Women Priests in Santa Barbara

Perhaps in some prior century, Suzanne Dunn and Jeannette Love might have been burned at the stake as heretics. These two gray-haired women ​— ​both quick to smile, soft-spoken, and light of spirit ​— ​are exactly what the Pope and Vatican insist can never be: ordained women priests. Yet three years ago, Dunn ​— ​a one-time parish administrator at St. Joseph’s in Carpinteria ​— ​was ordained in Santa Barbara by female bishop Dana Reynolds, who claims she can trace her own ordination back to St. Peter, the first Pope.

Complete Article HERE!

Pope reaffirms ban on women priests, assails disobedience

One person’s disobedience is another person’s act of faith.

Pope Benedict on Thursday re-stated the Roman Catholic Church’s ban on women priests and warned that he would not tolerate disobedience by clerics on fundamental teachings.

Benedict, who for decades before his 2005 election was the Vatican’s chief doctrinal enforcer, delivered an unusually direct denunciation of disobedient priests in a sermon at a morning Mass on Holy Thursday, the day the Church commemorates the day Christ instituted the priesthood.

The pope responded specifically to a call to disobedience by a group of Austrian priests and laity, who last year boldly and openly challenged Church teaching on taboo topics such as priestly celibacy and women’s ordination.

“Is disobedience a path of renewal for the Church?,” he asked rhetorically in the sermon of a solemn Mass in St Peter’s Basilica on the day Catholic priests around the world renew their vows.

In his response to the Austrian group, his first in public, Benedict noted that, in its “call to disobedience”, it had challenged “definitive decisions of the Church’s magisterium (teaching authority) such as the question of women’s ordination …”

He then restated the position by citing a major 1994 document by his predecessor John Paul II that stated that the ban on women priests was part of the Church’s “divine constitution”.

A year later in 1995, the Vatican’s doctrinal department, which the current pope then headed when he was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, ruled that the teaching on an exclusively male priesthood had been “set forth infallibly”, meaning it could not be changed.

The Catholic Church teaches that it has no authority to allow women to become priests because Jesus Christ willingly chose only men as his apostles when he instituted the priesthood at the Last Supper.

Proponents of a female priesthood say Jesus Christ was only acting according to the customs of his times.


The pope, who turns 85 this month, looked tired during the service, his second major event this week after returning last Thursday from a grueling trip to Mexico and Cuba.

In his sermon during the Mass, his first event in the three days leading to Easter, Benedict said that while discussion could be healthy for the Church, disobedience was dangerous.

He acknowledged that there could be concern about the slow pace of change in the Church, but “drastic measures” were not the way to achieve authentic, divinely willed renewal.

“But is disobedience really a way to do this? Do we sense here anything of that configuration to Christ which is the precondition for true renewal, or do we merely sense a desperate push to do something to change the Church in accordance with one’s own preferences and ideas?” he said.

The Austrian group that has demanded sweeping changes is led by the Reverend Helmut Schueller, a former deputy to Vienna archbishop Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn.

The group, which says it represents about 10 percent of the Austrian clergy, has broad public backing in opinion polls and has said it will break Church rules by giving communion to Protestants and remarried divorced Catholics.

Reformist Austrian Catholics have for decades challenged the conservative policies of Benedict and his predecessor, creating protest movements and advocating changes the Vatican refuses to make.

Catholic reform groups in Germany, Ireland and the United States have made similar demands.

A record 87,000 Austrians left the Church in 2010, many in reaction to sexual abuse scandals.

Later on Thursday, the pope was due to wash the feet of 12 priests in a ceremony commemorating Christ’s gesture of humility toward his apostles on the night before he died.

Complete Article HERE!

Bishop Geoffrey Robinson: 12 Elements Of Reform Needed To Deal With The Culture Of Abuse

Australian Bishop Geoffrey Robinson’s talk on the twelve areas with in Roman Catholicism which need reform, or as he might say, attending to. It’s a very comprehensive list. The following is a list of the Robinson’s 12 points and Brian’s short description. The video (below) is just over 26 minutes and well worth watching.

