Women RC Priests Respond to Pope Francis’ Document “The Joy of Love”
Here we present Pope Francis’ “The Joy of Love” which is a mix of something new and something old, of compassion, courage, holding the line and caution and three responses to it. Two are responses of Roman Catholic Women Priests and one is by Francis De Bernardo of New Ways Ministries Bondings 2.0.
First what did Pope Francis say:
Associated Press Article
Pope Francis’ Letter, “The Joy of Love” Affirms Primacy of Conscience But Offers No Changes in Church Teaching
While Pope Francis’ Letter on “The Joy of Love” affirms primacy of conscience over church laws on divorce, remarriage and contraception, it fails to support marriage equality for LGBTQ.
Departing from his predecessors, Francis does not blame feminism for the crisis in the family and in addition, condemns verbal, physical and sexual violence against women.
While Francis expresses a more pastoral approach he does not change the church rules. One example, the ban on artificial birth control remains but is not mentioned in the letter.
I welcome Pope Francis affirmation of primacy of conscience. This approach provides a back door for the divorced and remarried to walk through that will allow them to receive sacraments. However, it does mean Catholics without annulments will have to seek the guidance of their priests before they can return to the sacraments. While this policy known as “internal forum” is an improvement, it does not allow the divorced and remarried to receive communion without a conversation with their priest.
It fails to reflect the infinite love and compassion of God that embraces every family no matter what their status. The bottom line is “what would Jesus do to help all couples and families to celebrate the joy of love?” Would he open the table and change the rules?
The Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests affirms the spiritual equality of all the baptized and welcomes all to receive Eucharist and the other sacraments in our faith communities. No exceptions!
Bridget Mary Meehan ARCWP, firstname.lastname@example.org,www.arcwp.org
Pope Francis released his post synod Apostolic Exhortation: Amoris Laetitia (Joy of Love), today. The document emphasizes the importance of discernment and dialogue amongst the experiences of the people. Roman Catholic Womenpriests (RCWP) commends this openness to the experience of families; yet we find the document woefully inadequate due to it’s lack of real change for many families who are yearning to be fully included in the life of the church.
The Exhortation failed to respond to the complex, lived reality of Catholic families in our modern world in a meaningful way. In response, RCWP reaffirms our commitment to all families, including divorced, remarried and LGBTQ families. We welcome all families to fully participate in our communities and ministries and stand with Catholics by unapologetically affirming and celebrating the diverse families composing the Church, the People of God.
Through the celebration of Mass with our worshipping communities, RCWP celebrates inclusive liturgies that affirm and uplift the gifts of the People of God.Our priests follow Christ, in whom “there is no male and female” (Galatians 3:28) through a renewed, gender-inclusive priesthood. Since Christ desires that we “may all be one” (John 17:21), all are welcomed and invited to the Eucharistic table in our communities. Media Contact Jennifer O’Malley, Board President, Roman CatholicWomen Priests-USA email@example.com 310-408-9122
Responses have already been wide and varied for Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetita, his response to the 2014 and 2015 synods on the family. Bondings 2.0 will be providing our readers with a sampling of these reactions in the coming days.
The document itself has a mixture of positive and negative sections in it, especially in regard to LGBT issues and pastoral ministry in the Church. Below are some passages that are related to LGBT issues directly, or that can easily be applied to them. As New Ways Ministry stated in its own response, there are disappointing references to LGBT topics, but if some of the more general pastoral principles are applied to LGBT people, this document could provide a good way forward for the Church. You can access the entire document by clicking here.
The number before each section refers to the e paragraph number, not the page number:
On allowing for local pastoral decision-making:
3: I would make it clear that not all discussions of doctrinal, moral or pastoral issues need to be settled by interventions of the magisterium. Unity of teaching and practice is certainly necessary in the Church, but this does not preclude various ways of interpreting some aspects of that teaching or drawing certain consequences from it. This will always be the case as the Spirit guides us towards the entire truth (cf. Jn 16:13), until he leads us fully into the mystery of Christ and enables us to see all things as he does. Each country or region, moreover, can seek solutions better suited to its culture and sensitive to its traditions and local needs. For “cultures are in fact quite diverse and every general principle… needs to be inculturated, if it is to be respected and applied.”
