Friday, August 29, 2008

Buried secrets

Cardinal Newman is set to become Britain's newest saint. First he must be exhumed from the grave he shares with another man - the greatest love of his life

By Geoffrey Wansell
The Daily Mail
Last updated at 1:58 AM on 29th August 2008

The precise time and details are still a closely guarded secret, but the plans are already well under way. At some stage - possibly before the end of the year - a small party of priests, gravediggers and officials from the Vatican will arrive at the small cemetery at Rednal, near Birmingham, to conduct their sombre business.

There they will make their way to a headstone bearing the Latin inscription 'Ex umbris et imaginibus in veritatem' - 'out of shadows and phantasms into the truth', which marks the resting place of the Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman, the revered Catholic priest, thinker and writer, who died in 1890. And then they will start digging.

For in a decision that has provoked controversy in the Catholic church and beyond, Cardinal Newman is due to be exhumed and his body moved to a far grander sarcophagus inside Birmingham Oratory as part of the final preparations before the London-born priest is beatified by Pope Benedict - a process that will set him on course to become the first English saint for more than four decades.

By any reckoning, it will be a somewhat macabre process. The coffin itself will not only be disinterred, but opened so that 'relics' from Newman's body, which may be bones from his fingers or fragments of cloth from his priestly vestments, may be taken in order to distribute and display in other Catholic churches. But that's not what's provoking such outrage.

No, what offends many campaigners is that this process of exhumation will take place contrary to the explicit wishes of Newman himself, whose dying wish was to be buried in the simple grave at Rednal - alongside the body of his lifelong friend, Father Ambrose St John.

For more than three decades, the two men were inseparable - living almost as a married couple - in what many now believe to have been a homosexual relationship.

Just how close the two men were can be judged from Newman's statement shortly after Father St John's death in 1875.

He declared: 'I have always thought no bereavement was equal to that of a husband's or a wife's, but I feel it difficult to believe that anyone's sorrow can be greater than mine.'

Subsequently, the Cardinal repeated on no fewer than three occasions his firm desire to be buried with his friend.

He wrote the following just weeks before his death in the summer of 1890. 'I wish, with all my heart, to be buried in Father Ambrose St John's grave... I give this as my last, my imperative will.'

And for the past 118 years, that is exactly how it has been, with the two men's bodies sharing the one simple grave. Now, though, if the Roman Catholic church gets its way, the two men will be separated for eternity in what some protesters have claimed is an act that amounts to blatant homophobic persecution.

On Sunday, Peter Tatchell, the gay rights campaigner, waded into the debate, claiming: 'The Vatican's decision to move Cardinal Newman's body from its resting place is an act of grave robbery and religious desecration.

'It violates Newman's repeated wish to be buried for eternity with his life-long partner Ambrose St John. It's a shameful, dishonourable betrayal of Cardinal Newman by the gay-hating Catholic Church.'

His argument has been bolstered by a recent poll in the Church Times newspaper, which found that 80 per cent of respondents were opposed to Newman's exhumation.

But the Catholic church is insistent the move is part of the standard process in preparation for beatification, and has nothing to do with Newman's private life.

They accuse the gay rights lobby of hijacking the debate to suit their own agenda. Austen Ivereigh, former adviser to Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, told BBC's Radio 4 Sunday programme at the weekend: 'I don't think anyone disputes that Cardinal Newman loved Ambrose St John... But it is simply wrong to read back from today's categories into the Victorian periods when these very intense, passionate, but totally celibate relationships among the Anglo-Catholic community were very common.'

But the very act of exhumation - and the removal of Newman's body from his friend's side - will add fuel to the controversy over the role of homosexuality in both the Anglican and Roman Catholic Church.

So what is the truth about Newman? Was he gay, or were his close friendships with male colleagues simply deep friendships of an innocent nature distorted through the prism of time?

Born in London in 1801, the son of a baker, Newman was ordained into the Anglican Church in 1823, but converted to Catholicism in 1844 and went on to found the first English Oratory in Birmingham, as well as establishing what is now known as University College, Dublin.

Subsequently, he became a figurehead for all Catholic converts everywhere and was made a Cardinal in 1879.

Even in his own lifetime, though, Newman's sexuality attracted controversy. The novelist and historian Charles Kingsley launched a famous attack on him in 1864, which provoked Newman to write his Apologia Pro Vita Sua - which contains a defence of Newman's sensitive view of 'masculinity'.

The softly spoken Newman was also attacked by other 19th century contemporaries for a 'lack of virility' and a 'feminine nature', and in 1933 author Geoffrey Faber portrayed him as a homosexual - 'with feminine characteristics'.

Newman had several friendships with women, but none of them could be regarded as close. And there is no real evidence that he ever consummated a heterosexual union - quite the reverse.

From the age of 15 he was convinced it was the will of God that he should lead a single life. While he was an undergraduate, and later a priest in Oxford, he taught that celibacy, for the priesthood, was 'a high state of life, to which the multitude of men cannot aspire'.

Few deny, however, that his deepest emotional relationships were with young men who became his disciples, including the flamboyant Richard Hurrell Froude, who died in 1836, and Ambrose St John, who lived with Newman from 1843 until his death.

What undoubtedly made matters more awkward for Newman was that the other most significant 19th century English churchman, Cardinal Henry Edward Manning, embodied the very antithesis of Newman's character and outlook.

Although Manning was similarly a convert from Anglicanism, who ascended to the heights of the Catholic Church's hierarchy, he delighted in the outdoors and championed the working man.

There were certainly no doubts over his sexuality - Manning became a priest after his wife's death, quite unlike the bookish Newman who remained forever cloistered in an all-male world.

Ultimately, the precise nature of Newman's close relationship with St John is impossible to prove one way or the other, though many see the inscription above their shared resting place - 'out of shadows and phantasms into the truth' - as a posthumous 'coming out'.