  1. The Angry God: This image the institution projects of a God of Wrath and Anger needs to be challenged. It is wrong, and bad theology. It’s also really bad psychology.
  2. The Male Church: Women have been marginalized and treated as second class by the institution for far too long.
  3. The Culture of Celibacy: Not so much celibacy per se but mandatory celibacy has to take a major part of the blame as a contributing cause of this crisis.
  4. Moral Immaturity: The seminary system and training of priests and religious has not encouraged moral and spiritual maturity. That needs to be changed.
  5. Orthodoxy and Orthopraxy: Bishop Robinson argues there has been far too much emphasis on Orthodoxy (right belief) and far too little on Orthopraxy (right action).
  6. Sexual Teaching: He argues there needs to be “a profound change in all of sexual morality” within the institution.
  7. The Mystique of Priesthood: Priests have been placed on a pedestal of perfection for far too long. It’s dangerous to them and it’s dangerous to the people they are meant to be serving. Priests are not God — they struggle with all the challenges that any human beings struggle with in their lives. Often because of the positions on these pedestals they have been placed on they find it difficult to find support in their lives. The laity also have a huge part to play in keeping priests on those pedestals.
  8. Professionalism: There has been a rise in professional standards across almost all professions — ethical codes, structures that protect and foster professional integrity but the priesthood has largely been excluded. He argues much more needs to be done to lift professional standards of those in ministry with the Church.
  9. A Pope who can’t make mistakes: He argues that the way the pontiff has been placed on a pedestal and immune from criticism has been especially damaging to the institution. Creeping infallibility is a huge problem not only for some at the top who would seem to believe they have divine perfection already but also for many at the lowest rungs of the Church. This culture needs to be changed.
  10. The Loyalty of Bishops to the Pope: Their oath of allegiance is to the Pope — not to God, or the Church. He argues significant blame has to be placed at the feet of the late John Paul II for his inadequate responses to the growing sexual abuse crisis.
  11. A Culture of Secrecy: Bishop Robinson argues that the culture of secrecy in the Church has been a major cause of the problems. Bishops need to present themselves in the best light all the time and the culture of secrecy runs with that. It has been deeply damaging to the institution and needs to be changed.
  12. The Sensus Fidelium: He argues the institutional leadership need to be listening far more to the thinking of the broad body of the faithful not just to the small sectors that crave authority figures and founts of certitude.

Toledo woman attempts to heed call to be priest

Beverly Bingle is on a mission impossible.

A “cradle Catholic” who retired from the Toledo Catholic Diocese after serving as a pastoral associate at Blessed Sacrament Parish, Ms. Bingle feels that God is calling her to be a priest — a Roman Catholic priest.

She knows the rules, of course, stated clearly and concisely in Canon Law 1024: “Only a baptized male validly receives sacred ordination.”

And she knows church tradition.

But the deeply spiritual Toledoan with a doctorate in ministry from Ecumenical Theological Seminary in Detroit has been unable to shake the feeling that God wants her to be a priest in the Roman Catholic Church, to which she has belonged for all of her 68 years.

A no-frills type who shuns makeup, Ms. Bingle lives in a scruffy part of North Toledo where she plants a huge garden in her backyard and gives the harvest away to anyone in need.

Her calling to the priesthood is something she has wrestled with for years, she said, but the feeling began to intensify about a year ago when she “stumbled across” a group called Roman Catholic Womenpriests.

Members consider the group a renewal movement that is fully and legitimately part of the Roman Catholic Church. Their motto is “a new model of ministry in a renewed church.”

The female priests and supporters assert that the women’s ordination was in proper Apostolic Succession because the movement started when a male Roman Catholic bishop ordained seven female priests on the Danube River in Germany in 2002. A year later, the same bishop ordained two women as bishops.

Members and supporters of Roman Catholic Womenpriests believe Canon Law 1024 is in error, and like other unjust laws in history, including slavery, will be changed — eventually. But they refuse to sit idly by, awaiting what would be a seismic shift in church law and tradition.

