[IMC-Audio] (mp3) 12 women ordained as Catholic priests
Vincent Scotti Eirene
eirene at telerama.com
Tue Aug 1 05:59:13 PDT 2006
Defying church, 12 Catholic women to be ordained here
Thursday, June 15, 2006
By Marylynne Pitz, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
On July 31, a dozen well-educated, experienced Roman Catholic women will
pass into uncharted spiritual waters on a boat cruising Pittsburgh's
On that afternoon, three women in vestments will lay their hands on the
heads of the 12 women and anoint their hands with oil during an ordination
ceremony that will be the first of its kind in the United States.
Darrell Sapp. Post-Gazette
Joan Clark Houk, pictured here near St. Paul Cathedral in Oakland last
Read Joan Clark Houk's letter to Bishop Donald W. Wuerl
Read the Diocese of Pittsburgh's statement on the July 31 ceremony
Among the participants is Joan Clark Houk, 65, of McCandless, who with
seven other women are answering a call to be priests; the other four are
candidates to be deacons.
It will be the fourth such ceremony in the world since 2002, all
unrecognized by the Vatican. The women are part of a growing international
movement to push for women's ordination.
The Women's Ordination Conference, based in Fairfax, Va., will announce
today its support of the Pittsburgh ceremony, which will be held aboard
the Gateway Clipper boat Majestic. Pittsburgh was selected because of its
In a three-page letter dated May 9, Mrs. Houk, a member of St. Alexis in
McCandless, advised Bishop Donald Wuerl of her plans. She has received no
response. Mrs. Houk also sent a copy of the letter to all 360 priests in
"It is a sin for the Church to discriminate against women and to blame God
for it," Mrs. Houk wrote.
The Rev. Ronald Lengwin, spokesman for the Diocese of Pittsburgh, said the
church "has determined that the ordination of males is a part of the faith
handed down by Christ through his apostles and therefore the church is not
free to change it. Ordination to the priesthood can only be conferred on a
The participants in the July 31 ceremony, Father Lengwin added, are
ignoring church teaching. "I would say they have freely chosen to separate
themselves from the church," he said.
Mrs. Houk is a cradle Catholic and mother of six. She has served as a
pastoral director in two Kentucky parishes, worked on a marriage tribunal,
taught catechism and the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults and
worked with her husband, John, to prepare engaged couples for marriage.
"The church has to take a stand for women ... that they are the image of
God and are to be respected and treated on an equal, human level. This is
really why I have to do what I am doing," she said in a recent interview.
Presiding at the ceremony will be Patricia Fresen, Gisela Forster and Ida
Raming, who live in Germany and are bishops in Roman Catholic
Womenpriests, an international group of Catholics who support women's
The women claim they are part of the church's valid apostolic succession
because Roman Catholic bishops in good standing ordained them secretly.
The women refuse to name those bishops to protect them from reprisals by
Vatican authorities in Rome.
Ms. Forster and Ms. Raming joined the "Danube Seven," a group of women
ordained on the Danube River near Austria in August 2002.
In January 2003, all seven were excommunicated by Cardinal Joseph
Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI. The women appealed but the decision was
Ms. Fresen belonged to an order of Dominican nuns for 45 years. But she
left her order in 2004 after she was ordained a priest in Barcelona,
Spain, in a secret ceremony. Since 2004, she has lived in a small village
outside of Munich, Germany.
In Roman Catholic tradition, priests and deacons are ordained in churches,
but the Roman Catholic Womenpriests' previous ceremonies were held aboard
boats, on the Danube in 2002 and on the St. Lawrence Seaway near the
Canada coast in August 2005.
"To be honest, the main reason is that no Catholic priest or bishop is
brave enough to give us a church," Ms. Fresen said about the ceremonies on
A boat is one of the earliest Christian symbols of the church. "Jesus ...
taught from a boat. Some of the earliest disciples were fishermen," she
One of the outspoken disciples in the women's ordination movement is Ruth
Steinert Foote, a board member of the Women's Ordination Conference.
In March, Ms. Foote brought Ms. Fresen from Germany to the United States
for six speaking engagements in the Midwest.
"Everywhere that we went, she was received joyfully and loved. She is a
wonderful, holy and grace-filled woman. Patricia Fresen is the person that
will change hearts," Ms. Foote said.
In a recent telephone interview from her home, Ms. Fresen said her
religious order's struggle against apartheid when she lived in South
Africa taught her "a great deal about how to fight against gender
discrimination. For me, they are parallel."
Ms. Foote, an active member of a Catholic parish in Cincinnati, is a
medical technologist and married to an Episcopal priest.
"This movement is not just about the ordination of women. It is about
making the Roman Catholic Church a just institution. If women are made in
the image and likeness of God, they have the same potential to be called
by God that men do," she said.
Christine Schenk, a member of the Sisters of Saint Joseph and executive
director of Future Church, which attempts to effect change within the
church, will not openly support the ceremony in Pittsburgh, she said.
Last year, she attended the International Synod on the Eucharist in Rome.
"We took 35,000 signatures to Rome to petition for the ordination of
married men and opening the diaconate to women. There was, much to my
surprise, a very vigorous discussion about a married priesthood."
Last summer, Ms. Schenk attended the Roman Catholic Womenpriest
ordinations in Canada because a friend of hers was among the candidates.
"I thought, if she had been ordained in the Methodist church, I would have
gone. I have had a number of women Catholic friends who complete their
master's of divinity and then are ordained in other faiths."
The Roman Catholic Church, Ms. Schenk added, has changed more than most
"Taking interest on a loan -- that used to be the gravest of sins. It was
OK to have slaves. Some bishops fought to keep slaves. Eventually, church
teaching changed on that. 'The Mass will always be in Latin,' [Pope] Pius
XII said. Six years later, it was in English."
Marylynne Pitz can be reached at mpitz at post-gazette.com or 412-263-1648.
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