Twelve Irish Priests Call for Open Discussion About Women's Equality in All Aspects of Church Life

Twelve men of courage -- twelve Catholic priests from Ireland -- have publicly put their names and faces to a call for open discussion on the need for equality of Women in all aspects of Church life, including Ministry: November 1, 2015

‘There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.’ (Gal. 3, 28)

In the Catholic Church women, despite being equal to men by virtue of their Baptism, are excluded from all positions of decision making, and from ordained ministry. In 1994 Pope John Paul II declared that the exclusion of women from priesthood could not even be discussed in the Church. Pope Benedict reaffirmed, and even strengthened this teaching by insisting that it was definitive and that all Catholics were required to give assent to this view. Pope Francis has said that Pope John Paul II had reflected at length on this matter, had declared that women could never be priests and that, therefore, no further discussion on the ordination of women to ministry is possible. In reality, Pope John Paul II did not encourage or facilitate debate on the ordination of women to priesthood or diaconate before he made his decision. Furthermore, there was virtually no discussion on the complex cultural factors which excluded women from leadership roles in many societies until recently.

We, the undersigned, believe that this situation is very damaging, that it alienates both women and men from the church because they are scandalised by the unwillingness of Church leaders to open the debate on the role of women in our church. This alienation will continue and accelerate.

We are aware that there are many women who are deeply hurt and saddened by this teaching. We also believe that the example given by the Church in discriminating against women encourages and reinforces abuse and violence against women in many cultures and societies. It is also necessary to remember that women form the bulk of the congregation at Sunday Mass and have been more active in the life of the local churches than many men, mirroring the fidelity of the women who followed Jesus to the end, to his death on Calvary. The command of Jesus "Go, teach all nations" was addressed to all his followers, and by failing to accept the full equality of women, the church is not fulfilling this commission.

The strict prohibition on discussing the question has failed to silence the majority of the Catholic faithful. Survey after survey indicates that a great many people are in favour of full equality for women in the Church. But it has managed to silence priests and bishops, because the sanctions being imposed on those who dare to raise the question are swift and severe.

We believe that we can no longer remain silent because to do so colludes with the systemic oppression of women within the Catholic Church. So, in the spirit of Pope Francis constant encouragement of dialogue, we are calling for free and open discussion concerning the full equality of women in all facets of Church life, including all forms of ministry. If this were to happen, the credibility of the Catholic Church would gain strength, especially when it addresses women's issues

Signed: Frs:

  • Eamonn McCarthy
  • Kevin Hegarty
  • Tony Conry
  • Roy Donovan
  • John D. Kirwin
  • Padraig Standun
  • Donagh O'Meara
  • Adrian Egan
  • Ned Quinn
  • Benny Bohan
  • Tony Flannery

For information or comment:

  • Kevin Hegarty 087 2163450
  • Roy Donovan 087 2225150
  • Tony Flannery 087 6814699

Association of Catholic Priests of Ireland:

Pink Smoke Over the Vatican: Women Demand Greater Role in the Catholic Church (Democracy Now)

Pink Smoke Over the Vatican: Women Demand Greater Role in the Catholic Church (with Video)


with Amy Goodman & Juan González | March 14, 2013

While the world waited for white smoke to flow from the Sistine Chapel chimney to indicate a new pope had been chosen, smoke of a different color began billowing into the sky over the Vatican. It was released by protesters demanding a greater role for women in the Catholic Church.

[includes rush transcript]

On Wednesday, Democracy Now! spoke with protest organizer Erin Saiz Hanna, executive director of the Women’s Ordination Conference, and with Janice Sevre-Duszynska, an excommunicated Catholic priest. "Jesus, I mean, he was certainly a feminist for his time," Sevre-Duszynska says. "He welcomed women, along with the rest of the marginalized and outcasts, at his table fellowship."

ERIN SAIZ HANNA: My name is Erin Saiz Hanna. I’m the executive director of the Women’s Ordination Conference. We are the oldest and largest national organization network for ordained women priests into an inclusive and accountable Catholic Church. And we are here in Rome today with our coalition partners of women’s ordination worldwide. As we had waited for a new pope, we have been doing vigils every day here of pink smoke. As the world waited for white smoke, we were raising pink smoke to bring attention to the lack of women’s voices in the conclave and in the decision making of the Roman Catholic Church.

Yesterday, we did it as just a small vigil outside, you know, with St. Peter’s in the background. So pink smoke literally just lifted right over the sky over St. Peter’s. It was just this beautiful visual of this pink smoke all over the Vatican. And then today was a smaller pink smoke here in Rome where we lifted it just during mass. So we gathered in community with men and women who all agree that women deserve and are simply in need of a more inclusive role in the church. So we all gathered in prayer, and we lifted pink smoke in a very prayerful way then, as well.

There are so many women who have been marginalized in our church, not just women who seek larger roles like ordination, but women who’ve been divorced, lesbian women, girls who want to serve at the altar, women who use birth control. There are so many women who are left outside of the church and who have no place. So, our hope is, you know, Pope Francis will be a peacemaker, live up to his name, and really reach out to women. That would be a huge start. In 1994, Pope John Paul II closed officially any discussion on women’s ordination, and people can be fired from even discussing that. So, our hope is Pope Francis, you know, will even open the doors just to discuss it.

The Vatican is very much a monarchy, and they have a seat at the U.N., and they make very important decisions that affect women on a global level. There’s a lot of policy making. It’s more than a religion; it’s a government. And that government really affects the lives of millions of Catholic women around the world, when it comes to birth control, when it—you know, reproductive healthcare, condoms, LGTB issues. They were against the Violence Against Women Act last week. So these are all issues that I feel that women must have a stronger voice in. These statements cannot be coming from a leadership that is all old, celibate men.

JANICE SEVRE-DUSZYNSKA: I’m Janice Sevre-Duszynska. I’m an ordained Roman Catholic woman priest. I was ordained August 9th, 2008.

