Saturday, June 8, 2019

"Her Red Chasuble of Acceptance and Transformation" by Mary Sue Barnett ARCWP

Mary Sue Barnett ARCWP on her ordination day embraces friend, Donna Rougeux ARCWP on right, smiling, Bridget Mary Meehan ARCWP, in red chasuble with head bowed, smiling
A symbol of male spiritual dominance can be, and is, transformed by female creativity and agency . . . This is my body and when I am at the Eucharistic table and in the pulpit, I am female.”

"From the safety of my mother’s womb into the comfort of my parents’ arms, baptismal waters were gently poured on my infant self in 1962 at Holy Name Catholic Church. Created and blessed in both human and divine love, the water, the oil, and the candlelight were a communal welcome into the beauty and rigor of living along a christic path. On that day, with my infant eyes, I might have seen the sleeve of the alb in front of me and I might have felt the brush of the chasuble move before me. Sheltered under the breath and in the warmth of my parents’ care on the day of baptism, the liturgical garment was a mere shadow.

As a little girl, a teen, and a young adult, I watched the liturgical garb being worn, seemingly countless times; Sunday masses, weekly masses during grade school and high school, retreat masses, my Reconciliation mass, my Confirmation mass, my Wedding mass, my sons’ Baptism masses, my grandparents’ funeral masses, numerous family wedding masses, even Corpus Christi masses at Churchill Downs. Hundreds of times in my lifetime I have seen liturgical garb worn by male priests and bishops, garb reserved for the male body, for communal, sacred spaces defined and guarded by men.

By the time I reached early adulthood, I was sufficiently conditioned, like many Catholic girls and women, that the garb in front of my eyes is for men. And really, to be perfectly clear, it’s not much about the garb itself. It’s about bodies, it’s about skin, and it’s about spiritual meaning and authority assigned to one kind of body and not another. Catholic girls and women often internalize the belief that men’s bodies more fully bear the image of God and Christ during communal prayer. Beyond conscious reasoning, Catholic girls and women often carry within themselves an inward leaning, if not deference, toward male spiritual authority because of a lifetime of conditioning.

On the day of my ordination ceremony as a Catholic woman priest, I wore an alb made by a friend of mine. Years ago in a Catholic parish, this woman and I had ministered together to bring healing to Catholic women survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. Years later she graciously puts a measuring tape around my hips and bust line before walking the aisles of the fabric store with me. She fashioned a garment to be worn for communal liturgical leadership. As she and I know from our decades-long commitment to the safety and well-being of women and girls, the garb is about a woman’s skin and how she bears the image of God and Christ in her female body. When the woman bishop anointed me, I saw clearly before me her “red chasuble of acceptance.” A symbol of male spiritual dominance can be, and is, transformed by female creativity and agency.

My alb and stoles hang in my Chaplain’s office in the hospital. Each time I preside at Eucharistic liturgies and preach homilies in the chapel, I wear the garb with ongoing awareness that I palpably feel the fabric on my skin, draped around my female body; a body that began menstruating at age 13, a body that has miscarried, birthed, and breastfed; a body that benefitted from years of artificial birth control, a body that experiences sexual pleasure; a body that loves her husband’s nearness, a body that embraces her sons with fierce maternal care, a body that has endured a stalker and multiple harassers; a body that is excommunicated from the Catholic Church; a body that comforts loved ones, holds babies, takes risks, walks into dangerous places, and advocates for the vulnerable. This is my body and when I am at the Eucharistic table and in the pulpit, I am female. When I use balanced and inclusive language for humanity and divinity, when I deviate from the lectionary readings so as to preach compassion and not sin, and when I fashion prayers of acceptance rather than judgment, I am female. I am fully female, fully human, and fully in the image of Christ. Living into the beauty and rigor of my particular life, I resist the violence and stigma and I protect the space so that others may do so as well.

At the end of a recent chapel service, a female patient came up and wrapped her arms around me. My arms, clothed in white fabric and lace, I wrapped around her and held her.
It was a sacred exchange, an indelible experience.
The garb that once symbolized the exclusion of my female self is now at work;
it holds and accepts a vulnerable woman during her healing hours,
helping her to feel in her own body that the Divine One is near.
Let the garb, the symbol, be free.
Let it sing its deep meaning for those who thirst for transformation. "

June 25, 2018

Friday, June 7, 2019

Cardinal Kasper Says Francis will Allow Married Priests, if Bishops Request it, but not Women Deacons because of Millennial old Tradition by Inés San Martín, My Response: We're Not Waiting for Another 1000 Years Until Church Gets Over Sexism!
Cardinal Walter Kasper at the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls on Jan. 18, 2019. (Daniel Ibáñez/CNA)

My Response: The argument that we cannot ordain women deacons because it would violate a "millennial old tradition" is like saying the Roman Catholic Church cannot change any doctrine because it is a thousand years old. How about the church's teachings on slavery and usury?  For 1,800 years the popes and the bishops did not condemn slavery. And until the 17th century, popes condemned loans with interest as violating God's law. 

