Women bishops law in Anglican Church makes progress

This month the campaign to allow women bishops in the Church of England could clear another hurdle.

Supporters are surprised and encouraged by the backing it has been getting in the Church’s regional councils, or synods.

“We were expecting positive votes but the overwhelming majorities have been more encouraging than we expected,” says Helena Jenkins, a parishioner of St Luke’s church in Sevenoaks, Kent.

“I like to think it’s the Holy Spirit moving, because I just feel so strongly that this is the right way for the Church to go,” says Ms Jenkins, a member of the campaign group Women and the Church.

“And I think even some people who have difficulty with the idea of women in ministry have been listening perhaps more than they were.”

The measure needs the approval of half the synods of the Church’s 44 dioceses before it returns to the General Synod, which could take a final vote on the measure next July.

This month 16 more dioceses will vote, and it is hard to see the women bishops measure not picking up the six it needs.

But will the General Synod follow suit?

Jim Cheeseman thinks not. A parishioner of St John’s Anglo-Catholic parish in Sevenoaks, he is a member of the General Synod, and of the Rochester diocesan synod which will vote on 15 October.

The women bishops law needs two-thirds majorities in each of the General Synod’s three Houses – Bishops, Clergy and Laity.

“I would think probably 40% of the House of Laity are against,” says Mr Cheeseman.

Deadlock remains over attempts to provide for those parishes who object to women bishops on principle.

Authority dispute

The proposed legislation as it stands allows for the bishop of a diocese to appoint a stand-in male bishop to look after a parish opposed to women bishops.

Opponents say accepting a bishop (even one who shares their Anglo-Catholic or Evangelical views) appointed by a woman diocesan bishop would mean accepting her authority.

They want the stand-in bishops to derive their powers from the law itself, and not from the bishop of the diocese.

Supporters of women bishops say that is unacceptable because it means a woman would be a “second class bishop” without control in her own diocese.

The diocesan synods have mostly backed that view – but two (Sheffield and Manchester) have passed a “following motion” calling for the stand-in bishops to have independent authority.

A compromise amendment by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York on “co-ordinating the exercise of episcopal ministry” was backed by the bishops and laity in the General Synod last year, but beaten in the House of Clergy.

The House of Bishops has the power to amend the legislation to reintroduce something similar before the General Synod votes again.

This would cause many months of delay and be unpopular with supporters of the proposed law.

But the Reverend Angus MacLeay says some might welcome it if it means means “that they can much more easily get over the two-thirds hurdle”.

Mr MacLeay is rector of the large Evangelical parish of St Nicholas, Sevenoaks, a member of the General and diocesan synods, and a trustee of Reform, the conservative Evangelical group which opposes women’s ordination.

“If a substantial minority were saying we need to slightly rethink this I think that ought to weigh heavily with the House of Bishops and I think also with General Synod,” he says.

For Helena Jenkins such a proposed compromise “creates a sensation of second-class ministry which I think would be very damaging… the compromise position wouldn’t feel right to anybody”.

Financial fears

How will opponents react if the law goes through as it stands?

Jim Cheeseman thinks there is little desire among the remaining Anglo-Catholics to rush to join those who have already joined the Roman Catholic Church.

“My counsel is always patience. It’s one thing having a law; it’s another thing it actually affecting you,” he says.

But he warns that not giving parishes opposed to women bishops the provision they want “would give the impression that we’re not wanted in the Church”.

If there is no compromise, he says: “I fear that the Church of England will not be financially viable.

“Parish share (the contribution parishes make to general church funds) is voluntary. There’s not a legal requirement to pay.

“You can’t expect people to be united in mission and giving if they feel they’re not wanted.”

Angus MacLeay also thinks any crunch moment for opponents of women bishops in
Sevenoaks would be far in the future. Rochester welcomed its new bishop, James Langstaff, only last year.

“I’m certainly not wanting to leave the Church of England. I’m intending to stay – but it just makes things more difficult, a requirement to accept this particular change,” says Mr MacLeay.

And if the proposed legislation fails? “I think I would be sad,” says Helena Jenkins. “But I’d still want to go on working for it.

“We have some very able women in the Church of England who I think would make superb bishops.”

Full Article HERE!

Priesthood should be open to male, female, married or celibate – Fr Sean McDonagh

The call by the retired Bishop for Derry for the Church to change its position on mandatory celibacy for priests does not go far enough, according to Association of Catholic Priests co-founder, Fr Sean McDonagh.

The Columban priest was responding to comments made on the Church’s policy on celibacy by Dr Edward Daly in his memoirs A Troubled See: Memoirs of a Derry Bishop.

Dr Daly, who was Bishop of Derry between 1974 and 1993, describes celibacy in his book as, “an obligation that has caused many wonderful potential candidates to turn away from a vocation, and other fine men to resign their priesthood at great loss to the church.” Elsewhere Dr Daly writes, “If things continue as they are, a lot of parish communities will not have a priest in a few years’ time, and those that they have will be older, weary and greatly overworked.”

