Saturday, May 31, 2008

Catholic activists mark end of an era

By Margaret Ramirez
Chicago Tribune
May 31, 2008

In the late 1970s, with memories of Vietnam still raw and the Cold War raging, hundreds of activists rallied in peace and justice movements, pressing the government for change.

Here in Chicago, a former priest and a former nun saw a chance for similar activism within the Roman Catholic Church. In 1976, Dan and Sheila Daley launched Call To Action, a group of Catholics seeking to act out God's vision in society and hold leaders accountable.

Bold and controversial from the start, Call To Action made history as the first lay group to publicly question the church's prohibitions on birth control, women's ordination, homosexuality and celibacy for priests. Its actions paved the way for other reform groups, including Voice of the Faithful and the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

Along the way, many church leaders branded the group's members as dissidents and rebels, with one conservative bishop punishing Nebraska members with excommunication.

Now the group's founders have announced they will retire this fall as co-executive directors of Call To Action after 32 years. Though a horrific 2006 collision that permanently injured Sheila Daley was a factor in the decision, the married couple, both 65, say the time is right to pass the movement to younger Catholics.

"It's younger people who are going to have to put the flesh on a new way of being 'church' in today's world," Sheila Daley said in the group's Roscoe Village offices. "And I don't think it just means changing the institution. I think it's how you live your life today."

The question is whether the next generation will take up the call. Many of the Catholic priests and laypeople who pushed for more far-reaching change after the Second Vatican Council are now 60 or older. In addition, church activists see the papacies of Pope John Paul II and his successor, Pope Benedict XVI, as bringing church reform to a near-standstill. Because of that, some observers think the couple's exit may signal the end of an era.

"What we're seeing today with Catholics under 40 is, frankly, the reason they're not joining groups like Call To Action is not because they agree with the bishops. It's because they don't care," said Rev. Thomas Reese, senior fellow at Georgetown University's Woodstock Theological Center.

"Younger people are simply leaving the church, rather than stay and try to reform it."

Call To Action's efforts did not bring about changes in church teaching but did help change attitudes, said Terrence Tilley, theology professor at Fordham University in New York.

Several polls have shown that many American Catholics agree with the group's liberal positions.

"We live in a post-progressive church where many of the progressive goals have been met not by the church, but by the attitudes of American Catholics," Tilley said. "If they are young, many of them are perfectly happy to have married priests and to have women ordained. . . . The bishops' positions are very clear, but they are generally ignored, especially those having to do with contraception."

In the next era, church activism will probably take a different shape and adopt a different agenda, he said.

With a national search under way for a new leader of Call To Action, the group's younger members—known as Next Generation or "NextGen"—already have begun to shape the future of reform.

Nicole Sotelo, 30, Call to Action's program coordinator, said NextGen members recently created a group on Facebook, the popular Internet meeting place. In May, they also launched a blog for young Catholics at

"I think many young Catholics have not found the church to be a welcoming place, and they have left. So we're trying to reach them," she said.

Sotelo said future battles for Call To Action will focus on monitoring sexual abuse reforms, fighting racism in the church and protecting the environment, which is the theme for this year's convention, to be held Nov. 7-9 in Milwaukee.

The idea for Call To Action originated in a 1976 bishops conference in Detroit that sought to determine the mind of the church on various issues. The bishops discussed several propositions, yet ultimately reiterated their authority.

When Cardinal John Dearden of Detroit closed the conference and told participants to implement the ideas at home, the Chicago contingent took him seriously and formed Call To Action.

"It wasn't just us," Sheila Daley said. "It was a lot of people like us who were trying to figure out: How do you live out your Christian commitment in this contemporary world? We had tried traditional religious life as options and found those didn't function for us. So this was really a way of trying to search out a new model."

Call To Action members started their work locally, forming a performing arts ministry and organizing an annual conference that would become the largest progressive Catholic gathering in the country. The group shifted gears and expanded nationally after the Vatican, under Pope John Paul II, began disciplining theologians who strayed from church teaching.

