08/21/17

Catholic Church’s idea of gender equality may be too little, too late

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Woman who feels calling to priesthood says daughter asks: ‘How can you follow such an institution?’

Dr Ann-Marie Desmond, from Timoleague, Co Cork: ‘I can’t see anything wrong with women celebrating the Eucharist.’

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Correspondent

As the clamour demanding full equality for women in the Catholic Church grows ever louder indications are that it is beginning to make an impact at the very highest level.

Just this summer Sweden’s first Cardinal Anders Arborelius proposed that Pope Francis create a special advisory body of women similar to the College of Cardinals. Cardinal Arborelius was himself admitted to the college in Rome last June.

“It’s very important to find a broader way of involving women at various levels in the church. The role of women is very, very important in society, in economics, but in the church sometimes we are a bit behind,” he told media in Rome.

Similarly German cardinal Reinhard Marx, a member of the council of nine cardinals which advise Pope Francis, has called on the church to admit a greater percentage of women to its upper echelons.

“We would be mad not to use women’s talents. In fact, it would be downright foolish,” he said. The fact that only men can be ordained Catholic priests was “certainly not helping the church come across as a pioneer of equal rights”.

The church’s message must be inclusive, he continued, and “that is why I want to emphasise that positions of responsibility and executive positions in the church that are open to lay people must be shared by both men and women”.

Whereas admission to equality in church administration might be welcomed by some women, their glaring absence from clergy, whether as deacons, priests, or bishops, remains for most the true indicator of their second-class status as members.

Last year Pope Francis set up a commission to look at the possibility of admitting women to the diaconate, which is now also reserved for men only. The commission is a welcome step where women are concerned, but just that.
Papal decision

In Ireland, the Association of Catholic Priests has called on all dioceses to hold off on the introduction of the permanent diaconate until this commission reports and Pope Francis makes a decision based on its findings.

“We believe that proceeding with the introduction of a male permanent diaconate at this time, and thereby adding another male clerical layer to ministry, is insensitive, disrespectful of women, and counterproductive at this present critical time,” it said last week in a statement.

It was commenting after Fr Roy Donovan objected to a decision by Archbishop Kieran O’Reilly in his archdiocese of Cashel and Emly to set up a body to look at introducing the male-only diaconate there.

“What are the implications of this when already there are so many women involved on the ground, in all kinds of ministries, without been given much status and power? Have they not also earned their place at the top table?” he asked.

Fr Donovan told The Irish Times the response to his stance had been “all very positive, including men as well”. In his own experience no parish in which he had served could have functioned without the work of women.

“It’s very difficult to get men involved, even in pastoral councils,” he said. It was similar when it came to getting people to be ministers of the word and ministers of the Eucharist.

He recalled a recent US study that indicated that as many as 66 per cent of parish roles there were filled by women. “The church is only going to lose if women are excluded from the top table, especially when it comes to younger women.”

One woman who believes she has a vocation to the Catholic priesthood is Dr Ann-Marie Desmond (54) of Timoleague, Co Cork. A teacher of religion and history, with a PhD in education and degrees in theology and history, she is married with two grown-up daughters.
Devout family

Hers was a traditional Catholic upbringing in a devout family and with an aunt a nun. Even when her brother was an altar server she did not question why, then, she could not become one too. Girls are now allowed be altar servers, and in most parishes these days the altar servers are girls.

It was at third level education that Ms Desmond began to question things and later when, preparing for Masses, women like her “would organise everything, pick the readings etc., and a man [priest] would come in, take over, and celebrate it”. She has herself been a minister of the word and of the Eucharist.

Hers has remained “a very committed faith” but she had become “very anti the institution”, she said. This was not just because of its exclusion of women but also “of gay people, and people such as the divorced and remarried, from Communion. I would want a much more inclusive church,” she continued.

A lot of women like her retained “a deep faith but would no longer be followers of the Catholic Church”. She had explored other churches and admired in particular the inclusivity of Anglicanism in the form of the Church of Ireland, but “had stayed within [the Catholic Church] to speak out”.

The church needed priests, “a value-driven leadership”, she said but this should also include women. “I can’t see anything wrong with women celebrating the Eucharist,” she said.

The reason Jesus did not include women among the apostles was because of the culture of his time when women remained in the home, she said.
Married

“Many of the apostles were also married,” she pointed out, as an indicator of the inconsistency of the church’s position on priesthood which now demands its priests be celibate.

