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.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Experimentation in Podcasting

Dear Blog Visitors:

Since Bishop Matthew Clark has been fairly cordial with me, concerning my work toward reform and my recent ordination as a married priest, I thought I would take this opportunity to promote his new venture into podcasting. The following is the link for Bishop Clark's podcast page:

http://www.dor.org/podcast/

I also do a monthly podcast for CORPUS (the national association for an inclusive priesthood). Simply go to the CORPUS website at www.corpus.org and select my recording. (There is also a library at the site of recordings I made the past two years.)

If you have been following my adventures since my ordination on December 10, you know that I am in a process of discernment, concerning the possibility of my joining Spiritus Christi Church (independent of Rome). Please keep me in your prayers as I continue to discern. (I will probably end up joining, since my long-time diocesan pastor will still not allow me to receive Communion unless I renounce my ordination; I have no intention of doing that.)

May the peace of Christ be with all of you.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Wonderful Holy Week at Spiritus Christi Church

Dear Blog Visitors:

I hope all of you had a wonderful Passover and Easter week. While the two celebrations don’t intersect each year, it is always a blessed event when they do, especially in consideration of the fact that one of the highlights of the Easter Vigil liturgy is the powerful Exodus reading that depicts the liberation of the Jews from their bondage in Egypt.

If you have followed my blog postings the past few months, you are aware that I am in what can perhaps be described as a state of limbo, in reference to my parish membership. While on paper, I continue to be registered as a parishioner at Blessed Sacrament Church in Rochester, New York, I am not allowed to receive Communion there, due to my recent ordination as a married priest. To recap, although I have heard nothing official from either the Rochester Diocese or the Vatican concerning my official status in the Roman Catholic Church, there have been statements from a few canon lawyers and bishops to the effect that by my actions, 1.) I have excommunicated myself; 2.) my ordination is valid, but illicit.

I still consider myself to be a Roman Catholic, although not in agreement with Rome on the issue of clerical celibacy. When I became ordained on December 10 by a married archbishop, I was not challenging any of the doctrines of the church. However, I did violate a long-standing policy – namely, celibacy. Since celibacy was not willed by Christ, and in consideration of the fact that the Apostles were married, if I am guilty of anything, it is my being guilty of a violation of a man-made rule.

Under current circumstances, I have four choices: 1.) continue to be a member of Blessed Sacrament Church and not receive Communion; 2.) go to other diocesan parishes, where I am not known, whenever I wish to receive Communion; 3.) renounce my ordination, which would allow me to have full sacramental access; 4.) join Spiritus Christi Church, which is independent of Vatican authority.

During Holy Week, I attended liturgies on Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday at Spiritus Christi Church in Rochester. Since Spiritus Christi did not have an Easter Vigil liturgy, I attended this particular celebration at my long-time parish (Blessed Sacrament), although I did not receive Eucharist.

It is highly possible that I will become a member of Spiritus Christi Church. It is not simply the fact that I can receive Eucharist at Spiritus Christi that appeals to me. I found that during their liturgies the past week, I felt as though a weight was lifted from my shoulders – the weight being the outdated, heavy-handed policies of the Vatican.

On Holy Thursday, I heard a wonderful, inclusive homily by Reverend Mary Ramerman. I thought to myself that it is a tragedy indeed that the powers-that-be (Vatican) will not recognize the wonderful spiritual and pastoral gifts of this remarkable priest. During her homily and during the breaking-of-the-bread, I was struck by the inclusivity and compassion Mary reflected.

On Good Friday, Reverend Denise Donato gave a wonderful homily – a homily I will never forget. She spoke eloquently about what was ‘good’ about Good Friday. The homily was two-dimensional in this regard. The ‘good’ of Good Friday is that the Crucifixion, as tragic as it was, was nevertheless not the end of the story. It is the Resurrection that continues to give us hope. Denise then went on to tell a wonderful story about a woman she was counseling. (The woman had been going through some difficult circumstances.) When Denise asked her to think of a time God was present to her, the woman thought about the deaths of her grandparents, and how the sight and sound of a singing bird after both deaths gave her a sense that her grandparents were O.K. and that the promise of the Resurrection was indeed real. (Just as in the case of Mary Ramerman, Denise Donato is also a priest with just the right amount of spiritual and pastoral skills.)

