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, November 09, 2007

Congratulations to Two New Women Priests

Dear Blog Visitors:

I am delighted that we will have two more women amongst the ranks of the priesthood on Sunday, November 11.

The tradition of ordaining women to the presbyterate, which began with Mary Ramerman in Rochester, New York, is gaining momentum as Catholics come to realize that there is no place for sexism in our church.

My hearty congratulations to Rose Marie Hudson and Elsie Hainz McGrath for the courage in their decision to go through with their ordinations, despite threats from the infamous tyrant of St. Louis - namely, Archbishop Raymond Burke.

What is particularly despicable about Archbishop Burke's threats is his statement to the effect that the above-mentioned ordinations will hurt relations between Catholics and Jews in St. Louis. Just because the ordinations are taking place in a reformed Jewish synagogue does not justify angry statements by Burke.

If we are to change the structure of the Roman Catholic Church, radical action is needed. Such radical action was displayed when I was ordained a married priest by Archbishop Milingo on December 10, 2006. In the face of priestless parishes, more radical action is needed, whether it be in the form of ordained married men or the ordination of women.

The following is an article that describes the tension over the ordinations that will take place on November 11. It is perhaps a coincidence that the ordinations are taking place on Veterans Day. In light of this, one can certainly make an argument for the reality of women being 'veterans' of discrimination at the hands of the Roman Catholic Church's hierarchy.

Here is the article from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

Women as priests? Plans test alliances
By Tim Townsend ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Thursday, Nov. 08 2007

A ceremony set for Sunday to ordain two women as priests in a Central West End synagogue is testing long-standing alliances among St. Louis religious leaders.Rose Marie Hudson and Elsie Hainz McGrath want to be Roman Catholic priests. Their ordinations will not be recognized by the church, which does not ordain women as priests.

St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke has reacted strongly, and Jewish leaders are questioning the synagogue's decision to host the ceremony.The president of the Interfaith Partnership of Metropolitan St. Louis, who is Jewish, said the decision by Central Reform Congregation may have been a mistake.The larger Jewish community has distanced itself from the synagogue and its rabbi, Susan Talve.Talve said she had received a letter from Burke asking her to reconsider hosting the ordinations.The Rev. Vincent Heir, who directs the Catholic church's interfaith efforts in St. Louis, said the archdiocese will not participate in any more interfaith events if Central Reform Congregation is "a leading player."And on Monday evening, Hudson and McGrath received letters from Burke stating that if they go through with the ordination, they will be automatically excommunicated from the Roman Catholic church.

Hudson, 67, is a grandmother of 11 from Festus who retired three years ago after 40 years as a teacher, the last 21 in the St. Louis public school system. McGrath, 69, of St. Louis, has eight great-grandchildren and recently retired after a dozen years as an editor at a Catholic publishing house. Before that, she was a campus minister at St. Louis University.After their ordination Sunday, Hudson and McGrath say that they will co-pastor a faith community and that they will celebrate Mass each Saturday at the First Unitarian Church of St. Louis in the Central West End.

Talve said her board offered the women space for their ordinations based on Central Reform Congregation's mission."We are being a sanctuary for people who didn't have another safe place to go and were asking for sanctuary," Talve said. The two women will be ordained as priests of an organization called Roman Catholic Womenpriests, which, in its constitution, defines itself as "an international initiative within the Roman Catholic Church."The group was founded in 2002, when seven women were ordained aboard a boat on the Danube River in Germany. All of them were later excommunicated. The organization says other women have since been ordained by male Roman Catholic bishops, including Patricia Fresen, a former Dominican nun and Roman Catholic Womenpriests bishop, who will ordain Hudson and McGrath.The group insists that it is Roman Catholic, but the church says it is not. Church leaders say that Womenpriests is like any other Christian denomination that breaks away from the church because it dislikes its doctrine.

