This blog started out as a companion piece to my book, Musings from the Christian Left (excerpts of which can be found in the July 2004 link) and to support a planned radio show. Now, its simply a long term writing project from a Christian Left Libertarian perspective (meaning I often argue for liberty within the (Catholic) Church, rather than liberty because the church takes care of a conservative view of morality.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Apostolic visitation to American nuns, women priests, abortion and altar girls

For those of you who don't read the Catholic press, there is currently an apostolic visitation going on among the congregations of American women. No reason has been given for this - however many regard the exercise as a witch hunt for heretics - possibly for those who support ordaining women to the priesthood. It could also have to do with making sure that congregations which cannot afford to care for their elderly members are taken care of. Let us hope it is the latter and not the former. For more information on this whole matter, see the National Catholic Reporter, which gives much ink to this issue. Here is the latest commentary: http://ncronline.org/news/us-sisters-have-served-grace-and-fidelity

The reason many think the former is true is because many congregation members came to the defense of Father Ray Bourgois when the Vatican threatened excommunication for his participation in the ordination of women as priests by a break away sect which does that kind of thing. This probably has some basis in fact, although we many never know. Certainly there is scriptural and traditional basis for women as priests, as some women were mentioned to be Apostles by St. Paul, including the benefactor of the Roman Church, Priscilla. Indeed, she may have been the first "Bishop of Rome" before Peter arrived, since some think that Benefactor was a synonym for Bishop or Pastor. It is also related in some tradition that the Agape Meal, which was the forerunner of the Mass, was often hosted and presided over by women in the early church. Most importantly, the first apostle was Mary Magdalene, since she was the first to witness the resurrection and likely had a leading role in where ever St. John wrote his Gospel, which some say was Alexandria, Egypt. It would seem that John, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Jesus went that way while James the son of Joseph and others stayed in Jerusalem - with that community relocating to Damascus after the fall of Jerusalem.

Many in the pro-choice movement believe that the desire to make abortion illegal has more to do with keeping women in their place, particularly among Catholic prelates. There is an easy way to dispel this perception - ordain women and give the leaders of the congregations of women the same honors as some leaders of congregations of men - consecrate them as Bishops and give them a diocese or two. Indeed, red hats (cardinalates) should not be out of the question. Indeed, the Orthodox Metropolitan of Greece has ordained women as deacons, mainly those who serve in congregations of women.

This whole controversy brings to mind the question of altar girls, which serve in my parish. When this question was being considered, I found myself attending early morning Mass at St. Mary's in Alexandria, Virginia. The pastor gave his reasoning for not having altar girls there. He based his reasoning on the fact that being an altar server was seen as a recruiting device for the priesthood, so letting girls serve in this capacity would send the wrong message. I agree that letting girls serve on the altar does send that message, which is why I, and I believe many progressive Catholics, favor the practice.

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