He asks why celibacy should be “the great sacred and unyielding arbiter, the paradigm of diocesan priesthood?”

In his memoirs, Dr Edward Daly said he hoped, “that senior members of the clergy and laity make their views more forcefully known” on the issue of celibacy and he said these were views that were often expressed privately but seldom publicly.

Responding, Fr Sean McDonagh called on the Irish hierarchy to support the retired Bishop’s call rather than going “down the cul de sac” of a married diaconate, which, he warned, would “clericalise laity” instead of looking to a “different kind of priesthood.”

Speaking to UK Catholic weekly, The Tablet, Fr Sean McDonagh commented, “I would go further than that – it should be open to male, female, married or celibate.”

He told ciNews that he was not the first voice in the Church to call for women priests, and referred to Cardinal Martini of Milan’s writings, and biblical scholar, Professor Jerome Murphy O’Connor.

Fr McDonagh also called on the bishops to conduct a survey among the laity to assess people’s level of satisfaction with the new translation of the Roman missal, which he said had been “imposed” by Rome. The Columban missionary told ciNews that a number of women in his congregation last Sunday had voiced their opposition to the new translation and particularly to the use of non-inclusive language.

Fr McDonagh, who is a linguist, urged anyone who is unhappy with the new translation to write to the bishops and outline their difficulties. He added, “The anecdotal line is that everyone is happy with it.” But he said, “People should tell the truth about what has happened. People were not consulted on it.”

“I would like to see, within a year or a year and a half at the most, a really good survey done to find out what people really think of it.” The survey, he said, needed to include all age groups.

Referring to Vatican II, the ACP co-founder said its basic insight had been that the liturgy is for everyone and that the Church should be facilitating participation. “If you are starting to use archaic language, you are not facilitating partnership and participation for a lot of people – why do that?” he asked.

Referring to the fact that just 200 students out of 55,000 who sat the Leaving Certificate studied Latin, Fr McDonagh asked, “What has Latin got to offer?” and he suggested to ciNews that the proponents of the new translation are “operating out of a world that doesn’t exist.”

He queried whether they were intent on returning to pre Vatican II approach “when the laity were basically an audience and could not participate because they did not understand or speak Latin?”

Fr McDonagh said the new translation demonstrated “incompetence” in the decision to follow a literalist translation rather than use dynamic equivalence.

Full Article HERE!

Ex-nun a cardinal sinner in the mind of the church

PATRICIA Fresen prefers being quietly subversive to openly confrontational, but the 70-year-old former Dominican nun is like a purple rag to a bull to the Vatican.
She says she is a Catholic woman bishop, properly ordained by a male bishop in the sacrament passed down by laying on hands from the first apostles. The official church says that by that act she ceased to be a Catholic and it has excommunicated her (banned her from the church).

Bishop Fresen – now a bishop in the Roman Catholic Womenpriests church – rejects the excommunication.

In Australia to speak to progressive Catholic groups, the former South African says apartheid taught her about unjust laws. ”We learnt through people like [Nelson] Mandela and [Archbishop Desmond] Tutu that if you have tried and tried to change unjust laws the only way, in the end, is to break them. An unjust law must not be obeyed but broken.”

She also suggests that she is in plentiful company because, according to church law, vast numbers of Catholics are automatically excommunicated – if they use artificial contraception, if they divorce and remarry without church approval, if they are gay and sexually active.

Roman Catholic WomenPriests was launched in 2002 when an anonymous Catholic bishop ordained seven women secretly on a boat on the Danube. Bishop Fresen was ordained a priest in 2003, a bishop in 2005 and excommunicated in 2007.

Now the group has nearly 200 women priests in North America and Europe, with a toehold in Colombia, plus three male priests. Bishop Fresen suspects they may soon be joined by some Australian women.

Usually, a woman who becomes a priest in her group is already supported by a community. ”I recently travelled down the east coast of the US. When I first saw the communities they were little groups of five, six, or eight; now there are in the hundreds,” Bishop Fresen says.

”Nearly all are people on the fringes of the church, who want to be Catholic but are very critical of some aspects. They are forming churches with much more communitarian structures, much more accountability on the part of the leaders.”

Now based in Germany, Bishop Fresen predicts a time of massive change.
”Benedict, a German Pope, is very unpopular in Germany. He’s become a figure of fun. I think he’s bringing the papacy to a quick end, and I don’t think there will be many more popes elected this way,” she says.

The authoritarian structure based on the Pope and Vatican bureaucracy is collapsing, she says, and soon the Bishop of Rome will be just another Italian bishop. But the church will survive, and she will be a part. ”I am still a Roman Catholic, very much on the edges. They don’t want me, but I’m not going. As [theologian] Hans Kung says, ‘Less Pope, more Jesus.’ ”

Full Article HERE!

