preaching, priestly ministries were created and men gave them to themselves. And they have preserved them for centuries, excluding the woman from the dignity of service that Jesus gave them.
SLOW CATHOLIC CHURCH
But the Catholic Church is no stranger to the possibility that women priestesses or at least deaconesses may one day be ordained. In 2005, seven women who were ordained priests by a dissident Catholic church were excommunicated 10 years ago.
The ordination of these women, four Germans, two Austrians and one American was in a boat that crossed the Danube river. The excommunication was signed by the then prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who would later become Pope Benedict XVI.
That same 2005, already become Pope, came to the light another woman ordained priest by the catholic rite, according to testified the BBC of London, in a enabled chaplain in a house, that attended a dozen of men and women
"The BBC had access to the ceremony on the condition that it did not reveal the exact place or identity of the woman, who wishes to remain anonymous because she fears losing her job as a religion teacher," it was published in the media so.
And other announcements arrived. That by July of that year eight Canadian women and one American woman would also challenge the Vatican when they were ordained priests in Canada, becoming the first Catholic women ordained priests in North America.
Those events coincide with the time when Julian Cruzalta was invited to the First Encounter on Women's Ordination convened by the Roman Catholic Church in Dublin, Ireland.
"We arrived as 800 people from all over the world. From India, from Australia, we worked for the ministry of women, and the final agreement was that what matters is not whether priests are ordained, but rather to be disciples of Jesus, men and women, "Cruzalta says.
The Dominican explains that the discussion was that the male priesthood is not service-oriented, but as a power, not as the service of the early church community in the first two centuries.
The first thing is the service, he says, as long as the ministry represents power and not service, it will be difficult. And he says that there are many women whose struggle is not because they are ordained priests, but recognized by their dignity.
"When the priesthood is again discipled there if women want to be, as long as the vision of the priesthood does not change, women do not want to be in that priesthood. As long as the priests continue as they are now, women do not want that ministry, "he said.
He says the decision will not come from top to bottom. It should not come from a papal approval, but from a cultural change, because in her travels throughout Latin America she asks the women if they would go to Mass if the priest is a woman. And the answer most of the time is no.
"If the Pope ordained women as priests tomorrow, Catholics living in a sexist world, where women are relegated, and women contribute to that patriarchal ideology, they will say no. They will not accept it. It's a cultural issue, not a dogmatic one, "Cruzalta said.
Nor is it a question of removing a man and putting a woman. It's not about empowering a woman, because that's power struggle. Women want a change, return to ministry, to service.
And he makes it clear that this dignity is given by God. The discussion of the ordained ministry, which is a pending issue of the Catholic Church, will come after the Church is ready, but I think it will not come soon because it is not ready.
"It will not come by a decree of the Pope, nor expect it in five years, cultural changes take 20, 30 years of education. It is urgent to start in the Catholic Church, because in 30 years we will see a woman with a ministry, "says Julian.
FRANCISCO AND THE FEMALE DIACONATE
And it seems that this process has already begun, at least among activists and human rights promoters in many dioceses in Mexico and the world. Of them there are also in Saltillo. That is why both Cruzalta and Amparo went to lecture in Coahuila, so that women recognize the dignity they have in all spheres, social, economic and religious.
They want the laity to read the scriptures, because if other religious denominations ever came to recognize that priestly dignity of women, it was because those communities are 500 years old reading the Bible, while Catholics do not.
"Catholics do not read The Bible, they have it as an object of non-reading worship. They put his altar, his flowers, his candlesticks, we bought a Bible with golden edges, we do not read it. Protestants are 500 years old reading the Holy Scriptures, and there are the texts. It is not the plan of God this imbalance between men and women ", emphasizes the Dominican.
That is why she is grateful to God that at least in other religious denominations have already advanced so much in recognizing the dignity of women and culturally acceding to the female priesthood. But he believes that the Catholic Church must go there.
Hence, the initiative of Pope Francis, who last year formed and appointed a Pontifical Commission to study in depth and seriousness the theme of the women's ministry in the diaconate, which is the first degree of the Catholic priesthood.
"When they give their conclusions, the Pope will make his decision on this, because it is clear in Paul's letters, there was a female diaconate, Paul appoints deaconesses," reveals Cruzalta.
On this theme, Amparo Lerin believes that while it is true that the Catholic Church is slow in recognizing the dignity of women to hold ministerial positions, it recognizes the efforts of Pope Francis to study the theme of the diaconate of women.
"But I will tell you as a Protestant, from the saying to the fact, you lack. And I think he has very good intentions, but there is a whole structure that maybe binds his hands, "said the priestess.
She and Cruzalta say the discussion has to reach the Vatican at the time, but they agree that it is not the time. The other Churches are, because they already recognize women, while in the Catholic women are relegated to secondary tasks, catechesis, cleanliness, at the most extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist. But until then.
"But I do not lose hope. To that I bet, to that I give my life, my ministry ", committed Julian Cruzalta, who is convinced that someday the Church will change and there will be priestesses, as there are in other religions.
And when that happens, it will not be strange to see a woman enter a Catholic temple in Saltillo, dressed in black skirt and blouse, with a collar, glasses on her hair, lipstick and mascara on her face, saying "My name is Amparo and I am a priest, priestess of the Lord. "