I agree with Cardinal Kasper that in many places, women today do ten times more than what female deacons did” as they were described in the Bible. 

 Cardinal Kasper, like Pope Francis, appears to be in a muddle about women deacons. While Cardinal Kasper recognizes the work that women are doing is more than what women deacons did in the history of the Church, neither he nor Francis can get over the Church's deeply ingrained patriarchal bias that women are somehow subordinate by their very being and therefore, incapable of imaging the divine in official public ministry. 

Let's call this out for what it is -  sinful sexism-  that must be transformed if the Church is to reflect the Christ Presence in our world. 

The truth is women are doing the work of deacons and should be ordained by the institutional church not only as deacons, but as priests and bishops too. This is a justice issue. Thousands of women are called to serve. Thousands of women are qualified to serve. Millions of Catholics would welcome their ministry. All of us are the Church, not just Pope Francis and the hierarchy. 

The hierarchy cannot block women from following their God-given call to serve their faith communities as deacons, priests and bishops? 
The good news is that women today are serving in public ministry as deacons, priests and bishops in spite of  the institutional Church's rejection of our sacred mission. We are claiming our authority as equal members of the  Roman Catholic Church to ordain women to minister to God's people in their local communities. There are over 250 world wide in our international Roman Catholic Women Priests Movement. 

We are not waiting for a thousand years for popes and bishops to get over sexism and embrace the full equality of women in the Church. Roman Catholic Women Priests are leading the Church towards inclusivity in the 21st century!  
Bridget Mary Meehan ARCWP, #womenpriestsnow,,
ROME -  German Cardinal Walter Kasper, considered a close theological adviser to Pope Francis, said that if during an upcoming meeting of bishops on the Amazon region the prelates asked for the ordination of married men, the Argentine pontiff would grant the request.
He also said that the ordination of women, even to the diaconate, is out of the question, as it would undermine a “millennia old tradition,” noting, however, that the Catholic Church would “collapse” without women.
“If the bishops agreed through mutual consent to ordained married men - those called viri probati - it’s my judgement that the pope would accept it,” said Kasper, former president of the Vatican’s Council for the Promotion of Christian unity. “Celibacy isn’t a dogma, it’s not an unalterable practice.”
“Personally, I’m very much in favor of maintaining celibacy as an obligatory way of life with a commitment to the cause of Jesus Christ, but this doesn’t exclude that a married man can carry a priestly service in special situations,” Kasper said.
The question of ordaining married men could be discussed during the Synod of Bishops on the Amazon, that will take place this October in Rome.
Francis addressed the issue of possibly ordaining married men at length in January, during the in-flight press conference on the way back to Rome from Panama.
“I would rather give my life than to change the law on celibacy,” Francis said, quoting St. Paul VI, who as the Argentine pontiff noted, was speaking “when times were tougher than now, in 1968-1970.”
“I’m not in agreement with allowing optional celibacy. No,” he said.
Francis did add, however, that he believes theologians should study the possibility of “older married men” being ordained, in “far, faraway places,” such as the islands in the Pacific, but even then, ordained only to celebrate Mass, hear confessions and anoint the sick.
The pope cited Bishop Fritz Lobinger from South Africa, who’s written on this issue. Yet, he insisted, this is a matter to be “prayed on” and discussed by theologians, and one he personally hasn’t meditated on enough.
“It’s not for me to decide. My decision is, optional celibacy before the diaconate, no,” referring to the fact that future priests typically are first ordained as deacons. “I will not do this. I don’t feel like standing in front of God with this decision,” Francis said.
Speaking in particular about female deacons, Kasper said that women today do “ten times more than what female deacons did” as they were described in the Bible.

Through the Spirit, Christ is Present Everywhere

SPIRIT WITH US—The Spirit is simply

God’s self-communication in grace,

present and active everywhere,

pervading the world. This basic but

profound reality bears repeating today,

because so many do not experience

God’s nearness but think of God as

distant or even unreal. This is most

unfortunate. Through the Spirit, the risen

Christ is universally present in the world

everywhere and in every moment, as

pervasive as the air we breathe, as the

sun or the rain that comes down on us,

as the wind that blows around us, as the

new life that flows with our every breath.