We had a pink smoke event at the Piazza Garibaldi here in Rome, and there were lots of people that attended it. It had rained before. And why did we shoot off the pink smoke? The pink smoke was to show—the white smoke we saw tonight at the St. Peter’s Square, but the pink smoke is about women’s decision making and leadership in our church, which is so desperately needed. We need to hear voices of women. We need to hear the interpretation of the gospel, of the gospel, from women, living and dying. We need, as we have in our women’s masses, feminine images of God, who is beyond gender. But if we’re going to speak of God in anthropomorphic terms, it is sinful and idolatrous to speak of God in only masculine imagery.

And Jesus, I mean, he was certainly a feminist for his time. He talked to women when it was really, you know, a huge taboo for a man to talk to women. And he welcomed women, along with the rest of the marginalized and outcasts, at his table fellowship. So, you know, there’s much that the holy spirit has been bringing to the forefront that has been denied by the one aspect of our church, which is the hierarchy. But meanwhile, the church has been rising up, in the grassroots, from the bottom up, with the people of God, and that is with the ordination of women priests and inclusive liturgies and people giving homilies and a fruitful example of a great blessing in our tradition of our church.


Erin Saiz Hanna, executive director of the Women’s Ordination Conference.

Janice Sevre-Duszynska, an ordained Roman Catholic priest. She has been excommunicated, along with all of the world’s roughly 150 other female priests, because she is a woman. Sevre-Duszynska was detained by Italian police while protesting at the Vatican last week. Officers told theAFP they were questioning her "right to wear those vestments."

Pink Smoke Protest at the Vatican Calls for Women Priests (Euronews)

Pink Smoke Protest at the Vatican Calls for Women Priests

March 03.13 EuroNews: The smoke billowing into the Rome sky was neither white, nor black, but pink – to back the argument in favour of women being able to be ordained as priests in the Catholic Church.

A group of several Catholic women – from Britain, America and Australia – gathered in Rome to protest against the continued exclusion of women from the priesthood.

The smoke they let off from small flares mimicked the puffs that will emerge from the Sistine Chapel chimney indicating whether cardinals have decided on a new pope.

“The Catholic church should be a healthy and vibrant place with equality, with both men and women called to the priesthood. Jesus did not exclude women. Jesus encouraged women and actively sought to include them,” said Miriam Duignan, Communications coordinator of the association ‘Women can be priests’. “So why do the cardinals who are supposed to represent Jesus, make a point of actively excluding women, of telling them to be quiet? And of criminalising anybody that speaks out in favour of women priests?”

The Women’s Ordination Conference has campaigned for female Catholic priests for over 30 years. But there is little sign among the frontrunners for pope that the issue will become a priority.

Women Stage Pink Smoke Protest in Rome as Men-only Conclave Begins (Reuters)

Women stage pink smoke protest in Rome as men-only conclave begins


ROME Tue Mar 12, 2013 12:39pm EDT

(Reuters) - Protesters demanding a greater role for women in the Roman Catholic Church set off a pink smoke flare on a hill above the Vatican on Tuesday as the men-only conclave that will choose the next pope began.

Cardinals attend a mass in St. Peter's Basilica, in a picture released by Osservatore Romano at the Vatican March 12, 2013.  CREDIT: REUTERS/OSSERVATORE ROMANO

Cardinals attend a mass in St. Peter's Basilica, in a picture released by Osservatore Romano at the Vatican March 12, 2013.


Mimicking traditional smoke signals from the Sistine Chapel - white for a new pontiff and black for an inconclusive vote - the women also wore pink clothes and "Ordain Women" badges.

Some women argue that they already play an important role in the Church, teaching and caring for young Catholics and doing much of its missionary work, while others say exclusion from senior roles and the ban on women's ordination is out dated.

"The current old boys' club has left our Church reeling from scandal, abuse, sexism and oppression," said director of the Women's Ordination Conference, Erin Saiz Hanna, one of a small group assembled on the Janiculum hill overlooking St. Peter's.

"The people of the Church are desperate for a leader who will be open to dialogue and embrace the gifts of women's wisdom in every level of Church governance," she said.

The Vatican says women cannot be ordained priests because Jesus Christ willingly chose only men as his apostles. Advocates of a female priesthood say Jesus was merely conforming to the customs of his times.

Tuesday's protest in Rome followed a pink smoke rally in New Orleans over the weekend, with similar events planned in cities across the United States in coming days.

Last year, Pope Benedict restated the Church's ban on women priests and said he would not tolerate disobedience by clerics on fundamental teachings. Under his leadership, the Vatican cracked down on advocates of female ordination.

But some cardinals attending the conclave this week have spoken out about the need to review the role of women in the Church and the leadership positions open to them.

Argentine Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, 69, told Reuters this month that women must have a much more important role in the life of the Church and be able to contribute in areas which are now only open to men.


At present women, most of them nuns, can only reach the position of under-secretary in Vatican departments, the No. 3 post after president and secretary.

Currently only two women are under-secretaries: Sister Nicoletta Vittoria Spezzati and lay woman Flaminia Giovanelli.

Spezzati holds the post at the Vatican's department for religious orders, which is run by Brazilian Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz, who will vote in the conclave and is a potential compromise candidate for pope.

He has played a mediating role after the Vatican last year reprimanded American nuns for not doing enough to fight against abortion and gay marriage. He has also been credited with easing the heavy-handedness of his predecessor at the department who had complained about liberalizing trends in the Church.

Giovanelli works for the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace under Cardinal Peter Turkson from Ghana, the top African candidate for pope.

Some women who are tired of waiting for the rules to change have taken matters into their own hands. The Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests (ARCWP) say there are now more than 124 female priests and 10 bishops worldwide, though the Vatican considers them excommunicated.

Janice Sevre-Duszynska from the ARCWP, who attended the Rome protest in her white priestly robes, said if she met the next pope she would ask him for a follow-up to the modernizing Second Vatican Council of 1962-65, which discussed relations between the Church and the modern world.

"I would say to him that we need a new Vatican council with no bishops being invited, no cardinals, no priests, but just getting the people from local parishes, and people who have come out of prison and homeless centers," she said.

