My initial response was: WTF? That’s now our job? It’s up to women to save the Roman Catholic Patriarchy from the sick mess it created? Fuck that.
The article‘s headline phrased things a little better, though, saying: A Woman’s Place Is In the Church: The cause of the Catholic clergy’s sex abuse scandal is no mystery: insular groups of men often do bad things. So why not break up the all-male club?
Well, yeah. That would be a good start. And despite the Vatican’s unrelenting opposition to ordaining women, there are renegade Catholics doing just that. Commenter JDRegent sent me this Chicago Tribune article about Janine Denomme, a woman about to be ordained by a group of Catholic women known as Roman Catholic Womenpriests, whose mission is: to spiritually prepare, ordain, and support women and men from all states of life, who are theologically qualified, who are committed to an inclusive model of Church, and who are called by the Holy Spirit and their communities to minister within the Roman Catholic Church.
Roman Catholic Womenpriests have doing just that since 2002, when they ordained seven women on the banks of the Danube River. Because the Roman Catholic Church (and the Orthodox and most Protestant ones as well) believes in apostolic succession, these women draw their ecclesiastical power directly from the unbroken chain that began when Christ laid hands upon St. Peter. Apostolic succession bestows these women with the same priestly authority in matters of faith, morals, and the valid administration of sacraments. Or at least, that’s how they see it. The Vatican’s Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith does not; they excommunicated the Womenpriests in 2008, and threatened excommunication for any other women or bishops who participate in their ordaination. To which the Womenpriests replied:
Roman Catholic Womenpriests are loyal members of the church who stand in the prophetic tradition of holy obedience to the Spirit’s call to change an unjust law that discriminates against women. Our movement is receiving enthusiastic responses on the local, national and international level. We will continue to serve our beloved church in a renewed priestly ministry that welcomes all to celebrate the sacraments in inclusive, Christ-centered, Spirit-empowered communities wherever we are called.
Pretty fucking awesome, right? If they’re looking to put some Jews in their pews, I’d happily worship with them.
Janine Denomme, the soon-to-be priest the Chicago Tribune profiles, is fighting advanced cancer. But she feels that no matter how much longer she has to live, is her destiny to be a Catholic priest:
Her path to priesthood began in Detroit, where she grew up two blocks from church in an active Catholic household and attended the parish’s grade school. While the other children goofed around during mass, she was paying attention and enjoying it.
“I was kind of a weird kid, I guess,” she said.
After graduating from the University of Detroit Mercy, Denomme moved to Chicago with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps and worked with homeless women. The church “pulled the veil” from her eyes to social injustice.
But Denomme, a lesbian, encountered what she thought were injustices within the church: the lack of opportunities for women and its stance on homosexuality. She tried preaching and ministry in other denominations but kept coming back to her religious roots.
“There’s something about the ritual that’s culturally in my blood,” she said. “I cannot not be a Catholic.”
Maybe the current surge of disillusionment with the Vatican will drive more Catholics to the Womenpriests’ parishes, or to other forms of non-cannonically-approved Catholic worship. It may not be women’s duty to save the Catholic Church—but the ones who want to offer a legitimate alternative may find a more receptive audience these days.