Women Catholic deacons ‘no longer taboo’

Germany’s top Roman Catholic has called for women to be allowed to become deacons, which would enable them to perform baptisms and marriages outside of mass – a novelty for Catholic women.

Archbishop of Freiburg Robert Zollitsch, who chairs the German Bishops’ Conference, called for the change at the end of a four-day meeting to discuss possible reforms.

Archbishop of Freiburg Robert ZollitschThe conference, the first of its kind, invited 300 Roman Catholic experts to propose reforms. Zollitsch’s comments echo year-long calls from the Central Committee of German Catholics to permit women to become deacons. On Sunday, Zollitsch said that aim was no longer a ‘taboo.’

Zollitsch said the Catholic Church could only regain credibility and strength by committing to reform. He described an “atmosphere of openness and freedom” at the conference.

Deacons assist priests during church services and can perform baptisms and marriages outside of mass. Their primary role however is to serve the needy in their community and their duties are considered secular rather than pastoral.

Another proposal to emerge from the conference was to extend the rights of remarried divorcees to sit on church bodies such as parish councils. Conference members also discussed the possibility of granting them the right to receive Holy Communion and attend confession.

“It’s important to me that, without undermining the sanctity of marriage, these men and women are taken seriously within the church and feel respected and at home,” said Zollitsch. At present the reforms remain speculative and there is no proposed time-frame for their implementation. The position of divorcees remains highly controversial within the Church.

The conference also touched on the difficulty, particularly in eastern Germany, of recruiting people to work for Catholic institutions such as hospitals and kindergarten. At present the Church can only employ Roman Catholics. However Zollitsch called for work permits to be extended to non-Catholics and to those with “different lifestyles.” This would technically apply to homosexual people too. However Church labour reforms are unlikely to be introduced in the next three years.

While reform might be slow to come, the sentiments expressed at the conference are a signal to many that change is on the way. “I have never experienced a process of strategy development as transparent as this one,” said Thomas Berg, of the Baden-Württemberg Leadership Academy, who attended the conference.

Complete Article HERE!

Kentucky woman ordained as priest in defiance of Catholic church

By Peter Smith

In defiance of Roman Catholic authority and doctrine, the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests ordained its first Louisville-area priest on Saturday.

Rosemarie Smead weeps openly as almost entire congregation comes to lay their hands on her head in blessing, as she was ordained Roman Catholic priest during Celebration of Ordination in LouisvilleRosemarie Smead of Bedford, Ky., a retired Indiana University Southeast counselor-education professor, was ordained during the two-hour service hosted by a bishop of the movement, Bridget Mary Meehan.

Several other women priests in the movement, in white robes and red stoles, gathered from around the country to participate in a ceremony patterned on traditional Catholic ordination liturgy but suffused with feminist imagery. About 200 people attended the service at St. Andrew United Church of Christ, most of them coming forward to lay hands on Smead in blessing.

The Vatican has stated that as a matter of unchangeable doctrine, the Roman Catholic Church must follow the example of Jesus, who appointed only men as his apostles.

It says anyone who participates in a ceremony purporting to ordain a woman is automatically excommunicated. Louisville Archbishop Joseph Kurtz reiterated that stance in a statement saying the association has no connection to the Roman Catholic Church and that Catholics should not support or participate in Saturday’s event.

Janice Sevre-Duszynska of Lexington, Ky., a priest in the women’s ordination movement, gave opening remarks Saturday, saying there is archaeological and documentary evidence that the early church ordained women — interpretations that have been disputed by supporters of male-only ordination.

Meehan said the decade-old Women Priest movement is an act of justice defying what she called an unjust Vatican law. She said the movement’s bishops were ordained by an unidentified bishop in communion with Rome.

“Sexism in church and society is sinful and should always be challenged,” Meehan said. She said if women were in Catholic leadership, the church’s position against artificial birth control would be lifted.

The liturgy included invocations to numerous female Catholic saints, to God as mother and father and to “Christ-Sophia,” invoking a biblical term for divine wisdom that service leaders said reflects the feminine aspect of God.

After a series of solemn ordination vows, Smead prostrated herself before the altar for several minutes during quiet music and prayer. Participants presented Smead with ceremonial vestments of priestly ministry, and Meehan anointed her hands with oil.

“You’re in for quite a spiritual adventure,” Meehan told Smead.