Easter Sunday at Spiritus Christi was just what I needed that day: great music, an inclusive environment, a wonderful homily and a genuine invitation to the Lord’s table. In brief, I felt this was a liturgy that represented all that Christ willed to us. I was especially struck by Mary Ramerman’s statement that “this is not a Catholic table or a Protestant table; it is the Lord’s Table.” I was also inspired by Rev. Jim Callan’s homily, in which he drew parallels between Jesus and Martin Luther King. Jim emphasized that just as the mission of Jesus was not over with the Crucifixion, the work of Martin Luther King continues as well.

Concerning the Easter Vigil at Blessed Sacrament Church, it too was a wonderful event. The pastor, Rev. Robert Kennedy, has a reputation of being the best liturgist in the Rochester Diocese. So, everything was in place for a meaningful vigil. However, although this was an inspiring evening for me, sadness nevertheless engulfed me when it came time for Communion. (I sat in my pew as everyone else assembled received.)

I continue to be grateful to Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo for ordaining me as a married priest. Although I am excluded from the Eucharistic Table at Blessed Sacrament Church, I am grateful that this exclusion is not in place at Spiritus Christi Church. There is much the Roman Catholic hierarchy can learn from Spiritus Christi. Perhaps most important is the fact that Jesus did not exclude anyone from the table. Our bishops and cardinals will have a lot of explaining to do, if they have to give an account to Jesus in the next world concerning their heavy-handed tactics.

I like to think that if Jesus were to gaze down at the Eucharistic Tables of Roman Catholic parishes and Spiritus Christi Church, it is the Table of Spiritus Church that Jesus would find most appealing. Jesus preached inclusivity, as opposed to exclusion.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

The Emancipation of Catholic Women

Dear Blog Visitors:

A good friend asked me a few days ago if I still had a copy of a feature article I wrote a couple years ago, entitled 'The Emancipation of Catholic Women.' I found I had saved it and then sent it to her. Since I find that this topic remains timely, I thought I would post the article to my blog as well.

Since my ordination as a married priest on December 10, 2006, I have been contacted by a few of my former female classmates from St. Bernard's School of Theology and Ministry. Some continue to fight for more inclusivity in the institutional church. Others have either moved to other denominations or have joined Spiritus Christi Church in Rochester. In any event, much more work needs to be done toward securing the rightful place for women at the Eucharistic Table.

Here is my article on 'The Emancipation of Catholic Women.'

THE EMANCIPATION OF CATHOLIC WOMEN
by Ray Grosswirth, M.A., M.Div

I am writing this in honor of International Women's Month, which was officially celebrated during the days of March. I thought this would be the perfect occasion to reflect on my recent visit to the National Woman's Rights Historical Park in Seneca Falls. (Seneca Falls is only a 45-minute drive from my home in Rochester.)

I am very fortunate to be a life-long resident of Rochester, New York, for our city was pivotal in both the Underground Railroad and the fight for the rights of women. In this regard, two of our most famous residents were Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass. It was therefore fitting for me to make the short trip to Seneca Falls, for it was here that a convention to discuss the social, civil, and religious conditions of women took place in the Wesleyan Chapel on July 19th and 20th in 1848.

While in Seneca Falls, I had the privilege to visit the home of the late Elizabeth Cady Stanton. She was indeed a courageous woman, for she was instrumental in events that would lead to a series of conventions on the rights of women, some of which took place in my hometown, Rochester. Stanton was a key writer of the Declaration of Sentiments, which she read to attendees of the Seneca Falls convention in 1848. The declaration was signed by many women and men at the convention, whereby it laid the foundation for landmark decisions on the rights of women in successive decades. The culminating decision was the right to vote, which became official in 1920.

As I went through Elizabeth Cady Stanton's house and stood on her porch for a few minutes, I perhaps felt her presence. When I returned home from Seneca Falls, I reflected for several hours on the fact that while the rights of women have certainly advanced dramatically since 1848, there are still parts of the world in which women have yet to achieve their rightful place in society.

It is important to state that neither Susan B. Anthony or Elizabeth Cady Stanton were Roman Catholic. Obviously, a declaration of rights by Catholic women in 1848 would have immediately resulted in their excommunication. While we can perhaps rightly argue that Catholic women have many more rights than they did in the nineteenth century, we are still far behind most of our Protestant brothers and sisters when it comes to inclusivity. Therefore, I took some time to reflect upon The Declaration of Sentiments, so see if there might be some insights from the document that could influence dialogue between the laity and hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church that would have the potential of ending anything that resembles discrimination against women.

I have chosen a few statements from the Declaration of Sentiments, which will appear in capital letters, after which I will offer my commentaries:

1.) "WE HOLD THESE TRUTHS TO BE SELF-EVIDENT; THAT ALL MEN AND WOMEN ARE CREATED EQUAL.........."