In an ideal world, of course, it shouldn't matter either way. The controversy should not be allowed to diminish Newman's great contribution to the Catholic Church in this country.

British Christians of all denominations should be proud that he is set to be beatified. By December this year, Pope Benedict XVI - a keen supporter of Newman's work and beliefs - is expected to confirm that a miracle can be attributed to Newman.

This represents the first formal step towards his beatification, and will mean that he will be called the 'Blessed' John Henry Newman.

The miracle in question involves the fate of 69-year-old Jack Sullivan, a married Deacon from Boston in the U.S., who claims that he was cured from crippling back pain after praying to Newman.

But the Pope would need to attribute a second miracle to Newman's name for him to be canonised, and thereby finally become a saint - although the suspicion remains in church circles that Newman's sexuality may yet count against him when it comes to this final hurdle.

One thing is sure, the intensely shy, humble and bookish Newman would almost certainly have preferred to remain buried in that humble grave alongside his friend rather than be transferred, alone for the first time in decades, to a splendid marble sarcophagus many miles away - no matter how great the honour it meant was being bestowed upon him.

Some religious commentators have suggested a compromise - that Father St John's body should be moved along with Newman's to its new resting place - but perhaps unsurprisingly, this idea has not been accepted by the Catholic Church.

That has dismayed those who believe that perhaps the ultimate truth was that Newman may have had gay tendencies, but never broke his Holy vows - thereby proving the depth and sincerity of his faith.

Martin Prendergast, a homosexual campaigner in the Catholic Church, says. 'I don't think they can just pretend the relationship [with Father St John] didn't exist.

'We shouldn't be afraid of acknowledging that Cardinal Newman had his trials and torments, yet he was able to deal with these in a positive manner, without compromising his commitment to celibacy.'

Whatever the truth, it seems a terrible sadness that 118 years after his death, this most devout man can no longer rest in peace.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Married, ex-Baptist minister to become Catholic priest

Wow! The Pastoral Provision has expanded away from just Episcopalians and Lutherans!

By Peter Smith
The Courrier Journal
August 25, 2008

David Harris never considered his conversion to Catholicism six years ago to be a rejection of the Baptist faith that nourished him from childhood in Eastern Kentucky.

But as a married man, Harris did think the switch meant he would leave one thing behind -- his status as an ordained minister.

He was wrong.

Early next month, he'll make history as the first married, former Baptist minister to become a Roman Catholic priest in the United States.

He'll also be only the second married man from any former denomination to become a priest in the Archdiocese of Louisville.

Harris, 53, is scheduled to be ordained Sept. 6 at the Cathedral of the Assumption.

He is the only priest being ordained in the archdiocese this year.

His ordination is allowed under a seldom-used exception to the church's requirement that priests be celibate.

Exception to the rule

The exception, which requires case-by-case permission from the Vatican, allows ordination of married converts who had been ordained Protestant ministers.

While about 100 former ministers from Episcopal and other American Protestant denominations have taken that path, Harris is the first former Baptist known to do so, according to researchers and others familiar with the process.

"All I could do is say, 'Church, would you consider this?' " said Harris, now a deacon at St Aloysius Church in Pewee Valley, where he will become associate pastor upon his ordination. "If the church had said no, I would have gone on and enjoyed my faith and done something else."

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, who supported Harris' application to the Vatican, said he's looking forward to the ordination.

"I think the world of him," he said.

Elayne Roose, a spiritual director who has advised Harris, said "we'll all benefit" from his ordination.

She said he blends spirituality with practical experience.

"He understands what it's like to be married, to have children, to have that life, besides being a very spiritual person," she said.

The spiritual journey

Harris, who knew few Catholics in his native Middlesboro, traces his spiritual journey to his upbringing by "good Christian parents."

"I loved the mountains and nature, (which conveyed) a sense of closeness to God," said Harris, whose church office is decorated with pictures of sunflowers -- and a real one from his garden -- alongside icons and liturgical books.

He said he was baptized by immersion around age 10 at his church, beneath a painting of John the Baptist and Jesus at the Jordan River.

Harris later earned an engineering degree from the University of Kentucky, where he met his wife, Pam.

They now have two adult sons.

Harris worked as a design engineer in Lexington, but he said that as he volunteered in his local Baptist church, he felt a call to the ministry.

He earned a master's of divinity from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville in 1987 while pastor of a church in eastern Jefferson County.

Harris said when his second son was born, he "really had to think about spending more time with the family." He returned to engineering in 1992, going to work for the Louisville Regional Airport Authority.

That was when a friend gave him a thrift-store copy of a spiritual classic by the Catholic mystic St. John of the Cross, "Dark Night of the Soul."

Harris said he was captivated by its vision of a deep contemplative prayer life and began reading more of Catholic spirituality, including works by 20th-century Kentucky author-monk Thomas Merton.

He went on retreats at the Abbey of Gethsemani in Nelson County, where Merton had lived.

Harris then began attending the Church of the Epiphany in eastern Jefferson County and was confirmed as a Catholic in 2002.

"I love the Baptist faith," he said. "I was not moving away from it or toward something. It's just all part of my journey."

Crossing great divides

He acknowledged he had to overcome a historic divide between Baptists and Catholics.

Baptists claim final authority rests solely in the Bible, while Catholics cite a combination of Scripture, traditions and church leadership. Baptists believe the Lord's Supper is strictly a symbol, while Catholics see it as in essence the body and blood of Jesus.

"I've come to understand enough of it that I began to believe and trust in the … teaching arm of the church," Harris said.

His wife and sons remain Baptist, but support him, as do other relatives.

"I'm real happy for him," said his brother, Mike, of Louisa. "My brother has always had a fantastic heart for people."

David Harris said his mother had the most difficulty with his conversion.

"We talk about it, we pray about it," he said. "At this point she's real supportive."

After he converted, Harris volunteered in such roles as a reader and altar server.