By 2002, Call To Action had become well-known in Catholic circles for its activism, which some admired and others abhorred. Their movement gained credibility when the sexual abuse scandal exploded on the scene and exposed cover-ups by church leaders, and church observers said Call To Action provided fertile soil for other reform groups to grow.

Today, the group includes 25,000 members in the U.S. and Canada.

But if you ask what the founders believe has been their greatest accomplishment, Sheila Daley said it is creating a place for progressive Catholics to find community.

"I think we have been a very significant support to people who are trying to live out this kind of vision of their Christianity and Catholicism and have felt isolated and alone," she said. "Through us, they have found other people that they can gather with who have that similar vision. That's almost the most important thing."

Friday, May 30, 2008

Excommunication?: The Women Respond

Women's Ordination Conference Statement on Vatican Decree of Immediate Excommunication of Ordained Women

Aisha Taylor, executive director of the Women's Ordination Conference, issued the following statement about the Vatican's decree that ordained Roman Catholic women and the bishops who ordained them incur latae sententiae excommunication, which means excommunication that is immediate and self-imposed.

The Women's Ordination Conference is outraged by yesterday’s Vatican decree, which reminds Catholic women once again of the animosity they face from the hierarchy, despite being the backbone of most Catholic parishes throughout the world.

Out of fear of the growing numbers of ordained women and the overwhelming support they are receiving, the Vatican is trying to preserve what little power they have left by attempting to extinguish the widespread call for women’s equality in the church. It will not work. In the face of one closed door after another, Catholic women will continue to make a way when there is none.

We reject the notion of excommunication. In our efforts to ordain women into an inclusive and accountable Roman Catholic Church, we see it as contrary to the gospel itself to excommunicate people who are doing good works and responding to injustice and the needs of their communities. While the hierarchy prattles on about excommunication, Catholic women are working for justice and making a positive difference in the world.

This inappropriate use of excommunication and the Vatican’s stance on ordination are based on arguments that have been refuted time and again. In 1976, the Vatican’s own Pontifical Biblical Commission determined that there is no scriptural reason to prohibit women’s ordination. Jesus included women as full and equal partners in his ministry, and so should the hierarchy.

The call for women’s equality in the Catholic Church is reverberating loudly in the public consciousness. Around the world, over sixty women have been ordained as priests, deacons or bishops by the group called Roman Catholic Womenpriests (RCWP), and there are nearly 100 women in the RCWP preparation program. There are 16 national organizations from 11 different countries that advocate women’s ordination, and the vast majority of US Catholics support the ordination of women.

The refusal to ordain women is nothing more than an egregious manifestation of sexism in the church. It is time for the Vatican to listen to its own research, its own theologians and its own people who say that women are equally created in the image of God and are called to serve as priests in a renewed and inclusive Catholic Church.

Roman Catholic Womenpriests’ Response to Vatican Decree of Excommunication

Roman Catholic Womenpriests reject the penalty of excommunication issued by the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith stating that the “women priests and the bishops who ordain them would be excommunicated latae sententiae.” Roman Catholic Womenpriests are loyal members of the church who stand in the prophetic tradition of holy disobedience to an unjust law that discriminates against women.

We hold up heroic women in the church’s tradition like Hildegard of Bingen, Joan of Arc and St. Theodore Guerin who obeyed God, followed their consciences and withstood hierarchical oppression including interdict, excommunication and death.

In obedience to Jesus, we are disobeying an unjust law. The Catholic Church teaches that a teaching or law of the church is authoritative only if it is “received” by the sensus fidelium, the community of faith. If the community of faith does not accept the law, it has no effect on us. All people have a moral obligation to disobey an unjust law. St. Augustine taught that an unjust law is no law at all. Since 70% of U.S. Catholics favor women’s ordination and a growing majority of Catholics worldwide also favors women’s ordination, we do not “receive” or accept the Church's prohibition against the ordination of women and the church’s continued reliance on sexist metaphors, beliefs and assumptions for denying ordination to women.

