My World of Religion, Politics, Entertainment and Social Issues

If you are visiting my blog, expecting to see 'Toward a Progressive Catholic Church,' I have changed my title to reflect my wide assortment of interests. Having retired from my secular job, I hope to devote the rest of my life to my hobbies, ministries and perhaps a part-time job that makes good use of my communications skills. This blog will be designed to address my multi-faceted interests.

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Location: Rochester, New York, United States

I have an M.A. in Theology and an M.Div (Master of Divinity) from St. Bernard's School of Theology and Ministry. I am currently a media consultant and promoter of classical music. I am also certified as an officiant by the Federation of Christian Ministries for baptisms, weddings and funerals and minister independently of the Rochester Diocese. My life has encompassed many interesting paths: broadcasting, free-lance writing, video-production, music, ministry and a secular job in government. In addition to this blog, I have a YouTube site at www.youtube.com/priestray and I have a Facebook page.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Cardinal Egan's Future in Question

Dear Blog Visitors:

Many Catholics who live in New York State are anxiously awaiting word from the Vatican, concerning whether or not Pope Benedict XVI will accept the resignation of Cardinal Egan. I, for one, hope the resignation is accepted.

What follows are two items: 1.) feature article from the New York Sun on Cardinal Egan's future; 2.) my follow-up commentary, which was also published in the New York Sun.

Cardinal Egan's Future Rests in Pope's Hands

BY GABRIELLE BIRKNER - Staff Reporter of the Sun

March 28, 2007

URL: http://www.nysun.com/article/51360

Catholic scholars are divided over whether Pope Benedict XVI will accept the letter of resignation that Cardinal Egan is required to submit on Monday, his 75th birthday. Some predict the cardinal would be permitted to stay on, while others expect the pope to accept the resignation.

Canon Law asserts that Catholic bishops, upon turning 75, must offer up their resignation, which the pope can accept or reject. Pope John Paul II rejected Cardinal O'Connor's resignation in 1995, and the cardinal continued to lead the Archdiocese of New York until his death five years later.

A professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame, the Reverend Richard McBrien, said politics often played into Pope John Paul II's decisions about resignations. Prelates who were "theologically conservative and completely loyal to him" were permitted to continue working, he said. Pope Benedict XVI has yet to establish a pattern, according to Rev. McBrien. "Cardinal Egan's resignation will be an excellent test case," he said.

Rev. McBrien predicted that Cardinal Egan's resignation would be accepted, noting, "The word has been around for quite some time that he wants to retire, which was not the case with Cardinal O'Connor."
A spokesman for the Archdiocese of New York, Joseph Zwilling, said the cardinal has written "a basic form letter" that will be sent to the Vatican next week. "It will not state a preference, but the cardinal has joked with priests that he will be around for 150 years," Mr. Zwilling said.

The president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, William Donohue, said bishops typically advise the Vatican of their desire to stay on or to retire. "Clearly he has some pull in the Vatican, and his view is likely to be respected," he said. "Essentially the ball is in Cardinal Egan's court."

Mr. Donohue did not dismiss the possibility that the 79-year-old pontiff would see Cardinal Egan's resignation as his only opportunity to effect change in the Archdiocese of New York. "New York is the cultural center of the country, and it may be that the pope wants someone more vocal in that position — now that Cardinal Egan has tended to the financial concerns," he said.

During his nearly seven-year tenure at the helm, Cardinal Egan has succeeded in erasing the sprawling, 10-county archdiocese's $20 million annual operating deficit — in part by making tough choices to close parishes and schools.

The cardinal's low profile has been a source of criticism from some New York faithful who miss his more gregarious predecessor. Last fall, a group of archdiocesan priests published an anonymous letter that accused the cardinal of devoting attention to fiscal matters at the expense of the "spiritual needs and concerns" of his flock — and encouraged Pope Benedict XVI to consider accepting his resignation.

The archdiocese next month will begin a year-long bicentennial celebration. The Reverend Richard John Neuhaus, the editor of a religion journal, First Things, surmised that Cardinal Egan would stay on the job for the anniversary festivities, which run through April 2008. "I would be surprised if his resignation were accepted immediately," Rev. Neuhaus said.

Hoping for Cardinal Egan's Retirement
Reader comment on: Cardinal Egan's Future Rests in Pope's Hands
Submitted by Rev. Ray Grosswirth, Mar 28, 2007 12:56

I, for one, hope that our pontiff, Benedict XVI, will accept the resignation of Cardinal Egan. While Cardinal O'Connor wasn't perfect, he nevertheless had a much stronger respectability record than Cardinal Egan.