She welcomed, “very, very cautiously”, the Pope’s commission on women deacons as, possibly, “a gradual evolution towards priesthood”. It was “a step in the right direction”.

But she wonders about the church’s future where younger women are concerned. “How can you be a follower of such an institution?” one of her daughter’s asked recently, reflecting on its exclusion of women.

Complete Article HERE!

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08/16/17

Catholic woman bishop on Irish vocations recruitment drive

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‘Our bishops have absolutely no authority apart from ordaining’

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Five women who believe they have a vocation to the Catholic priesthood have contacted a US delegation visiting Ireland this month to recruit female priests.

From the US-based Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests (ARCWP), the delegation is being led by Irish-born Bishop Mary Bridget Meehan, who is accompanied by Rev Mary Theresa Streck and Rev Joan Chesterfield.

Speaking of the five women seeking ordination, Bishop Meehan told The Irish Times they “already have theology degrees and diplomas in spirituality”.

A Mass celebrated by Bishop Meehan, in a community centre on Dublin’s South Circular, was attended by “35 to 40” people earlier this month, while the delegation met a similar number more recently in Drogheda.

They have also visited Glenstal Abbey at Murroe, Co Limerick, where they met former Abbot Mark Patrick Hederman and Nóirín Ní Riain who was ordained Rev Nóirín Ní Riain, minister in the One Spirit Inter Faith Seminary Foundation, last month. The foundation embraces “the universal truth at the heart of all spiritual traditions”. Ms Ní Riain has a doctorate in theology.

Bishop Meehan said she had also met Limerick parish priest Fr Roy Donovan who last week called for the ordination of women to the Catholic priesthood and objected to the introduction of a male-only permanent diaconate in his Cashel Archdiocese before completion of a report by the papal commission on women deacons.

The meeting with Fr Donovan was “very open” she said, and he had put her in contact with a woman who believes she too has a vocation.

Pittsburgh ordination

Bishop Bridget Mary Meehan was raised to the episcopacy in 2009 at Santa Barbara, California, after ordination to the Catholic priesthood at Pittsburgh in 2006.

Her family is from Crosskerry, near Rathdowney, Co Laois, but they left Ireland for the US in 1956. Nowadays, she holds weekly liturgies , including Mass, at the Mary Mother of Jesus Inclusive Catholic Community in Sarasota, Florida.

In 2007, she and fellow women priests were excommunicated by Pope Benedict. He decreed that anyone “who attempts to confer a sacred order on a woman, and the woman who attempts to receive a sacred order” was automatically excommunicated. However, this decree has been rejected by the ARCWP.

In North America, there were about 250 Catholic women priests and 11 women bishops, Bishop Meehan said. Their ordinations were valid “because of our apostolic succession within the Roman Catholic Church”, she said.

This is so because “the principal consecrating Roman Catholic male bishop who ordained our first women bishops is a bishop with apostolic succession within the Roman Catholic Church in communion with the Pope. Therefore, our bishops validly ordain deacons, priests and bishops.”

As well as in the US and Canada, the ARCWP has members in Latin America and, increasingly, in the rest of the world.

Equality

They seek equality for women in the church at all levels, including at decision-making and ordination levels, and prepare and ordain qualified women (and men) to serve as Catholic priests. Theirs is “a renewal movement” within the church which aims at “full equality for all within” as “a matter of justice and faithfulness to the Gospel”, she said.

Bishop Meehan points out that their model of church “is exactly the opposite” of the current Roman model. For instance, “our bishops have absolutely no authority apart from ordaining [others to priesthood/episcopacy]. It’s like the monastic model,” she said.

She and other members of her delegation are back in Ireland (she has been a regular visitor over the years) “for the month of August” and hope to encourage other women towards ordination while here. They will be “celebrating liturgies and meeting with women’s groups”.

They would also “love a dialogue with the bishops” in Ireland and believe there is “a new spirit in the church” since the election of Pope Francis in 2013. They feel “in harmony with a lot of what Pope Francis is saying”.

Recently, two Vatican officials met ARCWP members in Rome and all attended Mass together, she said.

Women who believe they have a vocation to the priesthood can contact Bishop Meehan at 001- 703-505-0004, sofiabmm@aol.com and www.arcwp.org.

Complete Article HERE!