On church leaders being self-critical and realistic:
36. We also need to be humble and realistic, acknowledging that at times the way we present our Christian beliefs and treat other people has helped contribute to today’s problematic. We also need to be humble and realistic, acknowledging that at times the way we present our Christian beliefs and treat other people has helped contribute totoday’s problematic. We also need to be humble and realistic, acknowledging that at times the way we present our Christian beliefs and treat other people has helped contribute to today’s problematic situation. We need a healthy dose of self-criticism. Then too, we often present marriage in such a way that its unitive meaning, its call to grow in love and its ideal of mutual assistance are overshadowed by an almost exclusive insistence
on the duty of procreation. Nor have we always provided solid guidance to young married couples, understanding their timetables, their way of thinking and their concrete concerns. At times we have also proposed a far too abstract and almost artificial theological ideal of marriage, far removed from the concrete situations and practical
possibilities of real families. This excessive idealization, especially when we have failed to inspire trust in God’s grace, has not helped to make marriage more desirable and attractive, but quite the opposite.
On gay and lesbian partnerships:
52: We need to acknowledge the great variety of family situations that can offer a certain stability, but de facto or same-sex unions, for example, may not simply be equated with marriage.
On questions of gender identity:
56: Yet another challenge is posed by the various forms of an ideology of gender that “denies the difference and reciprocity in nature of a man and a woman and envisages a society without sexual differences, thereby eliminating the anthropological basis of the family. This ideology leads to educational programmes and legislative enactments that promote a personal identity and emotional intimacy radically separated from the biological difference between male and female. Consequently, human identity becomes the choice of the individual, one which can also change over time.” It is a source of concern that some ideologies of this sort, which seek to respond to what are at times understandable aspirations, manage to assert themselves as absolute and unquestionable, even dictating how children should be raised. It needs to be emphasized that “biological sex and the socio-cultural role of sex (gender) can be distinguished but not separated.”
285: Beyond the understandable difficulties which individuals may experience, the young need to be helped to accept their own body as it was created, for “thinking that we enjoy absolute power over our own bodies turns, often subtly, into thinking that we enjoy absolute power over creation… An appreciation of our body as male or female is also necessary for our own self-awareness in an encounter with others different from ourselves. In this way we can joyfully accept the specific gifts of another man or woman, the work of God the Creator, and find mutual enrichment. Only by losing the fear of being different, can we be freed of self-centredness and self-absorption. Sex education should help young people to accept their own bodies and to avoid the pretension “to cancel out sexual difference because one no longer knows how to deal with it.”
138: Develop the habit of giving real importance to the other person. This means appreciating them and recognizing their right to exist, to think as they do and to be happy. Never downplay
what they say or think, even if you need to express your own point of view. Everyone has something to contribute, because they have their life experiences, they look at things from a different
standpoint and they have their own concerns, abilities and insights. We ought to be able to acknowledge the other person’s truth, the value of his or her deepest concerns, and what it is that
they are trying to communicate, however aggressively. We have to put ourselves in their shoes and try to peer into their hearts, to perceive their deepest concerns and to take them as a point of
departure for further dialogue.
139: Keep an open mind. Don’t get bogged down in your own limited ideas and opinions, but be prepared to change or expand them. The combination of two different ways of thinking can lead to a synthesis that enriches both. The unity that we seek is not uniformity, but a “unity in diversity”, or “reconciled diversity”. Fraternal communion is enriched by respect and appreciation for differences within an overall perspective that advances the common good. We need to free ourselves from feeling that we all have to be alike. A certain astuteness is also needed to prevent the appearance of “static” that can interfere with the process of dialogue. For example, if hard feelings start to emerge, they should be dealt with sensitively, lest they interrupt the dynamic of dialogue. The ability to say what one is thinking without offending the other person is important. Words should be carefully chosen so as not to offend, especially when discussing difficult issues. Making a point should never involve venting and inflicting hurt. A patronizing tone only serves to hurt, ridicule, accuse and offend others. Many disagreements between couples are not about important things. Mostly they are about trivial matters. What alters the mood, however, is the way things are said or the attitude with which they are said.
On ministry to families with lesbian and gay members:
250: The Church makes her own the attitude of the Lord Jesus, who offers his boundless love to each person without exception. During the Synod, we discussed the situation of families whose members include persons who experience same-sex attraction, a situation not easy either for parents or for children. We would like before all else to reaffirm that every person, regardless of sexual orientation, ought to be respected in his or her dignity and treated with consideration, while ‘every sign of unjust discrimination’ is to be carefully avoided, particularly any form of aggression and violence. Such families should be given respectful pastoral guidance, so that those who manifest a homosexual orientation can receive the assistance they need to understand and fully carry out
God’s will in their lives.