The fact that many priests in the New York Archdiocese are disatisfied with their cardinal is strong indication that a new leader with strong pastoral skills is needed.
When one adds the number of parishes slated to close or merge in New York State, we can no longer count on a status quo church to satisfy the needs of the faithful. Furthermore, in light of sexual abuse scandals and the shrinking pool of seminarians, it is time for the Roman Catholic hierarchy to rethink its outdated policy of mandatory celibacy for priests.

By adding married priests to the existing clergy, we can perhaps avert some of the parish closings anticipated for the New York Archdiocese, and the dioceses Buffalo, Albany, Syracuse and Rochester. The ordination of women is also a viable and acceptable option the hierarchy should be considering. You may be asking what this has to do with Cardinal Egan. The fact remains that Benedict XVI has indicated that he will listen to his cardinals when they have important matters to bring before him. We therefore need a cardinal for the New York Archdiocese who is not afraid to articulate the needs of the clergy and laity to our pontiff, even when these needs are reflective of controversial issues such as clerical celibacy and the ordination of women.

In conclusion, I pray that our pontiff will accept Cardinal Egan's resignation and give us a cardinal with the courage to be a pastoral leader.

Ray Grosswirth (Married priest from Rochester, NY)

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Some Reflections on My Priesthood

Dear Blog Visitors:

One of my favorite hangouts on weekends is the Wegman’s Superstore in Pittsford, New York (suburb of Rochester). It is a great place to shop and have breakfast, lunch or dinner. I find it is also a place that I can count on running into acquaintances from the past and present.

In recent weeks, usually while enjoying breakfast, I have been approached by former classmates and friends, who wanted to discuss my recent ordination to married priesthood. I have yet to get one complaint about my ordination, whether it be in Wegman’s, a parish or a variety of social settings.

I bring up these recent encounters, because I have come to realize that I am not the only person amongst my former classmates from St. Bernard’s School of Theology and Ministry who have ventured into alternative forms of ministry within a Catholic context. What has become apparent to me, especially in the case of some of my former female classmates, is that the more educated in theology and church history one becomes, the greater disenchantment there is in the outdated polices of the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church.

My recent conversations with former classmates have not been confined to Wegman’s or parish settings. I have also received phone calls from persons around the country who relocated after graduation from St. Bernard’s. They had seen news articles about my ordination and wanted to congratulate me.

Between the phone calls and my personal encounters, I was saddened to learn that some of my classmates became so discouraged that they abandoned church-involvement altogether. In two other cases, women are on the ordination tract for ordination in the Episcopal Church. Another woman is considering possible ministry at Spiritus Christi Church (independent of Rome), and another has joined the UCC (United Church of Christ).

I find that in the course of my recent conversations, I have consistently been asked one primary question: What will I do next? Here my answer:

To be fair, I continue to have a great deal of respect for Bishop Matthew Clark of the Rochester Diocese. It is not an exaggeration to state that he is one of the few remaining ‘pastoral’ members of the American hierarchy. I often tell reporters that Rochester is in for a rude awakening when Bishop Clark retires, for I have no doubt the Vatican will replace him with a hard-liner.

Because of my respect for Bishop Clark, I informed him in advance of my recent ordination, so he would not have to read about it in the newspapers as his first exposure to the event. In return, I appreciate the fact that he did not admonish me for my ordination.

If you have been following my recent blog posting, you are aware that I am not receiving Communion in my long-time parish. This decision came about after a meeting with my pastor. His concern was that all it would take for problems to emerge would be one parishioner writing to the Vatican to complain about my receiving. So, for the past few weeks, I have allowed people in my pew to pass before me to go into the Communion line, as I stayed behind. However, since I consider the Eucharist to be vital, I occasionally attend liturgies where I am not known, so that I may receive.

I am currently discerning membership in Spiritus Christi Church. Being independent from Rome, it is nevertheless Catholic in its beliefs and practices. It is a community where I would have friends and where I would be accepted as a married priest. If I do join Spiritus Christi, I will do so as parishioner, and my active priesthood will continue be practiced independently, via my certification from the Federation of Christian Ministries, which allows me to be an officiant at weddings, baptisms and funerals. (If an opening for a priest should ever occur at Spiritus Christi, I would perhaps be interested in pursuing it.)

As far as my working toward reform, I will continue my role as media liaison for CORPUS (www.corpus.org). I will also maintain my episcopal relationship with Archbishop Peter Paul Brennan of ‘The Married Priests Now! Prelature’ and ‘Ecumenical Catholic Diocese of America.’ Additionally, I will continue to support the work of Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo and the bishops of ‘The Married Priests Now Prelature’ toward changing the mindset of Benedict XVI and the Vatican on its outdated policy of mandatory celibacy for the presbyterate.