(Additional reporting by Ana Valderrama and Philip Pullella; Editing by Louise Ireland)

Roy Bourgeois, excommunicated priest on the ordination of women (CBC - audio)

Roy Bourgeois, excommunicated priest on the ordination of women

Anna Maria Tremonti | The Current | CBC Radio | December 19, 2012

For years Roy Bourgeois mixed activism with his religion as a Roman Catholic priest. He was a vocal proponent of human rights in Latin America. Then he took up the struggle for the ordination of women. For the Vatican that was one struggle too many. Roy Bourgeois has been excommunicated and today as part of our project Line in The Sand,the Dilemmas that Define Us, we hear from Roy Bourgeois about where he drew his line. 

Roy Bourgeois, excommunicated priest on the ordination of women

We started this segment with a clip from Roy Bourgeois, protesting against what's known as the School of the Americas. As a Maryknoll priest, Roy Bourgeois spent years trying to close down the military institute at Fort Benning, Georgia. It's helped train some of Latin America's most notorious military and police officers. But while he's been the face of that protest movement, it was another cause that cost him his job.

In October on the show, we spoke with Canadian lay Catholic Therese Koturbash. She's a Manitoba lawyer fighting for the ordination of women. One of the priests with whom she worked on that campaign was Roy Bourgeois. She recalls travelling with him to the Vatican, and meeting a Church official. We aired a clip.

Today, Roy Bourgeois is no longer a priest, dismissed from the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers. He served as a priest in the Maryknoll order for 40 years. According to the Vatican, his excommunication is the result of what the Church calls his disobedience and preaching against Church teaching on women's ordination.

Today as part of our project Line in the Sand: Dilemmas that Define us, Roy Bourgeois joined us to talk about his beliefs, his convictions and where he drew his line. We reached him in Columbus, Georgia.

We requested an interview with the Maryknoll leadership in New York. But we were told they consider the matter to be a personal one concerning Roy Bourgeois, the Maryknolls and the Church. And other than a written statement that Roy Bourgeois has been released from his priestly duties by the Vatican, the Maryknolls will not comment further on this issue.

This segment was produced by The Current's Ellen Saenger.

The Push for Female Priests in the Catholic Church (CBC)

The push for female priests in the Catholic Church (CBC)

The Current with Anna Maria Tremonti | CBC Radio | October 1, 2012

There are an estimated 100 wives, mothers and grandmothers who call themselves 'Women Priests'. They are Roman Catholic women ordained against the wishes of rulers of the Vatican. But even as some Roman Catholic groups break away on this issue, others are fighting internally to convince the Vatican to agree to ordain women. We hear from a Manitoba woman who says her conversations with a top Vatican official suggests there are cracks in the wall of opposition to female priests. Therese Koturbash's day job is fighting it out in court with legal aid in Dauphin, Manitoba. But she's picked a fight far more rough and tumble than she's likely to experience in court. She's part of a worldwide movement pushing for the ordination of women in the Catholic Church.

And she's just returned from Germany and the annual meeting of Women's Ordination Worldwide. The Church not only opposes the ordination of women, it considers the issue closed. But that has not deterred Therese Koturbash, who joined us this morning from Winnipeg.

Fiona O'Reilly is with Catholic Voices. It's a group based in the UK, whose members, while not speaking on behalf of Church officials, try to represent the view of the Catholic Church to the greater public. Fiona O'Reilly is in our London studio.

This segment was produced by The Current's Ellen Saenger.

Occupy the Vatican? (Ms.)

Occupy the Vatican?

Ms. | October 18, 2011 by Julie Cain

Father Roy Bourgeois, a beloved Catholic priest who has supported women’s ordination, was briefly detained in Rome yesterday after he and about a dozen women marched on the Vatican. The marchers held a banner reading “Ordain Catholic Women” and chanted: “What do we want? Women priests! When do we want them? Now.” Bourgeois and two others–Miriam Duignan of and Erin Hanna, executive director of the Women’s Ordination Conference–were taken into a police car when they resisted taking down their banners (because they didn’t have a protest permit).

Father Bourgeois was excommunicated by the Vatican in 2008 over the women’s ordination issue and still faces dismissal from the priesthood by his order, the Maryknoll. But the longtime social justice activist refuses to let the matter of women priests drop, and he was in Rome with the Women’s Ordination Conference to present a petition in support of their ordination to the Vatican, signed by about 15,000. Said Bourgeois,

I have come to Rome with a basic question for our church leaders at the Vatican," Bourgeois said. "How can we, as men, say that our call from God is authentic, but God's call of women is not?"

Those in favor of ordaining women insist that women at an earlier time were priests, and that banning them is purely sexist. But women’s ordination is so anathema to the current Vatican hierarchy that last year it was put on par with abusing a child. Since the Catholic Church seems quite reluctant to punish pedophilic priests, however, it begs the question as to why someone like Bourgeois is so penalized.

Vatican: Ordination of Women a Grave Crime (AP)

Vatican: Ordination of Women a Grave Crime

By NICOLE WINFIELD   07/15/10 09:38 PM ET   AP

VATICAN CITY -- The Vatican revised its in-house rules to deal with clerical sex abuse cases Thursday, targeting priests who molest the mentally disabled as well as children and doubling the statute of limitations for such crimes.

Abuse victims said the rules are little more than administrative housekeeping since they made few substantive changes to current practice, and what is needed are bold new rules to punish bishops who shield pedophiles.

Women's ordination groups criticized the new rules because they included the attempted ordination of women as a "grave crime" subject to the same set of procedures and punishments meted out for sex abuse.

Pope Benedict XVI

Pope Benedict XVI

The rules, which cover the canonical procedures and penalties for the most serious sacramental and moral crimes, were issued as the Vatican confronts one of the worst scandals in recent history: revelations of hundreds of new cases of priests who raped and sodomized children, bishops who covered up for them, and Vatican officials who stood by passively for decades.

In 2003, the Vatican streamlined its 2001 procedures for disciplining abusive priests, allowing them to be defrocked without a lengthy canonical trial if the evidence against them was overwhelming. The rules issued Thursday codified those procedures into church law.

"That is a step forward, because the norm of law is binding and is certain," Monsignor Charles Scicluna, the Vatican's sex crimes prosecutor, told reporters. But he acknowledged that the document was just a set of rules whose application was critical.