—Dr. Elizabeth Johnson

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Challenges Women Face on Path to Priesthood in Roman Catholic Church - My Story- by Shanon Sterringer ARCWP

I was watching a video (from a respected catechetical organization) last night of a young, charismatic guy, maybe a seminarian, defending the magisterial position against women's ordination. He was "explaining" that priests make great sacrifices for their ministry - which I would agree that they absolutely do - and that women simply want the "glory of ordination" without the sacrifice. Of course he ended his little exhortation by reminding women that our greatest call is to motherhood and we should be content with that. I had to do some deep breathing/grounding exercises (followed by an alcoholic beverage) after I finished watching his video. I feel compelled to respond (big surprise!) because this is not an isolated statement made by one individual. It is a generally accepted attitude.
I love my girls more than my own life and there is not a day that goes by that I do not thank God for blessing me with them. I could not ask for more beautiful, loving, caring, smart, funny, amazing daughters. I am extremely proud of all them. My being their mother, however, does not negate or diminish my call to ordained ministry. If anything, I believe it enhances it because I have learned, through loving and caring for them, what sacrificial love entails. The institution is unaware (by intention) of the sacrifices women make to follow our call. I struggled with this decision for over a decade. Some of you, friends on my page, are well aware of my struggle because you have loved and supported me as floundered between, "I'm leaving the church to be ordained... I can't leave the church, I love the people too much... I'm leaving the church to be ordained... I can't leave the church, I've worked too hard for what I've accomplished... etc..., etc..." I struggled with these emotions behind the scenes while I filled the expectations placed on me to complete degrees, diocesan training, parish programs, and so on. I spent every holiday and special event at the parish, as did my family, as we tried to balance my ministry with our personal lives. My husband and daughters have loved and supported my call to ministry every step of the way, and continue to. It goes without saying that women make the same sacrifices as men to follow our call in regards to years of formation and education (I should add, the women pay for their theological training, it is not supplemented like the male clergy), endless hours of parish ministry, etc. The difference, for women in saying yes to the call is that it costs us our jobs, diocesan connections, professional and personal relationships, reputations, we are vulnerable to threats (sometimes realized), and we are mocked by the very men who claim to be standing "in persona Christ" in their own call. So, to answer this accusation that women desire to enjoy the "glory of ordination without the sacrifice", I suggest these men (and women) consider walking a few steps in our shoes before passing judgment...

Shanon Sterringer, Ph.D., D.Min, MA Theology, MA Ministry, BA
Christian Minister and Holistic Wellness Advocate

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Celebrating and Experiencing Eucharist in the 21st Century

In many inclusive Catholic communities, both  ordained and non-ordained preside at Eucharist. Jesus invited all to eat and drink the bread and wine in his memory. What we celebrate is the Christ Presence everywhere in everyone and everything, not only in the bread and wine, but in the Word proclaimed and shared, in the assembly gathered, in the people of God, in the universe. We are  celebrating  the divine real presence everywhere.  In the depths of our being we are immersed in the holy. Illuminating and connecting us in deep communion, spiritual energy fills every nook and cranny of our lives with overflowing love, and healing  transforming us 

"When the Sky Didn't Fall In on the Catholic Church" - Association of Catholic Priests (Ireland)

The key question Francis faces is not whether the Church can afford to ordain women deacons but whether we can afford not to do it.

