Defending the indefensible? Why the Catholic Church wants no talk of women’s ordination

Despite Archbishop Diarmuid Martin’s hardline response to Josepha Madigan this week, there is every reason to question masculine dominance of the Church

Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin

By Sarah Mac Donald

‘If priests disappear, then Masses will disappear and if Masses disappear, the Church will disappear.” That was the stark warning of the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) in response to the furore over Minister Josepha Madigan’s involvement in a communion service at her local parish and her subsequent call for the Church to ordain women and permit priests to marry.

Members of the ACP know the reality of the priest shortage first-hand. The Association, which represents over 1,000 Irish priests, most of whom are over 65, has been highlighting for years that priests in Ireland are having to work longer hours, do more work, and retire later due to the decline in their numbers. With so few priests under 40, the future looks bleak.

The robustness of Archbishop Diarmuid Martin’s response to the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht’s comments surprised many.

The no-show by the priest assigned to say Saturday evening’s Mass in the parish of St Thérèse in Mount Merrion created a dilemma for the parishioners and particularly those like Madigan who are involved in the parish’s Ministry of the Word or the Ministry of the Eucharist.

Rather than send everyone home, they decided to hold an ad hoc service of prayer and distribute pre-consecrated Communion, as is done in many other parishes in Ireland and remote mission parishes around the world. When interviewed about the service, Minister Madigan availed of the opportunity to highlight the shortage of priests and call on the Church to change its teaching that women cannot be ordained priests.

Survey after survey has shown that the vast majority of Catholics in Ireland believe women should be ordained and that priests should be allowed to marry. So there was some bafflement that the archbishop should describe Josepha Madigan’s call as “bizarre”.

Minister Madigan gave voice to a question vexing many of the faithful – why is the Vatican so determined to quash calls for women priests even if it means sowing the seeds of the Church’s extinction? The fact is, this issue has not been aired and debated in the manner it needs to be because of the stricture imposed by the late Pope John Paul II in his 1994 Apostolic Letter, Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, which forbids Catholics even discussing the issue of women priests. Now, that is bizarre.

In 2010, Pope Benedict XVI elevated the ‘crime’ of ordaining women to ministry as one of the most serious, putting it on a par with paedophilia. Those who defy this edict are liable to be excommunicated, those who question it, if they are priests or religious, are liable to be censured by the Vatican and removed from ministry, while lay people working for church organisations are liable to lose their jobs. That is a sufficiently strong deterrent to ensure very few Catholics give the issue of women’s ordination any thought. Furthermore, there are signs of a hardening of attitudes even on the issue of women deacons.

The diaconate is an ordained ministry. But a deacon cannot perform some of the ministries that a priest can. For instance, a deacon cannot consecrate the bread and wine. This week, the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith (CDF), the Vatican’s doctrinal watchdog, told reporters that while women deacons existed in the early Church, they were “not the same” as their male counterparts. Cardinal Luis Ladaria said the commission on women deacons, of which he is president and which was set up by Pope Francis two years ago to look at the issue, was examining women deacons’ historical role in the early Church rather than whether women could once again be ordained as deacons in the 21st century. Many will see this as a fudge and contradictory, and perhaps even a little bizarre.

Soline Humbert is one of many Catholic women who feel called to priesthood. “I was 17 when I first felt called to be a priest; 34 when I told my bishop; 37 when we founded Basic (Brothers And Sisters In Christ) to campaign for women who feel called to ordination. (There weren’t even altar girls at the time); and 48 when I met Archbishop Diarmuid Martin about it.”

Sense of calling

The 61-year-old French-born Catholic says there are “other women who have a sense of calling but not to the present broken clericalist model with compulsory celibacy.”

In her opinion, Archbishop Martin’s kneejerk reaction to Minister Madigan is probably due to the fact that “Ireland and Dublin are in the spotlight because of the World Meeting of Families and Pope Francis’ visit. Archbishop Martin cannot afford to be seen as not fully in charge of a properly functioning diocese – hence his comment on there being no shortage of priests. All cracks have to be plastered over…”

According to Humbert, even though lay-led Communion services are common in Ireland and throughout the world, she has heard that “they are not encouraged” in some Irish dioceses. “The Archbishop would have preferred if the gathered congregation had gone home.” She also believes that one of the main factors for Dr Martin’s antagonism was Minister Madigan’s role in the Yes campaign in the recent abortion referendum and also because her role at the Communion service was headlined as ‘saying Mass’.

