Saturday, November 9, 2019

The Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests Needs Your Support to Grow our Movement for Justice and Equality in the Church

November 10, 2019

Dear Friends,

As we approach the season of harvest and thanksgiving, the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests (ARCWP, Inc.) is seeking year-end donations from you, as well as our member priests and deacons, to meet the demands and opportunities to grow our movement for justice and inclusivity in our church. While the recent Amazonian Synod, held in Rome, has raised hopes of ordaining women as deacons and married men as priests, our international movement has been ordaining women as priests (and more recently men) since the “Danube Seven” Ordination in June 2002. We are “leading” the church!

As an association, our priests are self-sufficient; there are no salaries or paid positions. Donations are used to offer progressive and contemporary theology to our candidates in their preparation, to pay actual costs for ordination—such as venue, travel and lodging expenses for an ordaining bishop, an annual educational update and retreat for our members, as well as to attend conferences and network with other national and international organizations. 

Our growing number of priests have established small inclusive catholic communities that meet weekly in many areas while others are engaged in hospital and hospice chaplaincy, and still others are more directly involved with social justice ministries.

We need passionate supporters like you to continue to lead and reform our catholic church to pastorally meet the needs in this 21st century. Can we count on a gift from you this year? ARCWP, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization; your donation is tax deductible as permitted by law. Please send checks to our address below. Visit our website for additional information on our movement and ways to donate. If you include your email address, we’ll send our quarterly newsletter “Leading” electronically. 

With prayerful best wishes, I thank you for your support on behalf of our entire international movement!

Bridget Mary Meehan

ARCWP, Inc.  -  5342 Clark Rd. PMB# 1073  -  Sarasota, FL 34233

Richard Rohr- The Universal Christ- Part 1 and Part 2 ( The Liturgists Podcast), Outstanding

There is no place where God is absent. Everything is holy.
Forgiveness- forgive reality for being imperfect. Divine perfection includes imperfection. Human perfection excludes seemingly imperfect.
Holiness is planted in everything from its beginning.
"You are sealed in the Holy Spirit" St. Paul
is good news for all the people. Hard to comprehend for many people.
Include helps you to transcend to higher level of consciousness. (rather than transcend to include.)
Genesis 1 Original blessing vs. Genesis 3 Original Sin.
Christianity was not a school of love, but rather a school of conformity.
unloving, domination, vs. compassion and service. 
We have created a filter let in fear-based approach, lack of kindness, civil rights, service vs. attenders, need lovers of the world, focus on loving. Start to appeal to fear or threat, you do not gather great lovers. 
God, the great Includer, preferable to dominator language the almighty, omnipotent one.
Mary, symbol, eternal yes.
We have the freedom to say yes.

Friday, November 8, 2019

"Right Actions Trump Right Words, Together we can make a difference when we act with love" by Bridget Mary Meehan ARCWP

The first seven Councils of the Church were presided over by emperors and their focus was on belief statements that described God in static language and placed a male, almighty divine being in charge of the world. The image of the divine was power over vs empowering presence within connected with everything everywhere. Feminine images are missing in our early and current institutional Church creeds. The good news is that this has changed in our inclusive Catholic communities.  Our belief statements incorporate the divine in inclusive language which incorporates feminine imagery as well as a wide variety of images for the Divine. 

As Richard Rohr points out in The Universal Christ: "Emperors and governments do not tend to be interested in an ethic of love or service, or nonviolence (God forbid!), and surely not forgiveness unless it somehow helps them stay in power... Humanity now needs a Jesus who is historical, relevant for real life, physical and concrete, like we are. A Jesus whose life can save you, even more than his death. A Jesus we can practically imitate, and who sets the bar for what it means to be fully human. And a Christ who is big enough to hold all creation together in one harmonious unity. " ( pp. 105, 107)

Rohr speaks from the heart of his lived experience as a Franciscan priest that "truth  is always for the sake of love- and not an absolute end in itself, which too often becomes the worship of an ideology..." and the people around us will tend to be more theological problem solving and theory than any real healing of people and institutions- which ironically is about all Jesus does." 

Many people today seek genuine relationships of loving solidarity  in times of turmoil. Religious institutions no longer are sanctuaries where people can find help in dealing with life issues. The exodus of women and young people from the Roman Catholic Church is only one of many examples of a spiritual void that needs to be filled.