Some time ago - not too long in time, though it feels like centuries - the priests of Killala diocese struggled with a huge issue. Altar girls. Women had become astronauts, pilots, bus-drivers, prime ministers and presidents as well as priests in other Christian denominations. This twentieth-century phenomenon was taking over the world and had even infected the minds of small female persons, as we saw this perilous campaign gaining momentum.
As good priests, 'faithful to the traditions of the church' (as theologians usually say when they want nothing to change), we agreed that our first point of departure should be a query to an expert in canon (Church) law. Bishop Tommy Finnegan contacted an acknowledged authority who sent on what he hoped would be a helpful response to this insidious development, a response that was heavy on strategy but light on common sense. Bishop Tommy read the statement to the assembled clergy. It was greeted by a stunned silence until one priest suggested that if we put that in a parish bulletin, the assembled congregation would laugh even more at us - Fr Ted being the most popular television viewing at the time.  The bishop folded the page and put it in his back pocket.  It was the last we heard about it.
The sky didn't fall in on the Catholic Church when young girls took to wondering out loud why serving Mass was only for boys or when word spread that in a particular parish girls could serve as well as boys. Or when they made their way inside the altar rails. And so it was.
I thought of all the angst there was in arriving at that change of direction when I read about Pope Francis discussing the possibility of ordaining women as deacons. He was travelling back from one of his overseas trips and, as is the custom, he answered some questions from journalists. Two years ago Francis had set up a commission to investigate this question. The members had come up with different positions and, Francis said, so the issue needs further study, though he didn't say who would do this or when it might be done. It was an example, he said, of 'joyful variety'.
It may also be an example of not facing what's going to happen anyway if we don't want our Church to disappear without trace, apart from a small coterie of Catholics intent on making their way back to sixteenth century via the Council of Trent. Because make no mistake about it, this is an issue that will make or break our Church.
It's a decision that the Church seems intent on avoiding, and with so many women holding grimly to the door-posts of the Church by their finger-nails, not making a decision to ordain married deacons many believe is the equivalent of waving women goodbye.
Despite the fact that the Holy Spirit guided the Church to converse with the world - to listen to 'the signs of the times - and that the vision of the Second Vatican Council was overwhelmingly voted through by 90% of the bishops of the world, the two last pontificates (John Paul II's and (Benedict XVI's) pointed us in the opposite direction.
Even though the dogs in the street know that unless religion can engage with the culture of the day it contributes to its own decline, there are compelling and sometimes spectacular instances of how this is happening to the Catholic Church.
Two examples suffice. One is that a core truth of our time, the centrality of the democratic impulse, is not just side-lined but a refusal to engage with it is presented as an indicator of (yes, you guessed it ) 'being true to the tradition'. Another is that retaining a culture of misogyny is not just a self-inflicted wound but a refusal to live in the real world.
This is not about changing direction depending on which way the wind is blowing. It's about respecting the experience of our people who have come to own significant truths about life and who need to find resonances of those truths in their search for God. It's what theologians call the 
sensus fidelium (the sense of the baptised people), a confirmation by the people of a truth about God and the things of God.
Pope Francis and others are worried that the Church will fragment into those we inaccurately call 'conservatives' and 'liberals' - and that a schism will result. Better they say that we muddle along as we are than that we part at the great crossroads that's coming into view. But what's different now is that the old ways, devised and controlled by the former leadership of our Church, are no longer acceptable to growing numbers of Catholics in the pews and unless there are strong indicators that the Church is prepared to take them on board the present dribble from the Church will become a tsunami, led probably by women.
The key question Francis faces is not whether the Church can afford to ordain women deacons but whether we can afford not to do it.
When John Paul II was the pope in Rome, he proclaimed what was effectively an edict that no one could discuss the possibility of ordaining women to the priesthood. Not just that we couldn't offer an opinion on it. We couldn't discuss it. And the full force of the CDF (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) descended on anyone who might be tempted even to question the wisdom of John Paul's permanent moratorium.
Now that the CDF has been relegated by Pope Francis from the top of the Premiership to the bottom of the Vauxall Conference, and its former prefects are rapidly losing their diminishing reputations we know we live in a new era - and we have Francis and others to thank for that.
But there is a long road still to travel and we need to get on with it. Like we did in days of yore with the vexed subject of altar girls.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

"Pope Francis Targeted by Degenerate, Self-Hating Homophobes and Right-Wing Steve Bannon Allies – RAI with Matthew Fox"

June 2, 2019
Former priest Matthew Fox discusses the book In the Closet of the Vatican, which depicts a “ring of lust” at the highest levels of the Church, and the campaign to hypocritically "weaponize" sexuality and bring down Pope Francis - on Reality Asserts Itself with Paul Jay

Upper Room Inclusive Catholic Community - Seventh Sunday of Easter, 2019 - Presiders: Lynn Kinlan, ARCWP, and Denise Hackert-Stoner, ARCWP

Celebration of the 7th Sunday of Easter – June 2, 2019

Welcome and Theme:  Lynn

Welcome to everyone on this last Sunday of the Easter season as we prepare for Pentecost next week. Our theme today is being one with Jesus and our Abba Father/Amma/Mother and how to live out the depths of that love and unity in our lives. The readings for today show how we are consecrated into loving action through the prayer of Jesus our brother.

Opening Prayer: Denise

We gather today in the loving embrace of the Holy One.  As we open our very selves to the greater world around us we pray for peace.  Our world needs peace; we pray for peace in our world.  Our country needs peace; we pray for peace in our country.  Our families need peace; we pray for peace in our families.  Our souls need peace; we pray for peace in the depths of our souls; a peace that will well up, overflowing to fill our families, our country and the world with blessed peace.  Amen.