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08/11/17

Limerick priest challenges authorities over role of women in church

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A woman ‘can give more meaning to the Eucharist than any male celibate’

Pope Francis set up a commission to look at the introduction of women deacons last year which will report “in a year or two”.

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A parish priest in Co Limerick has called for the ordination of women to the priesthood in the Catholic Church.

Fr Roy Donovan, parish priest of Caheronlish in Co Limerick, also objects to the introduction of a male-only permanent diaconate in his Cashel Archdiocese before completion of a report by the papal commission on women deacons.

Fr Roy Donovan, parish priest of Caheronlish in Co Limerick

On women priests , Fr Donovan said he believed “a woman could celebrate the Eucharist even better than a man being more familiar with the shedding of blood. A woman saying ‘this is my body, this is my blood’ can give more meaning to the Eucharist than any male celibate.”

He also knew women “who feel it in their bones and souls that they have a call to the priesthood”.

Fr Donovan was responding to the setting up of a working group by Archbishop of Cashel Kieran O’Reilly to look at introducing the male-only permanent diaconate in the diocese.

Fr Donovan was “upset” and “taken aback” by this decision of the Archbishop’s as Pope Francis had set up a commission to look at the introduction of women deacons last year which would report “in a year or two.” He was, therefore, “uncomfortable” about Archbishop O’Reilly’s decision.

Ultimately, he felt such matters were for the local church community to decide. His fear was that parishes were “going the way of the gardaí and post offices.” Local communities “should have the last say and permanent deacons were not the answer,” he said. Nor was parish clustering, he said.

What was happening now where bishops were concerned was “a kicking of the can down the road. They are not facing reality”.

Fr Donovan was particularly surprised at Archbishop O’Reilly’s decision concerning the permanent diaconate in Cashel folowing his experiences of attempting to introduce it in his previous diocese, Killaloe.

In September 2014, two months before it was announced he had been appointed Archbishop of Cashel, then Bishop O’Reilly announced he was delaying introduction of the permanent diaconate there following strong protests by women mainly.

Just a month beforehand, in a pastoral letter circulated throughout parishes in Killaloe, he had invited men to apply for posts as permanent deacons there.

Complete Article HERE!

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07/29/17

Nun celebrates Catholic wedding in Canada

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The Vatican authorized Sr Pierrette Thiffault of the Sisters of Providence to officiate at a wedding in a rural diocese in western Quebec. And in spite of her initial apprehensions, the ceremony went well.

By Mélinée Le Priol

Cindy and David had their religious wedding on Saturday, July 22, celebrated by… a woman.

The exceptional ceremony took place in a Catholic church at Lorrainville, 650 km west of Montreal in Canada.

In the rural diocese of Rouyn-Norand in the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region, the lack of priests is such that the bishop called on the assistance of Sr Pierrette Thiffault of the Sisters of Providence.

Why Sr Pierrette?

“You need to ask my bishop,” she smiles, explaining that in this zone several priests are responsible for up to seven or eight different parishes each.

“I was happy and proud to be able to provide this service for my diocese,” she says.

Authorized by Rome

Although rare, such an event is in fact authorized by canon law.

“Where there is a lack of priests and deacons, the diocesan bishop can delegate lay persons to assist at marriages, with the previous favorable vote of the conference of bishops and after he has obtained the permission of the Holy See,” says Canon 1112.

“A suitable lay person is to be selected, who is capable of giving instruction to those preparing to be married and able to perform the matrimonial liturgy properly.”

Hence, on May 23, Sr Pierrette received the necessary mandate in the form of an authorization from Rome after her name was proposed by the Congregation of Divine Worship and for the Discipline of Sacraments.

A member of the Sisters of Providence the past 55 years, Sr Pierrette is a pastoral worker in the parish of Moffett, which neighbors Lorrainville, where the wedding took place on July 22.

In fact, it was as a catechist that she came to know David, the husband when he was a high school student.

Proud

During the three months prior to the ceremony, she met the couple on three occasions.

“It was a mission of evangelization, that’s for sure,” Sr Pierrette comments, noting how she had had to explain various aspects of the ceremony to the gathering.

Unable to conceal her joy at being able to celebrate the wedding, she says she was proud of her bishop’s decision.

“It is a beautiful step forward for women in the Church.”

However, she is equally proud of the couple she wed, and even “a little” proud of herself. And in spite of her initial apprehensions, the ceremony went well.