“It’s just so overwhelming,” Smead said afterward. Smead, who previously lived as a cloistered nun, marched for civil rights and worked for years with troubled youth in Alabama before a quarter-century career at IUS, said the ordination “just raised up 70 years of longing in me to be able to fulfill this.”

Two of Smead’s former IUS students gave testimonials during the ordination, lauding her for providing career and personal guidance, and a niece, nephew and in-law of Smead read Scriptures.

The Rev. Jimmy Watson, pastor of St. Andrew, said the church agreed to host the service after considering a passage in the book of Acts in which the apostle Peter was told by God to bring the gospel to Gentiles.

“I knew there would be some pressure not to do something so illegal,” Watson said. “… We decided that we could not stand in God’s way.”

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Anti-Gay Pastor Leading 2013 National Day of Prayer

Pastor Greg Laurie says America is experiencing a “total moral meltdown”

Washington – The Honorary Chairman of next week’s National Day of Prayer has a history of speaking out against LGBT Americans. Pastor Greg Laurie is the senior pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in California and is a part of Harvest Ministries. Laurie will be in Washington DC next week to lead events at the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill as part of the 2013 National Day of Prayer.

Pastor Greg Laurie
that’s funny, he dresses like a gay man.

Pastor Laurie insists that being gay is a sin. His organization, Harvest Ministries, claims LGBT people are “denying and disobeying God.” A “Statement on Homosexuality” on the Harvest website reads: “A person may be born with a greater susceptibility to homosexuality, just as some people are born with a tendency to violence and other sins. That does not excuse the person’s choosing to sin by giving in to sinful desires. If a person is born with a greater susceptibility to anger/rage, does that make it right for him to give into those desires? Of course not!”

“Pastor Laurie’s message is out of step with what the majority of people of faith across this country believe,” said Dr. Sharon Groves, director of HRC’s Religion & Faith Program. “In greater numbers than ever before, people of faith are feeling compelled to speak up and organize for equality – because of their faith.”

Pastor Laurie’s implication that being gay is a choice is not only inaccurate; it’s also a dangerous assertion. The nation’s leading medical organizations are in lockstep agreement that efforts to change one’s sexual orientation can have harmful consequences. Full statements from the medical groups are available on HRC’s website. Earlier this week, a one-time leading advocate of efforts aimed at changing a person’s sexual orientation issued an apology and denounced the dangerous practices. John Paulk, who was once associated with the ex-gay group Exodus International, says change efforts are harmful and don’t work. Data indicates that youth exposed to practices aimed at “changing” their sexual orientation are more prone to suicide attempts, depression, and drug use.

Last week, Pastor Laurie appeared on James Dobson’s “Family Talk” program, warning that our nation was experiencing a “complete, total moral meltdown.” James Dobson is the founder and chairman emeritus of the anti-gay group Focus on the Family, an organization that has blasted relationship recognition for gay and lesbian couples and attacked the idea of same-sex couples raising children. Dobson’s wife, Shirley, is the Chair of the National Day of Prayer Task Force.

“People of faith are guided by the core tenets of their faith to love their neighbor as yourself and judge not,” added Groves. “Pastor Laurie’s offensive teachings stand in direct contradiction to the core values of many people of faith and an increasing number of religious institutions that have encouraged full inclusion. It is time for him to listen to the religious voices that recognize supporting all LGBT people as a faith value.”

Laurie will be participating in a prayer breakfast at the Pentagon next Thursday morning. Laurie and Dobson will then lead the official observation of the National Day of Prayer from an event on Capitol Hill.

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.

Complete Article HERE!

In bizarre move, bishop who ousted gay catholic from parish rejects 18,000 signatures, sends them back

File under: insulated, monolithic, callous, tone deaf church power structure

by Ross Murray

On April 11, Nicholas Coppola delivered over 18,000 signatures gathered through Faithful America to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rockville Centre, asking that Nicholas be once again allowed to volunteer with his parish, after getting married to his husband.

nicholas-coppolaOn April 23, Bishop William Murphy mailed them back, accompanied by one sentence:

“FROM YOUR FAITHFUL ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP.”

Seriously. You can see the cover letter here.

“I really don’t understand what sort of message Bishop Murphy is trying to send,” said Nicholas Coppola upon learning that the signatures were mailed back. “Is he no longer listening to the voices of the faithful? I have more questions than anything now.”