“It was all too much. I think the Church authorities are trying to stop the unstoppable, and delay the unavoidable: the Spirit-led gospel equality of women and men. John Paul II tried to forcibly close the discussion in 1994 and Diarmuid Martin and others are feeling more and more under pressure to defend the indefensible on women’s ordination – what Mary McAleese has called ‘codology’.”

Last week, the retired bishop of Middlesbrough in Britain said the time was ripe for the Church to re-examine “the key theological premises regarding the exclusion of women from the priesthood”.

In a letter to international Catholic weekly, The Tablet, Bishop John Crowley said that “as far back as 1965, I had sensed on a purely instinctive, subjective level, that whether someone was married or single, male or female, should not be determinative in admitting someone to the priesthood.”

However, it was made clear to him that he should not express his views publicly. Now that he is retired and has no public teaching role in the Church, he feels able to do so. According to Bishop Crowley, “a growing number of theologians” and “a number of bishops … would want this burning issue to be at least looked at again in a calm, open and public discussion within the Church” in a debate which “is already manifestly happening around the world among many lay people and some priests.”

Chris McDonnell, secretary of the Movement for Married Clergy, agrees that there are many who wish to have this discussion. “Just to say ‘it can’t happen’ is not good enough, the position requires greater justification than that,” he wrote last week in an article for the Catholic Times newspaper.

Furthermore, he believes the oft-quoted argument used to challenge the validity of women’s ordination, “that priesthood was conferred initially on 12 men sharing a Passover meal doesn’t hold water. It is more than likely that other women were present; nowhere in the Gospels is ‘priesthood’ claimed as an exclusive male prerogative. Only through time and custom has that come about.” He believes that the Church “cannot continue to support equality if, within our own community, the Roman Catholic Church, we maintain masculine dominance in a core aspect of our teaching”.

For Soline Humbert, there is an irony and a sense of the Spirit whispering in all that has happened in Mount Merrion. “The parish church is dedicated to St Thérèse. She is the unofficial patron saint of women priests because of her stated desire to be a priest…”

Complete Article HERE!

Retired UK bishop backs women’s ordination

Crowley said it was made clear to him at the time that he should not express his personal views publicly

Bishop John Crowley, Middlesborough diocese

by Carina Murphy

A retired Bishop has come out in support of the ordination of women priests and says he has felt this way since his own ordination 53 years ago.

Bishop Crowley, formerly Bishop of Middlesbrough but now retired and living in London, also said the time is ripe for further church examination on “the key theological premises regarding the exclusion of women from the priesthood”.

In a letter to The Tablet following Gerald O’Collins’ “measured response to the recent pronouncement from the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith which has restated that the Church’s teaching definitively excludes women from the priesthood”, Bishop Crowley wrote that “as far back as 1965” (the year he was ordained): “I had sensed on a purely instinctive, subjective level, that whether someone was married or single, male or female, should not be determinative in admitting someone to the priesthood.”

However he said it was made clear to him at the time that he should not express his personal views publicly but, now that he is retired with no public teaching role in the church, he feels able to do so.

He wrote: “Though there might yet be a shift in the Church’s insistence on compulsory celibacy for her priests, on the question of women’s ordination the full weight of the church’s long teaching and tradition sits firmly tight on opening up that possibility”.

He said “a growing number of theologians” and “a number of bishops … would want this burning issue to be at least looked at again in a calm, open and public discussion within the church” in a debate which “is already manifestly happening around the world among many lay people and some priests.”

Pat Brown of Catholic Women’s Ordination has welcomed Bishop Crowley’s comments about admitting women priests.

Ms Brown said: “There’s no theological or logical reason why women can’t become priests. Women and men were made equally in the image of God. If you don’t believe that then you’re not a Christian.” She continued: “Women were present at the Last Supper, Jesus spoke to the woman at the well and Mary Magdalene. [Not wanting female priests] is based on misogyny and prejudice.”