About 90 women in the United States have been ordained thus far in the Roman Catholic Womenpriests movement, and five women have been ordained bishops. There are other female priests and bishops around the globe.

Female priests serve their flocks in different settings, including hospitals and nursing homes, with many presiding at weekly liturgies in rented or donated Protestant spaces.

Ms. Bingle has applied and has been accepted into the organization’s priestly formation program and is on track to be ordained sometime in 2013.

Three other women in the Toledo area are studying for the Roman Catholic priesthood, according to Ms. Bingle, but they are not ready to go public. Two are likely to be “catacomb priests” who never go public, and a third now works for the Toledo Diocese and fears she could lose her job and retirement benefits if the church finds out, Ms. Bingle said.

Taking a risk

Anyone who openly defies church law takes risk, including punishment from the church and harassment from traditional-minded Roman Catholics.

The Vatican has forbidden discussion of women’s ordination and has ruled that anyone who takes part in the ordination of female priests is automatically excommunicated by that action.

Bishop Leonard Blair of Toledo, in a statement explaining the church’s ban on female priests, cited Pope John Paul II’s 1994 apostolic letter, Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, which said unequivocally that women cannot be ordained.

“The church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and … this judgment is to be definitively held by all the church’s faithful,” Bishop Blair said in quoting the pope’s letter.

Anyone who attempts to confer a sacred order on a woman, and any woman who attempts to receive a sacred order, incurs “excommunication immediately,” the measures necessary “to protect the nature and validity of the Sacrament of Holy Orders,” Bishop Blair said.

“The ordination of women is not possible, not because women are somehow unfit to carry out the functions of a priest, but because on the level of sacramental signs it is not the choice that the Lord has made.”

Pope John Paul’s 1994 letter effectively closed the debate on female priests because the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith deemed it to have “definitive” status.

Some theologians question the Vatican’s finding, however, saying the late pontiff’s letter would be more appropriately defined as “authoritative” — a critical distinction in the church world that would give the document less weight.

Female priests and their supporters say they are not concerned by threats or acts of excommunication, the Catholic Church’s harshest penalty that deprives a person of all participation in church society.

“They probably would excommunicate me already because I’m attempting to be ordained,” Ms. Bingle said. “But they can’t put you in jail anymore. And they can’t burn you at the stake.”

And in Ms. Bingle’s view, she would reject excommunication because she believes it is based on an unjust law.

“I would not consider myself excommunicated. In my opinion, my conscience tells me I am still a good practicing Catholic in good standing,” she said.

‘Badges of honor’

Bishop Bridget Mary Meehan of Sarasota, Fla., said she has received several letters of excommunication.

She said she considers them “badges of honor” because Pope Benedict XVI has canonized two excommunicated nuns, Mother Theodore Guerin and Mary MacKillop. “He is making excommunication the fast track to sainthood,” Bishop Meehan said in an interview.

Sydney Condray, 72, a Toledo author who has a doctorate in education administration, is weighing whether to seek ordination as a priest.

A widow, Ms. Condray said she feels “a call to a leadership role, and the priesthood is a call to leadership within a community.”

She believes Canon Law 1024 is “based on wrong assumptions; therefore their conclusions are wrong. I am not under any obligation to agree with things that make no sense to me. We have women who are leaders of countries, leaders of corporations, doctors, lawyers, and Indian chiefs.”

“It is an anachronism to require that only people of the male gender can be priests. Why, because they have exterior plumbing? Yes, Jesus was a man. But he was a man of Aramaic descent. Why not limit the priesthood to males of Aramaic descent? It can get that ridiculous,” Ms. Condray said.

The Rev. Roy Bourgeois, a Catholic priest from Louisiana who belongs to the Maryknoll Missionary order, is one of the only Roman Catholic priests in the United States who has publicly supported women’s ordination. He told The Blade in an interview that he feels he has no choice but to speak out because church law is wrong.