Female ordinations by fringe Catholic groups are not unusual, and bishops often ignore such events because they occur outside the church.In September, Jessica Rowley, a recent graduate of Eden Theological Seminary, was ordained as a priest in the Ecumenical Catholic Communion at the school. Rowley and school officials say they never heard from the archdiocese.But in letters delivered by courier Monday evening, Burke told Hudson and McGrath "to renounce your intention to attempt to receive priestly ordination." If not, he said, "you will incur automatically … the censure of excommunication. …"The women agreed to allow a Post-Dispatch reporter to read most of Burke's letter, including his signature, Wednesday. But they refused to reveal parts of it. The archdiocese would not comment on the letters, saying that all correspondence from the archbishop is private.

Phyllis Zagano, a religion professor at Hofstra University in New York, said Burke may be addressing this case because Roman Catholic Womenpriests are claiming a direct tie to Rome. "When they use the term 'Roman Catholic,' Archbishop Burke has the obligation, as well as right, to be concerned," said Zagano.

Heir said Talve called him in September to let him know her board had voted unanimously to host the ordinations."This is about the integrity of communities," Heir said. "We don't invite groups that would be hurtful to the Jewish community into Catholic churches."Talve said she did not "begrudge any of the anger" in Burke's letter to her."I understand when you are bound by laws and rules that you believe keep you on a holy path that you would defend them," she said. From her years on the cabinet of the Interfaith Partnership of Metropolitan St. Louis, Talve said she understands the sensitivities of interfaith work. But when considering the ordinations, she weighed the potential ramifications of disturbing those sensitivities against what she felt was right."Sometimes you look at your core values, and they guide you and tell you what to do, and sometimes that's really hard," she said. "Sometimes you draw a line in the sand and you do what those core principles tell you to do, and then you accept the consequences."Heir approached some of his contacts in the world of Catholic-Jewish dialogue and asked for help. The Jewish Community Relations Council of St. Louis, an umbrella organization of more than 30 Jewish organizations, released a statement two weeks ago stressing that each synagogue is autonomous."Central Reform Congregation's decision to make its facilities available for the ordination event represents the action of that congregation, not of the organized Jewish community of greater St. Louis," it said.Harvey Schneider, president of the Interfaith Partnership of Metropolitan St. Louis, said Talve made a mistake. "Susan may have meant well, but in retrospect it may not have been such a great idea," he said. "I hope if there is a chasm that develops, it can be healed."

ttownsend@post-dispatch.com 314-340-8221

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Being Thankful for Our Gifts

The following was published in the November-December issue of 'CORPUS REPORTS.'

BEING THANKFUL FOR OUR GIFTS
By Ray Grosswirth, CORPUS Media Liaison

In the September/October edition of ‘CORPUS Reports,’ president Russ Ditzel wonderfully articulated the phenomenon of ‘writer’s block’ that consumed him for a brief period. As a long-time writer, I too have experienced this phenomenon.

The mind is a curious thing. There are days in which my creativity is racing a thousand miles an hour, and I rush off with pen-in-hand to put my thoughts to paper. On other days, the so-called ‘writer’s block sets in and I stare endlessly at a blank page.

As media liaison for CORPUS, I try to maintain a presence for our organization in newspapers, the internet, radio and television. Admittedly, there are days when I find myself in a dilemma over how to get our message out. I find it is an ever-increasing challenge to find mainstream members of the media who are willing to spend time with me to discuss topics that are integral to the crusade for reform in the Roman Catholic Church. One reporter put it this way: “We have been over-saturated with stories of sexual abuse the past few years, and our editor feels the public has heard enough about the Catholic Church.”

As we celebrate the feast of Thanksgiving in November, it is a good time to reflect on the many gifts CORPUS members have been bestowed with. I am sure that many of you have found yourselves in a slump from time-to-time, whether it be writer’s block or the lack of motivation to keep moving the message of reform forward. However, I have found it is best to focus on the many gifts we possess that allow us to provide alternative ministries to the multitudes, despite objections from the Vatican and members of the celibate clergy.

