Our Blessings and Congratulations to Ruth Lindstedt, validly ordained a Roman Catholic priest today with Roman Catholic Women Priests in St. Cloud, Minnesota!!
Below is an excellent article by Stephanie Dickrell of the St. Cloud Times,firstname.lastname@example.org telling about Ruth and our priests in Central Minnesota. The only clarification I would offer regarding the “requirements” stated below is that a strong sense of God’s call to the priesthood and the call of the community are a given and a Masters’ degree in Divinity or its equivalent is expected of those under 55 while for those over 55 a Bachelor’s degree in Religious Studies or its equivalent is expected. In terms of history/herstory of the Movement, it began in June of 2002 with the ordination of seven well prepared women by a Roman Catholic Bishop with Apostolic Succession, on the Danube River in Passau, Germany. The Movement came to the USA in July of 2006 when several women were ordained in Pittsburgh. My own ordination was in July of 2008 in Boston and now there are over 220 of us world wide- and many in preparation. As noted below we are validly ordained but contra legem, against man made church law. We congratulate Ruth for her courage and conviction and life of service as she becomes a priest today.
Rev. Dr. Judith Lee, RCWP-USA-East
Women in the Priesthood is about equality Stephanie Dickrell
That’s how three Central Minnesota women feel the Roman Catholic Church views them.
That’s one reason Deacon Ruth Lindstedt chose to be ordained as a womanpriest Sunday.
Lindstedt, 72, joins 220 Catholic womenpriests worldwide, including the Rev. Bernie Sykora, 83, who in 2013 became the first womanpriest ordained in Central Minnesota. Both women live in Sartell.
The Roman Catholic Church has stood in staunch opposition to the ordination of women for centuries.
“They don’t know what to do with us,” said Rose Henzler, 72, of St. Cloud, who hopes to be ordained in 2017.
For these three and others, it’s an issue that goes beyond their personal call to serve. It’s a pursuit of equality.
Minnesota is one of the areas of the country that sees more support for the movement, said Jennifer O’Malley, president of Roman Catholic Womenpriests-USA. With Lindstedt, there will be five in the state.
“This isn’t just about women’s ordination, but it’s about sexism within the church,” O’Malley said. “Ordination of women is not just so that we can follow our call. … It’s a realization, that in the hierarchical church, we cannot be priests, which makes it easier to use religion as an excuse to oppress and abuse women.”
O’Malley, who lives in Long Beach, California, was ordained in 2012.
“We are both following the call from our community and our God, and breaking down that barrier that says that women are ‘less than,’ ” O’Malley said. “We’re standing up for the global justice of women throughout the world.”
For these women, the church’s position on women stands in opposition with its stated mission.
“When the church talks about welcoming the marginalized, and this whole thing on justice, I’m sorry I just can’t take it seriously, folks,” Lindstedt said.
Their ordinations are a form of peaceful protest.
“From Mandela to Thomas Jefferson to Martin Luther King, (if there) is a law that is unjust, we must try to change it. If we can’t change it, we must break it. That’s pretty much where womenpriests are coming from now, on the side of justice,” Henzler said.
They recognize that it can be difficult for people to accept. It requires a change in their worldview.
“I know that members of my family who don’t agree with me are afraid that what they believed all their life is not true, that there might be some other way of looking at something,” Sykora said.
Taking a risk
Despite their drive to serve their community and faith, these women are taking risks with their social and their spiritual lives.
Sykora’s brother, for instance, isn’t supportive. She spoke to him recently.
“I said, ‘You know I’m priest,’ and he says, ‘No, you’re not,’ ” Sykora said. “It is very hurtful. In fact, I feel hurt by the church.
Upon receiving ordination, they are automatically excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church.
In 2008, the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith issued a penalty of excommunication for any women ordained as priests or any clergy that ordain them. The order is automatic and takes effect at the moment of the offense.
Excommunication is the most severe penalty the church doles out, barring people from all sacraments, including communion.
While this is concerning to them, women in the movement reject it as a punishment.
“The call to priesthood, the call from God, trumps that unjust law,” O’Malley says.
In recent years, the RCWP has reached out to church organizations like U.S. Catholic Bishops to talk about the issue, but generally, they don’t get any response, she said.
