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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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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

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