Pope Benedict XVI, written when he was Cardinal Ratzinger, in the commentary section of the Doctrine of Vatican II, volume V, page 134, stated: "Over the Pope as the expression of the binding claim of ecclesiastical authority, there still stands one's own conscience, which must be obeyed before all else, if necessary even against the requirement of ecclesiastical authority.”

Roman Catholic Church laws are often contradictory. In this instance, canon 1024 limits sacred orders to men, while canon 849 states that baptism is the gateway to the sacraments. Scholar Bishop Ida Raming, doctor of theology, points out a prior church understanding: “some medieval canonists hold that not maleness but baptism is the pre-requisite for valid ordinations: “After being baptized, anyone may be validly ordained.” (The Exclusion of Women from the Priesthood: Causes and Background)

Recent scholarship affirms that women were ordained in the first thousand years of the church’s history. The first half of the church’s history provides us with images and accounts of the inclusion of women in Holy Orders that contradict the later prohibition. We are reclaiming this important tradition in order to bring equality and balance, and reconciliation and renewal to the church we love, and to all the holy people of God who have been hurt, marginalized, and ostracized in the name of Jesus Christ, who always and everywhere said, as we do, that ALL ARE WELCOME.

“Roman Catholic Womenpriests are leading the way to a renewed Roman Catholic Church in which the full equality of women will be a reality,” commented Bridget Mary Meehan, U.S. media spokeswoman. “Like Mary Magdalene, apostle to the apostles, and the women deacons, priests and bishops who served in the early centuries of our church, we are offering a model of a renewed priesthood in a community of equals.”

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Vatican decrees excommunication for participation in ordination of women

"Father, forgive them, they know not what they do."

Vatican City, May 29, 2008 / 02:29 pm (CNA).- The Vatican declared today that any women who attempt ordination or any bishops who attempt to ordain women are automatically excommunicated from the Church by their actions. The decree from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is said to be absolute, universal and immediately effective.

The decree which was published in the Vatican daily, L’Osservatore Romano, comes in the wake of several women attempting to be ordained as Catholic priests.

The most recent attempt to ordain a woman occurred on May 4 in Winona, Minnesota when Kathy Redig, participated in a ceremony of ordination.

Bishop of Winona Bernard Harrington responded to the news of Redig’s purported ordination by saying it made him “very, very sad.” The bishop also said that “She, by her actions, has excommunicated herself.”

Another occurrence of attempted ordination occurred in St. Louis, Missouri on November 11, 2007. The ceremony involved a German woman named Patricia Fresen conducting a would-be ordination ceremony at a St. Louis synagogue. Fresen used the formula and rite of a Catholic ordination to “ordain” as priests two St. Louis-area women, Rose Hudson and Elsie McGrath.

The attempted ordination caused Archbishop Raymond Burke of the Archdiocese of St. Louis to declare the three women excommunicated for taking part in an attempted ordination of women to the priesthood. The archbishop said the excommunication was part of his “solemn duty” to protect the faith and unity of the Church.

Archbishop Burke, who is regarded as one of the foremost experts on canon law, explained that this type of situation has been addressed before. In August 2002, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith also excommunicated two women who had taken part in an invalid ordination ceremony, he said.

Patricia Fresen, the archbishop said, had “formally and directly engaged” in founding a “new and separate sect” called Roman Catholic WomenPriests USA.

The decree from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith also mentions that it applies to all people in communion with the Catholic Church, including any bishops or women who are members of the Eastern Churches. Anyone who incurs this excommunication can only be received back into the Church by the Apostolic See, the decree says.

The declaration, which is signed by Cardinal William Levada, concludes by saying that it is absolute, universal and immediately effective upon its publication in L’Osservatore Romano.