"It does not solve all the problems," Scicluna said. "It is a very important instrument, but it is the way you use the instrument that is going to have the real effect."

While the bulk of the document codifies existing practice, some new elements were introduced: priests who possess or distribute child pornography and those who sexually abuse developmentally disabled adults will be subject to the same procedures and punishments as priests who molest minors.

The new rules extend the statute of limitations for handling of priestly abuse cases from 10 years to 20 years after the victim's 18th birthday, and the statute of limitations can be extended beyond that on a case-by-case basis. Such extensions have been routine for years but now the waivers are codified.

But the new rules make no mention of the need for bishops to report clerical sex abuse to police, provide no canonical sanctions for bishops who cover up for abusers, and do not include any "zero tolerance" policy for pedophile priests as demanded by some victims.

"The first thing the church should be doing is reporting crimes to civil authorities," said Andrew Madden, a former Dublin altar boy who filed the first public abuse lawsuit against the church in Ireland in 1995.

"That's far, far more important than deciding whether a criminal priest should be defrocked or not," he told The Associated Press in Dublin. "The church's internal rules are no more important than the rules of your local golf club."

Scicluna defended the absence of any mention of the need to report abuse to police, saying all Christians were required to obey civil laws that would already demand sex crimes be reported.

The Vatican noted that bishops were reminded of this duty in a set of informal guidelines issued earlier this year and that its Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which handles sex crime allegations, was working with bishops' conferences around the world to develop more "rigorous, coherent and effective" guidelines.

"If civil law requires you report, you must obey civil law," Scicluna said. But "it's not for canonical legislation to get itself involved with civil law."

Victims' groups and others have accused the church's internal justice system of failing to deal credibly with abuse allegations, allowing bishops to ignore complaints in order to protect the church, and keeping its canonical trials so secretive that victims believed they couldn't go to police.

Barbara Dorris, of Survivors' Network for Those Abused by Priests, said the new guidelines "can be summed up in three words: missing the boat."

"They deal with one small procedure at the very tail end of the problem: defrocking pedophile priests," she said. "Hundreds of thousands of kids, however, have been sexually violated (by) many other more damaging and reckless moves by bishops and other church staff."

Pope Benedict XVI should have taken the opportunity to threaten bishops who shield abusers and tell bishops to stop lobbying legislatures against extending the statute of limitations on abuse cases, said Anne Barrett Doyle of, which compiles data on clerical abuse.

"Of course it's right that the viewing of child pornography be recognized as a grave crime inside the church," she said in a statement. "But practically speaking, no child will be safer because a secret church tribunal finds a priest guilty of viewing pornography."

But Bishop Blase Cupich, head of the U.S. bishops' child protection committee, said the new instruction brings a clarity to the process that will allow church leaders around the world and Vatican officials to resolve abuse claims more quickly. He said he was encouraged that lay people with expertise in church law can serve on church tribunals for accused priests.

Cupich rejected complaints that the instruction didn't go far enough. By including offenses involving child pornography and victimizing mentally impaired adults, the new document will help dioceses worldwide confront abusers, he said.

"It'll send a very clear message to the bishops around the world that this is the way it's going to be done," Cupich said. "It makes it clear and also provides more resources for the quick adjudication of these cases."

But with so few real changes, Scicluna said he didn't expect a flood of cases to come forward, as happened in 2003-04 after the abuse scandal exploded in the United States and some 80 percent of the 3,000 cases handled by the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith were opened.

The congregation was headed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger from 1981 until he was elected pope in 2005. Its procedures call for canonical trials or administrative punishments which can result in a priest being dismissed from the clerical state.

Recent efforts by civic authorities to investigate abuse allegations have again cast a spotlight on the Vatican's in-house penalties for acts that are criminally prosecutable in most of the world: Just last month, police raided the Brussels archbishop's residence and seized boxes of documents as part of an investigation into clerical sex abuse amid concerns the Belgian church was protecting pedophiles.

The rules list the attempted ordination of a woman as a "grave crime" to be handled according to the same procedures as sex abuse – despite arguments that grouping the two in the same document would imply equating them.

"The idea that women seeking to spread the message of God somehow defiles the Eucharist reveals an antiquated, backward church that still views women as unclean and unholy," said Erin Saiz Hanna, executive director of the Women's Ordination Conference, a U.S.-based organization that works to ordain women as priests, deacons and bishops.

Pope Benedict has said the question of ordaining women – often raised as an antidote to the priest shortage and to bring about more gender equality – is not up for discussion.

The Vatican in 2007 issued a decree saying the attempted ordination of women would result in automatic excommunication for the woman and the priest trying to ordain her. That is repeated in the new document, adding that the priest can also be defrocked – a permanent punishment, whereas an excommunication can be lifted if the person expresses sorrow for what he or she did.

Scicluna defended the inclusion of both sex abuse and ordination of women in the same document as a way of codifying two of the most serious canonical crimes against sacraments and morals that the congregation deals with. Also included are other sacramental crimes, including desecrating the Eucharist and – for the first time – heresy, apostasy and schism.

Clerical abuse is "an egregious violation of moral law," Scicluna said. "An attempted ordination of a woman is grave, but on another level: It is a wound, it is an attempt against the Catholic faith on the sacrament of (holy) orders. So they are grave, but on different levels."

Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, the dean of Germany's bishops conference, welcomed the new guidelines as a clear signal stressing that cases of sexual abuse of children and youths have to be thoroughly investigated and punished.

"The injustice of the past is being cleared, and the conclusions for the present and the future are being drawn," he said in a statement.

Benedict's native Germany has seen a flood of abuse allegations surface, and even his own tenure as archbishop of Munich has come under scrutiny since a pedophile priest in his archdiocese was allowed to resume pastoral work while being treated.



Associated Press writers Shawn Pogatchnik in Dublin and Rachel Zoll in New York contributed to this report.

Vatican Celebrations Overshadowed by Scandals (NPR) (with audio)

Vatican Celebrations Overshadowed By Scandals

by SYLVIA POGGIOLI June 10, 2010 8:00 AM

Thousands of Roman Catholic clergy are in Rome to mark the end of the church-designated "Year for Priests." But the celebrations are overshadowed by the worldwide clerical sex abuse scandal. Catholic activists also are in Rome demanding radical changes and a moral reckoning by Pope Benedict XVI.

