05/1/17

Rebel Catholic group defies church, ordains woman priest in NC

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Abigail Eltzroth was ordained Sunday in Asheville by the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests.

An international group defiantly opposed to the Roman Catholic Church’s ban on women priests Sunday ordained its first woman Catholic priest in the 46 counties that make up the Catholic Diocese of Charlotte.

The ordination ceremony for Abigail Eltzroth happened in Asheville at Jubilee! – a nondenominational faith community – with Bishop Bridget Mary Meehan presiding.

Eltzroth, 64, said she is the second woman in North Carolina ordained by the rebel group, called the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests.

“It’s time for a change and we’re in the forefront, leading the charge,” Eltzroth told the Observer on Sunday. “We expect that eventually everybody is going to follow us.”

Eltzroth said, she now plans to to start a Catholic worship community in the Asheville area.

But reached for comment Sunday, David Hains, spokesman for the Catholic Diocese of Charlotte, said: “I hope that Catholics in the diocese will understand that it would be sinful to receive a fake sacrament from a woman priest and that includes attending a fake Mass.”

According to a news release about the Sunday ordination from the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests, 250 women in 10 countries have been ordained as Catholic priests. In the United States, it said, women priests serve in 65 “inclusive churches.” That includes women priests affiliated with the association and with a second allied group – Roman Catholic Women Priests – that has the same mission.

Several major Protestant denominations have women clergy, including the Episcopalians, Lutherans, United Methodists and Presbyterians. And most American Catholics say they’d like their church to ordain women, too. A Pew Research Poll in 2015 found that about six in 10 American Catholics said they favored allowing women to be Catholic priests.

But the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy has stood by its longtime prohibition against women becoming priests.

Not only that. In 2007, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, with the blessing of then-Pope Benedict XVI, decreed automatic excommunication against anyone “who attempts to confer a sacred order on a woman, and the woman who attempts to receive a sacred order.”

Excommunication means the person cannot receive the sacraments or participate in the liturgy unless he or she repents.

Citing Jesus

Pope Francis, who has proven to be more liberal than Pope Benedict on some issues, briefly raised hopes among Catholic reformers when he established a commission to study whether women could be ordained as deacons. Catholic deacons cannot celebrate Mass or hear confessions, but they do perform some priestly functions, including marrying couples, baptizing babies and others and giving homilies, or sermons, during Mass.

But, when asked last year about the prospect of female priests in the next few decades, Pope Francis said the church’s teaching banning women priests was likely to last forever.

He said Pope John Paul II had the “last word” on the issue – a reference to a 1994 apostolic letter that said ordaining women was not possible because Jesus chose only men to be his 12 apostles.

But Bridget Mary Meehan, a Florida-based bishop with the Association of Roman Catholic Priests, pointed to Mary Magdalene, also a major disciple of Jesus in the Gospels.

“The risen Christ appeared first to Mary Magdalene, not to (apostle) Peter, and called on her to announce the good news of Christianity – the resurrection being the central message of Christianity,” Meehan said. “Mary Magdalene was the apostle to the apostles.”

The association also claims that their ordained women priests are true priests because a male Roman Catholic bishop, acting as a spiritual descendent of those first apostles, ordained their first women bishops.

On its web site, the group says that “we stand in the prophetic tradition of holy obedience to the Spirit who calls all people to discipleship. The movement began with the ordination of seven women on the Danube River in 2002. Today there are (250) women priests and 10 bishops worldwide.”

Catholic convert

Eltzroth, the woman who was ordained Sunday, grew up Presbyterian but became a Catholic in her 50s. “It’s the most ancient tradition,” she said of Catholicism. “It’s the tradition that we all look to. Everybody looks to what the pope and the Catholic leaders are doing.”

Her resume includes several pastoral jobs: jail chaplain in Saginaw, Mich.; pastoral associate on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation in Montana; and pastor to two churches in the sand hills of Nebraska.

Eltzroth, who is divorced, is the mother of two grown children.

She said she sent an invitation to her ordination to Bishop Peter Jugis, who heads the Catholic Diocese of Charlotte. She received no response.

Asked about Pope Francis, Eltzroth said, “He’s a great leader. I’m very pleased with his stands on social justice. I hope the same social justice will be brought not only to the civil world but to the the religious (Catholic) world, too.”