The path to spiritual growth, healing and transformation encompasses not only what you believe but how you live.  While vision statements and creeds are important, nothing trumps loving actions and selfless service. i believe more than ever our focus needs to turn to the healing power of prayer and action for justice, equality and inclusivity. 

Ultimately we are all connected, one in the Holy One, however we theologize divinity. I believe that we can foster a more compassionate and just world every day through our loving actions.

Every act of kindness and every word of encouragement bring healing balm to the soul and are examples of  the  healing Christ presence in our world. As members of  one Body, the Universal Christ, every act of service we do expands and deepens love everywhere. Each of us is full of divine power -many call the Holy Indwelling Spirit. Our actions are  part of the divine flow of goodness that is evolving, nurturing and healing all beings, divine grace in action creating a more just and equitable world. As we witness for systemic justice for oppressed and marginalized people and for our earth, we grow in holiness and wholeness especially in times of turmoil and devastation. 

 Deep love expands our hearts with greater compassion. As we live the Christ presence in our broken world each of us is a wounded healer. Right thinking should lead to right saying and right action, but if they don't, right acting trumps everything. We can do something to save our planet and heal our world. Together we have great power when we act. 

As my wise Irish mother, Bridie often  said to me  when my words were not matched by my actions: "leanbh mo chroΓ­"( precious child of my heart), actions speak louder than words!"

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

What Does the Catholic Church’s Patriarchal Structure Have to Do with the Failure of the Amazon Synod? by Mary Hunt

The recent Synod in Rome, the “Special Assembly for the Amazon of the Synod of Bishops,” focused on the topic “Amazonia: New Paths for the Church and for an Integral Ecology” with controversial and less than optimum results. The outcome was not a surprise because church-related discrimination created a costly missed opportunity for a dying planet. If the Catholic house were in order, its impact on climate change would increase exponentially.
The Synod of Bishops was established in 1965, after Vatican II, to include bishops in decision-making with the Pope. Modifications have been made by subsequent popes and themes vary, but ‘synodality’ as it’s called, is meant to foster collegialityalbeit among only a tiny segment. For example, a 2018 synod focused on “Young People,” and in 2015 on the “Family.” Both of those fell far short of the mark as well because neither young people nor those living in families were allowed to vote on the final document. The result was that the institutional church lost what little credibility it started with on both topics.
Synods have a preparatory phase when consultation with a broader audience takes place; followed by a celebratory phase which is what the meeting just completed in Rome focused on the Amazon was; and finally, an implementation phase when the Pope considers the conclusions from the Synod, and then writes his own statement that becomes the way forward for local churches worldwide. Ironically, rather than being collaborative, in the final analysis the Synod is advisory with the Pope making the final call. Elections have consequences.
At best, such a meeting is a way to gather data, hear various ideas, and make changes that could move the Roman Catholic monolith into a new century (I leave it to the reader to speculate on which century). At worst, these meetings become one more occasion to reinforce and reinscribe a hierarchical model of church with bishops in league with the pontiff to make few if any substantive structural changes, indeed to keep change at bay as it turns out too often.