Ms Brown said: “Sometimes I think the situation [on women priests] is improving, especially in Europe but some people won’t open their hearts and ears to understand that women are called by the Holy Spirit to become priests.”

Complete Article HERE!

‘I’m following the call’

Winona Catholic church, led by a woman, celebrates 10th anniversary

Ten years ago, a Winona woman decided God’s calling was more important than being in good standing with her church.

She made a bold move. An illegal move as far as the Catholic Church as an institution was concerned.

She became a Catholic priest.

Kathy Redig, a hospital chaplain of 20 years at Winona Health, was ordained in 2008 by the Roman Catholic Women Priests.

She then established, with the help of her supporters, the All Are One Roman Catholic Church, which offers Mass on Sundays in the Lutheran Campus Center in the same building as Mugby Junction on Huff Street. Today it celebrated its 10-year anniversary as a church with a reception that’s open to the public from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. after Mass.

“It’s really humbling when I think of the good things that have happened in these 10 years,” Redig said. “It’s just a blessing.”

Redig is a valid priest, meaning she was ordained by a bishop who falls within the apostolic succession in the Roman Catholic Church — a church hierarchy that passes down priesthood after a candidate has gone through an extensive process.

But Redig’s existence as a priest is illegal, because the church’s law, Canon Law 1024, states only men can become priests — the Vatican last month again reemphasized that law.

“A lot of people thought we were going rogue,” Redig said. “But if one really truly believes and respects that we are all created equally then we should have the opportunity to serve.”

The Daily News reached out to Bishop John M. Quinn and the Diocese of Winona-Rochester multiple times in a variety of ways for comment but was unsuccessful.

“It’s really humbling when I think of the good things that have happened in these 10 years,” Redig said. “It’s just a blessing.”

Redig is a valid priest, meaning she was ordained by a bishop who falls within the apostolic succession in the Roman Catholic Church — a church hierarchy that passes down priesthood after a candidate has gone through an extensive process.

But Redig’s existence as a priest is illegal, because the church’s law, Canon Law 1024, states only men can become priests — the Vatican last month again reemphasized that law.

“A lot of people thought we were going rogue,” Redig said. “But if one really truly believes and respects that we are all created equally then we should have the opportunity to serve.”

The Daily News reached out to Bishop John M. Quinn and the Diocese of Winona-Rochester multiple times in a variety of ways for comment but was unsuccessful.

‘No one up there that looked like me’

A lifelong Catholic, Redig about 25 years ago began to feel a disconnect with some aspects of the Roman Catholic Church.

“As a woman I would look at the altar and there was no one up there that looked like me,” she said.

She would ask questions about it. The answers were always the same.

“The statement that always came down was that Jesus didn’t choose any women — which isn’t true — and that women do not image Jesus,” she explained. “Jesus did choose women. A woman was the first one to announce the resurrection.”

She also felt a disconnect with the male centered language used in church services. So again she asked.

“Well God is male — the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,” the priests would tell her. “So the language for God is going to be that.”

Now that Redig has studied more, she said that also isn’t true.

Bishop Patricia Fresen, left, presents Kathy Redig as a newly ordained priest during Mass at Winona State University in 2008.

Excommunicated but ordained

Redig began the process to be ordained through the Roman Catholic Women Priests — a group started by seven women in 2002 who were ordained by three valid and legal Bishops who were willing to put their reputation on the line to stand behind the women and their efforts.

Two weeks before being ordained, Redig went to speak to the then current bishop — Bishop Bernard J. Harrington — to ask if he would like to ordain her.

He said no.

Then he handed her a letter that would pull Redig’s certification to be a hospital chaplain.

And there was one more thing.

“He said, you know you’ll be excommunicated (from the Catholic Church),” Redig recalled.

She continued to step forward along the journey she felt pulled to and in May of 2008 she was ordained in Kryzsko Commons at Winona State University by Bishop Patricia Fresen.

The support surrounding her was immense, she said. Some of that support was public. And other support was behind private doors.

Shannon Hanzel, a parishioner at All Are One and a friend of Redig, said some people were scared to attend or support the church once it was established, because of possible repercussions. Some worried they would lose a job that was connected to the Catholic Church or catholic schools. Others were scared of being excommunicated.