Representatives of the international umbrella network Women's Ordination Worldwide protest in front of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican. Erin Saiz Hanna, Executive Director of the US based Women's Ordination Conference said the Vatican has turned a blind eye to male priests who "destroy the lives of children and families, but jumps at the chance to excommunicate women."

Representatives of the international umbrella network Women's Ordination Worldwide protest in front of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican. Erin Saiz Hanna, Executive Director of the US based Women's Ordination Conference said the Vatican has turned a blind eye to male priests who "destroy the lives of children and families, but jumps at the chance to excommunicate women."

Welcoming priests from all over the world, the Vatican No. 2, Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, said revelations of hundreds of cases of clerical sex abuse show the need for spiritual renewal.

"The Holy Father and I have had to acknowledge the pain caused by the infidelities — some very serious — committed by some members of the clergy that have had a negative impact on the church's credibility," Bertone said. "The pope has even spoken of a persecution not from the outside but stemming from sins within the church."

Only 24 hours earlier, a group of American, German, Canadian and English women marched in St. Peter's Square and chanted their demands that women be ordained.

They wore purple stoles — the symbol for female priests; some even had Roman collars. Their protest lasted about a minute before Vatican police made them leave.

Earlier, the women had denounced the Vatican for honoring priests while the clerical sex abuse scandal is raging.

"The Vatican is all too happy to turn a blind eye when men in its ranks destroy the lives of children and families, but jumps at the chance to excommunicate women who are doing good works and responding to injustice and the needs of their communities," said Erin Saiz Hanna, executive director of the U.S.-based Women's Ordination Conference.

Under church doctrine, women who attempt to be ordained are automatically excommunicated.

Another U.S. group has converged on Rome — members of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. Spokesman Peter Isely said survivors are expecting an apology by the pope to the world, and the announcement of moves to rectify crimes committed by priests against minors.

Isely acknowledged that some victims are skeptical, while others "expect that this pope this week is going to make a dramatic, historic announcement that is going to change the future of the Catholic Church forever," Isely said.

Isely listed SNAP's demands:

— That the pope immediately order all Vatican officials, cardinals, archbishops and bishops to turn over all criminal evidence and abuse files to local law enforcement.

— That Benedict give a full account of his actions in sex abuse cases while he was archbishop in Munich, and later when he was the top doctrinal watchdog at the Vatican.

— That the canonization process of Pope John Paul II be halted until there is a full independent investigation of whether the late pope was involved in cover-ups of Catholic clergy.

For too long, Isely said, church officials pressured victims to remain silent.

"These clerics and priests that assaulted us may have stolen our bodies, but it is the bishops and archbishops and cardinals and the popes who stole our voice," Isely added.

There are two Pope Benedicts, according to Isely. One first dismissed the revelations as idle gossip. "But then there is the other Pope Benedict, and this is the one we are hopeful about, the one that said there is no forgiveness without justice," Isely said.

Many Vatican watchers wonder what, if anything, Pope Benedict will say in ceremonies Thursday and Friday about the scandal that has reached the Vatican's doorstep.

In his March pastoral letter to Irish faithful, the pope made a heartfelt apology for years of sexual abuse of minors by Irish priests, and he has had several moving encounters with various victims.

Vatican police ask women priest campaigners to leave (CNN)

cnn world.jpg

Vatican police ask women priest campaigners to leave

By the CNN Wire Staff | June 8, 2010 2:44 p.m. EDT

Vatican City (CNN) -- Activists campaigning for the Catholic Church to ordain women as priests were asked to leave the Vatican on Tuesday.

They argue that women in the priesthood could have helped lessen the impact of the child abuse scandal sweeping the church.

"We believe that if women had a say in the church, if there was more accountability and more transparency, that the men would have been held more accountable," said Erin Saiz Hanna, executive director of the U.S.-based Women's Ordination Conference.

The half-dozen campaigners had unfurled a banner and were handing out leaflets when Vatican police asked them to go.

They left peacefully, returning to Italian soil from the small patch in Rome controlled by the Roman Catholic Church. Vatican police regularly ask protesters to leave.

The activists were trying to draw attention to the church's refusal to allow women to be priests, bishops or deacons, they said.

One woman who was ordained in 2002 -- and was excommunicated as a result -- said the child abuse scandal was partly a result of the church's disrespect for women.

"If women and children were respected -- and that includes if they respected us enough to ordain us -- then that would set a different tone," said Mary Ann M. Schoettly.

"Any abuse of children or women or the pedophile crisis itself probably would have been mitigated," she said.

Thousands of people have come forward in the United States, Ireland, the Netherlands, Austria and Pope Benedict XVI's native Germany saying they were abused as children by Catholic clergy.

The crisis has particularly shocked deeply Catholic Ireland, where three government-backed investigations have uncovered physical and sexual abuse stretching back decades.

Critics charge that the Vatican systematically covered up abuse around the world by shuffling abusive priests from one parish to another or quietly pushing them to retire.

The pope has met with victims in the United States and Malta, and vowed that the church will seek justice for the victims.

Schoettly rejects her excommunication and acts as a priest for a congregation of 40 to 70 people, she said. She has performed baptisms, and will officiate at her first wedding next month, she said.

"The Catholic people have accepted us. Many priests accept us," she said of women priests, adding that there were now more than 100. "We are not going away," she said.

Therese Koturbash, a Canadian lawyer and the international coordinator of the campaign, said her group was seeking "dialogue" with the Vatican hierarchy.

"Obviously, our church leaders aren't showing us leadership and dialogue. So if they are not doing it, we are here gracefully showing leadership, coming, knocking at the door year after year," she said. "Please, we want to talk about this."

The Catholic Church has traditionally not ordained women, noting that all of Jesus's disciples were men.

CNN's Hada Messia contributed to this report.