And when a spiritual adviser told him of the possibility of the priesthood, he prayed about it, talked with priests and met with then-Archbishop Thomas C. Kelly, who submitted his application to the Vatican.

Harris earned a master's in theological studies from St. Meinrad School of Theology in Southern Indiana.

He began working as an administrator at St. Barnabas Church on Hikes Lane. And Vatican approval came last winter.

"He'll make a great priest," said Joe Kleine-Kracht, a former parish council president at St. Barnabas, who said Harris' preaching style is "almost revival like."

"He was really big on spreading the word and telling us as Catholics we need to make sure we're spreading the word," he said.

Harris recognizes that some advocates point to the use of former Protestant clerics to bolster their call for more married priests.

But Harris is staying out of that debate.

"That's something you'll have to take up with the church," he said. "It's just like my situation: Ultimately the church makes that discernment."

Thursday, August 14, 2008

A tribute to the late Fr. Umberto Lenzi

The following article is reprinted as a tribute to Father Umberto Lenzi (pictured at right hugging a groom at a 2002 wedding). Umberto, a dedicated husband, father, and married priest, passed away this week. May he rest in peace.

Wednesday, July 24, 2002


When Anne Olson became engaged, she envisioned a grand Roman Catholic ceremony, complete with Communion and the Filipino and Hispanic traditions of the veil, lasso and 13 coins.

But her goals began to wilt when she couldn't find a parish that could accommodate a Saturday wedding. Then she found "Rent a Priest," a national non-profit referral service for married priests, and last Saturday, she and her fiancé had their Catholic wedding in the University District.

The Rev. Umberto Lenzi, a married priest, gives Randy Calpe a hug at Calpe's wedding to Anne Olson Saturday. The wedding was recognized by the state, but not by the Catholic Church. Loren Callahan / Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Click for larger photo
But it was in a Baptist church, and with a20priest who left his religious order 30 yea rs ago to get married. The wedding was recognized by the state, but not by the Catholic Church.
"At first, I was a little saddened. Even when I was little, I wanted a very traditional wedding in a Catholic church," Olson, a 28-year-old customer service worker, said last week. "Our families are very Catholic, and they're probably going to be talking. But we've come to the point where the focus is us and God."

For people who consider themselves Catholic but chafe at the institutional rules, the growing number of married priests is providing a much-needed service. Under canon law, married priests must resign from active ministry, but cannot be unordained.

Theologically, they can still offer the sacraments, such as Mass, baptisms and weddings, but the Catholic Church does not recognize their work or record them as sacramental experiences in20its historical registers.

Reform groups have traditionally promoted married priests as a way to ease the shortage of diocesan and religious order priests. But the sex-abuse scandals in the U.S. Catholic Church have renewed the debate about mandatory celibacy and added fuel to groups such20as "Rent a Priest," which advocates nationally for a married priesthood.

"If there were married or women bishops in the church, do you think they would have shuffled pedophiles around?" said John Shuster, vice president of Rent a Priest and a married priest in Port Orchard.

The group, which has more than 2,500 members, was started in Massachusetts by a woman who couldn't find a priest to say Mass for her homebound mother, so she turned to a married priest.
"I think by having a balanced priesthood of men and women, married and celibate, you're going to have more checks and balances to prevent that from happening," Shuster said.

The Rev. Umberto Lenzi left his order 30 years ago to get married. Saturday he married Randy Calpe and Anne Olson. Loren Callahan / Seattle Post -Intelligencer
Click for larger ph oto
Bill Gallant, spokesman for the Seattle Archdiocese, said a married priesthood would not help prevent clergy sexual abuse, which he said occurs mostly within families and is often committed by men who are married.

The church does not recognize the work of married priests, he said, and people who think otherwise are succumbing to "a bit of false advertising."

"We're not antagonistic toward these guys. The archbishop has always believed that people have a right to believe what they want to believe," Gallant said. "But there are things that make us intrinsically Catholic. Otherwise, what's the point of being Catholic?"

Of the estimated 20,000 priests who've left the institution nationally in the last 30 years, most have left to marry. Advocates say about 140 married priests live in W estern Washington, where some do weddings full time, while others, such as Shuster, squeeze weddings in between secular jobs. Most charge a fee of $50 to $300 for a ceremony.

Now a pharmaceu tical salesman, Shuster was a 33-year-old priest of four years when he left his religious order in 1983. The oldest of six Catholic children, he had entered seminary when he was 13, simply because it was expected. By the time he was a young man, he said four priests had sexually propositioned him, and he became disillusioned. Plus, he wanted to get married.
"I felt like a 10-pound ham in a 5-pound can when I was in the celibate priesthood," said Shuster, 50, now the father of two sons.

For priests like Bob Riler, the decision to resign is emotionally wrenching. Riler, who left the Seattle Archdiocese after five years, had found ministering a joy, but celibacy painfully lonely.
Before he left, he spent a year and a half pondering his life's path. He talked with his spiritual director for hours. He went on solitary retreats. Finally, he resigned from his Puyallup parish in 1999.

"I really agonized over the decision," said Riler, 51. "Priesthood i s a very isolating experience. It's like dieting: The more you diet, the m ore you want Oreos. I realized there was that hole, deep down in the center of my life."

Riler married a parishioner he had befriended, and has had a series of jobs, none long term. He was the spokesman for the Washington State Liquor Control Board. He edited a community newspaper for seniors. He does a few weddings a year. He's now doing a temporary gig with a Pierce County project for caregivers, and isn't sure where what he'll do next.
Despite the anxiety of making the transition to a secular life, he said marriage has enriched his role as a priest.

"My life is much more whole and complete," Riler said. "It's much more spiritual. I feel I'm honest with the values I hold."

Married priests often appeal to Catholics who feel alienated from the church, or want to wed, but don't want to abide by all the rules. They don't want to undergo the sometimes draining process of annulling a first marriage, submit to the required four to six months of pre-marriage training, or marry only on church property.