“Fear was stopping people,” Redig said.

But it didn’t stop everyone.
“In the Old Testament, the spirit, Sophia, is spoken of,” Redig said. “The scriptures speak of God in feminine terms, but the men of church choose not to speak of that.”

After years of questions and getting no satisfying answers, the moment came when she felt pulled to become a priest.

On a beautiful sunny Saturday morning, Redig was washing clothes and reflecting about church, the disconnection, and her love for God.

She turned to her husband and said, “I think the only way we’ll find a church that connects with us if we do it ourselves,” she recalled.

Her husband stopped what he was doing. He looked into her eyes. He agreed with her. They made the decision together that’s what they would do.

“After I made the decision there was a great deal of peace,” she said. “And peace is a sign of the Spirit.”

‘All are welcome in this place’

On a recent Sunday, the All Are One Roman Catholic Church was filled with about 20 parishioners who sang, recited and worshiped with Redig.

Dressed in a white robe, a white cord around her waist, and a single hair clip holding her hair from her face, Redig led the group in song. Drowning out the music in the coffee shop next door, a single phrase of their song rang throughout the room.

“All are welcome in this place,” they sang in harmony.

Among those singing, was Dick Dahl — a Catholic priest who attends the church and fills in Redig’s spot when she’s gone.

“She really exemplifies what being a priest is and what being a Christian is,” Dahl said. “I have such a respect for her and what she’s doing and what she stands for. I think of Martin Luther King when he marched in defiance of unjust laws and was put in jail.”

Hanzel agrees.

“Kathy is extremely pastoral,” Hanzel said. “Her story is really one of courage.”

The congregation gives 75 percent of the money collected — totaling about $3,500 a quarter — to charities and initiatives in the city, country and world including Doctors Without Borders, the Women’s Resource Center of Winona, Islamic Center of Winona and more. Also, each week the congregation collects food for the food shelf.

“This is a tremendously generous congregation and we try to use that to give back to the people who need it,” Hanzel said.

Parishioner Lou Guillou said Redig is inspirational is so many ways.

“She is a valuable priest,” he said.

Guillou added that, in some ways, he appreciates what women priests bring to the table more than their counterparts.

“In distributing communion, they always take it last, rather than taking it first and then giving everyone else,” Guillou said. “They serve everyone else and take last. It’s just a simple thing of bringing in the feminine aspect.”

Redig is a good person, Guillou said with conviction.

In talking about Redig, Hanzel said she hopes one day that women are openly accepted as priests by the Catholic Church.

“I don’t think I’ll see women be treated equally in my life, but I hope during my daughter’s life it will be a reality,” she said.

But in the meantime, Redig will continue to be a valid, yet illegal, Catholic priest.

“I am very much following the model of Jesus,” Redig said. “I’m following the call I’ve heard.”

Complete Article HERE!

God doesn’t call people based on gender, says Irish American female Catholic priest

The Roman Catholic Women Priests Movement has ordained 145 women priests worldwide since its beginnings in Germany in 2002.

Jennifer O’Malley

By Frances Mulraney

For a very short time, Irish American Jennifer O’Malley thought about turning her back on the Catholic Church. Despite being brought up in an active Catholic family and attending Catholic school from kindergarten through high school, as many children with a Co. Mayo grandfather would, she felt the Church had left her wanting in her inability to be ordained.

“I did think about the possibilities of being ordained with the Episcopal Church and explored that very briefly but as soon as I started exploring it, I realized that was not my calling,” O’Malley, who is based in Long Beach,  California, told IrishCentral.

“I’m Catholic in my blood and in my bones.

“I quickly realized that it was almost a responsibility to stay, to refuse to leave, and to force the institution to reckon with the vocation that God has called me to.”

Having read about the emergence of the Roman Catholic Women Priests Movement initially in the newspaper, a nun in one of the parishes O’Malley attends told her more about it, introducing her to a woman priest within the Catholic faith who was also based in California.

“I was participating in a small faith community and they recognized a call to priesthood in myself,” O’Malley said.