On marriage equality and international aid:
251: In discussing the dignity and mission of the family, the Synod Fathers observed that, “as for proposals to place unions between homosexual persons on the same level as marriage, there are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family”. It is unacceptable “that local Churches should be subjected to pressure in this matter and that international bodies should make financial aid to poor countries dependent on the introduction of laws to establish ‘marriage’ between persons of the same sex”.
301: The Church possesses a solid body of reflection concerning mitigating factors and situations. Hence it is can no longer simply be said that all those in any “irregular” situation are living in a state of mortal sin and are deprived of sanctifying grace. More is involved here than mere ignorance of the rule. A subject may know full well the rule, yet have great difficulty in understanding “its inherent values” or be in a concrete situation which does not allow him or her to act differently and decide otherwise without further sin.
302: I consider very fitting what many Synod Fathers wanted to affirm: “Under certain circumstances people find it very difficult to act differently. Therefore, while upholding a general rule, it is necessary to recognize that responsibility with respect to certain actions or decisions is not the same in all cases. Pastoral discernment, while taking into account a person’s properly formed conscience, must take responsibility for these situations. Even the consequences of actions taken are not necessarily the same in all cases”.
303: . . . [E]very effort should be made to encourage the development of an enlightened conscience, formed and guided by the responsible and serious discernment of one’s pastor, and to encourage an ever greater trust in God’s grace. Yet conscience can do more than recognize that a given situation does not correspond objectively to the overall demands of the Gospel. It can also recognize with sincerity and honesty what for now is the most generous response which can be given to God, and come to see with a certain moral security that it is what God himself is asking amid the concrete complexity of one’s limits, while yet not fully the objective ideal. In any event, let us recall that this discernment is dynamic; it must remain ever open to new stages of growth and to new decisions which can enable the ideal to be more fully realized.
On throwing stones and natural law:
305: . . . a pastor cannot feel that it is enough simply to apply moral laws to those living in “irregular” situations, as if they were stones to throw at people’s lives. This would bespeak the closed heart of one used to hiding behind the Church’s teachings, “sitting on the chair of Moses and judging at times with superiority and superficiality difficult case and woundedfamilies”. Along these same lines, the International Theological Commission has noted that “natural law could not be presented as an already established set of rules that impose themselves a priori on the moral subject; rather, it is a source of objective inspiration for the deeply personal process of making decisions”. Because of forms of conditioning and mitigating factors, it is possible that in an objective situation of sin –which may not be subjectively culpable, or fully such – a person can be living in God’s grace, can love and can also grow in the life of grace and charity, while receiving the Church’s help to this end. Discernment must help to find possible ways of responding to God and growing in the midst of limits. By thinking that everything is black and white, we sometimes close off the way of grace and of growth, and discourage paths of sanctification which give glory to God.
Allowing for pastoral complications:
308: At the same time, from our awareness of the weight of mitigating circumstances – psychological, historical and even biological – it follows that “without detracting from the evangelical ideal, there is a need to accompany with mercy and patience the eventual stages of personal growth as these progressively appear”, making room for “the Lord’s mercy, which spurs us on to do our best”. I understand those who prefer a more rigorous pastoral care which leaves no room for confusion. But I sincerely believe that Jesus wants a Church attentive to the goodness which the Holy Spirit sows in the midst of human weakness, a Mother who, while clearly expressing her objective teaching, “always does what good she can, even if in the process, her shoes get soiled by the mud of the street”. The Church’s pastors, in proposing to the faithful the full ideal of the Gospel and the Church’s teaching, must also help them to treat the weak with compassion, avoiding aggravation or unduly harsh or hasty judgements. The Gospel itself tells us not to judge or condemn (cf. Mt 7:1; Lk 6:37). Jesus “expects us to stop looking for those personal or communal niches which shelter us from the maelstrom of human misfortune, and instead to enter into the reality of other people’s lives and to know the power of tenderness. Whenever we do so, our lives become wonderfully complicated”.
–Compiled by Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry
And I can only add: Thank you for the progress in moving the church closer to being an inclusive church, dear Pope Francis, there are miles to go before we sleep…Adelante!
Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP www.goodshepmin.org
- Women and Women Priests in Ireland
- The acceptance of women in the clergy-an article from the Toledo Blade including two Roman Catholic women Priests: Rev. Dr. Beverly Bingle and Rev. Sydney Condray. July 17,2017 “Pat McKinstry has been preaching the Gospel for more than 50 years. An engaging preacher who would later be recognized among the country’s most dynamic by the magazine Gospel Today, a young Ms. McKinstry began serving as an evangelist within the Church of God in Christ when she was just 11 years old. She took on the role of pastor within the United Methodist Church in the late ’80s, and, in 2008, opened her own church, Worship Center, on Collingwood Boulevard. She’s been sharing the same Bible-based message from that pulpit ever since. VIDEO: Bishop Pat McKinstry at the Worship Center PHOTO GALLERY: A service at the Worship Center In 2015, the Rev. McKinstry took on a new role: bishop. It’s a significant title for a woman, who, when she was beginning her ministerial career in her childhood denomination, would not have been able to serve even as a pastor. While she doesn’t believe her gender influences her interactions with her congregation at Worship Center, she said, life in ministry hasn’t always been that way. “Years ago, there were some places where they didn’t appreciate women in the pulpit,” she said. “I didn’t let that bother me. Just give me a space on the floor.” It’s a relatable experience for many women who entered the clergy at a time when a female preacher fell outside the norm for the communities they served. The Rev. Ann Marshall, of St. Peter Evangelical Lutheran Church in Norwalk, Ohio, recalled that her first assignment in the 1990s was the first time that her congregation in Indiana was assigned a woman. When a congregant complained that she made “too many changes” there, he memorably attributed it to her gender. It’s an experience that Bishop McKinstry and Pastor Marshall said they have encountered less frequently over the years, as, even in the course of their own ministries, they’ve seen attitudes shift and congregations adjust to increasing numbers of women in clergy positions. Women in religious leadership have come a long way in a relatively short time. As a percentage of Protestant senior pastors, their numbers have tripled within the last 25 years, according to a 2016 Barna study. (Barna Group is a research organization focused on the intersection of faith and culture.) That’s even as ordained female ministers remain significantly outnumbered by men: They account for just 9 percent of Protestant senior pastors. And while some leadership positions remain out of reach for women of some faiths — Roman Catholicism, Orthodox Judaism, and, in some contexts, Islam, to name a few — two local scholars in Catholic and Islamic traditions suggest more shifts could be afoot. At the First Presbyterian Church of Perrysburg, the Rev. Margaret Fox, who was ordained in January, suggested she’s already reaping the benefits of changing attitudes within religious circles. “I think that I have been, in a large way, shielded from what women who were in the generation before me had to just battle with constantly,” she said. “I’ll talk to women who are 20, 30, 40 years older than I am about their early experience in ministry, and it’ll feel like they had endured a great deal to be here. “There’s certainly a long way to go still,” she continued, “but I think there’s not a legitimacy question in the same way that there used to be.” Opportunities opened Instances of female ordination stretch to at least the 1860s, when a Universalist church notably ordained Olympia Brown. (That denomination later merged to form the Unitarian Universalist Association.) But, while the Universalists were not alone in its early acceptance of female ministers, they and other denominations did not see a significant movement toward women in the pulpit until much later. The Rev. Sarah Lammert, who is the interim chief operating officer for the Unitarian Universalist Association, said the denomination particularly saw a trend of women turning to ordained ministry in the ’70s. That was around the same time that the Episcopal Church and Evangelical Lutheran Church in America opened full ordination to women. The United Methodist Church and Presbyterian Church USA each had done so in the 1950s. Buddhism, in some respects, saw a similar pattern, said the Rev. Karen Do’on Weik, a Soto Zen priest who, with her husband, co-founded the Greater Heartlands Buddhist Temple of Toledo. While there are no restrictions against women’s ordination in that tradition, which is comparatively less institutionalized than Protestant Christian denominations, she said, “it’s only in the last 50 years that we’ve had any weight and gravity in the direction of women being ordained and recognized as teachers.” This shift within religious circles coincided with a broader social shift, said Peter Feldmeier, who is the Murray/Bacik Professor of Catholic Studies at the University of Toledo. Movements toward female ordination didn’t reflect a theological change within the denominations, he said, so much as a change within the historically patriarchal social values that had given rise to the religious traditions. “I think it’s been a modern response to insights in the feminist movement, probably, and modernity in general,” he said. While several denominations reported more men than women are active as ordained ministers locally, the numbers are closer than they once were. The local offices