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Regrettably, this was what happened in Rome of late. The crucial needs of a planet in trouble were addressed. But the fact that church men are still arguing over women’s roles and the marital status of priests meant that focus was distracted. I surmise that people from the Amazon region went home wiser about what not to expect from Rome, and confirmed in their conviction that they need to be church on their own terms. If there is any upside, it’s that those who have significant financial resources to work for change (on women, for example) learned that not even loads of money can change a patriarchal church. The ultimate losers were the people of the Amazon and the planet because the Roman Catholic Church is simply too compromised internally, between sex abuse and discrimination, to have enough moral credibility for governments or corporations to take it seriously. Why should they? It will be Catholics in small communities that have any clout whatever, especially at the ballot box.
The preparatory document circulated before the gathering showed real promise. There was, in the preamble, explicit acknowledgement that the Amazon is but one of many places threatened by colonialism, commercialism, and corruption:
“The Special Synod’s reflections transcend the strictly ecclesial-Amazonian sphere, because they focus on the universal Church, as well as on the future of the entire planet. We begin with a specific geographical area in order to build a bridge to the other important biomes of our world: the Congo basin, the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor, the tropical forests of the Asia Pacific region, and the Guarani Aquifer, among others.”
This approach shows how a global organization can be useful.
The Amazon, the so-called “lungs of the universe,” is seen to be on life support given the ways in which the land has been exploited by developers and the people have been robbed of their culture:
“The Amazon Basin encompasses one of our planet’s largest reserves of biodiversity (30 to 50% of the world’s flora and fauna) and freshwater (20% of the world’s fresh water). It constitutes more than a third of the planet’s primary forests andalthough the oceans are the largest carbon sinksthe Amazon’s work of carbon sequestration is quite significant. It covers more than seven and a half million square kilometers, and 9 countries share this great Biome (Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname, Venezuela, including French Guyana as an overseas territory).” [Section 1]
Yet those countries taken together comprise one of the poorest regions on Earth and the ecosystem described is in meltdown.
There are many reasons why the Catholic Church focused on the Amazon. Of global significance, the impact of losing the ecological richness and diversity of the Amazon region is incalculable according to scientists.
“As habitat destruction trends interact with climate change, the concern is that the Amazon will be caught up in a set of ‘feedback loops’ that could dramatically speed up the pace of forest loss and degradation and bring the Amazon Biome to a point of no return. This threshold, also referred to as a tipping point, may occur when Amazonian forests die and are progressively replaced by fireprone brush and savanna (ecological tipping point), and rainfall is inhibited on a regional scale (climatic tipping point).”
Implications for climate change and global warming astound, not to mention the loss of life and culture among the region’s inhabitants.
On an ecclesial level, the Church has long had missioners working in the Amazon on the side of people made poor and a planet ravaged by greed. For example, American Dorothy Stang, a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur who later became a Brazilian citizen in light of her commitment, was deeply involved in helping small farmers maintain their land rights and in opposing big business. She was murdered for her efforts.
Another factor for the choice of the Amazon was that the Catholic Church is rapidly losing market share to evangelical Protestants there. Given that it hasn’t respected the local culture when it comes to church matters, this is not unexpected. Many parishes in the millions of square kilometers see a priest for Eucharist and Confession once a year at most. Daily pastoral needs are fulfilled largely by lay people, the majority women, who are not considered ‘fit matter’ for ordination, and by male deacons who are married. Ironically, tragically, these internal church matters that can easily be changed by papal fiat remain stumbling blocks to the institution’s potential impact on climate change.
Feminist liberationists have long claimed that discrimination against women is the model for top-down, over-against ways of thinking that structure power for elites over the rest with negative consequences worldwide. The Amazonian Synod only reinforced the claim. The mistakes were breathtakingly obvious and relatively easy to fix.
Start with the center-periphery model. Rome is the center; the Amazon is the periphery. A proper meeting about the region would have been held in the region, not in Rome. That way, bishops from around the world would have been in the minority, experiencing Amazonian culture on its own terms in all of its specificity, generosity, and struggle for survival. Some Roman types were heard to demean the Amazonian guests’ choice of headgear, claiming their cultural superiority over those from the periphery. I doubt any local citizens in Manaus would have commented on the bishops’ headwear. Power dynamics begin with place, so going to the Amazon would have spoken volumes.  
Moreover, if feminists were involved, the meeting would not have been of a group of 180+ bishops even though they were said to represent the whole church. It would have been, and could have been by Pope Francis’ choice, a meeting of the whole church made up of delegates from all sectors, privileging the lay majority. Instead, this event maintained the outmoded monarchical model of church that is driving people to the doors. 
Several dozen women, deeply experienced in ministry and administration, were auditors but not voting members of the Synod. This is clericalism writ large. It was made worse by the fact that one religious brother, canonically equivalent to a sister but with different anatomy, was allowed to vote. How much longer will Catholics tolerate the senseless injustice of ecclesial sexism, which the Pope could change with the stroke of a pen? No wonder the evangelical churches are gaining adherents.
Questions of this sort distracted from the ecological focus of the Synod. The matter of male deacons being ordained as priests even though they are married was discussed. The point was simple: you can’t have it both ways—regular celebration of the Eucharist and a celibate priesthood. Men in the region aren’t interested in making a commitment to celibacy. The few who become priests fly/drive/walk around a huge area to dispense the sacraments like one more product. It’s a hideous theological model—the community gathered in thanksgiving and not the presence of a priest constitutes Eucharist—and a futile struggle for the Roman model.
Another issue that arose was the ordination of women as deacons. By all accounts, women already do the greatest share of the pastoral work in the region. They realize that unless the ecclesiology is flattened out from a pyramid to interlocking circles with commensurate theological change, it will be important for their ministry that they be ordained so they can function fully and effectively.
These issues, while important in principle and to fulfill pastoral needs, pale next to the needs of the planet. In the final document there is support for married men to be ordained as priests. If so, the result will still keep the fundamental ecclesial model and theological understanding of Eucharist rather than empower people to be agents of their own religious faith. This smacks of the same colonialism of the corrupt business people in the region, in that a few make decisions for the many. One step forward, two steps back.
The ordination of women deacons was relegated in the final document to further study, as if years of scholarship about women deacons in the Early Church had never been published. Pope Francis has made his theo-politics on the question quite clear. In 2016, he joked by quoting an Argentine president who said: “when you want something to remain unresolved, set up a commission.” So he appointed such a group to explore the question in 2016. In May 2019, the pope reported that the group agreed on little, and gave their findings to the International Union of Superiors General, which requested the Commission in the first place. Francis announced then that he would reconvene the group, perhaps with other/additional members. Oddly, at the end of the Synod he seemed to suggest that on the basis of the Synod’s discussion he would reconvene the same study group that he had already announced earlier he would reconvene.
No breath-holding here for women to have any significant power any time soon. In fact, there’s every reason for women to push for equality not just in diaconate and presbyterate, but episcopacy and papacy. If Synods are for a world church, there are surely women in the world at least as competent for those jobs as men. But patriarchy is pernicious and pervasive.
A hate crime took place in Rome on October 21, 2019. Two men entered the Church of Saint Mary in Traspontina where visiting Amazonian Catholics and their supporters had decorated a side altar. Candles, carvings of birds, and other objects representing religious and ecological concerns were a focal point for prayer. Included among the symbols were copies of a wooden statue of a pregnant woman depicting “life, fertility, Mother Earth” as reported by Paolo Ruffini, prefect of the Dicastery for Communications in the Vatican. The two men stole the wooden art pieces, carried them brazenly to the Tiber River, and tossed them in as a way of expressing their contempt for what they consider the pagan ways of the Amazonian people, symbolized of course by a woman.
The whole despicable incident was caught on video and shown on social media to the delight and applause of some ultra-conservative Catholics. They were edified by the nerve and alleged fidelity of the two men from Vienna, Austria who saw it as their duty to rid the church of “pagan” influences. Right-wing critic Taylor Marshall tweeted that it was “an act of obedience to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ & in reparation to his Sacred Heart wounded by sin.”
I announce to you with great joy: the Pachamama idols that polluted the Church of St Maria Transpontina have been cast away into the Tiber River as an act of obedience to Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ & in reparation to His Sacred Heart wounded by sin: 

