Worship on the Shadow’s Edge

Posted by Censor Librorum on Dec 27, 2008 | Categories: Politics

I belong to a parish I adore.   My pastor is a good man. I have a tremendous respect for him: his kindness, warmth and integrity. He makes everyone feel welcome and at home. You are happy to come to church every week.

The people of the community fit the same mold. It is a place where you strive, because you feel happy and loved, to live the values of the faith and try to do right every day.

But a situation came along this year to beckon me to live my faith in a prophetic way.

I recently made a commitment to be part of  a community lead by a Roman Catholic Womanpriest.  I  am a little scared, but also very resolute in my commitment to my priest, her ministry and the community she is undertaking to bring to life. It is an honor for me to be part of this group.

The dual feelings of  joy and apprehension are not new. It is worship  on the shadow’s edge; gathering in discretion, hoping  not  to invite persecution at the hands of religious authorities, but understanding it is always a possibility.

The last time I experienced faith on the margins was in the early ’80s, when Dignity groups were tossed out of church facilities. Instead of going away quietly, gay Catholics found new moorings in liberal protestant churches and nondenominational facilities. Forced out of the gay ghetto, Dignity and CCL members expanded relationships with other reform and renewal-minded Catholics. There are now several  hundred “gay-friendly”Roman Catholic  parishes with supportive family and friends,  and discreet, but out, gay and lesbian parishioners.

The priest of my new community  was ordained in Boston on July 20, 2008. “The organization calling itself Roman Catholic Womanpriests is not recognized as an entity of the Catholic Church,” said Cardinal Sean O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston. “Catholics who attempt to confer a sacred order on a woman, and the women who attempt to receive a sacred order, are by their own actions separating themselves from the Church.” romancatholicwp.jpg

The Womenpriests organization says their ordinations are legitimate because Catholic bishops in good standing ordained their first members to become female priests and bishops.   That means the women being ordained can claim apostolic succession, or direct descent from Jesus’ apostles.

“Why is Rome so upset about us? Because they know the ordinations are valid,” said Bridget Mary Meehan, the spokeswoman for Roman Catholic Womenpriests.

The organization has not released the name of the bishops it says ordained the first women priests and  consecrated the first women bishops, saying they would face sanction by the Vatican, but says it will release the names once the male bishops die.

The Boston ordination ceremony was presided over by Dana Reynolds of California and Ida Raming of Germany.

“We know only too well in how many ways Vatican church leaders refuse to acknowledge the equality in Christ that God has established between men and women, and how they constantly try to reimpose the precedence of men over women, which is unchristian,” Bishop Raming said. “We give witness to the whole world that it is not male gender which is the prerequisite for a valid ordination, but faith and baptism, the foundation of our dignity and equality.”

“I’m feeling such joy, I could rise up,” said one of the newly ordained priests, Judith A.B. Lee, said in an interview after the ceremony. She  pointed out that she was wearing a cross from Dignity, an organization of gay Catholics. “I am a priest for the poor and for those who live at the margins, and we deserve the full sacraments of the church,” she said.

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2 Responses to “Worship on the Shadow’s Edge”

  1. Thom Says:

    Can I make one suggestion for all women priests?

    Please, please, please stop wearing your stoles over your chausubles! Male or female, it’s incorrect.


    That’s all.

  2. Eve Says:

    “We deserve the full sacraments of the Church.” ?

    There is something that has gone horribly awry here. If only we could see the effects of our actions on our souls. If we could, I doubt anyone would dare to say, “I deserve….(anything)”, let alone the sacraments!

    A sacarament is the outward sign of God’s inward grace. He himself gives us the help, and we should not be pretend to deserve it, let alone snatch it from his hands. (Picture this; it is not a very virtuous thing to do.) All this talk about following conscience… One can and should do this… but also realize that one can objectively have a badly-formed conscience. If we don’t understand (or even faithfully accept) the teachings/truths we struggle with, we shouldn’t make our conscience supreme over canon law and Church teaching. It takes wisdom and the virtue of true humility to admit that we might have poorly-formed consciences. Yes, follow it, when you are surely within the truth! (AKA, never CLEARLY acting against something doctrinally laid down for happiness of the faithful.) And DO NOT follow it when it CLEARLY leads you to excommunication!

    Women ordination is not an issue of “equality”, whichever definition people today decide that to mean. It is an issue of God’s providence and love. It is an objective reality that a man is different from a woman, and this, in many and varied ways. This doesn’t mean that they are unequal. The Catholic Church teaches that man and woman are complimentary to each other, having different (NOT unequal) roles, and that they work and live in harmony with each other in living their true identities. The acts of ordaining, consecrating, absolving sins (…anything proper to the role of the priest…) does not belong to woman anymore than the acts of giving birth, physically nursing, etc. belong to the man. Spiritual realities may be compared with physical realities here because we believe (and the Church teaches) that a person is a unity of body and soul. Again, something has gone horribly awry in our thinking, and I will pray hard that more thoughtful Catholics will think their way to the Wisdom that has been from all time.

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