But they still want a priest.

"Being Catholic is like being Jewish. There's a sense of identity, even though they're not actively involved. They tend to appreciate the background of a resigned priest like myself," said Pat Callahan, who left the Seattle Archdiocese nearly 20 years ago to get married.

Callahan, who has a full-time wedding ministry, became a priest in 1968, with the largest class of priests ever to be ordained in the archdiocese. Fifteen years later, he was restless and lonely in what he called a "classic, right-on-schedule, midlife crisis" at age 40. He left a year later in 1983.
"My therapist said, 'Welcome to the middle years,'" said Callahan, now 59. "It was very traumatic. Priests are so loved and highly regarded, so the idea of leaving that role and that status as a priest was just terrifically scary for me. For 27 of my 41 years, I had been training for and being 'Father Pat.'"

By the time he left, nearly half of his ordination class of 16 had resigned, most of them=2 0to get married.

He said married priests would help ease the shortage of priests. The national Catholic population has grown by 37 percent since 1965, while the number of priests has declined by 23 percent, according to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University.
"It will open up a huge pool of men who have not been willing to consider priesthood, because they have not been willing to consider a celibate life," said Callahan, a former national board member of the reform group Corpus, which promotes a priesthood inclusive of women and married men.
"If you don't have enough priests, Catholics are being deprived of the sacraments."
Callahan said expanding the pool of candidates would also help weed out sexual abusers.

Gallant, the Seattle Archdiocese spokesman, noted that many mainline Protestant denominations, which allow married ministers, are struggling to fill clergy positions. He said Seattle doesn't have a priest shortage in the first place, but rather a Catholic population boom.

Celibate priests talk about having a "gift" -- or an aptitu de -- for celibacy that prevents them from becoming lonely.
"I've known an awful lot of priests who are engaged in their communities, who love the ir communities and are loved, and have a very full life," said John Topel, a Jesuit priest and a theology and religious studies professor at Seattle University.

Topel, an expert in Catholic tradition and thought, anticipated that a drop in mandatory celibacy will be a "strong possibility" with Pope John Paul II's successor.
He predicted the many American bishops, who are struggling with the shortage of celibate priests, would likely support a married priesthood. And he noted that the Catholic church already has a tradition of a married priesthood, which existed until the 12th century.

It wasn't until 1139 that the Second Lateran Council mandated celibacy, as a way to distinguish clerics from the laity and weaken the power and property rights of priests and their families, say those who advocate for a married priesthood.

And in 1980, the Vatican began allowing Episcopalian priests to convert and become Catholic cleri cs, regardless if they are married.

"I think the prospects are quite good, because bishops are scraping the barrel for lack of priest s," Topel said.

Until then, advocates can only dream.

In a few weeks, Callahan will officiate at a wedding at the chapel in Bastyr University in Kenmore, which was once the site of the archdiocese's major seminary. For six years, Callahan trained for priesthood in the stained-glass chapel, now a popular wedding spot.

"I'll tell you, it's kind of eerie for me when I go back," he said. He recalled how the chapel's walls used to list the seven sacraments, and how, as a seminarian, he used to sit opposite two of them: Holy orders and matrimony.

Remembering "I would often think, 'Gee, those are both such beautiful sacraments.'"

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A New Blog For Wives Of Priests

I have long looked for a ways to share, listen and hear the voices of other women married to Catholic priests. Now I am happy to report that I hope to have found a way. I want to share information about a blog for priests' wives. It is called The Apostles Wives' Club . The author has chosen to to keep her identity private on the blog for many reasons which she address in her post To Be Or Not To Be Anonymous. The site can challenge our beliefs about ourselves, but it passes no judgement. The author is a wife of a Catholic priest and is looking for a place were we can all have a voice.

She started the blog because being married to a Catholic priest brings with it a lot of baggage and challenges that most marriages don't struggle with. The biggist challage of all is dealing with the fact that the Catholic Church believes that women married to priests are not wives at all and will never recognize their marriages.

There are many sites for married priest, but I have never seen a site or blog for wives of priests. I agree with the author that "the telling of our stories even bit by bit, and listening could bring tremendous healing" where it is needed and a stronger sense of the right to be who we are. Priest wives have long been ignored in the celibacy discussion. We have had no voice or power. The blog is new and I certainly hope it would grow because there is a need for it.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Dissident Priest concelebrates, homilizes at woman's ordination

Catholic Online

NEW YORK -- Maryknoll Fr. Roy Bourgeois, long associated with the cause of Christian non-violence and attempts to close the international school for military training at Fort Benning, Ga., today staked his conscience to a different cause: the ordination of women in the Catholic church.

Bourgeois was a concelebrant and homilist at the ordination of Janice Sevre-Duszynska, a longtime peace activist and advocate of women’s ordination. The ordination occurred Aug. 9 at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Lexington, Ky.

In an interview Aug. 7, two days before the ordination, Bourgeois told NCR that he had thought long and hard about participating after receiving an invitation to the ceremony. “I consulted a lot of friends, I’ve done a lot of discernment, spoken with a lot of women friends. I felt in conscience -- this matter of conscience keeps coming up and I don’t know what other word to use -- if I didn’t attend her ordination, I would have to stop addressing this issue as I do” in speaking engagements at parishes and other Catholic venues around the country.

Though Bourgeois is best known for leading a movement to oppose the training of foreign troops at what once was known as the School of the Americas, he has also long maintained, as a matter of conscience, that women should be ordained. The SOA watch annually draws tens of thousands to Ft. Benning in November for a weekend of teach-ins and demonstrations. The school’s official name was changed in 2001 to the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation.

When questioned, Bourgeois said he knew there could be “serious implications” if he openly participated in a women’s ordination ceremony. While other priests may have attended other women’s ordination ceremonies incognito, a spokesperson for the Women’s Ordination Conference said Bourgeois was the only active male priest to openly participate in such an event.