Translated text of the Decree:

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
General Decree

Regarding the crime of attempting sacred ordination of a woman

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, to protect the nature and validity of the sacrament of holy orders, in virtue of the special faculty conferred to it by the supreme authority of the Church (see canon 30, Canon Law), in the Ordinary Session of December 19, 2007, has decreed:

Remaining firm on what has been established by canon 1378 of the Canon Law, both he who has attempted to confer holy orders on a woman, and the woman who has attempted to receive the said sacrament, incurs in latae sententiae excommunication, reserved to the Apostolic See.

If he who has attempted to confer holy orders on a woman or if the woman who has attempted to receive holy orders, is a member of the faithful subject to the Code of Canon Law for the Eastern Churches, remaining firm on what has been established by canon 1443 of the same Code, they will be punished with major excommunication, whose remission remains reserved to the Apostolic See (see canon 1423, Canon Law of the Eastern Churches).

The current decree will come into immediate force from the moment of publication in the 'Osservatore Romano' and is absolute and universal.

William Cardinal Levada
Angelo Amato, S.D.B.
Titular Archbishop of Sila

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Peoria diocese ordains its first married priest

By Michael Miller
Journal Star
May 17, 2008

Doug Grandon will add the role of Catholic priest to his roles of father and husband one week from today.

The 49-year-old Sterling native and father of six will become the first married man to be ordained a priest in the Catholic Diocese of Peoria. Widowers have been ordained, but never someone whose wife is still alive, said Monsignor Paul Showalter, vicar general for the diocese.
Grandon is a former Episcopal priest who converted to Catholicism in 2003 along with his wife, Lynn, and four of their children.

About 100 Episcopal priests, many of them married, have become Catholic priests since a "pastoral provision" was created by Pope John Paul II in 1980, said Grandon, director of catechetics for the diocese.

Grandon said that though he came to the Christian faith as a 14-year-old born-again convert who attended an evangelical-Pentecostal church in Sterling, he’s been on this path to becoming a Roman Catholic priest the whole time, all along asking himself, "What is (the church) supposed to be like and how do I fit in it?"

"I’ve always felt from the time I was a teenager that I was called to be an ordained minister," Grandon said. "So it was natural as an evangelical and an Anglican and now as a Roman Catholic that I would pursue that."

Grandon brings plenty of experience to his new vocation.

He went to Yugoslavia in the late 1970s as a missionary serving underground churches, being ordained as an evangelical minister in 1978. Grandon started the Church on Glen Hill in Peoria in 1988, serving as pastor there until 1995, when he left for studies at St. Louis University.

After studying church history there, Grandon felt led to enter the Anglican tradition. Ordained an Episcopal priest in 1999, he was pastor at Christ Church in Moline for four years before converting to Catholicism. That move came out of a desire to more fully be in communion with the bishop of Rome, he said.

Grandon said the possibility of his becoming a Catholic priest was discussed early on. He went through several examinations, was assigned reading, and waited through the bureaucratic process.

Bishop Daniel Jenky twice asked the priests of the diocese whether they would have any problems with a married priest being among them, Grandon said. Jenky told Grandon there was "universal consensus" that he should proceed.

"The priests (of the Diocese of Peoria) have been more than kind, more than sensitive from the beginning," Grandon said.

The permission from Pope Benedict XVI for Jenky to ordain Grandon arrived on April 25. He and five other men will be ordained as priests at a 10:30 a.m. Mass on May 24 at St. Mary’s Cathedral, 607 NE Madison.

The best thing about becoming a Catholic priest, said Grandon, will be celebrating the Eucharist and knowing for sure the bread and wine are becoming the body and blood of Christ during the Mass.

His family life will remain the same, he said. Contrary to popular misunderstandings, he won’t have to be celibate.

"We have had comical questions about that from people that have tried to very graciously ask," said Lynn Grandon.