As for the threat of excommunication, Eltzroth said: “I’m sure that I will be (excommunicated) if I haven’t been already. But there are plenty of saints who have been excommunicated. So that’s not going to stop us.”

Complete Article HERE!

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04/30/17

First married gay vicar quits as minister in ‘institutionally homophobic’ Church of England

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Father Andrew Foreshew-Cain says he was told he would not find a new parish outside London because he is married to another man

Andrew Foreshew-Cain, right, and his husband Stephen, left

By Rachel Roberts

An Anglican vicar who became the first in Britain to marry his same-sex partner has announced he is quitting as a minister in the “institutionally homophobic” Church of England.

Father Andrew Foreshew-Cain, a member of the ruling General Synod, is leaving his church in north London to move to the Peak District with husband Stephen, but will not seek another parish as he said he was told he wouldn’t be given one.

“I’m resigning my parishes and won’t be a licenced minister anymore and, because I’m married to Stephen, it was made clear to me that I wouldn’t get a licence for a new church,” he told The Independent.

“In the normal run of things, I’d be looking for a parish up north but I can’t have one because of the institutional homophobia of the Church of England.”

At 53, Father Foreshew-Cain agreed he was young to retire but said it had become “wearisome” to constantly fight prejudice.

Officially, the Church forbids same-sex marriage for its clergy, but his was “tolerated” in his north London parish in a way he said it would not be in many parts of the country.

Having worked in the Church for 30 years – 27 of them as a priest – he said his overriding feeling now was one of “relief” as he waits to conduct his final service at St Mary and All Souls in West Hampstead in July.

“The Church of England is an organisation which is primarily institutionally homophobic, which has policies and statements which are harmful to LGBTI people, and I’m looking forward to not being responsible to an organisation which treats gay and lesbian people quite as badly as it does,” he said.

He stressed he still had his faith and would carry on going to church. He hopes to remain a campaigning voice for greater equality in the Church.

“There is a kind of pressure in being paid by an organisation which just treats you so badly, and you just have to keep on taking it because that’s how you make a living,” he said.

“I don’t know any of my gay and lesbian friends who intend to stay in the Church until the end of their working lives.

“Most of us are supposed to go on until we’re 68, but all of the gay clergy seem to want to take early retirement … I think it’s wearisome, actually, to be constantly the focus for other people’s nastiness.”

The two men show off their rings at their wedding, which is not officially recognised by the Church of England

Father Foreshew-Cain said he had been told he can’t be a “true Christian” and be married to a man by a senior cleric.

But he stressed that, in contrast to some senior Anglicans, his own congregation had been “wonderful” and very supportive.

“The problem lies in a small sub-section of the Church which is profoundly nasty and homophobic and in a leadership which is institutionally homophobic and refuses to accept that it is,” he said.

He said that while there has undoubtedly been real progress in his three decades working for the Church, there remained some way to go before true equality was achieved.

“I don’t expect to be able to see all marriages being celebrated in Church of England parishes for a long time yet. Although I do think there will be thanksgiving services and celebrations for gay marriages, I don’t think it will be full equality.”

Father Foreshew-Cain said his final message for the Church would be that there are risks associated with failing to move with the times.

“It has to truly be the Church of England and not just the church for the minority of people within it, and that means welcoming LGBTI people – or it will eventually become an irrelevance.”

Complete Article HERE!

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04/27/17

University of St. Thomas students protest archbishop as commencement speaker

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By Lindsay Ellis

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York since 2009, will speak at the University of St. Thomas in Montrose’s May commencement ceremony despite student calls for the university to reconsider.

Student concerns relate to his role in handling sexual abuse allegations and his reported remarks criticizing same-sex marriage. 

A petition calling for the university to cancel the speech brought 100 signatures in the last several days.

University President Robert Ivany said Thursday morning that he does not believe the critical view reflects the general campus opinion. The university’s governing board of directors selected Dolan to speak two years ago in a unanimous decision, he said.

Ivany, who will step down after this semester, plans to meet with graduate student Christina Cochran on Monday to discuss her concerns, he said.

A small group of students is “outraged” by the selection, Cochran said by phone Wednesday.

“In my opinion, this student does not reflect in any way shape or form the attitude of the students of St. Thomas,” he said. He said he will listen to her concerns but that Dolan will speak at commencement.