Having just begun a wedding ministry, I am reminded that many of you (CORPUS members) have been providing this valuable service for many years. I have also become increasingly aware of the other ministries you provide that are just as valuable, whether it be as chaplains, counselors, leaders of small faith communities, advocates for social causes, missionaries, officiants at funerals and baptisms, and countless other services you provide for your respective communities.

At the very least, it is safe to assume that many diocesan clergy are probably envious of the freedom we enjoy in our ministries. As this freedom relates to weddings, most diocesan priests are not allowed to officiate in non-church settings, such as outdoor facilities, banquet halls, private homes, colleges, parks, or numerous other creative atmospheres. The most recent wedding for which I was the officiant involved collaboration of Jewish and Catholic customs (groom was Jewish and the bride was Catholic). I was asked to officiate after the couple had visited three local priests, each of whom refused to offer their services, unless there was a promise to raise the children in the Catholic faith. (The couple elected to raise their children in both the Jewish and Catholic faiths, whereby the children would be free to make their own choices later in life. This was a choice I respected, whereby I agreed to officiate at their wedding.)

All married priests, and most recently, women priests, have found situations in which they have felt ostracized by conservative members of their respective Catholic communities. While such public shunning can make us feel sad at times, it is important to maintain a positive attitude about the alternative services we are able to offer via our spiritual and pastoral gifts. Jesus and his disciples were no strangers to the experience of feeling ostracized, but they pressed on with their messages of love and inclusivity. CORPUS members must do no less. We are disciples of Christ, and the work we do in the diaspora is extremely important.

If you have read the inside front cover of ‘CORPUS Reports’ in the past couple editions, you noticed that David Gawlik (CR editor) wants to mentor a CORPUS member who would eventually assume responsibility for the publication. I can’t imagine ‘CORPUS Reports’ without David at the helm, but in the interest of keeping this first-rate publication viable in the long-term future, finding a potential successor will be important. I now wish to pitch the position I am currently in, for which I am also seeking a successor.

After serving as CORPUS Secretary for three years (2002-2005), I entered into my experimental position as CORPUS Media Liaison. Whenever possible, I have tried to keep the initiatives of our organization alive in the media. However, as stated in my opening remarks, it is becoming increasingly difficult to capture the interest of reporters on topics relating to church reform.

While I have tried to keep up with all the emerging technology, such as podcasting, and the increasingly popular YouTube, I think CORPUS will be better served by someone who actually has expertise in such technologies. Therefore, I offer the following job description that includes the skills that would be valued by the CORPUS community, if an aspiring candidate should emerge to assume the role of media liaison when the new Board begins their term in July of 2008.

CORPUS MEDIA REPRESENTATIVE

The primary purpose of having a media representative, or liaison, is to have the means of getting our goals, mission and special initiatives to the public-at-large.

Ideally, a person interested in assuming the role of media representative should possess the following skills:

+ The person should be media-savvy, which includes the ability to generate interest amongst reporters who have the responsibility for religious stories.

+ The person should be a creative writer – one who can generate eye-catching press releases.

+ The person should be up-to-date with today’s communication technology, inclusive of print, audio and video capabilities.

+ The person should be able to search for, and locate church-reform-related stories on the internet that would be of special interest to the CORPUS Board and staff.

+ The person should have the ability and desire to write regular articles for CORPUS Reports that encourage CORPUS members to participate in the effort to get our message out to religious reporters.

+ The person should feel comfortable speaking to broadcast media, whereby he or she would search for interview opportunities.

+ The person would ideally be available for CORPUS Board/staff meetings and would attend, whenever possible, events that would be of interest to our membership.

Crimes and Punishments

The following was published in the September-October, 2007 edition of 'CORPUS REPORTS.'

CRIMES AND PUNISHMENTS
By Ray Grosswirth, CORPUS Media Liaison

It was recently announced that the Los Angeles Archdiocese agreed to a settlement of over $600 million, as restitution for the multiple cases of sexual abuse that occurred over the period of several decades. Those who have covered the abuse story since 2002 have theorized that our hierarchy can probably live comfortably with this settlement, with the preconceived notion that our bishops can now go about the business of healing a wounded church.