“Bishop Murphy owes Nicholas and the 18,000 people who’ve signed this petition a real answer, not a tactless ‘return to sender'” said Michael Sherrard, executive director of Faithful America. “I’ve never heard of a church official returning a petition like this without any kind of explanation.”

In January, Nicholas was informed by his priest that because he got married, he was to be removed from all parish activity, including altar server, lector, visitation minister, and religious education instructor. More than 18,000 people, including many Catholics, stood up in support of Nicholas, and asked that he be restored to his participation with the parish. Rather than speak with Nicholas, the Diocese dispatched security and would not allow Nicholas to enter the building. A security guard stated that he was to collect Nicholas’ petition and deliver it to the correct person.

Since that time, Nicholas has launched a second petition through Change.org, inviting Cardinal Timothy Dolan to break bread with him and listen to the story of at least one faithful gay Catholic. The petition comes in response to Cardinal Dolan’s admission to George Stephanopoulos that the Roman Catholic Church hasn’t “been too good” about not attacking gay and lesbian people. The Change.org petition has collected over 20,000 signatures to date.

According to canon law, the bishops must respond to letters that have been delivered. Later the same day that Nicholas delivered the petitions, the diocese issued a media statement reaffirming Nicholas’ ouster. It is unclear if returning the petition is the official response, per canon law.

“Nicholas Coppola is a faithful Catholic who loves his church, and he is now being treated like a threat by his own bishop,” said Ross Murray, GLAAD’s Director of News and Faith Initiatives. “Now more than ever, it is vital that Cardinal Dolan break bread with Nicholas to hear how he is being treated by the church that he loves so much.”

Take Action: Tell Cardinal Dolan to break bread with Nicholas Coppola

It’s time to replace shunning with real dialogue. Please join GLAAD in asking Cardinal Dolan to break bread with Nicholas Coppola so he can see that they are just like any other American Catholic family. Visit www.glaad.org/breakbread to learn more.

Complete Article HERE!

Same-sex marriage: France changes law

The French parliament has approved a bill legalising same-sex marriage and adoption, following a divisive public debate.

husband & husbandFrance becomes the 14th country to pass a law allowing gay marriage, and follows New Zealand last week.

Opponents of the move have staged some of the biggest protests seen in France in years, though polls suggest a small majority in favour of gay marriage.

Demonstrations are expected from both supporters and opponents of the bill.

Police reinforcements have been brought in and security stepped up. Although previous rallies have been overwhelmingly peaceful, some clashes on the fringes have been blamed on far-right elements.

President Francois Hollande has made the law his flagship social reform.

He is expected to add his signature to the bill once it has cleared any challenge in the constitutional council.

Opponents of gay marriage hope the council will block the bill – but analysts say that is unlikely.

Supporters say gay people will only have equal rights when they are allowed to marry.

They also say the campaign of opposition has encouraged an increase in violent attacks on gay people.

There have been some high-profile attacks in recent weeks, and on Monday gunpowder was posted to the speaker of the lower house, demanding he stop the vote.

The violence and threats have been condemned by both sides.

Some argue this is the most important social reform in France since the death penalty was banned in 1981, says the BBC’s Christian Fraser in Paris.

France becomes the ninth country in Europe to allow same-sex marriage. It has already been legalized not just in the traditionally liberal Netherlands and Scandinavia, but also in strongly Catholic Portugal and Spain. Legislation is also moving through the UK Parliament.

But the measure has aroused stronger than expected opposition in France – a country where the Catholic Church was thought to have lost much of its influence over the public.

In January, a protest in Paris against the bill attracted some 340,000 people according to police – one of the biggest public demonstrations in France in decades. Organisers put the figure at 800,000.

Since then both sides have held regular street protests.

The opponents, backed by the Catholic Church and conservative opposition, say France already has civil partnerships for homosexual couples, and extending rights to marriage undermines an essential building block of society.

Opinion polls suggest about 55-60% of the public support same-sex marriage.

However, support for adoption by same-sex couples, which is also provided for in the bill, is only at about 50%.

Opponents have marched under banners declaring a child’s right to a mother and father.

At a last-ditch demonstration on Sunday, Camille, 32, told AFP news agency as she fed her baby of four months: “We are here for the rights of the children… We take it as a slur when we are called homophobes or fascists.”

Complete Article HERE!