Monday, August 17, 2009

In Prophetic Obedience to the Spirit

Roman Catholic Womenpriests Ordained in Minneapolis

Yesterday in Minneapolis, the Roman Catholic Womenpriests movement hosted its Sixth Midwest Region Ordination - an event that drew over 500 people to witness the ordination of one woman to the deaconate, and three women to the priesthood of the Roman Catholic Church.

The Vatican does not recognize such ordinations and last year
declared that those ordained within the Roman Catholic Womenpriests movement are excommunicated “in latae sententiae” - a type of excommunication which church officials say occurs automatically upon certain actions. Roman Catholic Womenpriests, however, reject this penalty of excommunication, claiming that they are “loyal members of the church who stand in the prophetic tradition of holy disobedience to an unjust law that discriminates against women.” Accordingly, they see their ordinations moving the Church forward “in prophetic obedience to the Spirit.” The movement’s ultimate goal is “a new model of ordained ministry in a renewed Roman Catholic Church.”

I’ll be writing more about all of this in the next few days for the Progressive Catholic Voice, but for now here are some photos of yesterday’s ordination liturgy accompanied by excerpts from the “introductory comments” in this liturgy’s program booklet.


Our ordination liturgy today is important for a number of reasons. Today we are prepared for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in this public ordination. Since the ordinations of the Danube Seven in 2002, we stand with our foremothers and forefathers validly ordained in Apostolic Succession through anointing in the laying on of hands. Today, as we ordain women to the diaconate and priesthood, Roman Catholic Womenpriests Midwest region, we stand in union with you, the People of God, as our public liturgy re-dresses an injustice in the Roman Catholic Church that continues to deny ordination to women. We commit ourselves in an act of prophetic obedience that listens to the Spirit from our hearts, that listens to the signs of the times, and that listens in community where the Spirit moves and awakens us to new levels of awareness.

We stand, too, as women and men of the long view. Historical and archaeological evidence reveals that women served as deacons, priests, and bishops from the 2nd to the 6th centuries AD: Deacons Phoebe, Sophia, and Maria; Priests Leta and Vitalia; and Bishops Theodora and Alexandra. Before that, in the Upper Room on Pentecost, God surprised the followers of Jesus, women and men whose hearts were open and who were ready for the coming of God’s Spirit promised by Jesus for all humankind, for all time. All of these people of God served as leaders in those first years of the building of Christian community.

Today, in the ordination of deacon and priests, we continue in the renewal of our first Christian traditions and we celebrate the fact that Jesus invited women as well as men to become leaders. And just as Jesus promised, He is still with us and will continue to send the Spirit, Wisdom Sophia, to dwell with us and lead us forward in being Church in a way that is faithful to the original intent of our brother, Jesus the Christ.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Roman Catholic Womenpriests Ordained in Minneapolis (2007)
“We Are All the Rock” – An Interview with Roman Catholic Womanpriest Judith McKloskey
Responding to Excommunication
The Discussion Continues
Mary of Magdala
Revealing a Hidden History
Thoughts on Ordination, Intellectual Dishonesty, and the Holy Spirit of which the Prophet Joel Speaks
The Journal of James Curtis - Part 3: A Journey Begins
The Journal of James Curtis - Part 5: My Lunch with a “Medicine Bearer”

Recommended Off-site Link:
Roman Catholic Womenpriests

Images: Michael J. Bayly.


Thom Curnutte said...

Where did they attend seminary?

PrickliestPear said...

I sympathise with what these women are trying to accomplish, and I don't have a problem with people disobeying an unjust law.

I wish, though, that they could do it without endorsing/validating the notion of apostolic succession. It's one of those ideas that people really need to stop believing in.

Terence Weldon said...

Thom, I guess that they were trained in the movement's own seminary - where they are training a large number of women, and also a handful of married and openly gay men.

As long as The Vatican refuses to even discuss sensitive issues, seen as important and unjust by significant groups within the church, people will, in good conscience, take matters into their own hands.

Michael J. Bayly said...

Hi Thom and Terence,

As far as I know, the Roman Catholic Womenpriests (RCWP) movement doesn't have its own seminary. Instead, candidates for ordination are expected to have undergone (at their own expense) theological studies at accredited universities and/or colleges before entering the various preparational programs for the diaconate and priesthood offered by RCWP. Most enter with a Masters in Divinity, Masters in Theology, and/or Doctorate of Ministry.



Thom Curnutte said...

Not to be a stick in the mud, but I wonder about the liturgics courses.... :-p

Anonymous said...

"Historical and archaeological evidence reveals that women served as deacons, priests, and bishops from the 2nd to the 6th centuries AD: Deacons Phoebe, Sophia, and Maria; Priests Leta and Vitalia; and Bishops Theodora and Alexandra."

This is a very serious claim, and I would like to know where exactly the evidence is. I am quite skeptical. It's easy to say this. Show me evidence from reputable scholars and not crackpots.

Prickliest Pear raises a fantastic point, although the conlusion that is reached from the poster's point is a matter where we almost certainly would disagree. In emphasising the need for Apostolic Succesion, those who would defend the ordinations of these women are rooting their belief in the "validity" of the act in a whole understanding of sacramental theology that is profoundly based in Tradition. But it seems that these women are not really interested in what Tradition says about the ordination of women at all. They know what they want, and so they must have it. So let's just drop the charade and ordain who ever "feels" called.
Apsotolic Succession is just too tied up in that messy reality called the sacramental Church - you know, the one with real, visible structures.

colkoch said...

Anonymous: You have very valid points pertaining to the comment from PrickiestPear. I too, do not understand why the women's priest movement insists on the validity of their ordinations via Apostolic succession. Same thing with Episcopalians.

Does the validity of a Eucharistic celebration really depend on an unprovable concept of Apostolic succession---at least in the sense we are to believe that no priest has ever had the power to say the Mass passed on to him/her by someone who wasn't touched by a person who received their magic power through one unbroken line from one of the original apostles? (sorry for the run on sentence)

Given the history of Europe,this is a tad bit hard for me to swallow. Like who knows what really went on after the fall of the Roman empire.

The problem I have is that this insistence on Apostolic succession duplicates the same clerical system we now have with all the inherent problems concerning a class of people 'set apart'--usually on their own presumption.

A female version of the male version will not produce meaningful change. And although I have read their website, I'm saying I don't buy it. Jesus didn't call special people to be Apostles, and the original Apostles certainly didn't call themselves.

The idea in the early Church was for the community to call their priestly leaders, not for leaders to call themselves for a community.

While I can appreciate these women acting on their enculturation, I don't see this movement initiating a truly revolutionary priesthood.

I don't support this for a number of reasons, but the big one is the insistence on maintaining the "specialness" of their own individually perceived call through the appeal to Apostolic succession.

I'd love to see one them say they were called by their community and back it up by community acclamation. I know there are parishes in which that would happen. That I would believe.

Regina Nicolosi said...

Thank you, Michael, for posting the beautiful pictures of the ordination in Minneapolis and the comments about Roman Catholic Womenpriests.
You are correct. We do not have our own Seminary but expect that our candidates receive their theological training before they enter into our formation program.
We stress Apostolic succession not as a rigid chain of "hands on heads", but as a sign of our rootedness in the early church and the long history of the Roman Catholic Church. We are working and praying for a renewed priesthood in a reformed Catholic Church. I direct anyone interested in the research about womendeacons, -priests and -bishops to the work of Dorothy Irvin.
Thank you to all who made this ordination possible and to all who were there in body or spirit.