National Catholic Reporter
Subscribers only section
December 21, 2007


Women priests

I am writing to thank you for the comprehensive, factual coverage of the Roman Catholic women priests (NCR, Dec. 7). As a friend and supporter of these women, I was encouraged to see your recognition of what I know to be true, that is, their great love of the church, humility, courage and single-mindedness to live a new model of inclusiveness and equality and to serve those who feel abandoned and cast aside, often at great personal sacrifice. This movement is a symbol of a much broader context of change and transformation taking place in the world at this time.

Fr. Charles Curran in Loyal Dissent states: “I believe that the people who suffer most in the Catholic church today are women. Women in very real aspects are second-class citizens in the church. Some people in the Vatican maintain that the women’s issue is a First-World issue and not relevant in the developing world. In my judgment, the equal role of women is a Christian and human rights issue not limited to any one culture and it will ultimately become an issue throughout the world.”

There is room in the church for all of us. We may feel anxious and uncertain in these chaotic times but we are called to love.


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The women you are trumpeting in your pages are not priests or bishops. All of them were involved in the simulation of a sacrament for which severe penalties are attached. They are putting their salvation at risk. The fact that you are trumpeting these simulations of a sacrament indicate that you have departed from Catholic teaching. As a matter of honesty and integrity, you ought to remove the word “Catholic” from your masthead. You don’t believe what the Catholic church believes or teaches. You are engaged in warfare against the church.

Yonkers, N.Y.

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I am coming to respect these bold, pioneering women in many ways. Combined, my wife and I have more than 70 years of professional experience as psychotherapists, teachers, retreat leaders, catechists, prayer leaders and pastoral staff of various kinds in the Catholic church. We have both held curia-level positions of trust in two distinguished dioceses. Yet we are not listed in any database of valued Catholic resource persons. We have no canonical standing. We will not be consulted as our diocese waits for a new bishop. We will not be taken care of in our retirement as even some pedophiliac priests and their implicated bishops have been.

Even more odd than our circumstance, though, is the situation of former Catholic priests who left to get married. Weren’t we all taught that matrimony is a sacrament equal to the other six in holiness and in institution by Christ? Theologically, how can one holy sacrament be an obstacle to another? There are 29 canons of the church supporting a married clergy. For the first 1,200 years of our church, almost all priests and bishops were married. Thirty-nine popes were married, including the most famous first pope who was also an apostle.

Unfortunately it would seem that healthy married sex is more of a problem for the church than twisted secret sex. Let us pray for the restoration of married priests, for the brave and visionary women called to ordination, and that this era of blind hierarchical paranoia and clerical privilege and abuse gives way to reform and renewal by the Holy Spirit.

Clemson, S.C.

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I laughed out loud when I read the penultimate paragraph in your editorial on women priests. How can people you praise as “defiant trailblazers” who are “finished playing by the rules” and “who ignore many of the church’s ... bans” because the teachings do not “correspond to their own experience” still be considered “loyal to the church”? It was obviously not written with tongue in cheek. I see the following possibilities: First, liberal Catholics assign an esoteric meaning to “loyalty” and to “church” so that what appears to be nonsensical is really profound. Or, you believe your readers are incapable of recognizing cant when they see it. Or, your writer is incapable of recognizing incongruity even when she writes it.

Seven Hills, Ohio

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Thank you for your landmark coverage of the women’s ordination movement. I have always resented the church’s discrimination against my two daughters and four granddaughters. None of my family is interested in creating a schism or breaking away from the church. What we are interested in is transforming our beloved church. We have given up on the hope that the male-dominated hierarchy will change things from the top and open up the priesthood to women. Our hope is that we can change things starting at the bottom. Fifty years from now when women priests are fully accepted and appreciated, people will wonder what the current fuss was all about.

San Diego

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I wonder about the wisdom of the editorial judgment in filling the front page with a group of exultant women who have just acted in defiance of church authority. Could not someone conclude that NCR is in effect supporting this kind of action? The article was informative, and I empathize and support the desire of women to be ordained. But for this group to state in its mission statement that it is acting within the Roman Catholic church questions the meaning of “within.” It seems to me they are acting presumptively. I thought Sr. Rita Larivee’s comments in the Editor’s Note offered excellent rationale for covering this controversial event.

Fitchburg, Wis.

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I was excited and touched when I saw the Dec 7 issue of NCR . I read with much enthusiasm and moist eyes your articles and the profiles of women who have been ordained.

As a Catholic woman who feels called to ordained ministry, I feel excluded by the church. Whenever I hear prayers for an increase of vocations, I wonder why the hierarchy cannot see that God has answered their prayers, calling women to ordained ministry in the church. I wonder why these intelligent, well-educated men cannot welcome and accept women for ordination. Then I realize this is not about education/intelligence but about asserting and wielding power. Congratulations on addressing this sensitive and important issue of our church -- women priests.

Gramercy, La.

Fort Benning report

Paul Winner’s report on the protest at Fort Benning “from inside the fort” was no doubt an accurate account of what occurred there (NCR, Dec. 7). It details the interchange between high-level and well-prepared military personnel and a group of highly motivated young people wanting to close the School of the Americas. The military seem to have carried the day. The final picture was not, however, a balanced reporting of the issue. What was wrong from the outset was the cast of characters. A more enlightening report would have emerged had the debate been between the same military figures and different folks who also were at the vigil: Fr. Roy Bourgeois, Rep. Dennis Kucinich, Rep. Jim McGovern, Fr. John Dear and Bishop Tom Gumbleton. That would have been well worth attending and reporting.


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I have the greatest respect for Chaplain John Kiser and his theological education, but his response to protesters at Fort Benning puzzles me. To raise the exegetical point that the word for “kill” in Hebrew in the commandment is in fact the word for “murder” was clearly not persuasive as the audience responded with “groans and hoots.” I should think one would need the additional point found in Exodus 22:1, two chapters of commandments later, which allows one to beat to death a thief caught in the act in one’s home in the night but not in the day. Pretty clearly a contradiction in commandments unless Exodus 20:13 does indeed mean murder, a point that is persuasive to someone like me who does not have a theological education.

Towson, Md.

Korean history

Sr. Joan Chittister devalues history when she misleadingly says in her article that “the Korean War, a byproduct of World War II, broke out in June 1950 to stop the spread of communism in the region and, at the same time, to secure a foothold for the West in Asia” (NCR , Dec. 7).

What actually happened is that communist North Korea invaded the territory of free South Korea and conquered almost the entire country until United Nations forces led by the United States counterattacked and drove deep into North Korean territory; then the Chinese communists invaded Korea to save the communist North. To say a war “broke out ... to stop the spread of communism” is to ignore the role of aggression and human free will in history. I seriously doubt that the average South Korean today sees the history of their country in Sr. Chittister’s terms.

Nacogdoches, Texas

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National Catholic Reporter, December 21, 2007