She is now ready to do it again whenever requested and she has no doubt that in future lay people will be called to play an increasingly significant role in the liturgy.

Complete Article HERE!

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07/22/17

Mary Magdalene: The Single Best Argument for Women Priests

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By Kerry Walters

On 22 July each year, the Christian community venerates a saint who is the single best argument for why women should be priests: Mary of Magdala, more commonly called Mary Magdalene and traditionally known as the “Apostle to the Apostles.”

Given what we know about her, it’s a scandal that some Christian communities—most notably the Roman Catholic Church and the Southern Baptist Convention—still consider women unworthy of ordination.

The Roman Church’s refusal to ordain women is succinctly stated in its official Catechism:

The Lord Jesus chose men to form the college of the twelve apostles, and the apostles did the same when they chose collaborators to succeed them in their ministry…For this reason the ordination of women is not possible. #1577

The Southern Baptist Convention bases its refusal on several passages in the Pauline letters to Titus and Timothy that seem to disallow women from serving as pastors. (Never mind that biblical scholars agree that the letters were almost certainly not written by Paul himself.) Predictably, perhaps, the Convention adds that pastoral ministry would interfere with women’s single-minded dedication to their God-appointed “family roles.”

Such objections to the ordination of women strike rational people, including millions of Christians, as absurd. But Dominican priest Wojciech Giertych, who served as theologian of the papal household for Pope Benedict XVI, adds risibility to absurdity when he argues that women simply don’t have the mechanical know-how of men, and so would be helpless when it comes to guy-stuff like church repairs.

I don’t know how handy she was with a hammer or screwdriver, but the scriptural accounts of Mary Magdalene certainly confound these arguments against women priests and pastors. Her prominence in the New Testament is indisputable.

She’s presented as one of the earliest disciples of Jesus, joining his band of followers after being cleansed of “seven demons” (Mark and Luke). Although she actually isn’t the New Testament “sinner” who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears or anointed them with precious oil she’s often thought to be—this is an identification invented by Gregory the Great in the 6th century—she’s still mentioned more often in the Gospels, no fewer than 12 times, than nearly all the male apostles.

The gospels of Mark, Matthew, and John recognize her as one of the women who followed Jesus to Golgotha, when all the male apostles except John had fled in terror. All four gospels also announce that she was either the very first person (Mark and John) or one of the first (Matthew and Luke), her companions also being women, to whom the Risen Christ appeared, and that she was the messenger who carried the good news to the male apostles.

Luke tells us that the other disciples didn’t believe her, either because she was a woman or because the tale was so fantastical, and ran to see the empty tomb for themselves. In the apocryphal Gospel of Mary, dating from sometime in the 2nd century, the disbelief of the male apostles, especially the brothers Andrew and Peter, is clearly rancorous. “Did he then speak secretly with a woman, in preference to us, and not openly? Are we to turn back and all listen to her? Did he prefer her to us?” In the later Gospel of Philip, another apocryphal text, the anger directed against Mary by the male apostles is even more intense.

These texts suggest that even at this early stage in the Church’s history, animosity toward women in leadership positions was present. But the more important point here is that both canonical and non-canonical texts affirm Mary as the witness-bearer for the risen Christ. There simply is no debate in the ancient texts about her centrality.

We have nothing but legend to fall back on for the rest of Mary’s life. She isn’t mentioned in either the Acts of the Apostles or any of the New Testament epistles. Some stories say she retired to Ephesus with Mary, Jesus’ mother, after the Resurrection. Others say that she undertook missionary work, even appearing before the Roman emperor Tiberias and astounding him with a miracle.

But these legends, charming as they are, aren’t necessary for establishing her bona fides. Scripture does that. Mary Magdalene, like so many women, was one of Jesus’ earliest followers; she remained loyal to him, at great risk to herself, when the male apostles fled in doubt and terror; the Risen Christ appeared first to her; and she carried the good news to the male apostles, who refused to believe her testimony. Even John Paul II, who declared the topic of women’s ordination settled and done (a position unfortunately affirmed by Pope Francis), acknowledged that this rightly made her the Apostle to the Apostles.

So if men are qualified to ordained ministry because of the male apostles, wouldn’t Mary’s primacy over them qualify women?

The answer’s pretty clear, isn’t it?

Complete Article HERE!

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