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It’s time

The more Church leadership attempts to fix the situation of women’s ordination in the LCA the further the Church gets into trouble.

Popular sovereignty or the sovereignty of the people is the principle that the legitimacy of the state is created and sustained by the will or consent of its people, who are the source of all political power.  Despite different systems of governance, most people would accept that ‘the will of the people’ is paramount, encapsulated by Abraham Lincoln in that significant Gettysburg Address, hoping “that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

What is ‘the will or consent’ of the people of the LCA?  On the matter of women’s ordination we will never know.  In fact, we will never the will of the people on any matter, as we don’t have a structure, or the will, for conducting a nation-wide poll of membership.   As the LCA uses a synodical structure, the laity express their voice through congregational motions to General Convention and through elected delegates to General Convention.  While we might revisit the structure of governance within the LCA, such a constitutional change is a matter for another decade.

We have known since 2001 that Synod delegates are in favour of women’s ordination.  As very few young people become delegates or have the freedom to afford time off work and pay for travel and accommodation for the length of the Synod, it is a fair assumption that a larger proportion of membership are in favour of women’s ordination.  That vote was also affected by the President, when he gave serious warning to delegates to vote against the motion if they were at all concerned about schism.  In addition, the President decided that absentee votes would count against the motion, with no reference to the source of authority for this decision.  Even without the influence of the current President, it is presumed that the necessary 66% support would still not have been achieved (with an actual vote of 51%), however, if it was for example 58%, it would have been more obvious that this issue had to be treated with more tolerance and sobriety.

So, we have a situation where a majority of membership and the CTICR is in favour of women’s ordination (statements from 2000 and 2006), while we have a leadership, comprised of generally older and elderly men, who not only are against women’s ordination but obstruct it through a clamp-down on media and the regular creation of extra hurdles for the establishment of women’s ordination.  How long might be this situation be tolerated? How long until congregations begin to take their own initiatives?

Let’s revisit our opening definition of sovereignty: Popular sovereignty or the sovereignty of the people is the principle that the legitimacy of the state is created and sustained by the will or consent of its people, who are the source of all political power.

In the LCA we have a situation where the will of the people and committees is minimised or discounted.  While leadership is entrusted by the Church to lead, if trust is broken by losing the consent of its people, the Church can choose to withdraw its trust.    While women’s ordination may need a two-thirds majority vote, the removal of Pr Semmler as President only requires a 50% vote.   This will free up Church media, allow the national conversation to continue, give back respect to CTICR and CSBQ, and also give back respect to women who experience the call to ordained ministry.

It’s time!

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Editorial: Ordination of women would correct an injustice | National Catholic Reporter

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Breaking news! In a historic move, the National Catholic Reporter announced its public endorsement of women’s ordination! Please take a moment to thank NCR staff for being a prophetic voice & standing with the majority of Catholics who believe women should be ordained as priests! Women’s Ordination Conference Facebook page

This is quite a day.  National Catholic Reporter (NCR) in the U.S., while having supported women’s ordination for a while, has now publicly endorsed women’s ordination.  It makes its stance quite clear.

The call to the priesthood is a gift from God. It is rooted in baptism and is called forth and affirmed by the community because it is authentic and evident in the person as a charism. Catholic women who have discerned a call to the priesthood and have had that call affirmed by the community should be ordained in the Roman Catholic church. Barring women from ordination to the priesthood is an injustice that cannot be allowed to stand. Editorial: Ordination of women would correct an injustice | National Catholic Reporter.

NCR’s public stance appears to be precipitated by a Nov. 19 press release from the Vatican of Roy Bourgeois‘ “excommunication, dismissal and laicization” “from the Maryknoll order following his participation in the ordination of Roman Catholic Womanpriest Janice Sevre-Duszynska in August 2008.” ref

The similarities with the LCA are interesting.
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In April 1976 the Pontifical Biblical Commission concluded unanimously: “It does not seem that the New Testament by itself alone will permit us to settle in a clear way and once and for all the problem of the possible accession of women to the presbyterate.” In further deliberation, the commission voted 12-5 in favor of the view that Scripture alone does not exclude the ordination of women, and 12-5 in favor of the view that the church could ordain women to the priesthood without going against Christ’s original intentions.

