Monday, July 31, 2006

Celebrating women priests

I salute the spiritual courage and acknowledge the symbolism of these 12 women. From the SFO Chronicle:

In an act of faith and insurrection, a dozen women on a chartered boat in Pittsburgh, Penn., will be ordained Monday as clergy of the Roman Catholic Church, the first service of its kind in the United States. To the church, which prohibits the ordination of women, the service is invalid and illicit.
But to the women, including four from California -- two live in the Bay Area -- the ordinations are genuine, though they recognize they are a violation of canon law. They say they are willing to risk excommunication in the hope of sparking a revolution of equality within an institution resistant to change.
"I've spent my whole life trying to get into this club,'' says Kathleen Kunster, 61, an Emeryville resident and grandmother of four who holds a master's degree in divinity and has worked for more than 20 years in lay ministry.
"The purpose of this ordination is to follow the call that we have,'' she says. "We all love the church very much. I am a Roman Catholic, I will die a Roman Catholic. I'm not budging.''
While mainline Protestant faiths now permit women to be ordained, they are barred from the Catholic Church's highest echelons. A decade after a papal affirmation of the prohibition, American Catholics nonetheless increasingly favor women's ordination, part of a growing worldwide movement to recognize women as leaders in one of Christianity's most conservative faiths.
"I feel called to be a priest -- to say Mass, to baptize people, to anoint people when they are dying,'' says Kunster. "I've had long conversations with God: 'Why did you give me this desire when there's nothing I can do about it?' I've never changed; I never could stop wanting to be a priest.''
Kunster is one of eight women who will don priestly garments aboard the Majestic, an excursion riverboat that will sail the Allegheny, the Monongahela and the Ohio rivers. The other four women, including Juanita Cordero of Los Gatos, will be ordained as deacons.
"I'm not rushing into the priesthood -- next summer I will be ordained a priest,'' she says. Cordero's husband, three daughters, a son and her 84-year-old mother will be on board to support her.
As previously noted, I completely agree that there is no scriptural basis to exclude women from the priesthood:
Far from removing themselves from the flock, the women say they hope Monday's service will culminate lifetime avocations to be at the heart of church life. Stressing the role played by females of the early church, the women believe there are no scriptural or divine obstructions to the priesthood.
"We are breaking an unjust law,'' says Dana Reynolds, 58, co-founder of Mosaics, a women's spirituality center in Monterey. "It's no different than when apartheid was broken. Or when the suffragettes said it's time to vote. Or when Rosa Parks said 'I'm not going to sit at the back of the bus.' It's time for this.''
What makes this news so liberating is that these 12 women did not wait for the Roman Catholic Church or some outside authority to validate or approve of their priesthood. These women took the initiative to actualize their inner calling after having been rejected for decades. They have overcome.
"I'm so in awe of these women's courage and bravery,'' says Aisha Taylor, executive director of the Women's Ordination Conference, which has been advocating for female priests for 31 years. According to Taylor, there are more than 150 women in the priesthood pipeline.
What great role models. I say more power to them. God bless you one and all.