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  August 7, 2006VOL. 44, NO. 14Oakland, CA

articles list

Women risk excommunication for ‘ordination’

Franciscan priest arrested during
White House vigil against Iraq war

Volunteers offer Caring Hands to seniors in need

Physician extols the healing power of prayer

Asian, Pacific Island Catholics in U.S. celebrate faith, diversity during first national gathering

Oakland parish makes quilts for Katrina survivors

Volunteers still
needed to help
in New Orleans

Nigerian Catholics celebrate pastoral visit

Celebrating jubilee years for Brothers, Sisters

Sister Barbara Flannery honored
with diocesan Medal of Merit

GRIP’s Souper Center reopens in Richmond
to feed, house the hungry and homeless

Catholics invited
to join confraternity
for the Eucharist

Bishops publish new catechism for adults

Seminar to examine religious pluralism and democracy

Cathedral progress

EWTN special celebrates 25 years


Brother Christopher Bassen, FSC

Sister Diane Grassilli, RSM


Why the Church is opposed to embryonic stem cell research


























Women risk excommunication for ‘ordination’

Church officials say action
was ‘invalid ritual’ of
sacrament of Holy Orders

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Risking excommunication from the Catholic Church, eight U.S. women participated in a riverboat ceremony near Pittsburgh that they said constituted ordination to the priesthood.

At the July 31 ceremony, another four women said that they were ordained to the diaconate.

A statement by the Pittsburgh Diocese called the ceremony “an invalid ritual” because of
Church teaching that only men can be ordained to the priesthood and diaconate. It also said those “attempting to confer holy orders” were removing themselves from the Church.

Father Ronald Lengwin, Pittsburgh diocesan spokesman, told CNS that Catholics in his diocese have been asked to pray for the reconciliation of these women with the Church and that the Church was ready to welcome them back.

One of the women who said she was ordained to the priesthood told CNS that the ceremony strengthened her ties to the Church.

“I never felt more Roman Catholic or more devoted to the Church” than during the ceremony, said Bridget Mary Meehan Aug. 1 in a telephone interview.
“I think in the future the Church will accept women priests,” said Meehan, a member of the Sisters for Christian Community, an independent community of 500 consecrated women founded in 1970.

“Christ had women and men as disciples. He did not distinguish,” she said.

“The bishops are saying we are excommunicated,” said Sister Meehan, producer of GodTalkTV, which provides cable-channel programming on women and religion.

The Pittsburgh diocesan statement said: “Those attempting to confer holy orders have, by their own actions, removed themselves from the Church, as have those who present themselves for such an invalid ritual. Additionally, those who by their presence give witness and encouragement to this fundamental break with the unity of the people of God place themselves outside the Church.”

The statement quoted Popes Paul VI and John Paul II as saying that the Church has no power to ordain women because Christ instituted an all-male priesthood.

A press release by Roman Catholic Womenpriests, the organization sponsoring the July 31 ceremony, said the ceremony was presided over by three women “bishops” from Germany. Two of the women “were ordained secretly by Roman Catholic male bishops in order to avoid Vatican reprisal,” said the release.

Meehan said that these male bishops are in union with the pope and the women promised to keep their names secret.

The ceremony took place on a riverboat at the confluence of the Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio rivers.

A similar boat ceremony took place last year on the St. Lawrence Seaway separating Canada and the United States. Other boat ceremonies have taken place in Europe with the first occurring in 2004 on the Danube River. The Vatican has said that such ceremonies are invalid ordinations.

Kathleen Strack Kunster, who lives in Emeryville, was one of the eight women participating in the ordination ceremony.

She told The Catholic Voice that she decided to listen to her heart and pursue priestly ordination after studying for a master’s degree in divinity. She would not reveal where she received her degree, saying she doesn’t want to imply that the school encouraged her to seek ordination.

She said her classes did connect her with emerging scholarly evidence that there were some women deacons and priests in the early Church. “There is no unbroken tradition of a male-only priesthood,” she said.

Originally from Florida, Kunster, 61, said she was active in parish life for many years, serving as a volunteer in RCIA programs, on parish councils, and as a trainer of Eucharistic ministers. She emphasized that she has not served in those capacities at any parish in the Oakland Diocese and declined to state where her lay ministry had taken place.

She said she plans to start a ministry of reconciliation “for divorced and remarried Catholics, as well as for others who are frustrated, fed up and angry with the institutional Church.”

“I am not doing this to antagonize anyone,” she said of the ordination ceremony. Rather she said she sees herself “standing on the threshold of the Church, helping people to reconnect with their parishes.”

Father Mark Wiesner, spokesman for the Oakland Diocese, said there is sadness in the Church because by their action the women have broken their communion with the Body of Christ.

According to Church teaching, if the women were to celebrate any of the sacramental rituals, the sacraments would not be valid.

One of the women who participated in last year’s St. Lawrence ceremony is a recently resigned official of the Boston Archdiocese, Jean Marchant, who was director of the archdiocese’s office of health care ministry.

She resigned July 17 after revealing that she was “ordained” a priest in the 2005 ceremony.

For the ceremony Marchant adopted her great-grandmother’s family name, St. Onge, because at that time she was not ready to leave her ministry in the archdiocese, she said.

Marchant told reporters she decided to leave her post now because she wanted to live her “priesthood more openly” and to participate in the Pittsburgh ceremony.

(Catholic Voice staff contributed to this story.)




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