… while the LCA’s CTICR voted with a 2/3 majority in 200o and 2006 with similar wording.

2. After the 1976 Pontifical Biblical Commission the current and previous Pope and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith upped the ante, ignored the statement and declared the exclusion of women from the priesthood as, first, “irreformable” and then as belonging “to the deposit of the faith.”  This association with being “founded on the word of God” was trying to “stop all discussion”.

In the LCA, Pr Semmler ignores the CTICR recommendations of 2000 and 2006 and has decreed that public discussion on women’s ordination should stop because it doesn’t uphold the current position of the Church.

3. Benedict and John Paul both decreed that women cannot be ordained, despite the 1976 statement from the Pontifical Biblical Commission but laity of the Catholic Church support it.

Pr Semmler, Pr Greg Lockwood, Pr John Kleinig, Pr Andrew Pfeiffer state that women cannot be ordained, while laity are in favour.

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The gathering of the perfect storm

The church would like to think that it stands for eternal unchanging values. Well, yes … but change is in the air in striking ways, and not just in one or two churches.  The groundswell among laity and (often) clergy is overwhelming but the resistance from those who hold the reigns of power is strikingly alike. Power and authority is a tough thing to give up.

Rome has criticised US Catholic nuns for working too closely with the poor and not speaking loudly enough about birth control and homosexuality. While nuns say that they will not compromise their mission three Catholic bishops are in talks with the nuns in hope to find agreement. Bishops and Nuns hold ‘cordial and open’ meeting

A Maryknoll priest has been dismissed from the priesthood for refusing to recant his call for the ordination of women.  Maryknoll: Vatican has dismissed Roy Bourgeois from order | National Catholic Reporter.

While the Church of England votes against ordaining women bishops, down in Africa Anglicans have ordained their first woman bishop.

Seventh Day Adventists have voted to ordain women at all levels of their organisation except for the General Conference leadership, which focusses simply on organisational unity.  Why women’s ordination in the Seventh Day Adventist churches?

I guess you’ve heard of Sex Abuse in the Catholic Church. This link records convictions against Australian Catholic  priests and religious brothers but we know the abuse has occurred around the world.  Meanwhile the church declares that it has “taken decisive steps in the past 20 years to make child safety a priority and to help the victims of abuse,”  yet, the abuse continues.  Why is it that a supporter of women’s ordination is dismissed while child abusers are not?

The church is in turmoil.  These are pivotal days.  Without engaging with our changing culture we are a lost people and a lost church.

 
 

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A Catholic woman’s open letter to the Pope

A post reprinted in its entirety from Baptist Women for Equality’s Blog | Claiming our equality by Shirley Taylor which reprinted a post from Phyllis Zagano [1] on Apr. 27, 2011

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This may not be entirely legal, but I found the words of this blog so important and I want you to see what this Catholic woman has to say, so I have copied her entire blog post which was printed in the National Catholic Reporter.  The words in this post are not mine, but her words are our words.  Her frustration is our frustration. Her anger is our anger.  Her fight is our fight.  I trust she will understand as we connect with each other in righting a wrong.

Following is a letter she wrote to the Pope.  This is a lady who is fed up.  She is speaking up.

By Phyllis Zagano

Created Apr 27, 2011

by Phyllis Zagano [1] on Apr. 27, 2011

His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI
00120 Vatican City State, Europe

Your Holiness:

Forgive my presumption in addressing you directly, but the matter I bring is both urgent and pressing. Women are no longer walking away from the church. They are running away. They are running toward churches that make it clear women are made in the image and likeness of God.

I am not writing to argue for woman priests. But you told me many years ago in New York women deacons were “under study.” From 1992-2002, the International Theological Commission worked on that question, producing a report essentially repeating what you said: the Magisterium must decide.

When you met with the priests of Rome in 2006, you wondered aloud: could the church open more positions of responsibility to women? Were you then signaling the recovery of the tradition of women deacons?

In 2009, you changed Canon Law to echo the Catechism. Priests are ordained to act in the person of Christ, the head of the church; deacons are ordained to serve the people of God in and through the Word, the liturgy and charity. Since doctrinal statements only forbid women priests, and deacons are not priests, it seems you removed another hurdle.

You know it is not just me asking. Thousands of people sent Cardinal William Levada, your successor at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, e-mails and postcards about women deacons in a campaign organized by the US-based group FutureChurch. Several other organizations including the Canada-based Femmes et Ministères have claimed April 29, the feast of St. Catherine of Siena, as an international day of prayer for women deacons.

It is a new-old question. The only person in scripture with the formal job title “deacon” is Phoebe, deacon of the church at Cenchrae (Rom 16:1). Some see the start of the diaconate in Jesus’ washing the apostles’ feet at the Last Supper, but most see it really beginning with the apostles calling the seven to a more formal ministry (Acts 6: 1-6). There were many women deacons in the early church.

The bishops of the world were talking about women deacons at the Second Vatican Council. They are still at it. Most recently, the Swiss Bishop of St. Gall, Markus Bűchel, said women deacons were a good idea. Others before him — even Cardinal Carlo Martini when he was archbishop of Milan — wanted to restore women to the diaconate. Bishops from Australia to Ireland say more women in power would have stemmed the priest sex mess. I think they are correct.

I am told your curia knows women can be ordained as deacons, but does not want women in the clerical structure of the church. That cuts both ways, Holy Father. A lot of women do not want anything to do with clericalism. Some want the whole system to collapse. More say it has collapsed already.

Where is the church without women? I know you are concerned about the fading influence of Christianity in Europe. I write from the United States. Things are pretty bad over here, too. The country is over three-quarters Christian (with 68 million Catholics) but newspapers like The New York Times had no front page Easter story this year. Their ink is used on scandal.

The Christian message is lost in the daily drama of the sex abuse crisis. I fear, Most Holy Father, that bad priests and worse bishops will be your legacy. You will be remembered as the pope who belatedly started a laboring sludge pump to clear the swamp.

I know you love what God loves and hate what God hates, but I also know how bureaucracy can stymie even (maybe especially) the most brilliant person. Is the bureaucracy keeping you from doing the right thing? That goes for the crisis as well as women deacons.

Let me come to the point. The Catholic Church in developed nations is dying out. I am convinced it is dying because of the way it relates to women. Surely you see the numbers — declining membership and eroding donations — but do you have any idea how angry women are? And every woman you alienate extends her influence to several others — to her husband, her children, her friends, her neighbors — until the last person out the parish door closes the lights.

If I may, I think it is time for you to make a decision about women deacons.

It is an opportunity for you to state the Christian message in a way that can be heard. Yes, God is love and all persons are made in the image and likeness of God. But the world will not and cannot hear that until you have a woman deacon standing beside you and proclaiming the Gospel in St. Peter’s.

Again, pardon my presumption, but perhaps no one else will tell you.

Correction: An earlier version of this column gave an incorrect scripture citation for Phoebe, deacon of the church at Cenchrae. The correct citation is Romans 16:1.
[Phyllis Zagano is senior research associate-in-residence at Hofstra University and author of several books in Catholic Studies. Her book Women & Catholicism will be published by Palgrave-Macmillan in 2011.]

Won’t you join me, and this courageous sister in Christ, and speak up for equality by writing, and going to the top earthly person you personally can go to.  We can discuss the subject to death, and never get anywhere.  Now is time for courageous action.

Note to Readers:  Please respect the intent of this post, which is that women in various denominations are speaking up, and we have the same goal.  What we think about a pope or whether priests are the earthly representative of Christ is not relevant to this post.

 
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Posted by on September 24, 2011 in history, theology

 

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