“In Catholicism, we all learn about the primacy of conscience. My conscience compelled me to break my silence on this issue, on this teaching,” Father Bourgeois said. “Silence is the voice of complicity. Now, when I broke my silence, I of course got in big trouble with the Vatican. However, I have refused to recant my belief in support of the ordination of women. I believe that our church teaching defies faith and reason and simply cannot stand up to scrutiny.”

Father Bourgeois got involved in a showdown with church authorities after he gave the homily at the ordination of Janice Sevre-Duszynska in Lexington, Ky., on Aug. 9, 2008. The priest has been threatened with dismissal and excommunication but as of this writing, Father Bourgeois remains a Roman Catholic priest in good standing.

Shortly after participating in Ms. Sevre-Duszynska’s ordination, “I received a very serious letter from the Vatican stating that I would be excommunicated automatically if I did not recant my support of women’s ordination as priests,” Father Bourgeois said. “I responded by saying that I cannot recant. Sexism, like racism, is a sin, and no matter how hard we may try to justify discrimination against women it is not the way of God but of men in their quest for power.”

He has not heard further from Rome, he said. His Maryknoll superiors, meanwhile, sent him two warning letters last year demanding that he recant, which he has refused to do. The order took a vote earlier this year to dismiss him, Father Bourgeois said, but the motion did not have enough votes to pass.

‘A grave injustice’

For Father Bourgeois, 73, a Roman Catholic priest for 40 years, the ban on women’s ordination is “a grave injustice.”

“The question I had to ask myself and my fellow priests is an all-important question that they refuse to answer, and it’s who are we, as men, to say that our call from God is authentic but your call as women is not. Who are we to reject God’s call of women to the priesthood?

“What I discovered after a lot of study and reflection is that the root of our church’s teaching is sexism. A grave injustice is being done against women and against God, who I believe without any doubt calls both men and women to the priesthood.”

Bishop Joan Houk of Pittsburgh, who heads the Great Waters Region of Roman Catholic Womenpriests, which includes Ohio, was a Roman pastoral director and pastoral associate in Kentucky, where for 5½ years she ran two Roman Catholic parishes that had no pastors.

“I preached. I did funerals that did not have Eucharistic liturgies. I took my turn doing hospital chaplaincy, but I was not able to use holy oils. I was not able to hear confessions or preside at Eucharist. I did a couple of baptisms, but I could not do weddings.”

Bishop Houk, a graduate of the University of Notre Dame with a master of divinity degree, said the ministry restrictions placed on her because of her gender became increasingly difficult to bear.

“It was extremely painful,” Bishop Houk, 71, said. “I never realized that it would be that painful. … I thought, ‘If I was ordained I could give them the sacraments.'”

In March, 2005, she was inspired to pursue ordination after hearing Bishop Patricia Fresen, a bishop and a native of South Africa, talk about apartheid.

“I had believed that someday the Catholic Church would ordain women,” Bishop Houk said. “I had been waiting, and then I saw that things were getting more rigid against any possibility of us getting ordained. And then I heard Patricia say that when you try everything and it doesn’t work, then sometimes what you have to do is break the law. It became very clear to me right then that that was something I needed to do. I needed to break the law.”

Opening the door

Roman Catholic Womenpriests reject several other Roman Catholic teachings. They allow priests to be married, and they ordain homosexuals, for example.

Several married men have been ordained in the movement.

“The only thing that matters is that they are called by God to the priesthood,” Bishop Houk said.

She is a Roman Catholic Womanpriest for a small community in the Pittsburgh area.

“When I see what the sacraments can do for these people through me, it’s very rewarding,” Bishop Houk said. “Now when I see what I can do for other people, I cannot worry about the Vatican and whether they will someday validate women’s ordinations. I can’t worry about their theological arguments. What I am concerned about is what I can do for people today. And I am doing it and I am at peace with that.”

Bishop Meehan, 64, of Sarasota, Fla., was one of the first eight women ordained in the United States, in a July, 2006, ceremony on a boat at the confluence of three rivers in Pittsburgh. She was ordained a bishop three years later.

