We are pleased to present this astute homily with an interesting comparison by Roman Catholic Woman Priest, Rev.Dr. Gloria R. Carpeneto of The Living Waters Catholic Community in Baltimore, Maryland.
Gloria R. Carpeneto, Homily
4th Sunday of Easter, Cycle C
April 17, 2016
Acts 13:14,43-52; Revelation 7:9, 14-17; John 10:27-30; Psalm 100, We are God’s people, the sheep of God’s pasture.
Way back when dinosaurs still roamed the earth, Andrea Johnson and I were ordained on the same day – she a priest, and I a deacon. Many people sitting here today were with us in Judson Memorial Church in the Village in New York on July 14, 2007 when that ordination took place.
There are lots of memories that I know we each carry of that day, not the least of which is that it was Bastille Day, July 14. And so it was that for the first time in the United States, Roman Catholic women priests emerged from the waters where our ordinations had taken place since 2002. We crawled up out of the rivers and onto land for our first ordinations on terra firma here in the United States. And, in at least a figurative sense, we promptly stormed the Bastille on that July 14.
If you remember any of your French history, it was in 1789 that the working class citizens of France had had enough of taxation and oppression by what we might call today “the 1%.” They had been emboldened by the American Revolution a few years before, and they were in rebellion. Turns out, they had plenty of guns, but little ammunition. So they stormed the Bastille where the government’s ammunition was stored.
French peasants were trying to liberate ammunition from the control of the aristocracy when they stormed the Bastille. But Roman Catholics who supported the ordination of women in our Church were trying to liberate the very life of our church from centuries of control by a monolithic hierarchical structure. French peasants in 1789 and Roman Catholic Women Priests on the Danube in 2002 – all either of us really wanted was justice. We wanted our voices to be heard and we wanted our votes to count for something
And just as Marie Antoinette, in her naïve arrogance, may have wanted the peasants to eat cake, centuries of hierarchical clericalism in our Church had left Roman Catholic women – all Roman Catholic women — with little to eat but obedience, subservience and tasteless canon law.
So there we were in 2007 – storming the Bastille, excommunicating ourselves, and (depending on which canon lawyer you talked to) maybe even dragging everyone in the church that day (and today) down with us. Bishop Patricia Fresen was our ordaining bishop. And in an act of defiance, as Patricia began her homily she placed a black sheep on the altar.
I never got a copy of Patricia’s homily. But I do remember her telling Andrea, Gabriella, Eleanora and myself that we were all black sheep … that it would be a very long time before the Church welcomed us in again … that we were taking a fateful step outside the fold … and that there would be consequences.
Now all shepherds know that in most flocks, nearly all the sheep will be white. But a recessive gene will always produce a black sheep or two. The wool of a black sheep is not as valuable as a white sheep’s wool. It’s wiry, and it’s not soft. It can’t be dyed any colors. It’s hard to weave black wool. Black sheep are anomalies. But they will always be there, and they are not without value. They are actually genetically helpful to the fold, and good shepherds always want their flocks to produce a few black sheep.
So unless I’m reading John’s Gospel today incorrectly, Jesus makes no distinction between black sheep and white sheep. He doesn’t say excommunicate the black ones, and invite the white ones to be on the faculty of Catholic University. He doesn’t say that the white ones can preside at Eucharist, but the black ones can polish the brass. Instead, Jesus says to us today, I am the Good Shepherd. My sheep hear my voice. I know them and they follow me. They belong to me — every last one, no exceptions.
In the Book of Revelation, it’s Jesus who promises to shelter his sheep forever. It’s Jesus who says that all those sheep who reside with him in eternity will never again be hungry or thirsty. The sun will never beat down on them, because Jesus is their shepherd, who will lead his flock to springs of living water, and wipe every last tear from their eye. We belong to him – every last one of us, no exceptions.
And for those of us who are the black sheep – those outside the system, like Paul and Barnabas, all of us in Judson Memorial on July 14, 2007, and all of us worshiping here as the Living Water Community today – we are assured that the Spirit of the Living God will always give us courage to storm the Bastille and share the Gospel message of justice, inclusion and equality for all. Like Paul and Barnabas, those black sheep among us may encounter jealousy, revulsion, betrayal and expulsion from our synagogues. But we know we are absolutely necessary to the life of the flock. Like Paul and Barnabas in the early church (before it turned into the Bastille), we are buoyed by the grace of God, and courageous in speaking out the message we heard proclaimed in our Gospel today. Jew and Gentile, slave and free, old and young, black and white, gay and straight, male and female — we all belong to Jesus – every last one of us, no exceptions.
Our responsorial psalm today was a beautiful one – We are God’s people, the flock of our God. So let’s remember just how good it is to be in that flock.