Actually, married priests are common in Eastern parts of the Catholic Church, such as the Maronite and Byzantine rites. He’ll also be able to provide for his family, since diocesan priests don’t have to take a vow of poverty.

His wife, who oversees the diocesan office of Respect Life/Human Dignity, said their children are "very, very happy" about the ordination.

The best change, she said, will be to hear him preach again.

"Honestly, we have had the joy of listening to his extraordinary sermons for 20 years, and we missed those," she said.

Vicar general Showalter said Grandon’s ordination and ministry will "offer an opportunity for us to have this experience in our diocese, see how a priest who is married will function in our parish and diocesan system."

"It’s going to be new, so there is some nervousness or apprehension on the part of some," Showalter said. He added, though, that Grandon already is well-known throughout the diocese as director of catechetics.

There will be no nervousness or apprehension for Lynn Grandon, only joy.

"I’ve watched him all of these years on this journey," Lynn Grandon said. "He has had to sort through all of his theology. I watched his anguish. I feel like he’s come on this arduous journey, and now he’s started on this new season of his life where he’s meant to be. We’re just going to get behind him and do all we can to back him in his ministry."

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Bishop Forbids Lay 'Communion services'

Note: Remember that last month we shared some resources with you on how to conduct a service in the absence of a priest? Well, don't try this if you are in the Diocese of Rockville Centre, New York. In a pastoral letter issued on May 9, 2008, Bishop William Murphy has decreed that effective July 1st, "no weekday Celebrations of the Word with the distribution of Holy Communion will be allowed in this Diocese." Lay people and deacons may continue to lead "Liturgy of the Hours" morning and evening prayer services, but may no longer distribute pre-consecrated hosts. However "[t]his new policy must not be seen as “taking something away” from the laity."

Catholic Online

ROCKVILLE CENTRE, NY (CNA) - Bishop of Rockville Centre William Murphy has issued a pastoral letter restricting the practice of Communion services at parishes and schools in his diocese.

He said the ban on Communion services would bring the archdiocese into conformity with the liturgical norms of the Church.

Writing in an eight-page letter sent on Friday, Bishop Murphy reflected on the importance of the Eucharist. "The Eucharist is the greatest gift Jesus left us… The celebration of the Eucharist gives us our identity as well as our life,” he said.

The bishop said that Communion services, in practice, often sever what he called “the connection between receiving the Sacrament and celebrating the sacrifice.”

“The two go hand-in-hand,” he continued. “Receiving the Sacrament is the culmination of participating in the sacrifice.”

“There is an inherent interconnection between sacrifice, Real Presence, and Communion,” Bishop Murphy said.

“In the popular mind, all too often the purpose of Mass is still seen as an action simply to consecrate hosts; some people think their participation in the Eucharistic Prayer is all about watching the priest and then receiving Holy Communion,” he wrote.

Bishop Murphy said that the internal “offering” of ourselves both differentiates a Mass from a Communion Service and provides context for the laity’s “full, conscious, and active” participation in the Mass.

He ordered the Communion services in the diocese to end by July 1. Bishop Murphy explained in his letter that the Communion services were originally intended for use on Sundays only in remote, missionary parishes where priests could rarely visit.

According to Newsday, for the past thirty years, students at the elite Chaminade High School in Mineola, NY could receive Holy Communion during a 15-minute Communion service just before lunch. Schools like Chaminade have said they conduct the services because they lack the time to celebrate Mass amid classes. Some schools lack priests to celebrate Mass.

At some parishes in the diocese, church workers hold the services on weekday mornings because no priest is available for Mass.

In his pastoral letter, Bishop Murphy said that in 1997 his predecessor Bishop John Raymond McGann had instituted a moratorium forbidding any new Communion services from being offered on weekdays, though the moratorium allowed parishes with existing services to continue to hold them.

