30 June 2002
I send you warm greetings from Passau, Germany on the shores of the Danube River. Today, the bark of Peter was nudged onto a new course as seven women from Austria and Germany were ordained to the Catholic priesthood aboard a boat that sailed down the Danube from Germany to Austria and back.
About 200 people from Austria, Germany, the Netherlands, Great Britain, Canada and the United States attended that ordination. I found it especially significant that the boat changed course, and turned around, shortly after the two bishops laid hands on the seven women. This may indeed be a symbol of hope for our church.
Last year, Joan Chittister gave us great hope in Dublin, Ireland as she courageously lived her conscience and spoke her message of gospel equality for the world to hear in spite of threats by the Vatican if she did so. Then her Benedictine Community in Erie, led by Christine Vladimiroff, stood by her in solidarity in such a way that even the Vatican had to back off. Those women gave us hope and heart. This year, seven women decided that the time had come to "call the question" on women's ordination, to take the words and speeches and theology and make them real in the flesh of human beings. In a real sense, what has been only been "word" for us today became flesh.
This ordination already has its share of controversy. The two ordaining bishops are Bp. Romolo Braschi of Argentina and Bp. Rafael Regelsberger of Austria. They are not on Rome's list of recognized bishops, but they have a firm claim to apostolic succession. But given the Vatican's own official theology of ordination, i.e., valid ministers and proper sacramental action make valid sacraments, it will be difficult to say these ordinations are anything but valid. (The Vatican will say that, of course, because they still regard women as "improper matter," but overturning such discriminatory ideas is the point of doing this after all).
The seven women are:
These women acknowledged that today is "only a beginning." The American women present vowed that they will do the same action in the United States in the near future. One American woman said to me, "Some say 'next year in Jerusalem, but I say next year in the USA!"
Bishop Braschi, at the press conference, said he knows of groups of women already well advanced in their priestly preparation in Brazil, Argentina and Africa.
There is clearly much work to be done before women are recognized fully as priests in the Roman Catholic tradition. But these women believe, as do I, that they have taken a giant first step. Slowly but surely, the bark of Peter is being moved to a new course! I was privileged to witness the event, and I am delighted to share it with you.
|Ordinations 29 June||RC women called to the priesthood||Theologians on the teaching of the CDF||The duty of speaking out||Mistaken teachings by Popes in the past||Womenpriests home page|
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