It’s good to be a white sheep; it’s good to love our Church, to appreciate our history and traditions, to be grounded in a sacramental / liturgical tradition that feeds us all.
But it’s also good to be a black sheep; it’s good to call our Church on the carpet when that’s needed, to speak out when there is injustice, to say something when there is hypocrisy.
We are God’s people, the sheep of the flock. And we cry out with joy every day that our God is good and loves all of us – white sheep, black sheep, inside the Bastille or out of it – every last one, absolutely no exceptions.
In today’s Gospel (John 10: 27-30) Jesus is possessive of his followers-“My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life…No one can take them out of my hand….and no one can take them out of the Father’s hand.” Well, this old sheep is comforted and challenged by this message. I rest in Jesus’ arms, and in the Father/Mother’s arms. When life hits you from every side-with the horrors of violence, and illness and many causes for anxiety, it is good to know where you belong and feel sheltered and cared for.
The metaphor of the Good Shepherd in which Jesus is claiming both “Messiah-ship” and oneness with the Father who will not let us go, works for me. I was a city kid and only knew sheep from magazines and coloring books until adulthood, but I was gifted early with a love for all animals and a sense of kinship with all of creation. Then and now I have no trouble thinking of myself as a sheep. But when Good Shepherd Sunday came a few years back one five year old raised her hand as I went on about the sheep. She had not yet learned that she can comment after the homily but not in the middle but she was so insistent that I finally asked what she wanted to say. She said” I am not a sheep, I am a girl”. An older kid answered quickly “there are girl sheep and boy sheep, and tried to explain why Christ’s followers are called sheep. She remained indignant. So I said, “okay then, Jesus is saying “MY girls and boys and women and men know my voice….and follow me-no one can take my children away….” She nodded and we could proceed.
(Some of the sheep and lambs, God’s beloved children.)
(Below, Pastor Judy Lee and RCWP Candidate Maria Elena Sierra Sanchez in Colombia with goats-okay-not quite sheep..)
So if you are one who does not accept metaphoric connection to farm animals, or never saw a sheep or shepherd, accept that God is claiming you,and claiming us as God’s very own-knowing you inside and out and never letting go of you even if you are squirming away for a spell. And if you land at the edge of a precipice, God’s got your back. The earlier part of John 10 says “I lay down my life for the sheep”( 10:14), and for my other sheep “that are not of this pen”. What kind of love is this? All-inclusive love,not just “my kind” but all human kind. Love that has a claim on us, love that gives it all away for us, love from the wonderful God that we belong to forever. Wow! No matter what we have to deal with, and in our community is unspeakable grief due to violence, the murder of a mother; the drive by shooting of young people and children, the loss of children; the whispered pain and shame of the family of a shooter,( ‘pray for him he is a murderer’, she asked); a murder- suicide leaving four children without a parent though Grandma steps up; and the ravages of untreated illnesses and the struggles with difficult treatable diseases as well often compounded by the insecurity of not being able to pay the next bill and returning to homelessness. And,the feelings of helplessness many of us have as we see our loved ones living at the precipice are only mitigated by knowing that God IS there. Through it all, we are not alone, we have a safe haven and loving arms encircling us. God’s own arms,often presented in the arms of others. But sometimes, by yourself in the middle of the night God’s arms encircle,God’s voice speaks ever so gently and you know that you are not alone.
Today,4/16, Pope Francis and the Prelates of the Greek Orthodox and Eastern Ecumenical Church literally walked with and embraced and strongly advocated for the Syrian Refugees in Greece on the Island of Lesbos at the Moria Refugee Camp. Many are facing deportation from this Camp. As I watched their emotional faces on TV as they reached out to these frightened people with love and compassion, I knew the Good Shepherd was still caring for the most lost and bedraggled of the sheep. How beautiful it is when our leaders do show us the way. Pope Francis has made a home in the Vatican for three Syrian Muslim families,6 adults and 6 children. He is showing us by example not only words how to care for the sheep not of “this pen”. He is showing us how to build bridges and not walls in every aspect of this visit. I thank God for him and for the Greek Prelates who lead the way this very day.
And, I ask Pope Francis to make a bridge for his Roman Catholic Women Priests who also “smell of sheep” to meet with him in serious communication and be welcomed back home.
Thank God, thank Jesus Christ,we belong to God and life is ours now and forever-nothing can separate us from the love of Christ! Amen!
Rev Dr. Judy Lee,RCWP-Co-Pastor, The Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community
“John’s gospel went through two or three editions by several authors
before it reached its current form 70 to 80 years after Jesus.
