EGR priest denies Communion to gay judge

Judge Sara Smolenski

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Judge Sara Smolenski, chief judge of the Kent County District Court, has been denied Communion at the church where she has been a parishioner for more than six decades because she is married to a woman.

It is a move that for many was the final straw in a pattern of behavior that has them calling for the removal of a priest — a priest who came to St. Stephen Catholic Church about three years ago.

In 1966, under the leadership of Rev. Msgr. Edward N. Alt, St. Stephen Catholic School became the first integrated Catholic school in Metro Grand Rapids and had a student body that was nearly 40 percent non-Catholic.

This tradition of inclusion and acceptance would be the essence of the school and the church for 50 years.

But now, some here say that is changing.

“I’ve been a member of St. Stephen’s Catholic Parish for 62 years, basically,” Smolenski said.

Smolenski who has been on the bench for nearly 30 years, comes from a family of prominent community members, including her father who was also a district court judge, and her brother, a state appeals court judge.

“I was baptized there, my parents were married there, every one of my nine siblings went to school (from) first through eighth grade. We buried my parents out of that school,” Smolenski said. “This is a church that is a part of who I am. This is a church who helped form my faith.”

News 8 featured Smolenski in March of 2016, when she became the first Kent County elected official to marry someone of the same sex.

But it was just last Saturday that Smolenski got a call from the parish priest, Father Scott Nolan.

“The way he said it was ‘because you’re married to Linda in the state of Michigan, you cannot accept communion,’ that’s how he said it,” Smolenski explained. “I try to be a good and faithful servant to our Lord Jesus Christ. My faith is a huge part of who I am, but it is the church that made that faith, the very church where he is taking a stance and saying ho-ho, not you.”

It was a devastating revelation for the lifelong Catholic who months earlier gave $7,000 to the parish building fund.

“Oh my gosh, I’m not going to get Jesus at the church I have devoted my life to,” Smolenski said, fighting back tears. “I thought of my mom and dad who devoted their whole life to raising us Catholic, spending all that money at the Catholic education.”

Smolenski was not the first person to be denied, according to a dozen people News 8 talked to Tuesday, including one same-sex couple who was denied the Eucharist during their child’s communion service.

“The public shunning — everything about it was offensive,” Smolenski said of the denial months before her own.

It is part of a pattern, according to Micki Benz, a 40-year member of the parish who is a part of a group of members who have decided to speak out.

They point to the words of Pope Francis who wrote in his Apostolic Exhortation.

Evangelii Gaudium, translates as “joy of the Gospel,” that the Eucharist is not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak and the church is not a toll house but a place for everyone.

“(Nolan) has eliminated teachers who are gay. He has made it clear that gay people are not welcome,” Benz said.

For a period of time, Nolan forbade non-Catholics from participating in church services, including choir and reading before the congregation, members say.

Parishioners met with Nolan and were hopeful that he was changing his ways, until last Saturday when the beloved judge was denied Communion.

Nolan talked to News 8 briefly Tuesday, promising he would speak on the issue but then did not call back or return messages.

There are those who believe Nolan is in the right, but they would not go on camera. Others with kids attending school would not go on camera due to fear of reprisal, but all say they love the church and want healing.

“I love the St. Stephen’s I knew. I don’t love the St. Stephen’s of now,” Smolenski said.

Some members say it would be better overall for the church to change pastors.

“We don’t see Father Scott changing; therefore we’ve come to the conclusion that it’d be better for him and us if there were a change in our pastors,” Benz said.

Some parishioners have drafted a letter to Bishop David Walkowiak, bishop of the Diocese of Grand Rapids, explaining their position and asking for a meeting — a request he has not responded to in the past.

>> Inside WOODTV.com: Letter to Bishop David Walkowiak.

“We really, really want a meeting with him. Everybody is prepared to be very respectful. We just want him to know what this is doing to one of his parishes,” Benz said.

News 8 reached out to the Diocese of Grand Rapids who would not address the issue of whether Nolan’s actions are supported by the bishop.

A spokesperson did issue this terse statement presumably about what happened with Judge Smolenski: “This is a spiritual matter between her and her pastor.”

Smolenski says it is time to bring this into the light.

“I want to help somebody out there who’s never even been born to make their life a little bit easier — by standing up and speaking the truth,” she said.

Complete Article HERE!

This St. Louisan Became A Female Priest

— And Defied Centuries Of Catholic Tradition

Elsie McGrath said becoming an ordained Catholic priest was “a monumental step forward in educating people about what the church really ought to be.”

Elsie McGrath never thought of herself as a rulebreaker.

But in 2007, she broke one of the most fundamental rules in Roman Catholicism when she became an ordained priest.