Before taking his current position in New York, Dolan was archbishop of Milwaukee.

There, priests accused of pedophilia were paid up to $20,000 for agreeing to be removed from the clergy under Dolan’s leadership.

“Was it a payoff, was it a settlement, was it an impetus, I wouldn’t say that, nor would I say it was a normal practice, but it was done,” he said in a 2012 deposition about the payments, which he later said were to help accused priests transition out of their roles and get medical insurance.

He said that people in favor of same-sex marriage were “bullying” the church in a 2011 interview with the National Catholic Register, an arm of the Catholic Eternal Word Television Network. “You think it’s going to stop with this? You think now bigamists are going to want their rights to marry? You think somebody that wants to marry his sister is going to now say ‘I have a right’? I mean, it’s the same principle, isn’t it?”

Ordained to the priesthood in 1976, Dolan has served in Missouri, Washington, D.C. and Rome. He had a prominent role in President Donald Trump’s inauguration, leading the nation in prayer from the Capitol moments before Trump took office.

He was appointed to the College of Cardinals by Pope Benedict XVI in 2012. Dolan promoted a voluntary compensation program for priest abuse victims last year in an effort to bring healing and closure.

The university announced Dolan’s speech, which will take place at NRG Arena on May 20, last week in a news release.

“He has brought the truth of the Gospel to countless men and women through his joyful personality, quick wit and his popular homilies at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City,” Ivany said in a statement. “Cardinal Dolan’s insights and enthusiasm for our faith and for the dignity of all will find an appreciative audience in our dedicated graduates.”

Dolan spoke at Le Moyne College’s commencement in 2015 despite similar concerns. More than 750 people signed an online petition indicating their disapproval.

Complete Article HERE!

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04/14/17

With too few priests, Portuguese women step up

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The practice of Sunday services being led by laypeople in a priest’s absence take place in a number of countries, including Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Portugal, Switzerland and the US

By Thomas CABRAL

Facing a shortage of Roman Catholic priests, women churchgoers have stepped in to lead Sunday services in villages in southeastern Portugal, a sign the ageing communities are open to change.

In the tiny church of Carrapatelo, a village overlooking the vineyards of the Reguengos de Monsaraz region, Claudia Rocha stands before a dozen mostly elderly female churchgoers wearing a black dress and sneakers.

Her leather jacket and smartphone sit on the front-row bench as the 31-year-old leads what the church terms “Sunday Celebrations in the Absence of a Priest” with ease.

After prayers and church hymns, she makes comments on the day’s biblical reading, a form of preaching.

At the end, Rocha hands out communion wafers representing the body of Christ that were blessed by the priest beforehand, but wine is not part of the ceremony.

“This church would be closed if I wasn’t here. Who cares if I am a woman, a deacon or a priest? What matters is having someone from the community who maintains our connection with the priest, even when he isn’t here,” she tells AFP.

– No misgivings –

A divorced social worker without children, she is one of 16 laypeople — eight men and eight women — chosen by Father Manuel Jose Marques to help ensure regular attendance at the seven parishes he presides over.

“It might seem strange and new, but we haven’t invented anything here. It’s a tool that has long been set out in the Church’s guidelines, for cases when it’s absolutely necessary,” says the 57-year-old priest.

The practice of Sunday services being led by laypeople in a priest’s absence take place in a number of countries, including Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Portugal, Switzerland and the US.

It began in the 1980s, when services were prepared with a priest or ordained clergy member, resembling mass but without the rite of consecrating bread for communion or the Eucharistic prayer.

The Vatican and many clergy members have refused to encourage the practice, fearing a trivialisation of the tradition of Mass.

Father Manuel had no such misgivings.

To him, the need to set up Sunday services without a priest became apparent as soon as he took on his seven parishes around 16 years ago.

Before, there had been three priests for the seven parishes in Reguengos de Monsaraz, a town in the region of Alentejo between Evora and the Spanish border.

He assembled a group of 16 volunteers aged between 24 and 65 from varied backgrounds.

“These are people who have experience with faith and welcoming Christ, and who know how to talk about it,” he says, noting he makes no distinction between men and women.

Lay women step in, too, in other rural parts of Portugal, whose population of 10 million is overwhelmingly Catholic but only counts around 3,500 priests for 4,400 congregations.