“For me it seems very right,” he said in the interview. “I would have a problem sleeping at night in the future if I didn’t put my body where my words are.”

In considering the implications, he said, “I don’t know how I could continue to be silent in the church, this is such a big issue for me.

“Over the years and listening to women friends – if one listens, just shuts up and listens to their stories, their faith journey and, in some cases, their call by God to ordination to the priesthood in the Catholic church – there is a problem for us guys in the church. What are we saying? God is calling us but not you? This is heresy. We’re tampering with the sacred here.”

He also speaks about exclusion of women from ordination as discrimination. “We cannot justify discrimination no matter how hard the bishops may try. In the end, it is wrong. It is a sin. That’s how I see it and that’s why I am going to be there Saturday.”

For additional information about this ordination see Sixth Catholic woman priest ordained this year, National Catholic Reporter, 8/9/2008

Father Roy Bourgeois' Homily

Published: August 9, 2008
Lexington, Kentucky

When I met Janice Sevre-Duszynska years ago in the SOA Watch movement, she spoke about her journey of faith and her call to be ordained in the Catholic church.

That day has arrived. And we are here to share in her joy and to support Janice in her call to the priesthood.

As we know, the ordination of women in the Catholic church is a controversial issue. Ten years ago I wrote the following letter to my Maryknoll community about why women should be ordained. It was published in the Maryknoll newsletter under the headline "No One Likes a Bully."

In prison one has a lot of time for long thoughts and long prayers. Among my thoughts has been the issue of the ordination of women in the Catholic church.

Years ago, while in the military, I felt called to the priesthood and entered Maryknoll. Today I have women friends who say God is calling them to the priesthood. Who are we to judge their calling? As people of faith, we believe that a person’s call to ministry is initiated by God and is something sacred. Who among us has the right to tamper with God’s call?

In my 26 years as a priest, it is my experience that we need the wisdom, sensitivity, experiences, compassion and courage of women in the priesthood if our church is to be healthy and complete.

Sexism is a sin. However, [according to] the idea of Joan Chittister, the problem is not so much with sexism as it is with the perception of God held by those who oppose the ordination of women. As people of faith we profess that God is all powerful and the source of life. Yet, when it comes to women being ordained, it seems that opponents are saying that this same God who is all powerful and created the heavens and the earth and can bring the dead back to life, somehow, cannot empower a woman to be a priest. Suddenly, we as men believe God becomes powerless when women approach the altar to celebrate Mass.

I am in prison for protesting the training of Latin American soldiers at the U.S. Army School of the Americas (SOA). The SOA is about men in Latin America who abuse their power in order to control the lives of others. They cause people to suffer and are seen as bullies. There are also bullies in prison who cause fear and threaten to punish those who speak out.

Just as soldiers in Latin America and inmates in prison abuse their power and control others, it saddens me to see the hierarchy of our church abusing their power and causing so much suffering among women. Jesus was a healer, a peacemaker, who called everyone into the circle as equals.

The ordination of women in our church is a moral issue and will not go away. A growing number of people of conscience and faith feel a responsibility to address this issue. I would very much appreciate knowing how my brothers and sisters in our Maryknoll community feel about women being ordained and respectfully ask that your write Maryknoll News and express your views. In peace, Roy Bourgeois, MM

Now I have been a Catholic priest for 36 years and I must say, more than ever before, I am convinced that women should be ordained in the Catholic church.

The hierarchy will say, “It is the tradition of the church not to ordain women.” I grew up in a small town in Louisiana and often heard, “It is the tradition of the South to have segregated schools.” It was also “the tradition” in our Catholic church to have the Black members seated in the last five pews of the church.

No matter how hard we may try to justify discrimination, in the end, it is always wrong and immoral. As Reverand Nancy Taylor of Boston put it, “Prejudice in liturgical clothing is still prejudice.”

We can go to the Scriptures and find numerous passages that support the ordination of women in the church. In Romans 16:7, we read that in the early church of Rome, a woman named Junias is described by Paul as “an apostle” who was imprisoned for spreading the faith. In Galatians 3:26-28, we read, “It is through faith that you are God’s sons and daughters. … There is neither male nor female. In Christ Jesus you are all one.” And in the Gospels we read that after Jesus was crucified, he chose to appear first to Mary Magdalene and other women. Jesus told the women to go and bring the news of resurrection to the men who, out of fear, were hiding behind locked doors.

Janice has been very active in the SOA Watch movement. As a high school teacher, she participated in a nonviolent protest against the SOA and was sent to prison for three months. Janice and the more than 250 others in our movement who have gone to prison are called, “Prisoners of Conscience.”

Conscience is something very sacred. It gives us a sense of right and wrong and urges us to do the right thing. Conscience is what compelled Franz Jagerstatter to refuse to enlist in Hitler’s army. On this day, August 9, 1943, this humble farmer was executed for following his conscience. Conscience is what compelled Rosa Parks to say, “No, I cannot sit in the back of the bus anymore.” Conscience is what compels Janice Sevre-Duszynska and the other women to say, “No, we cannot deny our call from God to the priesthood.” And it is our conscience that compels us to be here today. How can we speak out against the injustice of our country’s foreign policy in Latin America and Iraq if we are silent about the injustice of our church here at home?

Janice, all of us present in this church today, and the many who cannot be here, support you and walk in solidarity with you in the struggle for peace, justice and equality.

May our loving God bless you in your ministry and journey of faith.

Ministry of Prophetic Obedience: Don Cordero

Some readers of this blog have commented about the relationship between the women's ordination supporters and supporters of a married priesthood. I don't think any story symbolizes this connection quite as well as the lives of Juanita Cordero and her late husband and former Jesuit priest Don Cordero.