“Once I met this other woman priest, and some of my other friends who had said to me ‘oh, you should think about becoming a priest’ or ‘I wish there was a way that you could be ordained’ also met her, we all thought ‘yeah, this is perfect.’ It’s what I’m being called to.”

The Roman Catholic Women Priests Movement officially started in Germany in 2002, where seven women were ordained as priests within the Catholic Church. Since then, bishops from among these women have also been ordained, allowing them to ordain further women around the world.

According to the movement’s website, there are currently over 145 Roman Catholic women around the world who are “reclaiming their ancient spiritual heritage and are re-shaping a more inclusive, Christ-centered Church for the 21st century.”

“We advocate a new model of priestly ministry united with the people with whom we serve. We are rooted in a response to Jesus who called women and men to be disciples and equals living the Gospel,” the movement states.

It was ten years after this official start, in 2012, that O’Malley was ordained and she now serves ministries in her local community in the evenings and weekends, around her full-time job as a specialist director.

While she says that up to 95% of the people she meets with are happily receptive to her role as a woman priest, those who don’t agree with it are not extremely vocal, even when they express their opposition.

“God doesn’t call people based on gender or on biological parts, to be frank, but rather God calls people based on the gifts that God has given us,” O’Malley argues, adding that she feels it’s only by making bold moves such as this one that she will see the changes within the Catholic Church that she desires.  

“The Canon Law that says only a man can be a priest is a human-created law that’s flawed. Those things [flaws] are changed by people breaking laws and that’s what we’re doing.  

“It’s 2018. To have an institution say that a person cannot hold a position simply because of their gender is so ridiculous, to be quite honest, and I think it’s very oppressive of the Church to continue to oppress women’s call to the priesthood.”

Read more: Irish priests calls for ordination of women and marriage in Church

Much of this oppression is upheld by Pope Francis, she believes, who while loved for his views on helping immigrants, is still opposed to the idea that a woman can be ordained.

“I think his view of women is not what it should be,” she states.

“He’s made it clear that he doesn’t support the ordination of women. He has said that the door continues to be closed and it’s unfortunate because he talks to accepting migrants and working with the poor.

“However, women are disproportionately affected by these things and while he continues, or the institution continues, to oppress women, I don’t think that he can fully talk about these other issues.” 

It’s not just ordaining women,” O’Malley adds.

“It’s not just putting a woman on the altar and solving everything.

“It’s also about making sure the voices of the people in parishes [are included] and including the voices of everybody in decision making, changing some of the language we use to be more inclusive, and reaching out to other oppressed communities in the church like the gay and lesbian community.

“We’ve got to look at all the other parts of the institution that also need to be changed … The Church is becoming irrelevant in some ways, especially amongst younger people.”

Complete Article HERE!

Appalled by what Catholic Church has become, I am walking away

Bishops touch the head of three newly ordained bishops as Pope Francis celebrates a mass in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican in March.

By MARYANNE MCNEIL

I am voting with my feet.

As a 62-year-old practicing Catholic, one would think my religious adherence has been well and truly set. To an extent, that is correct; I love my church’s rites and, most especially, the beautiful sacraments that have helped to sustain me throughout my life.

I appreciate the redemptive power of confession, when used in appropriate circumstances and with the freedom of surrender.

Despite this deeply felt connection, I have concluded my only way forward is to turn away.

For many years, I have been disturbed by the Church’s failure to connect with real people seeking solace of a loving Christ. I’ve been appalled by widespread pedophilia and more appalled by callous cover-ups of those ruinous crimes against children. It seems this Church has forgotten the warning of Jesus against anyone who would harm a child.

Despite the soul-sickness of knowing the depravity to which Church Fathers had descended, I stayed. There was hope of genuine remorse and healing. There was hope this enormous scandal would serve as a clarion call to a transformative renewal.

Instead, after great resistance, grudging admissions were made and cheques were written. There was no renewal.

Still, I lingered, unable to tear myself away from a Church that was seared into my heart. One day, perhaps, I thought, it will come, even as I listened to priests, bishops and cardinals preach against same-sex unions. These men were clear about the sins of those born with bonds of attraction for their own gender, yet they mired themselves in the muck of tepid excuses toward Church child-sex offenders.