$600 is indeed a lot of money! Yet, considering all the real estate holdings of the Los Angeles Archdiocese, bankruptcy seems unlikely. As in the case of the Boston Archdiocese, once buildings are sold and financially-strapped parishes are closed, it will be business as usual for the powers-that-be.

While perhaps some of the victims will find comfort in the large financial settlements they are receiving, wounds will continue to punctuated by many open sores. After all, this is not a crisis that began in 2002. In retrospect, we have only begun to scratch the surface of the sexual abuse crisis. As reported by Fr. Thomas Doyle on countless occasions, he tried to warn the Vatican over two decades ago that there was an emerging crisis that could severely damage the church, unless immediate action were to be taken. Instead of giving thanks to Fr. Doyle for his accurate assessment, the Vatican attempted to silence him.

Those of us who continue to work for reform in the Roman Catholic Church are thankful to Tom Doyle for having the courage and foresight in 1985 to recognize the danger that had the potential of bringing down the institutional church. Perhaps more important was Tom’s concern for victims. The Vatican owes Tom a sincere apology for its failure to take his warnings seriously. The Roman Catholic Church will now have to struggle to find a high level of credibility, after having failed to act sooner against priest-abusers.

I listened attentively to National Public Radio on July 15, for several commentaries and interviews were being offered, in response to the report of the financial settlement of the Los Angeles Archdiocese. What came across very clearly was the disgust over the fact that the Roman Catholic hierarchy has yet to say it has sinned against its members. Somehow, the money is supposed to be both the solution and the end of the crisis. I continue to find myself scratching my head in total bewilderment over the fact that the Vatican still does not get it!

I still consider my membership in CORPUS to be one of the major blessings in my life. Unlike most of our members, I was ordained a married priest. Yet, I share something in common with our members who were ordained as celibates and subsequently married later. All of us have experienced what amounts to being shunned by certain segments of our faith communities. In my case, a few weeks following my ordination as a married priest by Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo, my long-time pastor asked me to refrain from receiving Communion at his parish. However, he indicated that if I elected to state that I was sorry for having sinned against the church, I could continue to partake. To this day, I continue to ask myself, what sin have I committed against the church?

Canon Law articulates the fact that any public action that goes against the teachings of the church can result in excommunication. Here is the interesting paradox: I am guilty of no crime. I simply found a way to get myself ordained as a married priest, so that I could minister as a disciple of Christ. At the same time, celibate priests who have been found guilty of the crime of sexual abuse continue to be members in good standing with the Roman Catholic Church. Although they have been stripped of their active ministries, their pensions remain intact and they are permitted to receive Communion. My interpretation is that because my ordination was a public act that went against the church’s rule on celibacy, I cannot receive Communion at my long-time parish. On the other hand, because of the fact that pedophile-priests committed their crimes in private, their rights to Communion remain solidified by the Code of Canon Law.

It is my hope that CORPUS will continue to fight for a more inclusive church. It was encouraging for me to see some young persons in attendance at our June conference in Providence. As conservative young bishops continue to be appointed, they see that many of us who have worked toward reform for many decades are dying and retiring. Therefore, bishops envision what can perhaps be interpreted as a pre-Vatican II model church emerging – one that is characterized by rigid rules. Our bishops also believe that by enforcing codes of orthodoxy, the sexual abuse crisis will be erased from memory. (It was this code of orthodoxy that brought about the crisis in the first place.)

It will be the task of the young folks of CORPUS to be the voice of change for the next generation. In this regard, it is good to keep in mind that the next Board elections will take place in 2008. It is my hope that candidates, young and old, will emerge with fresh ideas that will counteract the rigidity of a reckless Roman Catholic hierarchy.

In conclusion, I will pray for healing in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and other dioceses that have experienced the ravages of the sexual abuse crisis. However, money alone cannot bring about this healing. What is required is a new vision for the inclusive-type ministries modeled for us by Jesus. My thanks to all CORPUS members who are witnesses and advocates for this new vision.