Womenpriests defy the Vatican

July 9
The words, feelings, and thoughts in Women Find a Way: The Movement and Stories of Roman Catholic Womenpriests mirror my own. The book contains the stories of 36 validly ordained Catholic women priests. I do not have the vocation to be a priest, but I identify with their stories of facing down fear. I admire their courage, I'm inspired and heartened by them.

Like them, I act independently of official Church teaching. Like them, I’m accused of wanting to start my own religion. Like them, I could not ignore what I was assigned by Spirit to do. Like them, I woke up and wake up others to what’s wrong in the familiar picture. Some passages hit the bull’s eye for me.
“Step by step,” I followed my internal compass.
(Joan Houk, validly ordained Roman Catholic womanpriest)

Some situations oblige us to obey God and one’s own conscience, rather than the leaders of the Church.
(Cardinal Walter Kasper, Vatican Pontifical Commission for Christian Unity)
Pushback from Church officials is predictable. Raymond Burke, Archbishop of St. Louis, is notorious for his hard-line positions, which have been vented on abortion, birth control, the Harry Potter children’s series, and politicians who dissent. Most recently, he fumed at the Catholic Health Association for openly dissenting from Catholic bishops on the president’s health plan and helping to get it passed. Also predictably, Burke’s record on clergy sex abuse looks suspicious, and, also predictably, he used all the guns at his disposal to threaten womenpriests.
Burke’s response was to have us “served” at the synagogue, immediately at the conclusion of the ordination liturgy, with the Summons and Canonical Admonition to appear in court the following month. We did not respond to this “summons” because we would have had to plead “guilty” to the charges of heresy and schism, and recant, which is of course a lie; or plead “not guilty” and prove him and/or “them” wrong, which is of course impossible.
Elsie Hainz McGrath, validly ordained Roman Catholic womanpriest
I see myself as one of thousands who are facilitating a paradigm shift in human consciousness. For Christians, this means letting go of guilt for thinking new and unfamiliar thoughts.

Florian objected in a COMMENT on July 12, 2010:
There is no such thing as a "validly ordained woman priest". What does "valid" mean but that it is okay according to the official teaching of the church? But women priests are not valid in the eyes of the church.

I think Jeanette uses "valid" to mean that the women priests were ordained by (heretical/ schismatic) bishops who were themselves validly ordained. It is true that the church teaches that even schismatic bishops can validly ordain priests, though they may be unauthorized to do so. This is because the sacrament of holy orders works automatically if it is performed according to the intention of the church. The church hierarchy is not more powerful than the Lord Jesus, and so they cannot prevent the Lord's sacraments from being effective.

However, the problem in the case of women priests is that women are not valid "matter" for the sacrament of holy orders to begin with, at least in the eyes of the church. So, ordination of women priests is not valid, even if "ordained" by bishops who are intending to properly administer the sacrament, because no sacrament takes place anyway without the proper matter.

(Similarly, a priest cannot turn crackers and grapejuice into the body and blood of Jesus no matter how hard he tries; for the proper matter of bread and wine is not present.)


On May 30, 2008, I wrote:
National Public Radio announced it this morning: the Vatican has excommunicated Roman Catholic Womenpriests, all of them. Now we’ll see whether its repression succeeds in squelching this movement and other efforts to open minds and hearts.

It's no big deal anymore, seems to be the attitude of Catholics, according to the National Catholic Reporter. Catholics take excommunication casually because disobeying Church law often means following one’s conscience.
When friends of mine attended the ordination of two women in the Roman Catholic Womenpriests movement in February in Sarasota, Fla. I pointed out to them, after the fact, that the Florida papers quoted the local bishop as saying that Catholics who participated in the event were excommunicated. The response of my friends, both of whom are weekly communicants, was a dismissive wave of the hand.
Oh, just like that abortion case in Brazil, where everyone was excommunicated except the rapist.
This speaker reflects the growing attitude that the Church's model of morality cannot be trusted.