‘Disobedient’ Austrian Catholics preach message of reform

Disgruntled Roman Catholics in Austria have not only been breaking bread at their weekly masses – they have also been breaking with tradition.

A total of 329 priests – one in ten of all priests in Austria – are openly supporting the call for reform that they say is needed to breathe life back into the church.

The movement calls for male priests to be allowed to marry, ending the church’s celibacy rule. The would-be reformers also want women to be able to enter the priesthood and urge greater acceptance of divorce.

The group wants women, as well as men, to be ordained
Rather than simply appealing for reforms, the group has declared it will break ecclesiastical rules by giving communion to Protestants and remarried divorced Catholics. It will also allow lay people – men and women – to preach and to lead head parishes without a priest.

The dissidents’ main spokesman is Father Helmut Schüller, who claims that a shortage of priests makes reform essential. In the entire southern state of Carinthia, not one single priest will be ordained this year.

“We’re presenting suggestions for how we can continue, when we have no replacements,” said Schüller. “How we can find people from our own ranks – for example our own parish members who can simply continue on? We’ve been thinking about this for years.”

It might be too early to call it a schism but unlike the congregations in Austrian churches, the number of “disobedients” is on the increase.

Moral justification

One woman, a religion teacher who wished to remain anonymous, claims she has right on her side when she breaks church law.

“One can only change a law by breaking the law,” she said. “When we come to a law that is spelt out the way it is now – that does not address our requirements and our rights but actually restricts them – then I believe I have the right to violate it.”

Schönborn has said that Catholics should stick to the rules
Head of the Roman Catholic Church in Austria, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, says he is shocked by the open call to defy church doctrine. In a letter he told the rebels they should leave the Church if they do not wish to play by the rules.

Calls for a more liberal church are not new in Austria, says religion commentator Markus Veinfurter, who claims there are no signs that the establishment will listen. “They are all raising the same issues,” said Veinfurter. “But there is no movement in the church whatsoever, as far as the hierarchy is concerned.”

A public opinion poll shows most Austrians, 76 percent of those surveyed, support the priests’ demands and their disobedience.

“Where does it lead?” said Veinfurter. “I think people will go on leaving the Church, people, even those from the innermost part of the church will lose their allegiance. Maybe in a few years time the bishops will be on their own.”

Full Article HERE!

Kentucky voices: Catholic hierarchy wrong, women should be ordained

COMMENTARY

I am a Roman Catholic woman, married with three teenage children. My roots in the United Church of Christ gave me a strong foundation of Christian beliefs and practices. With this background, one would not expect that I am on a path to being ordained a Roman Catholic priest. I was the last to know that this was possible, and that God would call me to this vocation.

As a young Protestant girl, I remember asking a Catholic neighbor what a nun was. “She is someone who gives her life to God,” she answered.

Moved by her response, I wanted to know if I could become a nun. Her answer disappointed me, yet the idea of giving my life to God never left me.
Years later, I became Catholic when I discovered how much I loved the liturgy and the opportunity to receive communion every day. I called myself a Vatican II Catholic, and I struggled with those who thought the pre-Vatican II church superior.

Sometimes my Protestant roots would surface when I encountered the hierarchy’s abuse of authority. Resonating with Martin Luther, I found myself speaking out and trying to right the wrongs I saw happening in this church that I loved.
I graduated from Lexington Theological Seminary in 2009.In July 2010, the Vatican issued a document about pedophile priests. In the very last paragraph, ordaining women was compared to the criminal act of pedophilia and both were called “grave offenses against the faith.”

I could not believe what I read. How could ordaining women called by God to priesthood be compared to pedophilia, which caused immeasurable suffering to innocent children?

As I reflected on the male hierarchy’s attack against women, I was in a crisis. My experience had led me to hear God’s call to ministry as a hospice chaplain. Should I become an Episcopalian?

Running away was not the answer. I knew I needed to stay and work for reform.
I talked with a friend who is an Anglican priest about my struggle. I told her that deacons in the Roman Catholic Church should be allowed to administer the sacrament of Anointing the Sick. In the midst of this conversation she said, “It sounds like God is calling you to be a deacon.”

Hearing those words, I realized that I could no longer deny the truth of God’s call. I was in a religious culture whose idolatry of maleness oppressed women and denied their call from God.

Today, I will be ordained a deacon by Bishop Bridget Mary Meehan of the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests. Next spring, I will become what God has always intended for me: a priest.

It’s humbling and empowering to be part of a prophetic movement that is transforming the Roman Catholic Church. My joy is full of the freedom that perhaps Rosa Parks felt in standing up against racism. Our brothers at the Vatican will say that this action excommunicates me, but I share this status with a long list of saints.

Full Article HERE!