Locally, Bishop Joseph Kettler of the Diocese of St. Cloud affirms the church’s stance barring women from ordination, but disagrees with assertions that women are treated as lesser than men in the eyes of the church. Kettler was not available for an interview with the Times, said Joe Towalski, director of the office of communications for the diocese. Instead, he sent this statement:
“The Roman Catholic Church reserves priesthood to men based on the example of Jesus who chose only men as his Apostles. This teaching about the priesthood has been constant and unchanging. The ordination of women who claim to be Catholic priests is not valid. This teaching about ordination, however, in no way diminishes the equal dignity that women share with men. Both women and men are called to holiness and discipleship. Both women and men bring invaluable gifts of service and leadership to their families, the Church and their communities.”
Women in the priesthood movement have not received any indication that Pope Francis would make any changes.
While the organization appreciates Francis’ tone emphasizing mercy, members will continue to challenge him to address the women’s issue in the church, O’Malley said.
“Until he does, he’s not really addressing poverty and climate change, as women are disproportionately affected by all those issues,” she said.
The Women’s Ordination Conference had an event in Philadelphia in 2015, around the time Pope Francis visited the area.
“It was important to do it close to when Pope Francis was going to be there,” O’Malley said, “to empathize the injustice, the sexism in the church.”
The church’s stance on women can have global implications, members say. The Vatican has a seat at the United Nations. It’s a very influential voice throughout the world, O’Malley said.
“We saw that with Pope Francis on the environment, the conversation that spurred and impact that it’s had. Imagine if Pope Francis said sexism in the Catholic Church is ending and … the church will be open to women,” she said.
There is support
Despite the unmoving position of church leadership, there is growing support for their cause, O’Malley said. She hears anecdotes and conversations confirming this, along with polls and surveys.
According to a 2015 Pew Research Center Survey of U.S. Catholics and Family Life, many Catholics, cultural Catholics and ex-Catholics think the Catholic church should change its position on allowing priests to marry and women to be priests. However, fewer believe these changes will actually take place in the next few decades.
“We’re also seeing a steady growth in women who are answering that call to be priests,” O’Malley said.
However, she knows that Roman Catholic Womenpriests as a movement are still relatively unknown
“As people find out about us, they’re really excited. The reaction we generally get is, ‘It’s about time,’ or ‘Why not?’ ” O’Malley said.
For younger generations, it’s almost a nonissue. They assume equality is the way the church should work.
The three local women have received support from some in their families, including children.
“My daughter didn’t quite know what to make of it,” Henzler said. “But it’s come to this point where her faith community has asked me to preach. … My nieces and nephews are just ecstatic. ‘You know grandma always wanted a priest in the family.’ ”
Lindstedt says her children are spiritual but not religious.
“What fascinates me is that now I’m taking this step … I called each one of them and said this is happening, here’s the date, and they said, ‘Oh, yes, please we’d like to be there,’ ” Lindstedt said. Her kids will travel to St. Cloud from the West Coast, just to attend the ordination.
Sykora’s sisters and children are also supportive.
The decision to seek the priesthood is not made lightly.
Women in the movement talk about it as a calling to serve God and their community. They also feel called to create equality and leave the world better than they found it.
Not every woman who’s interested in religion, religious studies or theology is called to be a priest.
“We really think that God is calling us or our spirit is calling us to be priests, and we can deny or we can accept. For me, I couldn’t deny it. I knew that this was something I must do … to be who I was called to be,” Sykora said.
And they dismiss the argument against ordination that relies on tradition.
“I don’t care what they did two decades ago. I don’t care that women weren’t priests two decades ago. Anyone who uses that as an excuse is mind boggling,” Sykora said.
“Tradition takes over instead of the possibility for true inclusion and love,” Lindstedt said.
Still, as she approached ordination, Lindstedt considered her position.
“I even wavered during the course of studies,” she said.
But it’s not all about the job. It’s about changing your perspective.
“Being a womanpriest is really quite secondary to opening up my heart to possibilities,” Sykora said. “I could not, in my right conscience, do that within the Catholic church. Talking about … up at the altar the men, the men, the men. It was too painful to go to church than to not go to church. That’s when I decided to do something about my own personal spirituality.”
Womenpriests have to reshape their thinking, she said.
“That’s one of the more difficult things, to be open to a new idea of God — not that closed concept of the creator, the male, the father, the man with the long beard and white hair. Let’s open it up and think about who God really is,” Sykora said. “Not the king, not the emperor, not the father.”
Many in the womenpriest movement see a correlation between the Roman Catholic Church treating women as inferior to men and how society treats women, Sykora said.