First Reading from Acts:

Stephen, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked to the sky and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right side of God. “Look!” he exclaimed. “I see the heavens opened, and the Chosen One standing at God’s right hand!”

The crowd of onlookers shouted and held their hands over their ears. They rushed as one at Stephen and dragged him out of the city. The witnesses then stoned him, having laid their robes at the feet of a young man named Saul.

As they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Jesus, receive my spirit.” He fell to his knees and cried out in a loud voice, “Please don’t hold this sin against them!” And with that, he died.

These are the words of early disciples of Jesus and the community affirms them.  Amen.

Gospel Reading from John:

Jesus looked to heaven and said,
Protect those whom you have given me—
That they may be one
Even as we are one.
Consecrate them –
Make them holy through the truth—
For your word is truth.
As you have sent me into the world,
So I have sent them into the world;
I consecrate myself for their sakes,
That they may be made holy in truth.
I don’t pray for them alone.
I pray also for those
Who will believe in me through their message,
That all may be one,                                                                
as we are one—
I in them, you in me—
To them I have revealed your Name,
And I will continue to reveal it so that the love you have for me
May live in them
Just as I may live in them.

These are the words of the disciple John and the community affirms them.  Amen.

Homily Starter: Denise on First Reading:

The thing that strikes me about Stephen is that he seems to have been an ordinary guy.  He wasn’t one of the Twelve apostles and wasn’t present at the Last Supper.  But I like to imagine him there in the procession, with Jesus riding on the donkey, making its way into Jerusalem.  I think of him in the crowd, his palm frond waving, his voice shouting Hosanna. In the early days after the death of Jesus, this ordinary Greek Jew was appointed a deacon to care for Greek-speaking Jewish widows and orphans to ensure that they were cared for as well as their Hebraic companions.  An ordinary guy, but a guy completely taken up in the spirit of the Christ.  A guy who, fully aware of the dangers faced by the followers of Jesus, was willing to speak out about injustice.  An ordinary guy who speaks truth to power.  A guy willing to pay the price for justice with his own life. 

And standing in the crowd, with the executioners’ cloaks piled around his feet, is “a young man named Saul.”  I like to think of him, too.  A devout, Pharisaic Jew, strong in his belief that these followers of Jesus are a threat to the future of Judaism, both from within by straying from the law and from without, by possibly bringing the wrath of Rome upon them.  Saul would soon himself have a life-changing, experience of the risen Christ, and become Paul, apostle to the Gentiles, who would define the shape of Christianity for millennia. 

What was Saul thinking as Stephen fell to the ground, forgiving his tormentors as he perished?  The story says that Saul fully approved of the stoning. But did something start happening within him at the time of Stephen’s death?  Was a seed planted that would blossom into the vision of Christ telling him “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting?”  Was the Christ spirit, already alive in him, shaken awake at the sight of this ordinary guy giving his life in a most extraordinary way?  We will never know, but I like to think so.

Lynn on the Gospel:

Our gospel is Jesus praying at the Last Supper before leaving for Gethsemane.  This prayer, inserted later into John’s gospel, is nonetheless a touching recreation of what early believers imagined was in Jesus’ heart at that time. Composed a century after the crucifixion, it has the benefit of hindsight as it recreates the last words of a divine man about to parted from those he loves most in this world.

Judas has already left the room in anger. Jesus knows his time is short. So what is he praying about?  Us. You and me.  We are the last thought of Jesus before Good Friday. He prays for those he sends out into the world and for all who will believe through their message.  Jesus is asking for people of good heart in every era to know and spread truth, to know our own holiness, to avoid conflict and to find unity in Spirit. He wants us to be as close to each other as Jesus is to Abba, for us to feel one with God and Jesus, to know with Jesus-certainty how deeply we are loved by Abba or the feminine Divine, Amma.

His prayer is not merely for loving unity inside a safe circle. Jesus is always more daunting than that. He prays for unity with all of Creation; the Jesus we know wants us to listen and find common ground, to discover commonality with the refugee, the person of a differing political persuasion, the outcast and the everyday, the outcast ordinary aggravating person as well as ecosystems of animal and plant life.

And to help us live together in love, Jesus prays for us to be made holy and consecrated – to be set apart and dedicated to a higher purpose. The view of the body of believers in the first century established in verse like this gospel that we are holy by virtue of our creation and in our standing with Jesus. We are consecrated bread and wine sent out into the world. As we say in our Eucharistic prayers, “as we share communion, we will become communion, both love’s nourishment and love’s challenge”.  

What did you discover in the death of Stephen and in the prayer of Jesus? What does it mean for you? What will praying as Jesus does mean for you in living each day?