Any respect I had for Rome disappeared under the weight of disgust at this hypocrisy.

My heart breaks to think my Church denied millions of African women (along with all the rest of us) permission to use “artificial” birth control methods that could have saved thousands of lives and transformed many thousands more. Even in situations of dire poverty and the subjugation of women to the role of breeder, the Church chose to tote the old adage that “unnatural” birth control was against God’s plan.

The Vatican only recently began to loosen (slightly) this evil edict that consigned so many to misery. That was how African women were thanked and honoured for their great devotion.

I began to think I must leave. My heart still couldn’t quite give up on this institution that, while gripped by systemic corruption thirst for power, still had capacity to instill awe and wonder.

The Second Vatican Council disappeared like a blip under conservatives who now held command. I suffered as the Church’s doors clanged shut and the air, for a few precious minutes fresh with promise, became stale again with the musk of the power lust of the world’s most elite Old Boys’ Club.

I halfway convinced myself I could ignore the foolhardiness of Rome and concentrate on my own little parish, where I felt at home and loved. How could I leave this small congregation that held my heart? It was like a family to me.

Then Pope Francis was elected. A light shone through the cracks to illuminate the darkness, just enough to awaken hope once more. Here was a Holy Man. Here was a follower of the Jesus I perceived when I read His words. Here was the Church’s future, her chance at renewal.

It could have been the beginning of something truly beautiful. If the power brokers had held true faith, they would have knelt before this man of God and followed him to the ends of the Earth. They would have seen he understood the message of Christ and was touched by His love.

Instead, they worked against him and have effectively shrunk his influence. His voice, at first so clear and strong and shining with humility, has been muted. His intentions have been sabotaged. The Club remains untouched and, sadly, seems intractable.

I have loved Pope Francis but I no longer expect he can lead the Church to the kind of renewal so desperately needed. Given his refusal to grant a simple apology to our devastated First Nations for the Church’s large role in the horrors of the residential schools, it is clear he cannot rise above the wagon-circling of the hierarchy. If he cannot prevail against the forces that hold this Church in thrall, then who can?

A priest I respect refused my request that our church bulletin announce a social action walk in support of diversity that some of our local high school students were organizing. “What kind of diversity?” he wanted to know with knitted brow.

Our youngest priest recently said the Church would never allow women priests because “there were none at the time of Christ.” Of course there were none at that time, but there were slaves and horrible executions and all manner of unjust practices, so where is the valid comparison in this line of thinking?

There’s also the issue of celibacy. In North America, churches are closing, not just for lack of parishioners, but also for a dearth of priests. Few men are able to accept a doctrine that denies them the comfort of a family and of a healthy, sanctified fulfilment of their sexuality. While the Church lauds “the sanctity of marriage,” it taints the idea by requiring those who administer sacramental duties to refrain. Such doctrinal ambiguity is leading the Church to self-destruction.

I have come to the point where hope has died. I cannot ignore Rome, for she reaches into my own parish. Her power permeates every nook and cranny of Catholicism. If I stay, I am complicit. If I take my spot in the pew and put my money in the collection, I perpetuate the rot.

I have a daughter and a granddaughter. I cannot bear what my staying would say to them. I can’t stand to know I have modelled a belief that women are secondary humans who have no place as decision-makers or teachers and aren’t equipped to be shepherds in the name of the One we love.

I feel great sorrow in having to accept my Church has deviated far from the simple, loving path of my Saviour. If, as I continue to hope, the great heart at the core of “Mother Church” remains pure, then the power brokers have shut that heart away from her people. The holiness of that heart is love. And love has too seldom guided decisions and doctrines of the Church, a momentous tragedy.

To whom shall we turn when our Church obeys the dictates of power-seeking men rather than the love-giving of God? The answer, for me, cannot lie in accepting the status quo any longer.

At age 62, therefore, I have finally and sorrowfully accepted that my Church will not listen to my voice or the voices of countless others in similar distress. She will not bend her rigid preconceptions, even in the face of precipitous decline. Under her present masters, she is blind and, though I tremble to write it, no longer worthy of loyalty. As the only self-respecting option left to me, though it tears my heartstrings, I am going to vote with my feet.

Complete Article HERE!