From email@example.com Wed Aug 7 10:30:11 2002
Date: Tue, 6 Aug 2002 23:52:10 -0500 (CDT)
From: GINA <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: [generalnews] Vatican casts out ‘ordained’ women
The Vatican tried to crush an international movement for the ordination of women yesterday when it excommunicated seven women who claimed to be priests.
The women, from Germany, Austria and the US, were “ordained” a month ago on a ship on the Danube in Passau, by an Argentine bishop who is no longer recognised by the Catholic church.
After the ceremony, which was watched by several hundred supporters and relatives, the Vatican gave the women until July 22 to retract their vows.
“Because the women … gave no indication of amendment or repentance for the most serious offence they had committed … they have incurred excommunication,” Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Vatican's chief guardian of theological orthodoxy, said in a document released yesterday.
It said the bishop, Romulo Antonio Braschi, had already been excommunicated for trying to ordain women in the past. The women say that their ordination by him was valid.
Three years ago the self-styled Archbishop Braschi, founder of the Charismatic Catholic Church of Christ the King, ordained his wife, Alicia, who became a figurehead for women wanting to became priests themselves.
The women “ordained” last month, who include a teacher, theologians and a nun, aged between 40 and over 70, said yesterday that the announcement had made them more determined to fight on in their quest to be recognised by the church and to pave the way for tens of thousands of other women around the world.
They also vowed to fight for the ordination of married and gay men.
“We took a historically important step and that has to be recognised,” said Christine Mayr-Lumetzberger, 46, a married teacher from Gmunden in north-west Austria, who prepared for seven years for the priesthood and has fought for the rights of women in the church for more than 30 years.
“The Vatican is simply trying to sweep this issue under the carpet, but it won’t solve the problem.”
Since their “ordination” the women have celebrated mass in secret locations for family, friends and supporters.
They say they will approach the Vatican in the hope that its decision will be reversed and to ask for an open dialogue with the church on why it opposes the ordination of women.
“Such a stance simply reflects the male regime that is the Vatican which has been oppressing women for years, and fails to recognise the several places in the bible which call for equality between men and women,” Ms Lumetzberger added.
Ida Raming, a theologian from M|nster in Germany, said that more ordinations would follow in the autumn.
“Now that we have undergone the theological and spiritual training, other women are in line, from all over the world,” she said.
Dorothea McEwan, a historian living in London, who has campaigned for the rights of women in the church for years, said the Danube ordination had given impetus to many prospective female priests, including about 50 British women.
“Since the days of the early church centuries ago, nothing of this significance has happened,” she said: referring to evidence that women priests were active in Italy from the 2nd to 6th centuries AD.
The British organisation Catholic Women's Ordination has 500 supporters and demonstrates outside Westminster Cathedral once a month.
“There is a lot of opposition towards us,” Ms McEwan said. “People are verbally aggressive and spit on us, and sometimes it has got so dangerous we’ve needed police protection.”
She said women employed by the church mostly avoided the demonstrations because they had been threatened with dismissal.
Supporters of the ordination of women took heart from the case of the “Philadelphia Eleven”, a group of women ordained Episcopalian priests in the US 1974. Their church lifted its ban on women priests just two years later. The Church of England took until 1992 to follow suit.
But the Danube Seven may have to wait for any change of approach by the Vatican, which accused their “ordination” of “wounding the church” and called it “an affront to the dignity of women” who, it argues, have a unique role in serving the church. During his 14 years as pontiff, John Paul II has clearly demonstrated that he will not shift on the position the church holds: that since Jesus chose men as his apostles, the church should exclude women from the priesthood.
The Vatican has expressed its hope that the women will still renounce their vows.
“The congregation trusts that by the grace of the Holy Spirit, the above-mentioned persons may rediscover the path of conversion in order to return to the unity of the faith and to communion with the church,” yesterday's document said.
For their part the women said they did not wish to be at war with the church, but would stand by their decision and hope soon to be able to celebrate mass in public and build their own religious communities.
“They can ban us from receiving a Catholic burial, or receiving the eucharist, but we are strong because we have each other and between us we can perform all these church rites,” Ms Lumetzberger said.
The issue of the ordination of women had been “smouldering” since the last years of Pope Paul VI, according to Farley Clinton, an American Vaticanologist.
“Women who become priests are a minor problem. The real problem is the people who don’t go out and get ordained but believe that the church should accept women priests.”
Mr Clinton said he expected the Vatican to do its utmost to persuade the women to return to the fold, as it had done with the followers of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre.
The archbishop, who clung to the Latin liturgy when it was dropped by the Second Vatican Council in 1965, was excommunicated by John Paul II for consecrating bishops in defiance of the Vatican.
“What has terrified the Vatican and restrained it is the fear of schism,” he said.