The bottom line is that we are all in this together. For this reason, I continue to be a strong advocate for CORPUS, an organization that is celebrating its 33rd year as an advocate for an inclusive priesthood. I also support the work of the new organization on the block, ‘The Married Priests Now Prelature,’ for having the courage to be a credible voice for the many married priests who have been hurt by an unfeeling Vatican. (This is a hierarchy that stripped the kindly Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo of his pension. What kind of institution would throw a 76-year-old man into the streets, only because he married a woman he loves?) I also continue to support the good work of the Womens’ Ordination Conference. (We will not have the inclusive table envisioned by Jesus until women are allowed to preside; Spiritus Christi is a wonderful role model in this regard.)

Let us all pray for each other in the midst of a church that is in turmoil.

Peace in Christ,
Ray Grosswirth

Monday, March 19, 2007

Hypocrisy Over Married Priests

Dear Blog Visitors:

It is part of my daily routine to scan national newspapers for stories related to the Roman Catholic priesthood. One particular article captured my attention this morning, for it focused on a married Episcopalian priest who converted to Roman Catholicism, and then was allowed, under a special provision, to become a married Roman Catholic priest in the Los Angeles Archdiocese.

I want to be welcoming when married Episcoplian priests are allowed to become married Roman Catholic priests under the special provision enacted by the late pontiff, John Paul II. These priests can give witness to the fact that it is entirely possible to be married, raise children and be a Roman Catholic priest at the same time. However, at the same time, I am angry over the hypocrisy that exists over this issue.

It seems to me that the Vatican is operating with a double-standard that is causing anguish for thousands of Roman Catholic priests who eventually entered into marriage. Unlike married Episcoplian priests who are welcomed in the Roman Catholic fold, RC priests who marry are treated like outcasts and are subsequently removed from their canonical ministries.

If you have followed my blog in recent weeks, you are aware that I was ordained a married priest by Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo (also married) on December 10, 2006. This was made possible via 'The Married Priests Now! Prelature.' However, rather than receiving a welcome by the Roman Catholic hierarchy, as is the case with married Episcopalian priests who become Roman Catholic priests, I have been told that I cannot receive Communion in my long-time parish, unless I renounce my ordination and repent via the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

I have no intention of renouncing my ordination. At the very least, it is my prayer that my ordination will inspire others in the Roman Catholic community who are genuinely called to pursue their God-given vocations.

Married priests give strong witness to the fact that even after marriage and raising families, their craving to serve at the Eucharistic table continues. Although my circumstances are slightly different, in that I don't have children (was married late in life), I nevertheless am a godparent to three children. I would like nothing better than to be a good example to them via my role as a married priest, with the added blessing of the Roman Catholic hierarchy.

As stated in other writings, I am fortunate to live in Rochester, New York, because of the fact that we have a very inclusive Catholic community known as Spiritus Christi Church. Since the Rochester Diocese is denying Communion to me, for the simple reason that I was ordained a married priest, Spiritus Christi is becoming more attractive to me each passing day.

In conclusion, I want to welcome the married priest to the Los Angeles Archdiocese. At the same time, however, I pray that the Roman Catholic hierarchy will see the hypocrisy in their actions. If they are going to accept married Episcopalian priests in the Roman Catholic presbyterate, why not bring back the 125,000 priests who entered into marriage? In addition, rather than denying Communion to me as a punishment for becoming an ordained married priest, why not recognize me as a member of the presbyterate who could help alleviate the Eucharistic famine we are currently facing?

Let us continue to pray for a more inclusive church.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Women's Ordination Conference Writes to the Pope

Dear Blog Visitors:

I continue to be grateful every day for the fact that Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo ordained me to the presbyterate on December 10, 2006. I can only hope to honor him by continuing to articulate the plight of married priests around the world who want nothing more than a place at the table.

Just as I continue to be an advocate for optional celibacy, my work toward the ordination of women will continue as well. After all, a table is never complete, unless women are present.

I am encouraged by the scholarly work that continues to be done on the role women played in the early church. During the first century, we are certain that leaders of early communities consisted of bishops, deacons and deaconesses. The priesthood was a later development, when it became evident that communities had become too large for bishops to manage on their own. So, the priesthood evolved, in order to ensure that the Eucharist would be available for all the faithful. Recent evidence has convinced me that there were a few women priests. So, a strong argument can be made for an apostolic succession that includes both sexes.