Since that moratorium, Bishop Murphy said, liturgical legislation has clarified that “Celebrations of the Word, especially the use of the Church’s Liturgy of the Hours is encouraged, the distribution of Holy Communion is not a part of such service nor should it be.”

Celebrations of the Word include all of the designated Mass readings for the day but no Eucharistic prayer or consecration. At Communion services, the Mass readings are followed by the reception of Communion Hosts consecrated by a priest at a previous Mass.

Bishop Murphy said celebrations involving Communion services could no longer be held on weekdays.

“I, as Bishop, am declaring that no weekday Celebrations of the Word with the distribution of Holy Communion will be allowed in this Diocese thereby bringing our Diocese into conformity with the liturgical norms of the Church,” he wrote.

“This new policy must not be seen as ‘taking something away’ from the laity,” the bishop insisted. “All of us are called to offer our proper roles in the Liturgy and none of us is other than servant of the Church when we fulfill any role in the Liturgy”

According to Newsday, several schools and parishes who hold Communion services have said they would follow the bishop’s instructions. Some, however, said they were disappointed the services would end.

Others saw the bishop’s letter as an opportunity to reflect on the importance of Holy Communion and to counter its casual reception among some Catholics.

"I think it's positive and something to be embraced," said Father James Williams, president of Chaminade, Newsday reports. "The bishop is the teaching arm of the church."

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Priests Working Part-Time, Short-Term

by Anthony Stevens-Arroyo
On Faith/Catholic America blog on
Posted 5/12/2008

There is no such thing as a part-time Catholic priest: the sacramental character of Holy Orders is permanent. However, a priest can work part-time in ministry, and that may prove a solution to the lack of priests.

Working part-time is not something new: as long as I can remember, priests who taught in high schools or who sat at desks in the chancery during the week celebrated Mass on weekends. That idea can be enhanced by a little twist. Why not expand the pool of priests by ordaining men for a definite period of time, say 7 year tours of ministry? It might be that celibacy would be accepted by more if it were not a life-long commitment. There could also be recruitment of new clergy from those who are married, but whose children are grown. Of course, if celibacy were not required, the largest standing reservoir of priests working part-time would be the Church’s married deacons, and they could become the weekend priests.

The dilemma for parishes would be steady management. If the clergy work during the week in schools and offices, who is left to man the fort at the rectory Monday through Friday? Providentially, just as the Eastern Churches have the tradition of married priests, the Latin American Church has the experience of letting lay persons manage many aspects of the ministry. My late father-in-law, for instance, was a rezador. In the mountains of his native Puerto Rico, he went from house to house to lead a prayer service, especially at times of sickness or death. He had memorized many of the sanctioned prayers, understood the catechism very well and had a clear singing voice to command respect. When he could not address a specific need, he would refer people to the parish priest in the town. This was how lay ministry served Catholicism in a priest-poor country.

When don Benito migrated like so many other Puerto Ricans to New York City in the 1950s, he and his daughters continued their ministry to their compatriots. In a U.S. city where only a limited number of priests spoke Spanish, lay people took up the slack by preparing children and parents for the sacraments, visiting homes to bring piety and catechism. In her award-winning book, Oxcart Catholicism on Fifth Avenue, don Benito’s daughter showed how these Latino traditions -- once necessitated because of the homeland's lack of priests -- eventually have become a model for all of US Catholicism, whether Spanish-speaking or not.

Training would be the major problem for ordaining priests working part-time. Would the equivalent of 4 years of study for the ministry make a 7 to 10 year ministry too long of a commitment? Would it be better to start with a married deacon in ministry, then choose the best of these for priestly ordination for part-time apostolate? It may also be time to consider inviting back to ministry priests who resigned 10 or 20 years ago in order to get married. They are already trained, and if married men would be accepted into the priesthood, many of them provide willing volunteers. As vexing as these questions may be, the increase in the number of priests would seem to be worth the risks. It would help chase the 800-pound gorilla from the sanctuary.