She was later excommunicated, along with fellow priest Rose Marie Hudson and Bishop Patricia Fresen, who ordained the two.

Women are barred from joining the Roman Catholic clergy, but McGrath is hopeful that will change. Last month, Pope Francis caused a stir when he said the Vatican would explore the possibility of female deacons, a class of ministry allowed to oversee weddings and baptisms but not provide Communion.

McGrath spoke with St. Louis Public Radio’s Shahla Farzan about her call to priesthood and her hopes for the future of the Catholic Church.

On converting to Catholicism

I became a Catholic in 1956 after I married a Catholic at the age of 17. There was nothing to it, because Catholics in those days were very “tunnel vision” and out to save the world all by themselves. Nobody could be saved if they didn’t join the fold, and there was nothing to joining the fold except saying, “Yes, yes, yes” and not questioning anything.

Having been raised as, “Do what we tell you and always obey the rules and everything will be wonderful,” I thought: “This is pretty good. I’ll just be Catholic, and I will do as they say and obey the rules and everything will be good.” And then Vatican II happened, and everything started falling apart. I felt they were abandoning me, taking away my security blanket of having all the answers and leaving me looking for my own answers. And then I started getting enlightened and got on the bandwagon for changing things.

On watching her husband, Jim, become an ordained deacon

I had already gotten an undergraduate degree in theology from St. Louis University. My plan was to go into a master’s program after I got my undergrad degree, but because (Jim) was going into the diaconate, I put that off until he was finished because we went through his diaconate formation together. All of the women were encouraged to do the classes with their husbands, which was a four-year preparation at that time. I went through the whole thing with him because he was so enthusiastic about it, and I was so happy for him that he was making this move.

Jim became a deacon in 1996. I was good with it right up until the very moment that we went into the cathedral for the ordination ceremony. We walked down the aisle together as couples. When we got to the altar rail, the women got to move out of line and sit down in the pew and the men advanced up onto the altar. At that point is when I first realized how absolutely awful and unjust this whole thing was. I felt like I had been stabbed. I was totally unprepared for the reaction I would have.

McGrath converted to Catholicism at age 17, when she married her husband, Jim. When he became an ordained deacon in 1996, she said she realized “how absolutely unjust and awful” it was that women were not allowed to join the Catholic clergy.

On meeting Bishop Patricia Fresen, the leader of the women priests movement

Becoming a priest was literally the farthest thing from my mind, except for the injustice of women not being allowed to. In 2006, Patricia Fresen came to St. Louis, and I thought, “I really need to go hear what this woman has to say, because I have discounted these women priests, but I really don’t know anything about them.”

My friend called and said, “I’m going to have a little wine-and-cheese party at the house on Friday evening for Patricia Fresen to be able to meet a few people. Why don’t you come over?” Well, I didn’t really want to do that. I didn’t want to meet her up close and personal, but I went. I walked into the front door of the house, and Patricia was sitting right there. As I walked in, we locked eyes with each other. I had no idea it was her, but I said to myself, “I have got to meet this woman.” The funny thing is that I had not an inkling that this was ever in my mind or my heart until I locked eyes with Patricia Fresen.

On being called to the priesthood

I questioned my own motives, especially because this all happened so quickly and I was completely unprepared for it. I kept wondering, “Why are you really doing this? Are you trying to prove something? Does this have to do with your ego?” It took me from June until November to come to the conclusion that this was something that I really, really was being called to do.

This had nothing to do with me personally; this was what the spirit within me was leading me to, and it made perfect sense. Why else would I have spent all of those years getting all of those theology degrees? Everybody would say, “What are you going to do with that? I guess you think you’re going to be a priest or something?” I would say: “I just love theology. I can’t get enough of it.” The more I know of it, the better I can help the people that I’m working with in the church. This was a monumental step forward in educating people about what church really ought to be.

On her ordination ceremony

[Archbishop] Burke made it clear that anyone who even attended this “attempted ordination ceremony” was going to be excommunicated right along with us. Some of them knew that they were treading on thin ice, but they wanted to be there anyway. [Editor’s note: McGrath’s husband died in 1998.]

We had scads of religious sisters there. We had a drum circle before the ceremony in the corner of the synagogue, and most of them were religious sisters. They didn’t say anything, they didn’t look up, they didn’t look around. And when it came time for everything to start, they just kind of quietly disappeared again.

The whole ceremony was just otherworldly. It was almost like I was floating above somewhere and looking down on what was happening. We processed back out of the sanctuary and the three of us are standing there, Patricia and Ree (Rose Marie Hudson) and me. Here comes this guy straight up, almost ahead of everybody. He works his way through all of those people, and he serves all three of us with the latest document from Burke, the summons. It said, “You have just committed the gravest of sins and you have until,” I believe, “December the third to recant.” In March, the actual decree of excommunication showed up.