Protesters March in Vatican for Female Priests (CBS)

Protesters March in Vatican for Female Priests

By CBSNEWSCBS/APJune 8, 2010, 9:14 AM

Groups that have long demanded that women be ordained Roman Catholic priests took advantage of the Vatican's crisis over clerical sex abuse to press their cause Tuesday, demanding the Vatican open discussions on letting women join the priesthood.

Representatives of the Women's Ordination Conference stage a protest in front of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome on Tuesday, June 8, 2010.    AP PHOTO/PIER PAOLO CITO

Representatives of the Women's Ordination Conference stage a protest in front of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome on Tuesday, June 8, 2010.  AP PHOTO/PIER PAOLO CITO

The umbrella group Women's Ordination Worldwide said the Vatican shouldn't be celebrating the priesthood while "turning a blind eye when men in its ranks destroy the lives of children and families."

"While the hierarchy spends their time covering up scandals and throwing major celebrations for themselves, Catholic women are working for justice and making a positive difference in the world," said Erin Saiz Hanna, the Women's Ordination Conference executive director.

She spoke at a news conference before a dozen members of the reform groups marched to the Vatican in a bid to hand out flyers to tourists, priests and other passers-by. 

Police stopped them when they reached the square and asked them to leave, which they did.

© 2010 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Vatican's Pink Smoke Protesters Want Women Priests (CBC)

Vatican's pink smoke protesters want women priests (video)

Roman Catholic Church shows little sign of changing policy on female ordination

CBC News Posted: Mar 12, 2013 8:18 AM ET

Bursts of pink smoke filled the air in Rome today as Catholic women staged a protest calling for women's equality in the church, while top Roman Catholic cardinals readied to elect the religion's next pope.

The Women's Ordination Conference, which has been lobbying the church for more than three decades to ordain women, staged the colourful protest at Piazza Garibaldi in Rome and in five locations across the United States, including Washington and San Francisco.

The organization's members and allies gathered in the morning carrying signs and canisters filled with pink smoke, which they released into the air.

The smoke is symbolic of how the church's male cardinals will announce the results of each vote during the conclave starting Tuesday afternoon. A chimney on the Sistine Chapel will release black smoke if the cardinals failed to reach a consensus and white smoke if they have successfully selected Benedict XVI's successor.

Question of women 'secondary'

Canadian Therese Koturbash donned a pink shirt for the protest and held up a canister, pink smoke billowing into the air behind her. She is the international ambassador for Women Priests, an organization that relies on theological and academic reasoning to convince religious authorities to start ordaining female clergy.

The pink smoke protest in Rome and across the U.S. Tuesday was organized by a group pressuring the Vatican to start ordaining female priests. (Karen Pauls)

"The pink smoke is a sign of the voices we’re mourning who are excluded from the current conclave," she said. She said she was attending the protest because of her strong belief that the Vatican's refusal to ordain female priests means Catholics are being deprived of some of the priests God intended them to have.

Currently, women cannot be ordained to serve as priests, and there is little indication that the next pope will shift the church's stance on female ordination.

In an exclusive interview, Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet — who is considered among those likely to win the papacy — told CBC's Chief Correspondent Peter Mansbridge that while the issue of women priests is important, it is "secondary."

Terence Fay, a Jesuit priest teaching at the University of Toronto's school of theology, echoed Ouellet's response. He said it takes a long time for such a liberal shift to happen, because a leader can only move so much on the political spectrum during his reign or he risks alienating his constituency.

Changes are 'necessary'

Benedict's reign resulted in "significant steps backwards for women," said the organization's executive director Erin Saiz Hanna, and left behind an "old boys club."

Still, the women remain hopeful.

Before the protest, Koturbash told CBC she believes women will serve as priests during her lifetime.

"Already there have been so many changes that have happened in the church, that it wouldn't be a big step to start including women," she said.

If Koturbash doesn't live to see a woman serve as pope, she said she hopes to be a strong link in the chain to making it happen.

The Catholic Network for Women's Equality released a statement supporting the series of international vigils, saying they hope the religion's male leaders will listen and respond accordingly.

"Structural changes are necessary in order to ensure that the gifts of women are brought to all levels of church ministry and leadership," read the statement.

With files from CBC's Karen Pauls in Rome

Supporters of Women's Ordination Stage Small Protest Near Vatican (CNS)

Supporters of women's ordination stage small protest near Vatican

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service | October 15, 2008

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Representatives of several groups supporting the ordination of women as Catholic priests staged a small demonstration near the Vatican Oct. 15.

While 25 women experts and observers participated in the Oct. 5-26 world Synod of Bishops on the Bible, the protesters called for the synod, at the very least, to urge the Vatican to allow women to proclaim the Gospel and preach at Mass.

Anne Brown, a member of the New Wine organization in Great Britain, told a press conference she personally feels called by God to the priesthood.

While she said she did not expect any movement toward women's ordination anytime soon, "the ministry of preaching the word at the Mass could be opened up to laypeople."

"The voices of women, in particular, need to be heard with their own perspectives and stories, breaking open the Scriptures for the people of God in our time," Brown said.

Church norms restrict preaching the homily at Mass to ordained priests or deacons.

Inside the synod hall Oct. 14, participants heard from a variety of women who serve the church, but they did not call for ordination.

Dominican Sister Mary Viviana Ballarin, president of the Italian Union of Major Superiors, spoke to the synod about the way many women express their fidelity to God's word, share it with the world and serve the church.

"There is a mysterious and very close bond between the word and women," she said.

Like Mary, many consecrated women have heard the word of God and have not hesitated to carry it "to those who hunger and thirst for the truth, to all, even to those who do not know how to seek it."

Many women in the church, she said, know their strengths and are happy to place them at the disposition of the church so that "hope, love, dignity, tenderness and also beauty can inhabit every human heart."

Sister Ballarin said there is "a multitude of women" teaching in Catholic schools, nursing in Catholic hospitals, running AIDS clinics, caring for women victims of human trafficking, assisting the homeless and the sick "in very corner of the globe."

"This multitude of women, tirelessly dispensing the word with a mother's hands and hearts, are the face of the church as mother; they are its fertile womb, the space in which God can encounter the human person and the person can encounter God," she said.