She grew up in Ireland in a devout Catholic family, where “faith was woven into everything you are, and everything you were about,” Bishop Meehan said. “It was part of your whole being.”

After years of struggling with a calling to the priesthood, she saw a door open when nine women were ordained Roman Catholic priests in 2002 in a ceremony on the Danube River. Among them was Dagmar Celeste, a former first lady of Ohio.

“We don’t have to wait for permission anymore, Bishop Meehan said. “We’re not putting up with second-class citizenship. We are refusing to sit in the back of the bus. We are taking our rightful role. We are not leaving the church. No, we are leading the church.”

Complete Article HERE!

Vatican report attempts mere excuse not explanation


RITE & REASON: THE REPORT on the apostolic visitation reflects an exercise in irrelevancy. The visitors listened but did they hear? The report includes the standard apologies, blame for the bishops and religious superiors, and praise for all the church has done in digging into the clerical culture to determine why the horrendous epidemic occurred.

But in reality, they looked for excuses rather than explanations. This “crisis” is not primarily about sexual molestation. It’s about the obsession with power and the corruption and stagnation of the clerical culture.

The visitors were not about to pierce the protective veil that covers the institutional church, a veil that hides the reason the clericalised church is unravelling and the communion between bishops and people is ruptured. The total lack of accountability by the authoritarian model of the church is the root of the crisis.

The Irish people didn’t deserve the insulting claim that the “shortcomings of the past” caused an inadequate understanding of the “terrible phenomenon of the abuse of minors”. The people named the causes head on: the secretive clerical culture, the lopsided theology of sexuality, seminary training disconnected from reality and the “church’s” obsession with control.

These are not the shortcomings of the past. They are the deadly symptoms of the present. A typical Vatican response to a complex problem it can’t understand is imposing structures that change the surface appearance while the core continues to deteriorate. It’s like trying to solve a hardware problem with a software solution.

The outrageous assertion that the bishops and religious superiors gave “much” spiritual and psychological help to victims is followed by a recommendation that they meet with and listen to victims. That this has to be recommended is a pathetic indictment of their lack of pastoral care. If the leadership’s first concern had been the victims and not the church’s image and power, the course of recent Catholic history in Ireland would have been dramatically different.

The visitation of the seminaries avoided the real issue: can priests be prepared to serve in the real world after years of formation in an unreal world? The superficial recommendations try to recapture a seminary culture that inculcated the toxic belief that priests are apart from others because of their exalted “calling”. Survivors know too well this attitude is a major part of the problem.

The second half of the report tells the real story. The agenda is not that of the victims. The true goal is rescuing the Irish clerical institution from its descent into irrelevance by imposing a return to the model of church as monarchy. The “renewed call to communion” is a thinly covered call to docile, unthinking submission.

Catholics in Ireland are walking away not because they need a “deeper formation in the content of the faith” but because they no longer equate faith in God with childish obedience to a clerical establishment that feeds on control.

The younger generation needs the new ecclesial movements as much as a duck hunter needs an accordion. These are nothing more than agents for the return to a model of church dominated by clerical control where intellectual creativity and theological self-determination are anathema.

The abominable legacy of abuse in the Irish church has nothing to do with orthodoxy and fidelity to the pope. It has everything to do with a destructive clerical culture that sacrificed the innocence of children for the distorted image and power of the hierarchy.

The visitors could not delve into the core issue because to do so would have meant recognition of the dark side of the institutional church. The solutions offered – obedience to the hierarchy and lock-step assent to doctrine – are irrelevant and an insult to the victims whose lives were shattered because of this very model of church.

The words and actions of Archbishop Diarmuid Martin – and Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s laser-sharp assessment of the Vatican culture in his speech to the Dáil last July – are proof the real church in Ireland has accurately assessed the situation. The Vatican could have made unprecedented progress in restoring the church’s image by listening and learning.

Complete Article HERE!