On being excommunicated from the Catholic Church

Excommunication is literally a contract. It’s a legal document, and that means that it has to be accepted by both parties for it to actually be in force. We see ourselves as Roman Catholic women who have chosen to be ordained and model a new way of being in the church. We do not accept excommunication, and therefore, we’re not excommunicated.

We don’t need “the Church.” Whenever we talk about “the Church,” we’re literally talking about the hierarchy of the church. But the church itself is us. Our choice is to remain in the church and effect change from the bottom up, because that’s the only way change ever happens anywhere.

On leading Therese of Divine Peace, a Roman Catholic congregation in St. Louis 

We have about two dozen faithful members. Everyone is welcome at the table; that is the biggest thing. You don’t have to show papers to receive Communion. At the famous Last Supper, Jesus even served Judas before Judas left the room. If this is the sacrament of unity, how can anybody possibly be barred from the table? If you believe that you are in a community of people who are faithful to living the way Jesus did, what’s going to stop you from sharing bread and wine?

The Roman Catholic piece keeps a lot of people away from us for two very big reasons. One, they don’t want anything to do with the Roman Catholic Church anymore. Or two, they don’t want to take the chance of getting in trouble, because the Roman Catholic Church is so important to them.

On the possibility of women being ordained in the Catholic Church

Pope Francis has done a lot to move things along from the stagnation that we were in with the two before him. He’s softening his stance because he’s understanding that we might have something important to offer the church.

We absolutely know that it will change. Anybody could throw out a figure of when this is going to happen. We’re not going to see it happen from this particular lifetime, but that’s what we’re doing it for.

Complete Article HERE!

Priests’ group calls for ordination of women to end ‘injustice’

Church’s failure to ordain women as priests ‘massive injustice’, says priest

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A Catholic priests’ group has said it will continue to advocate for the ordination of women within the Church.

Speaking ahead of the Irish Association of Catholic Priests annual general meeting on Wednesday, spokesman Fr Roy Donovan from the Archdiocese of Cashel and Emly said the organisation would discuss the ordination of women and married deacons.

The Catholic Church’s treatment of women as second class citizens and its failure to consider the ordination of women to the priesthood is a “massive injustice at the heart of the Church”, Fr Donovan said

A discussion around the ordination of married deacons, in light of the recommendations from last week’s Amazon synod, will also be top of the agenda at the association’s AGM in Athlone on Wednesday, confirmed Dr Donovan.

Many priests who have left the ministry to get married could bring a “huge richness and wisdom” to the Church if they were allowed to return as leaders, he said.

Despite the recent summit’s more open minded approach to the ordination of married deacons in the Amazon region, it continues to fail to address the issue of inequality for women within the Church, said Fr Donovan. “Women can’t become deacons at the moment which means there’s no opportunity to become leaders. The synod has left women as second class citizens. The Church is not treating women as human beings and it’s a massive injustice at the heart of the Church.”

While Pope Francis has shown openness towards the issue of married deacons, Fr Donovan does not expect him to be equally accepting of the ordination of women. “He doesn’t have it in him to embrace full equality for women. But we’re running out of time. The Church needs these changes now and women need these changes. Obviously he’s trying to keep a balanced approach but he’s moving very slowly, he needs to crack the egg now.”

Survey

Citing the results of a survey carried out in the Killala diocese earlier this year which found nearly 70 per cent of parishioners backed women being ordained to the priesthood, Fr Donovan said it was clear the general public wanted to see equality of the sexes within the Church. With the low number of men entering the vocation at crisis level, immediate changes are needed to ensure the survival of the Church, he said.

At present, with the collapse in numbers, priests are unable to fully retire, said Fr Donovan, adding that between 25-30 men aged over 75 had remained on as curates in his own parish to “keep the system going”.

“A lot of priests are over-worked and I think more and more priests are going to retire early rather than bolstering up this dysfunctional system. The reality is in the next 10 years there will be lots of parishes without priests.”

Wednesday’s AGM will also discuss the recently updated charter of fundamental rights for the Church which states that all Catholics should be treated equally and that there is “no place among Christ’s faithful for any discrimination on the basis of gender, nationality, language, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, age, social status, political or theological views”. The topic of how the late Fr Seán Fagan was silenced by the Church is also expected to be discussed.

Complete Article HERE!

‘Save Catholic church’ by lifting ban on female priests, activists say

Campaigners gather outside Vatican as church struggles with shortage of priests

Pope Francis has opened up discussion about women’s roles.

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Campaigners have gathered in Rome to call for the lifting of a ban on female priests that would “save the Catholic Church” where it is failing to ordain enough men.

