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Roman Catholic female ordination

Call to Action logo Call to Action is the largest group of progressive Catholics with roots in the liberalizing reforms of Vatican II, originally sanctioned by the American Council of Bishops, but which became an outsider organization as conservative retrenchment set in during the papacy of John Paul II.

Pope John Paul II repeatedly dashed hopes for any internal liberalizing during his lifetime, and he prepared for the future by appointing as bishops only men who upheld his views on contraception and the ordination of women. Meanwhile, there were crackdowns on theologians like [Hans] Kung and an insistence from Rome that diversity of opinion was not to be tolerated.

The organization is stronger than ever and continues to a thorn in the flesh of the patriarchal and hierarchal Vatican:

We appeal to the institutional church to reform and renew its structures. We also appeal to the people of God to witness to the Spirit who lives within us and to seek ways to serve the vision of God in human society.

We call upon church officials to incorporate women at all levels of ministry and decision-making.

We call upon the church to discard the medieval discipline of mandatory priestly celibacy and to open the priesthood to women and married men…so that the Eucharist may continue to be the center of the spiritual life of all Catholics.

We call for extensive consultation with the Catholic people in developing church teaching on human sexuality.

We claim our responsibility as committed laity, religious and clergy to participate in the selection of our local bishops, a time-honored tradition in the church.

We call for open dialogue, academic freedom, and due process.

We call upon the church to become a model of financial openness on all levels, including the Vatican.

We call for a fundamental change so that young people will see and hear God living in and through the church as a participatory community of believers who practice what they preach.

Another group of progressive Catholics has moved beyond advocacy to open defiance of the Vatican by ordaining women despite excommunication.  Called Roman Catholic Womenpriests, the organization now has five female bishops who are actively ordaining women to the priesthood around the US. 

The Sarasota Florida Herald Tribune offered a lengthy article on Bishop Bridget Mary Meehan and her ordination of two women as priests and one as a deacon over the weekend.

A former nun who the Vatican says has been excommunicated will ordain two women priests and one deacon in Sarasota today, part of a growing and controversial movement claiming to be an offshoot of the Catholic church.

The ordinations will be the first in Florida by the group known as Roman Catholic Womenpriests, which preaches equality for women by allowing them into the priesthood and plays down allegiance to the pope.

Bishop Bridget (center) and two new womenpriests The official Catholic church calls the movement and the ordinations illegitimate, and the local diocese sent letters to parishes saying any Catholics who support the ordination of women by attending today’s ceremony will be automatically excommunicated — a banishment from participating in church sacraments such as baptism and communion until forgiveness is given by a priest.

“Good!” said Bridget Mary Meehan, the former nun who is performing today’s ordinations and is one of five bishops in the national movement. “They’re upping the ante. People will have to be courageous to support us and that is what this is about. Like our sister Rosa Parks, we refuse to sit on the back of the bus any longer.”

A similar story comes from the Sacramento Bee newspaper in California.

To parishioners in her small Sacramento congregation, Elizabeth English is their Catholic priest: She presides over their Sunday Mass, leads them during Communion and baptizes their babies.

To the Roman Catholic Church, English symbolizes a topic that church leaders consider closed: the ordination of women priests.

English left the Roman Catholic Church five years ago to pursue her calling to the priesthood. She is now a priest in the Independent Catholic Church, a group not recognized by the Vatican. She is the only female Catholic priest in the Sacramento region.

“I had to leave the church; there was no place for me,” she said. “I wish there was.”

Another of the five Womenpriest bishops, Andrea M. Johnson, will appear tomorrow at the Divinity School of Vanderbilt University.  Bishop Johnson will speak and participate in a blue ribbon panel discussion about female ordination.  This information comes from blogger Wild Hair whose self description is “Roman Catholic Priest, still in reasonably good standing; aka: eminence, the cardinal archbishop of HGN.”

Finally, Bishop Bridget mentioned earlier has her own blog with lots of info and links about the Womenpriest movement.  Check it out.

This article is cross posted at Spirit of a Liberal.

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9 Responses

  1. I don’t see any difference between this bunch and the Society of St. Pius X. Neither accepts Vatican II’s teaching regarding the constitution of the Church. Both consider that they carry the future. And both have joined a long, ancient, and distinguished line of schismatics who consider that they’ve finally “gotten it right.”

    If a pope or ecumenical council declared tomorrow that it was ordaining women, I’d have no problem with it. But today it hasn’t, and, frankly, I don’t see much value in expending a lot of effort remaking the Church in the image of a representative republic.

    In fact, if we laity really believed that we were just as much the Church as the clergy, we wouldn’t be spending so much time trying to get every demographic into the clergy. The point is not to be a priest, but to be a Christian.

  2. Rick’s points are well-taken. “Progressive Catholic” is an oxymoron.

    • So, David, are the tens of thousands who belong to Call to Action, not bona fide Catholics?

      • Obie: Of course, they are bona fide Catholics.

    • Wow. So much for Paul VI’s encyclical Populorum progressio.

      • Mr. Lindsey,

        Wasn’t Pope Benedict extolling the virtues of Populorum Progression in his latest encyclical? As I recall, Benedict defined “progressive” as advancing man’s dignity, not a cause.

        Although I am generally in favor of woman and married men ordinations, I haven’t studied the issue enough to know if the objections against it are intrinsic to the faith, or are merely administrative.

        Nevertheless, there needs to be a unity and consistency of thought and practice if something this ingrained is going to be changed.

        • I was responding to your specific statement, “‘Progressive Catholic’ is an oxymoron,” Mr. Ludescher.

          The fact that Paul VI wrote an encyclical entitled Populorum progressio, and that (as you note) Benedict cites it in some of his recent encyclicals, clearly demonstrates that “progressive Catholic” is anything but an oxymoron.

          How can a faith focused on the eschaton–on the future and its fulfillment by Christ at the end of history–be anything but progressive? The term means, literally, “moving forward.”

          I think perhaps you and I read the history of our tradition differently. I see many streams moving simultaneously within our tradition, where you speak of unity and consistency. Where I strongly defend unity in necessary things, I also would defend liberty in what is not necessary, and charity in all. Many of the most important and necessary changes that have occurred in our tradition have occurred because thoughtful, conscientious, and, yes, faithful believers have chosen to keep asking questions when unity and consistency were imposed on the whole church, from the top down, in matters that turned out not to be central to the church’s faith after all.

          Pius IX famously condemned the idea that the pope should reconcile himself with the modern world, in his Syllabus of Errors.

          The church no longer holds that position, thankfully.

  3. Bishop Andrea Johnson is snowbound.

    Here is an updated story from the Nashville Scene.
    Joah Houk will be substituting for Bishop Johnson.

    http://blogs.nashvillescene.com/pitw/2010/02/another_event_you_wont_read_ab.php

  4. Mr. Lindsey,

    “Catholic” is, by definition, a unity. Progressive Catholic implies that there are multiple Catholics.

    The term “progressive Catholic” as used by Obie, and others, usually refers to a political movement within the larger Church. Sometimes it may be faithful; at other times, it may be both wrong and divisive.

    Anyone reading Caritas Veritate, Pope Benedict’s update of Populorum Progressio, would have to conclude that the Catholic Church and its appointed spokesperson is very “progressive” on almost every social issue.

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