Monday, May 12, 2008

We Are Church writes to Pope calling for voluntary celibacy for priests

Independent Catholic News
May 12, 2008

In a letter to Pope Benedict XVI the international Catholic reform movement We Are Church asks him "to reconsider the present organisation of the ministries in the Roman Catholic Church, to urgently repeal the present Church,' law of obligatory celibacy and to re-introduce voluntary celibacy for ordained priests as a first step towards a renewed form of priesthood.

In its letter WAC writes: "The opportunity to celebrate the Eucharist should take precedence over the Church law of compulsory celibacy referring canon 213 which gives Christians the right to receive the Holy Eucharist each Sunday.

The Catholic reform movement is greatly concerned about the growing shortage of ordained priests which can be seen in the Vatican,s "Annuario Pontificio". Because of this the celebration of the Holy Eucharist has had to be omitted in an increasing number of parishes. This does not only affect Europe and the United States of America, but especially the parishes and missions in South America. It is a global problem that urgently requires a global solution and one that a great majority of practising Catholics would like to see changed.

The letter is addressed to "Dear Pope Benedict XVI, dear brother in Christ and is signed by Raquel Mallavibarrena from Madrid, present Chair of the International Movement We Are Church

Members from Austria, Belgium, Catalonia, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, UK and USA attended the Council in Strasbourg April 30 and May 1. They also participated at the subsequent 18th Annual Conference of the European Network Church on the Move and its study day 'Secularisation in a multicultural and multiconvictional Europe in search of social cohesion based on common values' from May 1st until May 4.

We Are Church - a grassroots church reform movement of lay people, priests, and members of persons in religious orders writes in its mission statement that it: "is working to continue the process of reform in the Roman Catholic Church, a process which began with the Vatican II Council (1962-1965) and which has come to a standstill in recent years. We Are Church was started in Austria and Germany in 1995 with a referendum, is now represented in more than twenty countries and is in touch with other reform movements all over the world.

The next informal Council will take place in London in May 2009.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Ordination in Detroit draws protesters

Catholic group intends to demonstrate outside archdiocese for women to get right to be priests.

Gregg Krupa
The Detroit News
May 9, 2008

DETROIT -- The Archdiocese of Detroit will ordain five men to the priesthood Saturday, a sacred, joyous event for Catholics who are concerned about the dwindling number of men who hear "the call" to what is, by any estimation, a difficult life.

But outside of the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament on Woodward, a group of Catholic men and women, organized by Call to Action of Michigan, intend to demonstrate in favor of the ordination of women and married men, asserting that while they fully support the five new priests, the church must be far more inclusive.

"I find it very oppressive," said Sister Beth Rindler, of the Franciscan Sisters of the Poor. "I mean, our church tells us we can't even talk about it, but I feel very keenly about justice for women in the church."

Rindler, who works in Hamtramck among the burgeoning population of immigrants from Bangladesh, says that she has longed to be a priest and desired to join some of the nuns who have been ordained in violation of the rules of the church. "But seeing how many younger women have taken that step, now, I feel it is less necessary that I do it," Rindler said. "Besides, a lot of pressure is placed on the leadership of our orders when we even talk about women as priests, let alone take that step."

Roman Catholic "Womenpriests" were "ordained" in unofficial, underground ceremonies as early as the 1990s in the United States. In 2001, a woman was ordained in Rochester, N.Y., and others have taken similar vows since then. Bishops who dissent from the church's position on women priests have performed the ceremonies, including two involving women in Michigan, over the years.

"It is something I have long wanted to do," Rindler said.

Married men also will demonstrate Saturday for a broader approach to the sacrament of Holy Orders, in which priests are ordained. Some are former priests who have married, but still say Mass and perform baptisms at the request of Catholics. They refer to themselves as "married priests."

"I transitioned from the priesthood to married life when I got involved in studying social work," Arnie Messing said. "I was not going to stay in a very narrowly focused, celibate world.