of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, United Methodist Church and United Church of Christ each reported one-quarter to one-third of their ordained ministers in the region are female. About one-third of Presbyterian churches in the area are served by women, according to the Maumee Valley Presbytery. The Unitarian Universalist Association stands out in nationally counting more ordained female than male ministers. As of 2016, 60 percent of its active clergy were women. The Rev. Lynn Kerr, of the Maumee Valley Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Bowling Green, said that, when she was considering a career shift in her late 20s, it was easy to see herself as a pastor. Pastor Kerr was raised Catholic and briefly attended a Mennonite church with a friend as a child. So when she was introduced to a Unitarian Universalist congregation as a college student in the ’80s, she recalled, “that was the first time I had seen a woman in the pulpit.” “It was inspiring to see that,” she said. Opportunities limited Despite their progress, women continue to face limitations in some denominations. The Barna study indicates that just 44 percent of nonmainline pastors reported that their denomination, church network, or congregation ordains women for senior pastoral leadership, compared to essentially all mainline pastors, according to the study. (Baptist, Episcopal Church, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Methodist, and United Church of Christ denominations are typically considered mainline.) Levels of comfort with a woman in the pulpit vary by denomination, with evangelicals expressing the least comfort and, perhaps surprisingly, Catholics registering a slightly higher comfort level than Protestants surveyed. While a woman can serve as a rabbi or cantor in most branches of Judaism, it is not permitted under Orthodox Judaism, according to the Rabbinical Council of America. And within some branches of Hinduism, a woman might be restricted in some cases from performing specific rituals, said Pandit Anant Dixit of the Hindu Temple of Toledo. The Hindu tradition, though, is “flexible and adaptive,” as Pandit Dixit explained. He said, in some cases, female priests today are taking on what would have been considered male-specific roles in the past. Within Islam, it’s modesty and not theology that typically prevents a woman from kneeling in prayer as an imam in front of a mixed-gender group of worshipers, said Fatima Al-Hayani, an Islamic studies scholars. A woman could lead prayer as an imam in front of an all-female group without this concern. Ms. Al-Hayani also said she anticipates this will change under the next generation of Muslims. “Change doesn’t come very fast,” she said. “It comes slowly, in increments.” The Catholic Church is particularly prominent in barring women from ordination, citing in part the apostolic succession that church leaders believe Jesus established in designating 12 male followers as his apostles. “At least for the Catholic Church, the role of ordained priesthood is seen as being in the image of Christ Jesus and following his appointment of men who were apostles and then priests for the church,” said Bishop Daniel Thomas, of the Diocese of Toledo, describing a position on which Pope John Paul II came out strongly in the ‘90s and which has been reiterated by subsequent popes. “The Church does not believe she can change the teaching and the action of Christ himself.” The doctrine is not without its challengers within the Catholic Church. Professor Feldmeier also noted that, under Pope Francis, a commission is considering whether women could fill leadership positions as deacons. Among the local challengers to the Catholic Church’s policy on women’s ordination: the Rev. Beverly Bingle and the Rev. Sydney Joan Condray, each of whom considers herself an ordained Catholic priest. The Rev. Bingle, who was ordained in 2013 through Roman Catholic Womenpriests, presides over Holy Spirit Catholic Community in Toledo. The Rev. Condray, who was ordained through the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests, does not have immediate plans to open a church. The Catholic Church does not recognize either organization and excommunicates those who participate in the ordination of women. Roman Catholics account for about 21 percent of religious adherents in America, according to the most recent study through the Pew Research Center, second only to the about 47 percent who belong to the various Protestant denominations. The Rev. Condray, 78, has been a devout Catholic since she attended Mass for the first time as a college student in the 1950s. When she began to think about priesthood in the ’80s, she said, she initially considered converting to Episcopal or Lutheran traditions, which would have allowed her to pursue ordination. But, she said, “somehow or another, it didn’t feel like home.” She later learned about the Association of Catholic Women Priests and, on June 10, was ordained at a ceremony at Sylvania United Church of Christ. While she said she “respects and appreciates the responsibility of the official leadership” of the Catholic Church, she disagrees with its policy on women’s ordination. “I expect it to change, but I don’t expect it to change within my lifetime,” she said. “It takes the leadership a long time to make changes that really are necessary.” “After all, it only took them 400 years to decide that Galileo was right.” Contact Nicki Gorny at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6133.
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