“That is so offensive, so sad, so hurtful to me, to think that something I have honored all of my life, and appreciated so much all of my life, now is guilty of some disrespect to a group of people,” Sykora said. And it’s such open disrespect that it validates those actions in others.
“They’re not giving an example of equality and honor and respect,” she said.
Becoming a womanpriest
The Roman Catholic Womenpriests hope to build the movement where the church is forced to deal with the issue.
“(The church) won’t be ordaining womenpriests until women are ordained,” Henzler said.
But they don’t want to stop there. They believe the whole church needs a renovation.
One way is to change the language that is used. It should be inclusive, using pronouns such as they or their, not exclusive, such as him and his.
There are also so many connotations of God as being male in scripture and tradition.
For instance, the womenpriest movement uses a different sign of the cross. Instead of: “In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,” they say: “In the name of God our creator, our brother Jesus and Sophia, Spirit of Wisdom and Love.”
In the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Church, Sophia, or Hagia Sophia meaning Holy Widsom, is an expression of understanding for the third person of the holy trinity. It is a feminine image.
“When you go to a church where there’s a male giving the homily … the woman experience has not often been talked about in a personal way, as it can be by those who have experienced it,” Sykora said.
For example, some of the scriptures describe God as the tender mother.
“And it’s been so ignored by our male hierarchy,” Sykora said.
As an organization too, they quite literally try to practice what they preach.
“We try as much as possible to operate as a flat organization, so that everybody’s role is honored. There are no top-down decisions,” O’Malley said. “Everybody’s voice has a value and everybody’s role is just as important as somebody else’s, ordained or not ordained.”
Their approach is based on circles of relationships, or consensus-building. There isn’t a strict hierarchy.
Yes, there are bishops, who are servants and leaders. But they’re not unquestioned decision makers, nor do they have authority in judgments, Lindstedt said.
All of this is a process, of course, one that accounts for varied viewpoints.
For instance, the movement doesn’t take a stance on particular issues.
People as individuals can decide but the group would need consensus to make a statement, which is difficult to achieve. But generally, there’s a degree of openness, Lindstedt said, on issues such as divorce and remarriage, LGBTQ, abortion and more.
“The one word that Jesus never used was ‘except,’ ” Henzler said. ” ‘Everybody’s welcome, except …’ ”
And if beliefs seem to come from a place of bigotry, hate or distrust?
Lindstedt said they are challenged to see beyond that to the individual and try to understand where it comes from.
“We need to be loving to that person,” Sykora said.
To understand that hatred is coming form someplace, Henzler said. Maybe it comes from a place of fear, hurt or an experience. There’s always a why, she says.
“I would say that I know that I am still learning about how to love more, how to listen more and allow my heart to expand more,” Lindstedt said. “So if a person is coming from a place of hate or exclusion, rather than reacting, … I need to learn more about being more loving.
The women find fulfillment in their service.
Sykora lives in senior housing. She doesn’t say Mass at the altar because she doesn’t have the energy for it.
“But people in the community know I’m a priest and they respect me for it. And I’m involved in the community in a different way than if I wasn’t a priest,” Sykora said.
People come to her for advice.
“It’s very rewarding. It’s a very rich experience to be that for them. And we’re so close to death in an environment like that that you get down to the nitty gritty,” Sykora said. “You’re down to the bare truth of things, the bare honesty. That is what is so beautiful.”
For Lindstedt, the symbolism of the liturgy itself is so dear to her heart.
“To be able to take a role … in convening people, to join in this celebration is really important, Lindstedt said.
The women ask each other an important question: If you were invited back to the traditional church, would you?
Lindstedt and Henzler would, but Sykora would have a hard time.
“This presumes there’s some healing in other areas as well. Not just women standing at the altar, but acceptance of the fact that there is an inclusive welcoming of all,” Lindstedt said.
Henzler would need to see drastic changes.
It’s imperative, they say, for the church, the community and individuals to grow.
“It’s a matter of a community effort growing to be something that is God-like,” Sykora said.
Sykora said while considering ordination, her age was a factor. She wondered, was it really worth it?
But she decided her ordination could be empowering to other women.
Henzler and Lindstedt agreed.
“I never thought of myself as a feminist, however I’ve come to recognize more and more, to be a woman, it’s an important contribution to the needs of the world,” Lindstedt said. “Until women are fully incorporated into all aspects of life — and I don’t care what culture we’re talking about — then we will not see further progression in terms of peace, justice,” Lindstedt said.