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Catholic conservatives understand that some images, especially female images, are simply too powerful to risk having around lest change follow.
The original wooden statue was called “Our Lady of the Amazon,” a representation of Mary similar to Our Lady of Lourdes, Our Lady of Lujan, or Our Lady of Guadalupe. Like the others, it’s reminiscent of the Incan Pachamama, a goddess, with deep symbolic Christian Catholic meaning to those who took it to Rome. The Red Ecclesial Panamazonica, REPAM, an umbrella organization of church groups and bishops from the region, issued a strong condemnation: “In recent days, we have been victims of acts of violence, reflecting religious intolerance, racism, humiliation against indigenous peoples above all.” It’s no coincidence that the statues were of a pregnant female, an all-too-vivid reminder of how women in general and Earth in particular are treated. So much for pro-life claims.
The institutional Roman Catholic Church has created these problems for itself over long centuries of misogyny and resistance to recent decades of good faith efforts to open the ranks of ministry and decision-making to all. Alas, the shortsightedness of patriarchs who fear the loss of their power, the revelation of their corruption on clergy sexual abuse and its coverup, and an end to their dubious financial dealing, have aborted the Catholic community’s full potential to take on the current climate catastrophe in any credible and effective way.

I’m not arguing that the full equal participation of all Catholics of whatever gender or marital status in their own church will heal the planet. But I am sure that, with continued recalcitrance on the part of church officials to changing models and mores, the impact of that religion’s powerful teachings (for example, Laudato Si) on care of Earth, sharing in creation, and securing rights for those who are made poor and marginalized will be truncated forever. Such a church can rest in peace as its successors, led by formerly marginalized people, take on the urgent tasks at hand.

Advocates for Women's Ordination Demonstrate at Shrine of Immaculate Conception in DC

Pictured left to right: Janice Sevre-Duszynska ARCWP, Sister Megan Rice, Jen O’Malley RCWP and?