This is a statement that needs to be submitted to the Vatican by all good people of faith. Tragically, our hierarchy still subscribes to the theory that all MEN are created equal, and that women are subordinate to them. I continue to maintain that ordination, if interpreted correctly, is not about power, but about calling and qualifications. In this regard, we cannot truly approach the eucharistic table as the Body of Christ until we can proclaim ourselves to be equal before God, which means erasing any artificial barriers between men and women.

2.) "HE ALLOWS HER IN CHURCH AS WELL AS STATE, BUT A SUBORDINATE POSITION, CLAIMING APOSTOLIC AUTHORITY FOR HER EXCLUSION FROM THE MINISTRY, AND, WITH SOME EXCEPTIONS, FROM ANY PUBLIC PARTICIPATION IN THE AFFAIRS OF THE CHURCH."

Some are satisfied that women have increasingly found ministry positions in the Roman Cathlolic Church. As long as we focus upon apostololic authority as an excuse for barring women from ordination, we are still guilty of exclusionary practices.

3.) "THE HISTORY OF MANKIND IS A HISTORY OF REPEATED INJURIES AND USURPATIONS ON THE PART OF MAN TOWARD WOMAN, HAVING IN DIRECT OBJECT THE ESTABLISHMENT OF AN ABSOLUTE TYRANNY OVER HER............"

As I reflected on this statement, I thought back to my maternal grandmother, who by all accounts was a very devout Catholic. Yet, the imagery in my head is nevertheless sad. She, like millions of Catholic women of her generation and preceding generations, were expected to sit quietly in Church and go to weekly Confession. While participation by women has undergone several advancements since Vatican II, I would argue that it is perhaps time for another Council, which would be an ideal setting for women to claim their rightful place in the Kingdom of God.

4..) "IN ENTERING UPON THE GREAT WORK BEFORE US, WE ANTICIPATE NO SMALL AMOUNT OF MISCONCEPTION, MISREPRESENTATION, AND RIDICULE; BUT WE SHALL USE EVERY INSTRUMENTALITY WITHIN OUR POWER TO EFFECT OUR OBJECT............."

As tragic as our current sexual abuse scandal has been, it has also served as a wake-up call, in that our hierarchy can no longer hide behind a veil of secrecy. While those of us who work toward more equality in the Church may indeed face ridicule and perhaps face accusations of misrepresentation, we can no longer be silenced. The Vatican can no longer tell us that we are not permitted to speak about married priests or the ordination of women. We can rightfully claim history and theology as tools of truth. The great lie that has permitted mandatory priestly celibacy and the discrimination against women has been exposed. It is now time for dialogue toward a eucharistic table that is truly inclusive.

My thanks to Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton for providing the inspiration for this article.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Good Friday Intercessions Need Modifications

Dear Blog Visitors:

I always look forward to the Triduum, for it gives us an opportunity to celebrate the mystery of our faith. This year's Triduum will be a new experience for me, for I will be attending liturgies at Spiritus Christi Church (Catholic but independent of Rome). Spiritus Christi is a wonderful parish community, where Christ is truly present amongst each person who walks through the door. Most appealing to me is that artificial barriers to a sacramental life do not exist at Spiritus Christi. So, this may indeed become my new spiritual home, especially since I am not allowed to receive Communion in a diocesan parish, for the simple reason that I was recently ordained a married Catholic priest. Would Christ bar me from the Communion Table because I am a married priest? I think not!

Although I have chosen an alternative for my Holy Week celebrations this year, I hope the Vatican won't mind my offering a critique on Good Friday Intercessions. (This critique is meant in good faith, based on solid theological, liturgical and historical reflection.)

In the Roman Catholic tradition, we celebrate highly meaningful liturgies on Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil. I have discovered there are two distractions during the Good Friday liturgy that perhaps dictate the need for change: 1.) I believe we should consider the use of the Passion according to Luke, as opposed to John, considering the harsh language John uses in reference to the Jewish people. 2.) I cringe whenever I hear the Good Friday intentions proclaimed, for four of them are discriminatory in scope. Allow me to elaborate.

What follows are the four Good Friday intentions in question. The intentions will be articulated in large letters, after which I will offer critiques:

DEACON:

LET US PRAY FOR OUR HOLY FATHER, POPE BENEDICT XVI, THAT GOD WHO CHOSE HIM TO BE BISHOP MAY GIVE HIM HEALTH AND STRENGTH TO GUIDE AND GOVERN GOD’S HOLY PEOPLE.