By Juanita Cordero
New Women, New Church
Spring 2008

My call to ministry began when I was about six years old. I vividly remember playing priest in our backyard. Those dreams were tucked away and after high school I entered the Sisters of the Holy Names in Los Gatos, Calif. where I remained for ten years. In 1969 I left and went to Phoenix, Ariz. to teach. What lay ahead of me was a mystery that would slowly unfold.

In 1971 I married Don Cordero, a former Jesuit and was immediately kicked out of teaching in the parish school. Needless to say neither of us had a job as Don too was told to pack his bags and leave his parish in Santa Clara. We managed to return to California and together raised a family of five children.

Music liturgies were very much a part of my call to ministry, so Don and I began one of the first music groups at the Mission Church at the University of Santa Clara (in California). Don led the group every three weeks while I played the bass and helped plan many liturgies. We also started a prayer group that lasted over thirty years. In 2000 Don was diagnosed with prostate cancer.

In 2003 Don and I visited his nephews in Chicago where we attended mass at an Episcopal church. There I met my first woman priest. She seemed so natural in presiding over the Eucharist. I again felt the call to the priesthood but I quickly dismissed it. Besides I was teaching full time at De Anza College and I was no spring chicken.

Then one afternoon Don began mentoring Victoria Rue who was preparing for diaconate ordination. Later, in 2005, Don and I traveled to the St. Lawrence Seaway for Victoria's ordination (this time to priesthood in the RCWP movement). He was the emcee, along with Victoria's partner, Kathryn Poethig. A few days before, Don had attended the gathering of Women's Ordination Worldwide in Ottawa and heard women theologians speak. That experience convinced him this movement was here to stay.

Just before that ordination, I had participated in the Witness Wagon, a bus trip that linked the women's movement with the movement for women's ordination. On the bus, I listened to the stories of women from around the world and realized that my call to priesthood was surfacing again. I would wake up in the middle of the night and keep saying, "no God this can't be happening. I'm too old for another life change." Later, the people in our prayer group encouraged me to answer that call. Don was less sure of the whole process until we sat down one night and talked. Afterwards he said, "I support you one hundred per cent." So I had some long conversations with God and said, "If You want me to do this, then I will write to Bishop Patricia Fresen and see what happens." Soon afterward, I was accepted into the Roman Catholic Womenpriests program.

Don had always wanted to be called back to the priesthood as a married priest, but when Victoria invited him to co-preside during Sunday Masses at San Jose State with her, he realized that he was being called back to serve others as a priest.

In 2006 Don began feeling the effects of his cancer spreading, but he didn't know that was what it was. That same year, I was ordained a deacon in Pittsburg with eleven other women. Soon after, Don and I started a home church, joined by Kathleen Kunster, who had been ordained a priest in Pittsburgh. We named our church the Magdala Community.

Don began six months of chemotherapy in January 2007. In the last of those chemotherapy months, on July 22, 2007, I was ordained a priest in Santa Barbara. Don was really there for me at my ordination. We had both been up all night, though he was very sick at that time. By then the cancer had spread to his bones. On September 15, 2007 I celebrated a Mass of Thanksgiving. Don was very weak, but he insisted on giving the homily. It was also our 36th wedding anniversary.

Thanksgiving Day 2007, Don officiated at the marriage of our third daughter Rebecca. The day before we had gone to Kaiser for a blood transfusion just so he could have the strength to go through the ceremony.

December 1st was the last time Don worshipped with us at the Magdala Community. I knew it was going to be his last liturgy. Everyone individually anointed him with oil. When all had blessed and anointed him, Don suddenly sat straight up and with determination and utter fragility gave everyone his last blessing.

He died a week later.

On January 5, 2008, I presided at Don's funeral Mass. I had made Don promise two things: that he not die alone (which he didn't, the three girls and I were present) and that he give me a sign after he died. The day of the funeral, we were standing waiting to process into the church and a huge thunderbolt hit. I turned around and said, "Thank you, Don."

Walking Together: Woman Priest and Married Priest
By Victoria Rue
New Women, New Church
Spring 2008

As a woman preparing for priesthood, Don was my mentor. Bill Manseau of CORPUS had linked us up after the first male married priest he had assigned me had died suddenly before we had had a chance to meet. Don later said, "hope this is not a cycle!" But in retrospect, perhaps it was meant to be that way, to walk with Don in his dying, as did so many others who loved this philosophical, charismatic, quirky, spontaneous, breaker of all decorum, married priest.

Don and I met almost every Wednesday for a year and a half. The planned hour always went longer because we would get to talking, laughing, enjoying the spark that happened between us. Juanita would sometimes join us too. How amazed I was when I found out that Juanita had been in the same religious order I had entered for one brief year of my life. It's like that at the Cordero house—a place of connectivity.

I remember at the first meeting with Don, after I'd sent him my statement written to Bishops Christine Mayr Lumetzberger and Gisela Forster about why I wanted to be ordained. Don chuckled as he turned the four pages, smiled, and said, "I didn't really get why you wanted to be ordained until page 3! That's where you said 'I want to consecrate my life to God.' That's it, Victoria. That's the real stuff right there."

At one meeting Don said, "You know, they'll try to invalidate you. We've got be assertive with the validity of your ordination. So if the diocese or anyone repudiates it, you could say right back to them—how do you know my ordination is not valid? Have you talked to God?" That was quintessential Don, cutting to the quick, but always with humor.

Another day we discussed the sacrament of reconciliation. Don said, "As a priest you'll communicate the goodness of the person. Compassion. Not pious-isms. Like the Buddha, compassionate with no judgments, because forgiveness is fundamental to human beings." Another time, "One thing I've learned, you can't be a priest 24 hours a day. It's too much. You've got to give your-self some time off too." So true, Don.

And then I remember the day he wanted me to "practice" the Mass with him. He had given me a Sacramentary as a gift. We'd gone back to the house. We got out the bread and wine. He showed me how to navigate the "priestly manual." But as I began, I kept stopping, "Don, this language does not fit in my mouth! It's all exclusive language!"