"We commend all of the young people who are being ordained," Messing said. "We tell them: We commend you, we pray for you, but we are sad for so many of the people who would have committed, too, but who are not allowed. Among Catholics in the United States, about 80 percent favor optional celibacy. To me, it is an old story that should have been settled long ago."

Some priests were allowed to marry, to varying degrees, until 1123, when celibacy was adopted as the policy even for regular parish priests, as opposed to priests, monks and friars of specific orders, who practice various disciplines to worship God -- including celibacy, poverty and silence.

But the church considers its official dogma on the issue incontrovertible: priests are celibate men, except in rare circumstances.

A few years ago, as he announced a significant reorganization of parishes in the archdiocese, based in part on a shortage of priests, Cardinal Adam Maida said that he does not expect to see women or married men ordained to the priesthood in his lifetime.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

'The Faithful' is a steady look at a changing church

By Rich Barlow
The Boston Globe
May 7, 2008

In America, the Catholic Church is in trouble. Enervated by a priest shortage, its faithful often disregard official teachings with abandon while struggling to maintain a Catholic identity in a Protestant land.

"Yes, I follow the news. So what else is new?" you say. But the church I speak of is not in the America of George Bush but of King George III. Visited by itinerant priests only sporadically, American Catholics around the time of the Revolution innovated with a do-it-yourself church centered on home worship conducted by the laity, Boston College historian James M. O'Toole writes in "The Faithful." They didn't always toe the official line. For example, marriages to non-Catholics, unsanctioned by the church, were more common than in Europe.

The laxity left some clergy aghast, and indeed these autonomous congregations aped Protestant organization. But they harkened back to the earliest Christian communities, and they were the only means of keeping the faith alive.

Therein lies a lesson, especially for contemporary traditionalists aggrieved by their co-religionists' straying from the supposedly eternal truth of church teaching on artificial contraception, same-sex marriage, female ordination, and priestly celibacy, among other matters. "For Catholics," O'Toole writes, "understanding the successive ages of their church may open them to accepting change that will continue whether they want it or not. The church and its people have never stood still in changing times, and they cannot do so now."

Like a homilist who loiters too long in the pulpit, O'Toole made even my Catholic eyes glaze at times with excessive detail. But this is generally an intriguing book, brimming with wisdom. It studies the evolution of US Catholicism by dividing it into a half-dozen historic segments, from the Colonial "priestless church" to the muscular, immigrant-fed church a century ago, to the reformist, post-Vatican II church and beyond.

Pope Benedict XVI has talked passionately of the danger of faith without reason. To acknowledge that believers must use their reason is to admit the possibility that reason will lead some to disagree at times with official positions. For those convinced that the church is always right - or who believe the faithful should shelve any doubts - there are cautionary stories. Take the 1960s study by the Vatican of its stance against artificial birth control.

Most on the commission advising Pope Paul VI on the matter suggested ditching the ban. One priest on the commission objected that admitting the old position had been misguided would call into question the church's authority generally (not a particularly principled argument, to be sure). If the anti-contraception stand was wrong, the priest demanded, "What, then, of the millions we have sent to hell" for defying it? Puncturing his certitude, a laywoman on the commission replied, "Father Zalba, do you really believe God has carried out all your orders?" The pope, of course, ultimately rejected his commission's advice and maintained the church's teaching.

O'Toole's final chapter looks to the past to forecast the future. Once again, American Catholicism is becoming an immigrant church, as newcomers from traditional societies in Latin America, Asia, and Africa flood the pews. But O'Toole believes that vigorous sanding by American culture will smooth the sharp edges of dogmatism. From same-sex marriage to the war to immigration policy to the death penalty, "American Catholics will face these issues more broadly as Americans than narrowly as Catholics." In the 21st-century church, informed both by Vatican II and the tragedy of the priest sex abuse scandal, "The days of unquestioning lay deference to the hierarchy were over." Good riddance.