Roman Catholic Womenpriests asserts that ordinations of women are valid through apostolic succession within the Roman Catholic Church.
Apostolic succession is the uninterrupted transmission of spiritual authority from the Apostles down through successive popes and bishops. It is important in Catholicism, but not in Protestant religions.
As the first womenpriests were ordained by Roman Catholic male bishops, the group says that the ordinations are valid. Womenbishops too, have been ordained by valid Roman Catholic bishops. So anyone they ordain continues the line of succession.
2002: Seven women were ordained on the Danube River.
2003: Three womenbishops were ordained.
2008: The Vatican issues an Excommunication Decree, saying women priests and the bishops who ordain them are excommunicated latae sententiae, or sentence already passed or automatically. Womenpriests reject the penalty, because it relies on discrimination against women.
2008: The womenpriest movement comes to the U.S.
2009: Mary Magdalene, First Apostle, is formed.
June 2013: Bernie Sykora is ordained as a womanpriest.
April 10, 2016: Ruth Lindstedt is scheduled to be ordained as a womanpriest.
2017: Rose Henzler hopes to be ordained as a womanpriest.”
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.
VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis said Friday that Catholics should look to their own consciences rather than rely exclusively on church rules to negotiate the complexities of sex, marriage and family life, demanding the church shift emphasis from doctrine to mercy in confronting some of the thorniest issues facing the faithful.
In a major church document entitled “The Joy of Love,” Francis made no explicit change in church doctrine and upheld church teaching on the lifelong bond of marriage between a man and a woman…
While Francis frequently cited John Paul, whose papacy was characterized by a hardline insistence on doctrine and sexual morals, he did so selectively. Francis referenced certain parts of John Paul’s 1981 “Familius Consortio,” the guiding Vatican document on family life until Friday, but he omitted any reference to its most divisive paragraph 84, which explicitly forbids the sacraments for the divorced and civilly remarried.
In fact, Francis went further than mere omission and effectively rejected John Paul’s suggestion in that document for people in civil second marriages to live as brother and sister, abstaining from sex so they can still receive the sacraments. In a footnote, Francis said that many people offered such a solution by the church “point out that if certain expressions of intimacy are lacking it often happens that faithfulness is endangered and the good of children suffer.”
Similarly, in discussing the need for “responsible parenthood” and regulating the number of children, Francis made no mention of the church’s opposition to artificial contraception. He squarely rejected abortion as “horrendous” and he cited the 1968 encyclical “Humanae Vitae,” which deals with the issue.
But Francis made no mention of the “unlawful birth control methods” cited and rejected in “Humanae Vitae.” Instead he focused on the need for couples in their conscience to make responsible decisions about their family size.
Francis made a single reference to church-sanctioned family planning method of abstaining from sex during a woman’s fertile time. He said only that such practices are to be “promoted” — not that other methods are forbidden — and he insisted on the need for children to receive sex education,
Francis condemned at length the “verbal, physical and sexual violence” many women endure in marriages. He rejected their “sexual submission” to men and the “reprehensible” practice of female genital mutilation. And he said the belief that feminism was to blame for the crisis in families today is completely invalid.”
Posted by Bridget Mary Meehan, ARCWP Bishop at 6:38 PM
Bishop Bridget Mary’s Response:
Pope Francis’ Letter, “The Joy of Love” Affirms Primacy of Conscience But Offers No Changes in Church Teaching
Bridget Mary’s Response to Pope Francis Letter:
“The Joy of Love”
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, email@example.com,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 firstname.lastname@example.org 310-408-9122
AND FROM NEW WAYS MINISTRIES: FRANCIS De Bernardo Bondings 2.0
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:
Cover page of “Amoris Laetitia”
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!
Earlier this week, NCR’s Joshua J. McElwee reported that, on April 1, Pope Francis met with Bishop Bernard Fellay, the Superior General of the Society of St. Pius X. Founded in 1970 by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, the Society widely rejects the teachings of the Second Vatican Council.
In 1988, Lefebvre decided, against orders of then-Pope John Paul II, to consecrate four new bishops. Lefebvre consecrated these men out of concern that, in the event of his death, there would be no truly orthodox bishops to ordain new priests for the society. St. John Paul II in turn excommunicated Lefebvre and his four newly minted bishops, including Fellay.