At the press conference on women's ordination, Aisha S. Taylor, the 27-year-old executive director of the U.S.-based Women's Ordination Conference, said she was pleased so many women were invited to the synod, but they represent fewer than 10 percent of the participants and none of them have a right to vote on the synod propositions.

Taylor said that by excluding women from ordained ministry, "the church is operating in the world as incomplete, with only one leg to stand on and one arm to extend."

"The radical equality" of all people proclaimed in the Gospel, she said, requires the church to open ordained ministries to women.

In 1994 Pope John Paul II issued a document saying that because Jesus chose only men as his apostles, the church is not authorized to ordain women. He also said the position was a definitive, ordinary church teaching that must be firmly held by Catholics and is not subject to change.

Still, Taylor said she expects women to be ordained Catholic priests in her lifetime.

Angelika Fromm of the Purple Stole movement in Germany told reporters, "the Bible itself calls for the full and equal participation of women" in the church and "any other interpretation is incorrect and unjust."

After their press conference, nine women supporting ordination walked to the Vatican carrying a sign that said: "Ordain Catholic Women."

Several of the women dressed in purple and pink togas and carried signs with the names of women who are described as leaders in the Christian communities of the New Testament, including Mary Magdalene, Phoebe and Junia. 


Copyright (c) 2008 Catholic News Service/USCCB. All rights reserved.
This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed.
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Catholic Women March in Rome for Female Priesthood (AP)

Catholic Women March in Rome for Female Priesthood

USA Today | October 15, 2008

ROME (AP) — Catholic women seeking to become priests denounced the church's ban on female ordination as sexist and unjust, bringing their campaign close to the Vatican on Wednesday during a worldwide gathering of bishops.

The small group of women representing Catholic organizations from around the world marched across the Tiber River close to St. Peter's Square, some wearing signs with the names of prominent women in the early days of the Roman Catholic Church.

"Ordain Women! Ordain Women!" the woman chanted. They later tried to deliver a petition to the Swiss Guards at the Vatican, but nobody came to pick it up.

Aisha Taylor, the executive director of the Women's Ordination Conference in the United States, said the women wanted to call attention to the issue during the synod, a meeting of 253 bishops underway.

But the Vatican is not likely to drop its long-standing prohibition on women in the priesthood.

In May, the Vatican insisted that it is properly following Christian tradition by excluding women from the priesthood and issued a new warning that women taking part in ordinations will be excommunicated.

The church has always banned the ordination of women by stating that the priesthood is reserved for men. The decree issued in May was explicit in its reference to women.

Pope Benedict XVI led the doctrinal office before becoming pontiff in 2005. Like his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, he has consistently rebuffed calls to change traditional church teachings on divorce, abortion, euthanasia, gay marriage and the requirement that priests be male and celibate.

Taylor conceded that no discussion on women's ordination was likely to open — and certainly not at the synod, a gathering convened by the pope when he deems necessary, and devoted this time to discussing the relevance of the Bible for contemporary Catholics.

Taylor did take the presence of 25 women, either as observers or experts, at the synod as a mildly encouraging sign. But — with the women representing just 10% of the synod and none having a vote — she said it was not enough.

"The exclusion of women from the priesthood is a grave injustice in our church ... (and) a blatant example of sexism," she told reporters in Rome. "Even though leaders have come out saying no, and it's over and over again, I do believe that cannot continue for too many decades."

The Vatican's firmness on the issue has dashed the hopes of women seeking to be priests but also of Catholics who see that as an option for a church struggling to recruit men. It has also raised fears that women might abandon the Roman Catholic Church for other branches of Christianity that allow female priesthood.

In March, the archbishop of St. Louis excommunicated three women — two Americans and a South African — for participating in a woman's ordination. They were part of the Roman Catholic Womenpriests movement, which began in 2002.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Supporters of Women Priests Call Church Hierarchy 'Morally Bankrupt' (CNS)

Supporters of women priests call Church hierarchy 'morally bankrupt'
By Art Babych, Catholic News Service
August 10, 2005

OTTAWA (CNS) -- Speakers at a Canadian conference on ordaining women as Catholic priests attacked the hierarchy of the Catholic Church as being hypocritical and "morally bankrupt." 

Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza, a professor at Harvard Divinity School, described the Catholic hierarchy as "morally bankrupt" for its stand against the use of condoms, women's reproductive freedom and homosexuality. 

She was the July 22 keynote speaker at the international Women's Ordination Worldwide conference, which was held in Ottawa July 22-24 and drew nearly 500 people from 20 countries. 

In a statement about the conference, Archbishop Marcel Gervais of Ottawa said it was being held "completely outside the realm of our faith." 

In her remarks, Schussler Fiorenza took particular aim at the U.S. bishops who, she said, lost their "last shred of religious moral credibility in the last election when bishops made candidates' position against women's reproductive life the key issue of Catholic identity." 

The bishops did not care about "those on death row or the millions of children who are born daily into dehumanizing poverty and starvation, or who are killed by American bombs and occupation," she said. 
"We have come together here to celebrate our common struggles for a just church and to renew our vision for a world free from oppression," Schussler Fiorenza said. "We come from near and from far to be church." 
U.S. feminist theologian Rosemary Radford Ruether spoke of a vision of the church as a community liberated from patriarchy. 

"A church which claims to be the sacrament of liberation for society while itself embodying the worst pattern of oppression internally compounds sinful distortion with hypocrisy and is simply unbelievable," she said. 
Constructing a church of liberation from patriarchy requires dismantling clericalism, she said. 

Ruether, professor emeritus at the Pacific School of Religion at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, Calif., also told the conference delegates that the Eucharist should be a symbol of participation in authentic life. 

"Yet, it has become the sacramental symbol most radically alienated from the people and transformed into a clerical power tool," she said. 

"Excommunication, or denial of the Eucharist, is the prime tool by which one punishes those who resist clerical control," she said. 

Several of the women attending the conference had been excommunicated after being "ordained" to the priesthood contrary to church law. Among them were women who were ordained in a 2002 ceremony held on the Danube River on the German-Austrian border and were excommunicated by the Vatican. 