The community that developed it, known as the “Johannine Community,”
searched for its identity as a community in relation to the Hebrew
And it was concerned to present a narrative framework
that would support Jesus’ status as the Messiah.
As a result, today‘s passage has Jesus use
the traditional scriptural image of the shepherd and sheep
to answer a question about messiahship.
In our first reading we see Paul and Barnabas doing that same kind of
quoting scriptures to support their message.
And Pope Francis uses scripture
to convey his message in Amoris Laetitia, The Joy of Love,
the apostolic exhortation he issued last week.
Just as Paul and Barnabas apply scripture to the situation in Antioch,
and just as Pope Francis applies scripture to his exhortation on family,
so do we.
Whether we’re reading John’s gospel
or Luke’s Acts of the Apostles
or Pope Francis’ Amoris Laetitia,
we look at the time and the context
and listen to what it means for us in our time.
So the gospel verses about Jesus as the Messiah can speak to us;
Jesus talking about his unity with God can speak to us;
the metaphor of the sheep and the shepherd can speak to us.
One of the messages that stands out in all three of today‘s readings
is that life is not perfect
for people who live a life of faith in God,
and the way is not always clear.
Paul and Barnabas meet opposition
and get thrown out of town.
They shake the dust from their feet in protest
and go on to preach in another place.
Jesus is challenged by some of his countrymen
and tries to help them see what he’s about
and what God’s about.
He meets opposition, too.
In the verses after today‘s passage,
some of the crowd pick up rocks to stone him,
so he continues trying to teach, citing scripture.
Then they try to arrest him,
but he leaves Jerusalem and heads across the Jordan.
Francis’ apostolic exhortation is meeting opposition, too.
It’s not enough for the progressives,
and it’s too much for the traditionalists.
It’s easy to be critical.
Pope Francis certainly has an obvious blind spot
when it comes to women,
typical of the culture he was formed in.
And he uses exclusive patriarchal language.
Still, he sees the working of the Spirit in the women’s movement,
saying that to blame feminism for today‘s problems
is invalid, false, untrue, a form of male chauvinism.
He seems to be trying to revive the spirit of Vatican II
and lead the church in a better direction,
and that gives me much hope for the future.
He sees us as a church on the way,
not a church with the right answers.
The Pope tells priests to help people use their own consciences
when they make decision,
saying they’re “capable of carrying out their own discernment
in complex situations.”
He calls for dialogue as essential to Christian life.
He practices subsidiarity, calling on the bishops
to take local customs and practices into account in a pastoral way
and not to lay down a one-size-fits-all dogmatic rule.
He celebrates diversity and encourages unity… but not uniformity.
Most of all, he returns to the way of Jesus
in calling all the faithful to discern their own situation
and exercise their own conscience.
Our tradition gives us models of faithfulness:
Jesus teaching and healing in spite of the consequences,
Paul and Barnabas preaching in spite of opposition,
Francis exhorting us to prayer and discernment
as we follow our vocation…
and the members of our own community
questioning and studying and discerning the way.
Francis ends his exhortation with a prayer that fits every one of us.
“May we never lose heart because of our limitations,
or ever stop seeking that fullness of love and communion
which God holds out before us.”
Holy Spirit Catholic Community
Saturdays at 4:30 p.m./Sundays at 5:30 p.m.
at 3925 West Central Avenue (Washington Church)
In today’s Gospel, John 21:1-19, we have the Risen Christ teaching us once again how to fish, and equating love and service. After Jesus’ crucifixion the disciples were lost and scared and went back to their old jobs of fishing. In order to fish for people they needed to know he was very much alive and it is not surprising that he instructs them again from the shores of Lake Genesaret, the sea of Galilee where they first met. It has always been a wonder to me that Jesus asked for Peter’s love, not his professions or allegiance or beliefs but for his love as shown in service in “feeding the sheep, ewes, and lambs” the men, women and children of the world. We cannot claim to be Christians if we are full of right words but empty of love expressed in action for healing, justice and peace. It is love that transforms us and enables us to serve, even when the going gets rough as it did for Jesus. It is Love that brings us through suffering and death into life. It is love in relation and in prophetic obedience to our God that keeps us going and gives meaning to our lives. It is love that will bring on the kindom of God here and now so that we can fulfill Christ’s Messianic mission and our own reasons for being in this world. Cast the nets and bring on the love!
Below is Rev. Beverly Bingle’s inspirational homily for today. I love her point about the 153 fish as a count of all the types of fish known at the time, hence, the call is to bring in everyone with our loving service. Bring everyone , as Revelation 5:11-14 says, to cry out blessing and honor to our God-to live lives of compassion, mercy, peace and justice.. Bring everyone to change mourning into dancing (Psalm 30). And obey no one except God in preaching and living the Gospel as the first reading in Acts(5:27-32,40-41) tells us. This is particularly so for those who have been forbidden to accept God’s call to Holy Orders because they are women. We echo Peter “We must obey God rather than men”. And being ordered to stop speaking of Jesus ,they “left the presence of the Sanhedrin, rejoicing that they had been found worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name”. Rejoice! Thanks be to God!
Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP, Co-Pastor The Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community in Fort Myers, Florida
And now Rev. Dr. Beverly Bingle’s Homily:
When I read that passage from the Acts of the Apostles,
my first thought is
that things haven’t changed a whole lot in 2,000 years.
Religious authorities are still telling people—
telling laypeople and theologians and clergy
and especially women—
to obey them instead of obeying God.
Fortunately, as with those first disciples,
some folks these days stay faithful to God
by keeping on:
proclaiming the word,
and staying in the church speaking out.
Others stay faithful to God by walking away.
Then I read that passage from Revelation
and hear that those voices crying out in praise are
“every creature in heaven
and on earth and under the earth and in the sea,
everything in the universe.”
But our Catholic hierarchy
continues to excommunicate the divorced who remarry
and LGBT folks who live in committed relationships.
They continue to require Mass prayers in antiquated language
unrelated to the spiritual experience of 21st century Christians.
And there’s a long list of people they have silenced
for applying Vatican II teachings
to theology and ecclesiology and spirituality.
And then there’s that passage we hear from John’s Gospel.
Scripture scholars agree that this chapter, Chapter 21,
was written later and added on to John’s Gospel,
which really ended at Chapter 20.
They agree that just about every detail in this appearance story
creates difficult problems
and leads to speculative adjustments.
For example, scholars notice that this passage says
it’s Jesus’ third appearance,
but it’s really the fourth one in John’s gospel.
Some of them think the author left out
Jesus’ first appearance to Mary of Magdala
because she was a leader in the early Christian movement
and the Johannine community
was arguing for Peter as the leader.
Others think they didn’t count Mary of Magdala
because, in that culture, the witness of women didn’t count.
Many scholars think that this fish story at the end of John’s gospel
comes from the same experience
as the story of the miraculous catch
at the beginning of Luke’s gospel.
In that light, it’s significant that both gospel writers
use the incident to teach about Jesus’ call to follow his way—
the call to discipleship.
And scholars agree
that the meanings in this passage are deeply symbolic.
Peter decides to go fishing, and his friends go along.
They catch nothing and they’re calling it quits.
Someone on the shore calls out to them: “Catch anything?”
That’s a commonplace experience
for anyone who’s ever gone fishing.
Back home in Fremont
in the hunting-fishing-trapping family I grew up in,
we were regularly out on the water or on the ice
When we arrived at a spot,
we’d call out to the fishers already there, “Catch anything?”
Or we’d get there first,
and the newcomers would call out to us, “Catch anything?”
We were talking about catching fish,
but Jesus is talking about catching people,
being “fishers of men,” as the synoptic gospels put it.
And the disciples, without Jesus, catch nothing on their own.
When he tells them to throw the net on the RIGHT side of the boat,
they take in a huge catch.
Those 153 fish are symbolic, too.
Historians say that 1st century folks
believed there to be 153 species of fish.
Jesus’ way catches everybody.
What follows the breakfast on the beach
is the dialogue between Jesus and Peter,
crafted to be parallel to Peter’s three denials in Chapter 18.
Peter professes his love for Jesus three times,
just as he had denied him three times.
Jesus’ response is to call Peter to discipleship:
Keep on feeding and tending my flock,
keep on following my way.
The call of the disciples, like all calls—all vocations—
is a call to love.
It’s a call to keep on.
Keep on learning and teaching and loving and serving.
It’s like people in love—
people with a vocation to companionship and commitment.
They never stop thinking about and talking about
and caring for their beloved.
It’s like the spouse of a victim of Alzheimer’s,
willing to suffer whatever is required
for the sake of the other.
It’s like Pope Francis
and the growing mass of people
who see earth as our common home
and will not be silent about our responsibility
to change our selfish and wasteful habits.
It’s like the prophetic voices within our Catholic Church:
following the way of Jesus;
following their consciences
in holy disobedience to unjust rules;
obeying God, not humans.
It’s like us, here, a gathering of Vatican II Catholics
serious about discipleship
and living lives of commitment to peace and justice,
the way Jesus taught.
We’re not alone.
Everywhere we go Jesus is with us.
Thanks be to God!
Holy Spirit Catholic Community
Saturdays at 4:30 p.m./Sundays at 5:30 p.m.
at 3925 West Central Avenue (Washington Church)
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,email@example.com 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, 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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.]
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.