In 2009, Pope Benedict XVI lifted those excommunications in an attempt to repair relations with the group. But his efforts to bring the Society back into the fold eventually broke down.
By meeting with Fellay this past weekend, Pope Francis has taken a new step toward returning the Society of St. Pius X into full Communion with the Roman Catholic church.
According to McElwee’s report, Fellay believes that “Francis may consider his group as existing on the ‘periphery’ and thus needing to be accompanied back to the church.”
This isn’t Francis’ first overture towards the society. Back in September, the pope announced that, during the Year of Mercy, the society’s priests would have their faculties restored to offer absolution “validly and licitly” to those who come to them for confession.
“This Jubilee Year of Mercy excludes no one,” the pontiff said in September. “I trust that in the near future solutions may be found to recover full communion with the priests and superiors of the Fraternity.”
While some may admire the pope’s latest meeting with Fellay as yet another example of his commitment to a “culture of encounter,” it also demonstrates that the Year of Mercy has its double standards.
If Francis can offer a forty-minute, private meeting to a formerly excommunicated bishop who has been performing the sacraments illicitly for decades and who believes that the Catholic church is laced with false teachings, why can’t the pope also extend the same invitation to Catholic theologians, ethicists, and lay ministers who challenge the church’s teaching on women’s ordination, the use of contraception, and the full inclusion of LGBTQ persons?
If Francis truly wishes to cultivate a culture of encounter and to include everyone in the Year of Mercy, why not welcome those women and men who have been excommunicated for expressing their belief that women deserve an equal role in decision-making authority and sacramental leadership in the church?
Why not open up a dialogue with the Roman Catholic Womenpriests movement whose first priests were ordained by a valid Roman Catholic bishop? Not unlike Lefebvre, Roman Catholic Womenpriests have moved forward with consecrating their own bishops and, not unlike the society, they continue to perform the sacraments validly but not licitly. Why, then, can’t they get a hearing from the pope, too?
In the three years since his election, Pope Francis has welcomed a stunning spectrum of people to the Vatican. He has greeted everyone from actor Leonardo DiCaprio to discuss climate change, to American Evangelical leaders to discuss religious liberty and evangelization, to the founder of Twitter to discuss the power of social media.
And, yet, like popes before him, Francis still can’t seem to find time on his dance card for the members of his own flock who seek to make the Roman Catholic church a better reflection of mercy, justice, and equality.
This is tragic, since according to a 2014 Univision Poll of Catholics on five continents, a significant number (if not substantial majorities) of Catholics in countries around the world disagree with the church’s teachings on women’s ordination, contraception, divorce and same-sex marriage. These Catholics surely exceed the slim number of those who would adhere to the society’s anachronistic beliefs.
The pope’s meeting with Fellay shows us who among “dissenting” Catholics is worthy to encounter Francis, and who is not.
Members of the Society of St. Pius X flagrantly reject the Catholic church’s rite of the Mass, its teachings on the primacy of conscience, and its respect for the truths expressed by other religions. Yet they are beckoned back into the fold.
But Catholics who (based on decades of theological and historical inquiry) challenge the church’s teachings on women’s ordination and sexual ethics are still locked outside of the doors of mercy.
One can only conclude from this situation that a spirit of welcome and dialogue are available to anyone — except Catholics who question the Vatican on issues of gender and sexuality. Until they, too, are invited to talk to the pope, the notion of a culture of encounter remains dubious.
[Jamie L. Manson is NCR books editor. She received her Master of Divinity degree from Yale Divinity School, where she studied Catholic theology and sexual ethics. Her email address is email@example.com.]
Here is a 4/5/16 NY Post update on the story of RCWP Alexandra Dyer, a victim of a vicious attack on August 19,2015 altering her life of service and love in so many ways. Our hearts remain with Rev. Dyer who is still recovering from this attack. In the picture below taken in August 2015 Rev. Alexandra Dyer,RCWP, in the middle, is with Rev. Eda Lorello,RCWP and Rev. Judy Beaumont, RCWP in Queens, New York.
Jerry Mohammed, 32 — who is accused of attacking ordained priest Alexandra Dyer — a member of the sect Roman Catholic Womenpriests and executive director of the Healing Arts Initiative – in August. He allegedly schemed with a former employee of the non-profit who fleeced $750,000 from the group, law enforcement sources said.
Mohammed and Kim Williams, 47 — a former accountant for the group — plotted the attack on Dyer to distract from the theft and apparently make it look as if a hardened thug had stolen the money instead of her, according to law enforcement sources.