Activists from the Women’s Ordination Worldwide (Wow) group protested outside the Vatican on Tuesday as the church’s hierarchy pondered the idea of allowing married men in the Amazon to become priests in order to plug the shortage in the region.

The activists argue that ordaining women priests would solve the issue as effectively and should be prioritised.

”Empowering women would save the church,” said Kate McElwee, a Rome-based representative of Wow. “Our church and our Earth are in crisis – and empowering women in roles that they are already serving in their communities is a solution. We’re advocating for equality and that includes ordination.”

The church has been struggling with a shortage of priests for decades, particularly in Europe and North America, which have had sharp falls in church membership as well as devastating sexual abuse scandals. In some places, priests have been moved from sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, where the church is flourishing, to fill vacancies.

‌While Pope Francis has opened up more discussion about women’s roles and appointed women in key Vatican positions, the topic of them becoming priests is still very much taboo. A huge number of women serve within the church around the world, outnumbering men in some countries, but they are denied the privilege of voting at Vatican synods, such as the one on the Amazon currently taking place, because they are not ordained.

“The consequences of this massive injustice are far-reaching beyond the church,” said Miriam Duignan, from Wow’s unit in the UK. “It’s not just a matter of who stands at the altar each Sunday and blesses the bread … women are silenced and sidelined, and this has a tidal effect beyond the priesthood in terms of how women are seen.”

The campaigners, who held umbrellas to shield themselves from the afternoon sun, said they were often insulted during protests, with one Rome police officer telling them to move away and close their umbrellas because they featured a “women priests” slogan.

Their biggest fear over the idea of allowing married men in the Amazon to be ordained is that the many women who already carry out ministerial roles in the region could be supplanted by men.

“The church would not be alive in the Amazon if it wasn’t for women,” said Duignan. “They are undertaking priestly roles without having the title of priest.”

Pat Brown, also from the UK, said the situation for women serving the church in the developing world is more acute. “It’s not so bad for us but they suffer this misogyny: the church endorses sexism.”

The Amazon synod, which wraps up on 27 October, has discussed the role of women in the region, with Cardinal Cláudio Hummes, the president of the synod, proposing that “a suitable ministry” be established for “women community leaders”. Many bishops have supported the ordination of married men despite criticism from more conservative factions.

The pope has previously said he would be open to allowing married men to be ordained in areas where there was a scarcity of priests, while maintaining the requirement for most priests to be celibate. He has also spoken about “allowing space for women in the church at all levels”.

As the event draws to a close, the Vatican on Tuesday lambasted the two extreme conservative Catholics who stole Amazonian statues from a church near the Vatican and dumped them in the Tiber River.

The wooden statues, which depict a pregnant woman and represent an indigenous Virgin Mary, were presented to the pope at the start of the synod but critics consider them to be pagan. Paolo Ruffini, the Vatican’s head of communications, said the theft was “a stupid stunt”.

The four statues were stolen from the Santa Maria in Traspontina church on Monday and the stunt filmed by the perpetrators.

“In the name of tradition and doctrine, an effigy of maternity and the sacredness of life was dumped in contempt,” said Ruffini, adding that the “violent and intolerant gesture” had “passed from hate on social media to action”.

Complete Article HERE!

Vatican office suspends Indy archdiocese’s Brebeuf decision

By: Bob Blake

A Vatican office has temporarily suspended the decision of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis to no longer recognize Brebeuf Jesuit Prepatory School as a Catholic institution over the school’s refusal to fire a teacher in a same-sex marriage.

The decision of the archdiocese to cut ties with Brebeuf was announced in June in a decre from Archbishop Charles C. Thompson.

The school reached out to the Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education in Rome to consider “the issues at hand and, hopefully, rescind and permanently set aside the Archbishop’s decree.”

“We have just learned that the Congregation for Catholic Education has decided to suspend the Archbishop’s decree on an interim basis, pending its final resolution of our appeal,” school President Father Bill Verbryke wrote in a letter posted to the school’s website on Monday. “The Archbishop very kindly informed me that, as a result of this temporary suspension of his decree, Brebeuf is free to resume our normal sacramental celebrations of the Eucharist. Most happily, this means that we will be able to celebrate the Mass for the Feast Day of St. Jean de Brebeuf on October 24.”

In the letter Verbryke said the suspension of the order is temporary.

“It does not mean that the matter has been resolved, or that any permanent decision has been made,” Verbryke wrote. “It also does not mean that anyone should infer that the Congregation for Catholic Education is leaning one way or the other on any of the issues at hand. The Congregation has simply granted a temporary suspension of the Archbishop’s decree until it makes a final decision.”

Complete Article HERE!