"Yeah, I know," he said. "Change it as you go along." So I did. Later he cautioned, "But, really, Victoria, if you look you'll find some very, very beautiful prayers in there."

As a married priest, Don knew how to hold the old with the new; he knew the tension of the past and a future yet to be realized.

As our meetings multiplied and our friendship deepened, it was clear to me that with-out contemporary models, I was inventing my priesthood, but for Don he was re-inventing his own.

As an astronomer, Don always looked to the immensity of the cosmos for philosophical reflection. Now he is the stardust of which he marveled.

And this woman priest, in every sacrament at which I preside, feels the guidance of her mentor and hears his faith-filled laughter, as she continues to hold in tension the tradition and the not yet, right now.

Photo of the Corderos shamelessly "borrowed" from the Cordero Family Web site.

National shortage of Catholic priests forcing many to work past retirement age

South Florida Sun-Sentinel
August 11, 2008

By the time they reach 65, most people have been thinking about retirement for years, even decades.

Not the Rev. Frederick Brice. At 80, he is still the pastor of St. Paul the Apostle Church in Lighthouse Point. He said he has not even considered slowing down.

"I am ready and willing to keep going as long as the archbishop will have me," Brice said.

Brice said he knows why the Archdiocese of Miami still needs him: the national priest shortage, which compels church leaders to keep their oldest priests working past what most Americans would consider a reasonable age to retire. At the same time, a burgeoning number of priests are hitting retirement age. And some church observers say the church needs a plan to replace these aging men as the number of Roman Catholics increases. The Catholic population of the United States has grown steadily since 1965, from 45.6 million to 64.1 million this year. There are 1.3 million Catholics in the Archdiocese of Miami and 278,674 in the Diocese of Palm Beach.

Priests are eligible to retire at 65 with their bishops' permission; at 75, they may submit their resignations, although their bishops still may ask them to keep working. Canon law requires bishops to retire at 75.

About a third of the 79 priests in the Diocese of Palm Beach and the 192 in the Archdiocese of Miami are over age 60. By comparison, about 9 percent of the U.S. work force are senior citizens. A level as high as the church's might panic leaders in the business community. But leaders of the Archdiocese of Miami say they believe their aggressive recruitment efforts could stem the retirement tide.

The Rev. Manny Alvarez, the archdiocese's vocations director, said he thinks often of the looming retirements. He said he has redoubled his recruitment efforts in the past few years, with Internet campaigns and posters in parishes, because he knows there are 70 priests in the archdiocese's 120 parishes and ministries who could retire in the near future.

"We have no idea how many of our senior priests will be active in the next five to 10 years," Alvarez said. "One of the most difficult decisions is telling a priest when it's time to retire, because it's not just a job; it's your whole life."

Across the country, although less common in South Florida, dioceses are closing churches and Catholic schools and asking priests to cover two or three parishes. These trends are largely because not enough men are entering the priesthood. The reasons for the shortage: the celibacy requirement and lifelong commitment, said Dean Hoge, sociology professor at Catholic University of America.

At the same time, large numbers, many of whom entered the priesthood in the 1970s, are approaching retirement.

"It's a hugely understudied phenomenon," said Mary Gautier, senior research associate at the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University, which recently undertook a research project for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on diocesan priests' retirement needs.

In 1999, the average age of American priests was 60, Gautier said. No studies have been done since, she said, although she said the average age now is "higher than that." The problem also can be seen through the declining number of priests in the United States, which peaked in 1975 at 58,909; this year, there are 40,580, statistics show.

"Any diocese has to consider this one of the greatest problems it has," said David Yamane, an associate professor of sociology at Wake Forest University who has written several books on the Catholic church. "They can't continue to exist the way they have for centuries. The problem compounds itself because the more aging priests there are, the more of an unattractive option it becomes for young people, who see a 65-year-old man who might be running around supervising three different parishes."

Yamane said there is some good news in terms of attracting men to the priesthood: Although the number of ordinations across the country has plummeted, from 994 in 1965 to 442 in 2000, 480 ordinations are expected in 2008.

To serve the growing Catholic population, many dioceses are relying on retired priests, including the Rev. Walter Dockerill of Royal Palm Beach, who retired five years ago but still keeps a full schedule officiating at Masses, weddings, funerals and baptisms.

"I knew when I retired I would still be busy," said Dockerill, 78, who pastored at St. Rita Catholic Church in Wellington for 22 years. "I don't feel like I've slowed down much."

Ireland's Catholic Crisis

Journeyman Pictures
August 11, 2008

Given the blanket media coverage of the so-called WYD in Sydney this week, it would seem the Catholic Church is thriving. But in Ireland - a country steeped in Catholic tradition – it is a very different story. With paedophilia scandals undermining faith in the faith, as it were, the country that once exported Catholic priests to the world is now being forced to import clergy just to keep the Church alive. Here's David Brill.

REPORTER: David Brill

At a cathedral in central Dublin an age-old ceremony is under way as a new priest is inducted into the Church.

PRIEST 1: I offer you these symbols of your office and authority.

PRIEST 2: In the name of Jesus Christ we meet to welcome a new dean of this cathedral church. It's a new ministry because Dermott brings particular gifts to our life and work together. We welcome him and Celia.

But in this land dominated by the Catholic faith, this is an Anglican ceremony. And the reverend being installed as the new dean used to be a Catholic priest.

DERMOT DUNNE, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND FORMER CATHOLIC PRIEST: It came to a point where I had a real problem with preaching one thing and believing another.

Dermot Dunne stunned the Catholic community when he quit the church because he felt the rule of celibacy was outdated.

DERMOT DUNNE: Celibacy should be a choice rather than an intrinsic part of ordination.