Pia Louallen, 41, a close friend of the allegedly twisted numbers cruncher, worked with Williams and pocketed $150,000 between 2013 and 2015, law enforcement sources said.
All three were indicted for the scheme Tuesday, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said.
“This case is troubling on so many different levels. In an atmosphere of such giving, it is disheartening to see an individual allegedly use her position of fiduciary trust to siphon off tens of thousands of dollars in funds for the personal use of herself and another,” Brown said.
On Aug. 19, Mohammed allegedly waited for Dyer to leave work then threw the acid-like liquid at her as she sat in her car — burning her face and other parts of her body.
Dyer was hospitalized and underwent surgeries as a result of the attack.
Mohammed was charged with assault, conspiracy and criminal possession of a weapon. Williams was charged with assault, grand larceny, falsifying business records and other charges.
Louallen was charged with grand larceny and conspiracy.
We present here three insightful reflections, and my own, on this Sunday of Divine Mercy. On this day, where our Gospel has the apostle Thomas encountering the risen Jesus, we see Jesus’ love for Thomas and how Jesus connects with Thomas, through his wounds. First we have a reflection by Sr. Melanie Svoboda on how we who are wounded (and that is indeed most of us in one way or the other) connect with Jesus through his wounds- how we connect with God through knowing that God’s Beloved Jesus suffered even as we do-and that God is with us, loving us through that which causes suffering. This reflection reverberates in my heart this year as I encounter the ‘suffering’ of another cancer, one which, very thankfully, is not life threatening, but is in some ways life altering. And there is also the suffering of loss and change as Pastor Judy Beaumont and I discern the ways which our ministry at the Good Shepherd will need to change to accommodate our situations of life and health.
During this Holy Week we had to modify our worship and liturgical activities. Usually we celebrate Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter with our Good Shepherd Community. We have always celebrated the Mass of the Last Supper and foot washing. This year we were able to celebrate Good Friday, although we did the Stations of the Cross in the Church and not walking through the community as done before. And we celebrated a glorious Easter but could not include Holy Thursday. We attended Holy Thursday at the Lamb of God Lutheran Episcopal Church, the congregation that we joined with in 2007 to provide a meal and later worship with the poor and homeless in Lion’s Park in Fort Myers. Our friends there continue to cook and serve with us at our Good Shepherd Community, and their Thrift Store sends regular financial support as is possible to our ministry. Since we could not minister ourselves we were so happy to be able to join our friends at Lamb of God. As we sat there we both remembered the holy events of our lives that took place at Lamb of God in years past. In 2012 Pastor Judy Beaumont was ordained by Bishop Bridget Mary Meehan, ARCWP in that same beautiful worship space. Almost 400 people attended and joyfully affirmed her ordination. She was truly called forth by this whole community. She was presented to the Bishop by members of our Good Shepherd Community and her family.
In 2008, this beautiful worship space was used to call me forth to service as a Roman Catholic Woman Priest. In the tradition of the Black Catholic Church there is a Dedication Service before a formal ordination and since I was to be ordained in Boston it was so important to assemble our community to participate in my calling. Various people from the homeless community and the wider community stepped forward and said why I was called to serve them. Representatives of the homeless, Latina, Black, LGBTQ, Homeless, and Roman Catholic and Ecumenical communities brought me to tears on that day. Pastors Becky Robbins-Penniman and Walter Fohs of Lamb of God and Rev. Dr. Bridget Mary Meehan, then of RCWP presided and facilitated the calling forth by the community. I remember Bridget Mary’s words and her father Jack Meehan playing the trumpet. I recalled how Pastor Walter first and then Brenda and Roger, who are still with our Good Shepherd Community lead in blessing me with water from the Baptismal Fount as a long line of people followed suite. I remember Pastor Becky standing next to me at one point, and perceiving my feelings of being overwhelmed by love and the momentous nature of the calling, she asked me to kneel for the blessing and whispered to me: “Just focus on the face of Christ etched into the altar”, and I did. This is the face of Christ in agony on the Cross, the Crown of thorns pressing into his head that is etched into the rich brown wood. Yet it is entirely strong and beautiful and transforming. She knew what I would face in shepherding this community and she knew Who would be with me as I did. I am ever grateful to her for that moment, and that day and perceived her with me as well on this Holy Thursday as I returned to that same space to be with Jesus at the time of his Last Supper with the disciples before the Cross, and Resurrection.
Like Jesus that night, I knew that I would not continue with my people, my ministry to the poor and homeless, in the same way as I had for the last eight years. And deep within me, just beyond my consciousness, I knew something of how Jesus felt that night in leaving his work on earth behind and in the hands of others. And I began to cry softly and then weep openly as I moved forward to participate in the foot washing. I remembered all of the feet I had washed, large, small, dirty, clean, twisted and strong. And as I submitted my feet to Pastor B. to wash, and washed hers I deeply knew that there was a time to receive as well as a time to give. And I knew the Resurrection was coming. As our friends from Lamb of God including the Catholics who attend there reached out to us at the Sign of Peace we felt enveloped in love. When dear Lisa Munklewitz, a LOG member, who serves our ministry so faithfully with her cooking and serving embraced me and cried for joy at seeing me whole after this second surgery I did feel whole again. On Good Friday when eight of our faithful sat in a circle and reflected on the Stations of the Cross, I was again moved to silent tears. When Pat S and Mr. Gary shared their journeys from homelessness to homes as reflected in falling down again and again, and having the brow wiped or the Cross carried by a friend, our ministry, I gave God thanks and praise for the ministry given us. As we reached out to one of our members, Dr. Joe who grieved as he recently lost his sister to death and as another shared how her disability caused major disruption in her life, I realized that the frequency, time and place of our ministry may change, but we would continue to serve God’s people in new forms. And on Easter we all rose again in great joy. Having experienced the sufferings the joy of Easter was rich, full and overflowing. And so for dear Thomas. As Pat McMillan notes below: Jesus came back for him, did not leave him in his grief, doubt and misery. And as Rev. Katy Zatsick notes we see the risen Christ around us every day-in faces that once suffered and rose again.
The second reflection is from Rev. Katy Zatsick,ARCWP and Patricia MacMillan of Mary Mother of Jesus Inclusive Catholic Community in Sarasota ,Florida from bridgetmarysblog.com
Liturgy of the Word
First Reading: Acts 5:12-16
Psalm 118 All: #814 “This is the day that our God has made; let us rejoice and be glad; for this is the day that our God has made; alleluia, alleluia!”
Second Reading: Revelation 1:9-11, 12-13, 17-19
All Sing: Alleluia! Alleluia!
Gospel Reading: The Good News of Jesus the Christ from John 20:19-31
St. Thomas by Pat MacMillan
I am St. Thomas. I am sometimes the “doubter” (where is God?) but more often the “ believer”, ( “My Lord and my God.”). In reading about Thomas, I learned that he is characterized as being somewhat gloomy and easily discouraged. While he was considered a pessimist, he was, indeed, a full believer in Jesus and a very loyal follower through His life. His loyalty and love is depicted in John, Chapter 11, when the disciples were worried about going with Jesus to Judea (because the Jews had previously tried to stone Jesus there), Thomas encouraged them to stick with Jesus, who wanted to return to the area to help his friend Lazarus, even if that meant being attacked by Jewish leaders there. Thomas says in verse 16: “Let us also go, that we might die with him.”
Thomas was the one disciple who was not present on Easter Sunday, the day of the resurrection. Jesus knew why. He knew that Thomas was in deep mourning over his death. So, Jesus returned several days after the Resurrection- He returned for Thomas. Not to be little him for being a non-believer (“Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” No, Jesus didn’t come back because of those words, not at all. He returned so that Thomas, who was suffering, could see and be healed. He knew Thomas loved HIM, he wanted Thomas to know HIS love.
And, isn’t that what we all need in our hours of greatest despair?
Reflection for April 2 by Katy Zatsick
When the doubts come
Today we celebrate the God of Love who died in Jesus has been raised from the dead. As Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead now he himself is raised and is present throughout the ages to all who believe. In our Gospel Thomas struggled to understand and accept that Jesus lives.
How many experiences have we had like Thomas? We know there is a God but…and it is a BUT in the struggles of life we doubt, we hesitate in knowing our Higher Power, our Brother Jesus loves us unconditionally and is present to us.
Two years ago I asked your prayers for my grandson James Charles then a junior at Jesuit High School in Tampa. He was experiencing a life-shattering emotional, spiritual and physical breakdown. JC has an uncle who is diagnosed schizophrenic and has lived a life of suffering. We did not know the possibilities for JC’s future. His mother took care of JC’s physical needs and found a nutritionist and a therapist. And the members of MMOJ prayed for his healing along with myself.