Archbishop Burke
Raymond Burke rose rapidly from Bishop of La Crosse, to Archbishop of St. Louis, to head of the Vatican Supreme Court. I said Burke’s record on clergy sex abuse looks suspicious, but the most recent NCR report on Burke says more than suspicious. Apparently his abuse policy in Wisconsin led to Cardinal Ratzinger/Pope Benedict being suspected of covering up the molesting of 200 deaf boys.
In La Crosse, someone accusing a priest of sexual abuse would have to provide a greater degree of proof than the church’s rules expect. “Some priests or deacons could still be in active ministry who would not be there if the correct standard of proof were used,” said Connell.
Another predictable fact in this interesting story—the Vatican elevates a man who’s tough on the Catholics he supposedly shepherds while letting clergy get away with crimes. Salient case in point—Bernard Law, Archbishop of Boston, whisked off to a post in the Vatican when law enforcement in Boston gathered evidence of his crimes.
Not so predictable—the public and the media now, finally, are calling the hierarchy to account, uncovering the facts, and connecting the dots.

July 17, 2010. Missteps by the Vatican continue.
On June 15, the Vatican issued a clarification of its canonical procedures for how dioceses should handle priests who sexually abuse children. The statement added that the "attempted ordination of a woman" has now been added to the list of "delicta graviora," or most serious crimes in church law, alongside the sexual abuse of minors.

The next day 27 international Catholic organizations issued a joint statement, saying in part:
We take great offense that good faith struggles for gender equality could be misunderstood as a sacrilege and placed on par with the sexual abuse of children. In 1976, the Vatican's own Pontifical Biblical Commission concluded there is no valid scriptural reason for denying ordination to women.
They objected to the Vatican repackaging its sexual abuse policy without adding that abusers’ names be released and global child protection policies be implemented. But that would mean naming bishops who participated in the cover-up, to which Tom Doyle in NCR commented,
This would obviously nail the majority of U.S. bishops, both retired and active. This crime is just as devastating as the sex abuse itself because it obviously enables continued rape and molestation of innocent children and adults.
As Bryan Coynes in US Catholic commented,
In the minds of many people who will read the news, [the Vatican’s statement] seems to equate the "attempted ordination of women" with the rape and torture of children. . . .
it is an outrage to pair the two . . .

The Vatican has in effect given legitimacy and momentum to what is still an incredibly tiny movement with this clumsy legal maneuver, tantamount to the United States dropping a nuclear weapon on Luxembourg—only more ridiculous because this will do absolutely no damage to the women's ordination movement. It is more like a gift. None of those women are afraid of excommunication any longer; indeed, it is now the Vatican that appears fearful.
I can’t say it better. Anyone who knows Roman Catholic Women Priests personally will be outraged by this latest Vatican move. Some women priests were motivated to become priests by their ministry to women and children who were molested by men priests.

Good priests who maintain their integrity must squirm at each new tyrannical step of the Vatican.

Florian commented: Yeah, let's get our priorities straight. It is more important to condemn sex abuse than to condemn the ordination of women. BUT it is also much more important to fight abortion and advocate for life than to fight the church over the issue of women priests.

Roman Catholic Womenpriests (RCWP) offer this response to the Vatican's blunder of listing women's ordination among its most serious crimes:
Roman Catholic Womenpriests numbers have erupted from seven to over 100 in the last eight years since the first ordination in 2002 on the Danube in Europe. The Vatican continues to respond to women’s ordinations with condemnation of everyone who supports the movement for women priests within the Catholic Church. However, Womenpriests are being supported widely by the hundreds of Catholics attending every public ordination.

The Roman Catholic Womenpriests wonder how answering a spiritual call to serve through priesthood could possibly be in the same category of “sin” as pedophilia. Instead of the many excommunications and condemnations the Vatican issues against women priests and their supporters, it would be better to take responsibility for the damaging behaviors of patriarchy especially the abuse of spiritual power. We suggest that the Vatican begin this process of reconciliation and renewal by listening to the pain of those who suffer from clergy abuse: nuns, women priests, and lay women in the Church who have been as much victims of the church as the survivors of sexual abuse.
There’s no better rebuttal of the pope’s stance against women priests than his own statement when he was Cardinal Ratzinger:
Over the pope . . . stands one’s own conscience, which must be obeyed before all else, even if necessary against the requirement of ecclesiastical authority.
He couldn't have realized then that conscience would motivate women to disobey him when he became the pope. He still doesn't.


Br. Pax said…
Great post. It is so odd to me that the Roman Church wants to focus on minute matters but brushes away the big issues they are not dealing with.

Popular posts from this blog

Goddess in the Bible

Eckhart's Trinity