Dean Dunne's move marks a trend that is causing deep concern amongst the Catholic community here. The country once considered the Pope's epicentre of faith in Europe is running out of priests.

DAVID QUINN, RELIGIOUS COMMENTATOR: Compared to where the Catholic Church was 30 years ago, the state of the Catholic Church in Ireland is dreadful.

David Quinn is a religious commentator and a practicing Catholic. He has been documenting the crisis in the Church and is extremely worried by what he's seeing.

DAVID QUINN: Ireland has the worst vocations crisis in the world.


DAVID QUINN: People simply don't live within a Catholic social universe anymore, where a very natural thing was to become a priest or a nun. 160 priests died or retired two years ago and only 9 were ordained so that puts the ratio and the numbers in perspective. So when people talk of a vocations crisis, that's an underestimate. It's not a crisis - it's a complete catastrophe and, as I say, there is nowhere worse than Ireland.

The number of vocations, or people studying to become priests, is so low that in the next 20 years some say the number of priests in Ireland will drop nearly 70%. That's having a major impact on places like the Maynooth Seminary, the only college still open in Ireland that is devoted specifically to study for the priesthood.

FATHER PATRICK RUSHE, NATIONAL DIRECTOR FOR VOCATIONS: Yeah, the numbers are down of course from the high of the '50s and '60s here in Ireland. We have less priests coming forward. Well, I suppose in the '50s and '60s this university - St Patrick's College - would have 500 students studying for the priesthood, not only here in Ireland but in other parts of the world. Over the years that has declined to now the point where we are just under 100 students here.

REPORTER: Now only nine priests were ordained last year. Father, what do you say?

FATHER PATRICK RUSHE: I wish there were more, and I think there will be more, because what's happening is, it takes 6, 7 years for a priest to study and train, so the priests who were ordained last year, began their studies at the height of the scandals here in Ireland.

The 'scandals', as Father Rushe so quaintly puts it, is a reference to the blight of paedophilia that has rocked Ireland's Catholic Church leading many in this pious land to abandon Catholicism for good.

DAVID QUINN: The scandal began to come to the public consciousness in a big way probably from the early '90s and probably for the whole decade of the '90s from '92, '93. Up until 2002 it was a rolling story in Ireland and a very dominant story in Ireland that frequently made the headlines. There was absolutely gigantic public anger about the thing, obviously a priest committing this offence is absolutely grotesque. Two of the worst examples - they're both dead now - a Father Brendan Smyth and Father Sean Fortune, and they were multiple abusers.

REPORTER: Of children?

DAVID QUINN: Well, of children and young teenagers and they were not properly controlled, if that's the word by the Church authorities. See, that's the second part of the scandal.

REPORTER: A cover-up?

DAVID QUINN: Well that's the word that frequently gets used and it's probably an appropriate word to use.

When Brendan Smyth was lead away the cover-up and the public-relations debacle that followed has left many wondering whether it will ever be possible for the Catholic Church to recover its former standing in Ireland.

DERMOT DUNNE: I can understand where people are coming from, turning away from the Church because of the instance of paedophilia. There were a lot of priests engaged in that in past years. I think one of the biggest problems is how the Church handles the whole issue. But if there is a cover-up - and if there's a cover-up after a cover-up - think people lose faith and I can quite identify and understand with people.

REPORTER: Obviously that probably would have affected the Church - young men wanting to become priests or people who wanted to go to church or go to Mass.

DERMOT DUNNE: Given the percentage of the population who are Roman Catholic in this country is about 95%. When you had a very defined church, who are giving a very defined faith, and preaching a very defined faith. This is my experience growing up as well and everything was given and it created a safety. People didn't need to think for themselves. They had a church who thought for them. But when the Church starts admitting its humanity, for want of a word, and that the people within the church are human then that safety net is gone.

FATHER PATRICK RUSHE: It wasn't a time to deal with vocations as such - we had to deal with the issue of the scandals and those difficulties and the hurt and the pain, and it wasn't right to be doing a recruitment campaign in that sense at that stage, when we're dealing with this very important other issue.

The ripple affect of an aging priest population and a lack of new priests is now being felt in parishes as far away as Limerick. Here, there are so few priests that those who are left are forced to split their time moving between parishes. They call it "parish clustering". I asked how they were dealing with the changes.

FATHER EAMONN BURKE, DUBLIN DIOCESE VOCATIONS DIRECTOR: Limerick Diocese is not the only diocese involved in this. There are a huge number of dioceses throughout the country who have realised the need to begin to group parishes together as probably the principle way of addressing the change that is required.

But even with a crisis now gripping the Catholic Church, priests like Noel Kirwan are choosing to see parish clustering as a positive. There may be fewer priests, he says, but that's simply helped to bring people together.

FATHER NOAL KIRWAN, ‘CLUSTER PARISH’ PRIEST: There was more of a sense of community, more a sense of the gathering, more a sense of the joy. It's not just about bringing numbers in, it's about being the kind of the church we're meant to be. It's not about doing things, it's about becoming who we're meant to be. That's at the heart of it.

Positive spin is one thing, but the reality is that Ireland's Catholic clergy is now so depleted that the church that once exported priests to the world is now having to import them simply to bolster its ranks. This mass is being led by a priest from Poland. He's part of a new league of foreign priests now filling a growing gap in Ireland as the country grapples with its vanishing local clergy.

FATHER PATRICK RUSHE: The Church is trying to obviously address the issue, trying to ensure that people know what's happening, that the community of faith knows that there is a challenge out there, a call to be met, particularly for the numbers of priests. Even though we will have less priests than we had 20 years ago or 30 years ago, we will still be able to give that fundamental service that the people want, and the community of faith want.

DAVID QUINN: Is it going to soldier on simply using Irish priests or it is going to say "Priests are plentiful in Africa, priests are plentiful in parts of Asia, plentiful in maybe parts of Eastern Europe"? So you would envisage a time where we will have to import priests.





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