PRESIDER:

ALMIGHTY AND ETERNAL GOD, YOU GUIDE ALL THINGS BY YOUR WORD, YOU GOVERN ALL CHRISTIAN PEOPLE. IN YOUR LOVE, PROTECT THE POPE YOU HAVE CHOSEN FOR US. UNDER HIS LEADERSHIP, DEEPEN OUR FAITH AND MAKE US BETTER CHRISTIANS. WE ASK THIS THROUGH CHRIST OUR LORD. AMEN.

What I find offensive in this intention is the statement concerning the pope being chosen by God. Does God choose our pontiffs, or are they chosen according to a highly-charged political process behind Vatican walls? Sadly, I believe it is more a case of politics than God’s will. We must never forget that although we have experienced some good popes throughout the history of the church, there have also been some scoundrals. So, I think we need to be very careful about assumptions over God’s choice of popes.

DEACON:

LET US PRAY FOR OUR BISHOP, FOR ALL BISHOPS, PRIESTS AND DEACONS, FOR ALL WHO HAVE A SPECIAL MINISTRY IN THE CHURCH AND FOR ALL GOD’S PEOPLE.

PRESIDER:

ALMIGHTY AND ETERNAL GOD, YOUR SPRIT GUIDES THE CHURCH AND MAKES IT HOLY. LISTEN TO OUR PRAYERS AND HELP EACH OF US IN HIS OWN VOCATION TO DO YOUR WORK MORE FAITHFULLY. WE ASK THIS THROUGH CHRIST OUR LORD. AMEN.

What I find offensive in this particular intention is that it emphasizes our hierarchical structure: priests, deacons, laity who minister in the church, etc. In short, this is the top-down model we have come to detest. In place of this intention, we need one that is more inclusive (one that does not emphasize the hierarchical structure) and one that is more sensitive to gender. (Notice the phrase: in HIS own vocation.)

Being a priest myself (married), I see my role as primarily sacramental in scope. However, I don't see my role as a rung on the ladder that gives me automatic authority over the laity. I prefer to subscribe to the Scriptural connotation of 'the priesthood of all believers.' Or, as St. Paul reminds us, "we have different functions, but are of the same spirit." Therefore, we need to be careful about the way we utilize and catergorize hierarchical structures.

DEACON:

LET US PRAY FOR THE JEWISH PEOPLE, THE FIRST TO HEAR THE WORD OF GOD, THAT THEY MAY CONTINUE TO GROW IN THE LOVE OF HIS NAME AND IN FAITHFULNESS TO HIS COVENANT.

PRESIDER:

ALMIGHTY AND ETERNAL GOD, LONG AGO YOU GAVE YOUR PROMISE TO ABRAHAM AND HIS POSTERITY. LISTEN TO YOUR CHURCH AS WE PRAY THAT THE PEOPLE YOU FIRST MADE YOUR OWN MAY ARRIVE AT THE FULLNESS OF REDEMPTION. WE ASK THIS THROUGH CHRIST OUR LORD. AMEN.

The language of this intention is certainly an improvement over a previous one, in which Catholics prayed for the ‘conversion’ of the Jewish people. However, considering that Christians believe they are redeemed by Christ, the above intention by implication states that Jews may only find redemption through Christ as well. Considering the efforts being made toward better relations between Christians and Jews, a further modification of this intention is in order, whereby the redemption clause needs to be removed.

DEACON:

LET US PRAY FOR THOSE WHO DO NOT BELIEVE IN CHRIST, THAT THE LIGHT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT MAY SHOW THEM THE WAY TO SALVATION.

PRESIDER:

ALMIGHTY AND ETERNAL GOD, ENABLE THOSE WHO DO NOT ACKNOWLEDGE CHRIST TO FIND THE TRUTH AS THEY WALK BEFORE YOU IN SINCERITY OF HEART. HELP US TO GROW IN LOVE FOR ONE ANOTHER, TO GRASP MORE FULLY THE MYSTERY OF YOUR GOD-HEAD AND TO BECOME MORE PERFECT WITNESSES OF YOUR LOVE IN THE SIGHT OF MEN. WE ASK THIS THROUGH CHRIST OUR LORD. AMEN.

We must ask ourselves how the above intention would sound to Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and other non-Christians. Certainly, women are offended by the phrase: "more perfect witnesses of your love in the sight of MEN.

I implore the Vatican to make changes in the above four cited Good Friday intercessions. At a time when our world is experiencing multiple divisions, Catholic liturgies need to be more inclusive and more inviting. I continue to be embarrassed by the wording of the Good Friday intentions, when instead we should be persons of inclusivity and compassion.

Let us pray for each other during this Holy Week.