Four more women were to be "ordained" as priests aboard a boat on the St. Lawrence River near Gananoque, Ontario, following the conference. Two of the women involved in the 2002 ceremony, Christine Mayr-Lumetzberger of Austria and Gisela Forster of Germany, were to perform the ceremony. 

Archbishop Gervais had ordered his clergy and administrators not to discuss the ordination of the women in advance of the women's ordination conference. 

"I would count on all of you to refrain from offering any public statements, or public prayers -- for or against -- in connection with it as the gathering is taking place completely outside the realm of our faith," the archbishop said. 

The event's objectives "are clearly in opposition to the official teachings of the Roman Catholic Church," he said in a letter. 

In a 1998 apostolic letter, Pope John Paul II reinforced the limits on dissent in the church, saying Catholics must fully accept church teachings even on such issues as women's ordination. 

Conference coordinator Marie Bouclin said that the hierarchy's "attempt to shut down any discussion on women priests is a reaction that does not manifest confidence in their arguments." 

"It's too bad they don't take this as an opportunity to celebrate the great contribution of women in all the churches," she said. 

Former Ottawa Mayor Marion Dewar, a Catholic, spoke about the archbishop's letter in her address to conference delegates. 

"Imagine our bishop saying 'You can't talk about that this weekend -- those women have nothing to do with our church,'" she said. "Sorry fellows, but I'm going to be there." 

On Parliament Hill hours before the conference began, delegates hugged and greeted other participants as they arrived from Washington, D.C., on a "Witness Wagon" bus tour that included religious centers and memorial sites honoring women as prophetic leaders. 

Also at the gathering -- held at the monument to Canada's "Famous Five" women's suffrage activists -- were a handful of peaceful demonstrators opposed to the ordination of women priests. Among them was Diane Watts, a Catholic and the national president of Women for Life, Faith and Family, who carried a placard stating "Feminist Priesthood Not for Catholics." 

Watts said she did not think those attending the conference "understand the gravity of the situation." 

Ida Raming, one of seven women ordained during the Danube River ceremony, told reporters that church law stating that only baptized men can be validly ordained "is unjust, is anti-feminist, has nothing to do with Jesus," and that was why the women ordained in 2002 acted against it. 

"We seven priests were excommunicated at once," she said. "They don't have the right because we are still members of the Roman Catholic Church, we pay our church taxes." 

In Germany, the government collects a mandatory church tax from declared members of every denomination. That money then goes to the respective churches. 

"We want only to reform the church, not to destroy it," Raming said. 
- - - 
Contributing to this story was Deborah Gyapong in Ottawa. August 10/05.


Don't Talk About Female Ordination Archbishop Tells Priests (Ottawa Citizen)

Don't talk about female ordination, archbishop tells priests
Upcoming conference 'clearly in opposition to Catholic teachings'
by Hayley Mick
The Ottawa Citizen
Thursday, July 14, 2005

The archbishop of Ottawa has ordered the city's Catholic pastors and priests not to discuss the issue of female ordination in anticipation of an Ottawa conference promoting the controversial practice later this month.

Archbishop Marcel Gervais issued a letter to all Ottawa pastors, administrators and priests last week reminding them that the event's "objectives are clearly in opposition to the official teachings of the Roman Catholic Church."

"Furthermore," he wrote, "I would count on all of you to refrain from offering any public statements, or public prayers -- for or against -- in connection with it -- as the gathering is taking place completely outside the realm of our faith."

Archbishop Gervais, who is on vacation, was not available yesterday to comment further on his order.

The focus of the Women's Ordination Worldwide Conference, taking place July 22-24 at Carleton University, is to advocate that women be allowed to become priests.

The issue has been a persistent thorn in the Vatican's side. In recent decades, the church has repeatedly rejected a small, but growing, movement pushing for the reversal of its stance that only men can serve as priests.

Organizers of the conference said they were not surprised by the archbishop's letter.

"It would be surprising if he said anything different," conference spokeswoman Marie Marie Bouclin said from her Sudbury home.

"He pretty much has to toe the party line and that's what the Vatican's line is -- that we're not supposed to talk about it," she said. "We've said all along that our first hope, aim, objective is to convince the papacy to reopen the discussion."

But despite the archbishop's request, several Ottawa priests were willing do discuss the issue yesterday -- if only to support the stance that women cannot be ordained as priests under the Catholic church.

"Once in a while you get something like that just to remind you that this is where the church stands," said Rev. Bob Bedard of St. Mary's parish.

"We don't feel women would be ordained priests just like men don't have babies. It's just not the way God made things. It's not part of a women's capacity to be a Father.

"We have no objections to churches that ordain women. good for them, no problem, go for it. But the Catholic church doesn't ordain women."

Father Bedard, who founded an organization of Roman Catholic priests called Companions of the Cross, says he was contradicting the archbishop's orders to remain silent on the issue, because he's "right on side with him."

Rev. Andre Samson of St. Margaret Mary's church said the archbishop's move was to avoid splinters within the faith, referring to the rifts within the Anglican church over same-sex marriage.

"I really think that the main value that we should preserve in the church is unity," he said yesterday. "The day we become divided, we are doomed."

He says he agrees with the archbishop's stance, and while he was open to talking to a reporter, he would not be discussing the issue of women's ordination within his parish.

Following the conference next weekend, nine women, including a Canadian, are scheduled to be ordained as Catholic deacons and priests on a boat in the St. Lawrence River near Gananoque on July 25.

While a handful of women have been ordained in similar river ceremonies in Europe in recent years, the planned ordination set for the St. Lawrence River is the first of its kind in North America.

The ceremony is being held in a river so as to be in "international waters," thus avoiding the jurisdiction of the dioceses of either Kingston or Ogdensburg, New York.

For decades, the church has refused to consider the idea of ordaining women as priests. The council of Vatican II refused to consider the issue. In 1976, Pope Paul VI argued that a priest must bear a natural resemblance to Christ, who is interpreted as being male.

Pope John Paul II used a different rationale, but was just as adamant that women could not become priests. In May 1994, he issued Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, which said the church had no authority to ordain women.

It was followed in November 1995 by a letter signed by the prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, who is now Pope Benedict XVI.

© The Ottawa Citizen 2005