Whether or not one subscribes to recent scholarship on the role women played in the early church, we need to be open to the idea of women priests for practical purposes. In short, we are facing the sad reality of a Eucharistic famine, and we need presiders.

A wonderful local example of women priests serving Catholic communities exists in my hometown of Rochester, New York. I am speaking, of course, of Spiritus Christi Church. In addition to Father James Callan, the other two priests serving the community are Reverend Mary Ramerman and Reverend Denise Donato. When the Spiritus Christi Community began several years ago, skeptics theorized that it would be a short-lived venture. Guess what? The community continues to grow. In addition to their primary location in downtown Rochester, Spiritus Christi also celebrates weekly liturgies in a church on Park Avenue in Rochester. Additionally, Spiritus Christi has expanded to Elmira, New York and Buffalo, New York.

Having been ordained a married priest, I am not allowed to receive Communion at my long-time parish. Therefore, there is a very strong possibility that I will become a member of Spiritus Christi Church, while at the same time, acting as officiant for weddings, funerals and baptisms via my certification through the Federation of Christian Ministries.

I was just thinking yesterday that if Hillary Clinton should be successful in ascending to the presidency, the Roman Catholic Church will stick out like a sore thumb, in terms of its failure to recognize the pivotal role women play in our church and in society in general. While women have excelled in business and government, the Vatican hierarchy continues to treat them as second-class citizens. Therefore, I see the letter that follows from the Women's Ordination Conference to Pope Benedict XVI as being extremely important.

The letter from the WOC is co-signed by other church-reform organizations, inclusive of the organization I represent as media liaison - namely, CORPUS.

Peace
Ray

An Open Letter from Catholic Organizations on the
World Day of Prayer for Women’s Ordination

March 14, 2007

His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI
00120 Via del Pellegrino
Apostolic Palace
VATICAN CITY

Your Holiness,

Every year on 25 March, the feast of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Catholics around the world organize events to bring attention to the fact that Catholic women are excluded from ordination. This year will be the 14th annual World Day of Prayer for Women’s Ordination, and we expect that there will be over 25 events around the world.

In honor of this day, we invite you to lead the way in presenting a fair and equitable model of how women should be treated in our world by taking the necessary steps to open all doors to women within the Roman Catholic Church, including admission to all ordained ministries. We also ask that you work to renew church structures in order to involve all members in governance. By acting justly within our own ranks, we, the body of Christ, can affect society.

On the same day that we celebrate Mary saying ‘yes’ to God, we are saying ‘yes’ to women’s leadership in the Church. Mary’s decision was conscious and deliberate, and it made her an active partner in bringing about the reign of God. By praying for women to be priests on this day, we embrace Mary’s spiritual power and her prophetic role in God’s plan of justice for the world.

Because Mary is a spiritual leader and some even call her a priest, on 25 March we will pray for women’s ordination to a renewed priestly ministry. We will also pray for the difference that women in church governance would make by addressing the issues of social justice that disproportionately affect women, such as domestic violence, sexual assault, sex trafficking, HIV/AIDS, genocide and more.

The exclusion of women and lay men from the full decision making and sacramental life of the Church is linked to these issues in that — while the impact has extremely different levels of intensity — the root cause is the same: male domination and sexism.

As this day of prayer approaches, we urge you to open the discussion on women’s ordination and the need for change in Church structures. To bring our beloved Church closer to the gospel values that Jesus modeled for us, we need all the gifts of the Holy Spirit, in women as well as in men, to be fully integrated into every aspect and ministry of the Church.


Thanking you for your time and consideration,

Brothers and Sisters in Christ, Ireland
Call to Action, USA
Catholics for a Free Choice, USA
Catholics for a Free Choice, Canada
Catholic Network for Women’s Equality, Canada
Catholic Women’s Ordination, United Kingdom
CORPUS, USA
Dignity, USA
Interreligious Conference of European Women Theologians, Germany
Femmes at Hommes en Eglise, France
Housetop, United Kingdom
National Coalition of American Nuns, USA
New Wine, Great Britain
New Ways Ministry, USA
Phoebe, Japan
Purple Stole Movement of We Are Church, Germany
Quixote Center, USA
Roman Catholic Womenpriests Europe-West, Germany, France, and Switzerland
Roman Catholic Womenpriests North America, USA and Canada
Save Our Sacraments, USA
Sisters Against Sexism, USA
Southeastern Pennsylvania Women's Ordination Conference, USA
Women’s Ordination Conference, USA
Women's Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual, USA


CC:
Most Reverend Pietro Sambi, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States
Most Reverend William S. Skylstad, President, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Most Reverend David J. Malloy, General Secretariat, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops