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Aside
Roman Catholic Activists in Rome

Father Roy Bougeois poses with (l-r) Deacon Donna Rougeux, Priests Ree Hudson and Janice Sevre-Duszynska in front of the Vatican, October 17, 2011.

Some senior leaders are willing to pay an enormous price in order that women might follow their calling. Roy Bourgeois was excommunicated and expelled from the priesthood for consistly advocating the ordination of women.  It is ironic that the Catholic Church, the most patriarchal of all churches, finds no theological objections to women’s ordination, just that of tradition.

“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. Wikipedia

It would seem that this is also the case with the LCA, given that the CTICR comes to a similar position.

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Roy Bourgeois tells his story – N.Y.Times

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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.
1.

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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Congregations will eventually ordain women

In the LCA congregations will eventually begin to ordain women.

It is happening in the Catholic Church because congregations are despairing of any change through formal channels. In August Elaine Groppenbacher became the fourth female to be ordained a Catholic priest in the Phoenix area, USA.  When the Vatican increasingly loses respect and authority, congregations will increasingly risk being ejected from the fold to do what they think is right … and this is in a tradition where obedience has a high priority.

“We’re the Rosa Parks of the Catholic Church,” says Bridget Mary Meehan, a Womenpriests bishop and former nun. “We no longer accept second-class status in our own religion.” Read more.
The Vatican is in crisis.  It is facing a drop in membership despite Catholic policy against birth control, it is beginning to face the crimes of its clergy from the last few generations, (I shudder to think of the undisclosed crimes from the last two millenia) and very few Catholics have any respect for the Catholic decree prohibiting the use of contraception, which has led to a devastating surge of AIDS in Africa. In addition, a US CBS poll says that the majority of Catholics support women’s ordination.
There is panic in the Catholic camp for the Vatican is responding with inordinate force, denouncing  “female ordination a delictum gravius, or a grave crime, the same label it has given to pedophilia.”  Time Magazine 27th September 2010, pp 53-55 The Vatican declares that women who attempt to become priests, and the officiating bishops, will automatically be excommunicated from the church. Let’s be clear about this – women who wish to share the gospel through the ordained ministry are condemned with the same language as paedophile priests who use children for their own sexual gratification!  Such loss of perspective and such loss of focus indicates a blinkered urge to regain control of a diverse Church and an accompanying loss of pastoral care and vision.
It is clear where the Vatican’s priorities lie. The Times cites the case of Rev. Roy Bourgeois, who was excommunicated two months after he took part in a ceremony ordaining a woman. It took years after bishops’ requests, in many cases, to defrock pedophiles.

Women and men have waited generations for women’s ordaination in the LCA.  It is a certainty that congregations will eventually lose patience with the callous handling of this pivotal issue.  It is unlikely that the Church can remain intact through another General Synod without ordaining women.  I believe that General Convention 2012 will be a turning point.  No more will all congregations be content to trust in the process.  No more will they trust that women’s ordination ‘will soon happen’.  No more will they trust Church leadership. No more will they continue to tell the women in their midst to continue waiting.

Congregations will increasingly consider their options are as General Synod 2012 draws closer.

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Posted by on November 5, 2010 in sociology, theology

 

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