– ‘Very sensitive subject’ –

Last August, Pope Francis set up a group to study the role of women deacons in the early days of Christianity.

While he ruled out the possibility of ordaining female priests, the move was considered a potentially historic opening towards a place for women in the Church.

“It is a very sensitive subject, but what we have done is very simple. In this tiny village, we are quite a bit ahead of the Vatican,” says Rocha.

The progressive Father Manuel says he believes “women would be very good priests and deacons” but is quick to add: “It’s not the opinion of one priest, or even 10 that makes theology.”

“We are living in the heart of an open community, the difference between men and women is no longer as strong as it was in the past,” says Dora Cruz, who teaches catechism in Campinho, a village of 700 people.

“But women’s equality doesn’t necessarily come from priesthood,” adds the 31-year-old mother and kindergarten teacher.

Members of the congregation approve of having a woman behind the altar.

“People found it strange at first — a woman leading Mass? But now we’re used to it,” says Angelica Vital, a 78-year-old pensioner.

“If we’re short of priests, I think they should be allowed to marry — they are men, like any other!” she adds, with a devilish grin.

Complete Article HERE!

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04/7/17

If God doesn’t make mistakes why are you transgender?

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By Shannon T.L. Kearns

Every time I tell my story in front of a religious group the question comes up. I know it’s coming. I dread its coming. Because I still haven’t come up with a good answer.

What is the question?

“If God doesn’t make mistakes, then why are you transgender?”

Ooooof, right? I mean, where do you even start?

On the one hand, I kind of want to say, “Don’t know. Don’t care.” Mostly because the question never quite feels genuine. Or it feels like it’s a way to say that I am not really who I say I am. And listen, whatever your feelings about transgender people, we do actually exist. I am one of them.

So I tend to hem and haw a bit, trying to come up with something that will make sense and actually do what I believe justice.

Here’s the answer that I think doesn’t work (though I might have been guilty of giving it early in my transition): There are lots of things in the world that are bad: cancer, death, terminal illness, violence, war. The fact that those things exist isn’t a result of God making mistakes, it’s a result of the world being not as it should be.

Here’s why that answer no longer works for me: Cancer, death, violence, all of those things are unequivocally bad. There is no question that they are evil and terrible. So to equate being transgender with those evil things? It just turns my stomach. It makes being transgender a pathology. A liability. It makes it something to be eradicated. And there are enough people who are trying to eradicate transgender identity. We don’t need to throw fuel on that fire.

Another answer that seems slightly better but still leaves me unsettled is this: Well, there are a lot of things in the world that aren’t the ideal; they aren’t “God’s best” (to use an evangelical term). The reason it’s slightly better is that it acknowledges that being transgender is hard for a lot of people. It’s something we had to work hard to come to grips with. It adds stress and trauma into our lives. For some of us we do wish we weren’t trans (but that usually means we wish we were born with everyone knowing our actual gender). Again, though, this pathologizes being trans. It makes us seem like people to be pitied. It steals our agency. 

And it also erases this simple truth for me: I am a better person because I am transgender. I am a better man because I am transgender.
Had I been born a cisgender man I would have had a very different life. See, I was born into a fundamentalist evangelical household and church. I was born with a calling to ministry and an ability to lead. Had I been born a cisgender man those abilities would have been nurtured. I would have been given everything that I ever wanted probably without having to work very hard. I wouldn’t have had to question my faith or my place in the church. It would have been all laid out for me. It would have been easy.

But it’s been the hard that has taught me the most. It’s been the hard that has made me concerned with the outcast and the marginalized and brought me closer to the heart of Jesus and the Gospel. I have questioned my faith which means that it is mine. It’s not what was handed down to me, no it has been tried and tested. It has been strengthened. It has been made beautiful in the struggle.

My gender journey has taught me empathy and compassion. It’s opened my eyes to oppression and systemic injustice. Might I have learned all of that as a cisgender man? Maybe. But it’s unlikely.

So do I wish I had been born a cisgender man? Yes. And no. And yes. And no. 

Bottom line: This is who I am. And my faith is strong.

Does God make mistakes? Maybe God wanted me to be born a transgender man because God wanted me to learn all of the lessons I’ve learned and be exactly who I am. 

That is an answer I can live with.

Complete Article HERE!

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