As JC completed his senior year at Jesuit he created this watercolor as a project. For me, it is the story of Thomas. From sufferings including depression, will come new life to bloom in fullness of living. My doubt about JC’s healing and God’s loving presence was transformed into rejoicing at his new life. May Jesus continue to heal JC as Thomas was healed, as I was healed.
Jesus is risen and is with us NOW., accompanying us as unconditional Love the energy of spiritual evolution.”
And From the blog of newways ministries bondings2.0:
Nearly four months ago, Pope Francis inaugurated, to much excitement and anticipation, the Jubilee Year of Mercy now underway. He has called for this to be a time to remind ourselves that the church to be a “home for all,” a place “where everyone is loved, welcomed, and forgiven.” Catholics worldwide are participating in many ways and Malta’s Bishop Mario Grech even expressed his hope that the year would “start a new era for the Church.”
On this Divine Mercy Sunday, it is worth inquiring about what impact the Year of Mercy is actually having for LGBT Catholics, their loved ones, and their allies.
Positive moments of expanding mercy and inclusion have occurred. In several instances, bishops have used the Year of Mercy to extend special welcomes to LGBT communities.
For instance, Bishop Terry Steib, SVD of Memphis, in his letter titled A Compassionate Response, called on Catholics to tightly link mercy with humility and to be open to encounter and dialogue in ways which can move LGBT issues forward. Two bishops even apologized for the church’s mistreatment of marginalized people. In his Lenten message on mercy, Bishop Mitchell Rozanski of Springfield, Massachusetts, sought forgiveness from those whom the church had hurt, including LGBT people. In New Orleans, Archbishop Gregory Aymond is hosting a Mass for Divine Mercy Sunday that includes a ritual of forgiveness and resurrection which acknowledges:
“[That] we as individuals, as members of the archdiocese and society as a whole have let people down. . .This rite seeks forgiveness and reconciliation with those who have been hurt or alienated by the church either through institutional or individual offenses.”
While no communities were specified, LGBT people are clearly included among those hurt by the church and Aymond has spoken in more positive terms about issues of sexuality in the past.
Lay Catholics are participating in the Year of Mercy, too. Many call for a more just and inclusive church and society. As a way to mark this special year, Kentucky Catholics marched through downtown Louisville and rallied outside the cathedral to foster support for LGBT non-discrimination protections. U.S. Catholics elsewhere, including at least two governors, are actively resisting “license to discriminate” bills now under consideration in state legislatures across the country. And two transgender Catholics shared their stories during a workshop at L.A. Religious Education Congress, the largest Catholic gathering in North America.
Despite these items of good news, negative moments have also occurred.Too many church officials are either avoiding the Year of Mercy or it seems they do not quite understand mercy. Malawi’s bishops used a pastoral letter on mercy to call for the government to jail LGBT people. A pastor disrupted a funeral because of his opposition to LGBT issues. Another pastor closed a parish LGBT ministry. The Vatican has thus far refused to intervene to stop Dominican Republic church leaders’ increasing attacks on gay U.S. Ambassador James Brewster. For church leaders whose hearts remained hardened to LGBT people, we can pray these words taken from Pope Francis’ prayer for the Year of Mercy:
“You willed that your ministers would also be clothed in weakness in order that they may feel compassion for those in ignorance and error: let everyone who approaches them feel sought after, loved, and forgiven by God.”
When it comes to LGBT concerns, Pope Francis’ own involvement in the Year of Mercy is ambiguous. The million-dollar question right now is what impact his upcoming apostolic exhortation on the family, Amoris Laetitia, will have for LGBT Catholics. The pope consistently preaches mercy during his Wednesday audiences, his foreign travels, and everything else in between. But he lodged his harshest criticism of marriage equality yet in January, and his involvement in Italy’s debate over civil unions has been unclear.
The jury is still out on whether the Year of Mercy, viewed as a whole, will be good or not good for LGBT people and other Catholics who support equality. There are signs of hope among the people of God but plenty of intransigence in ecclesial institutions too.
What do you think? Has the Year of Mercy benefited LGBT Catholics? If not yet, do you think it still might? What would be ways of showing greater mercy to those the church excludes and harms? You can leave your thoughts in the ‘Comments’ section below.
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry
Feel free to comment……
May all who need mercy and compassion all who give mercy and compassion be blessed!