Photo: AP/Gene J. Puskar
Photo: Joe Appel, Pittsburgh Tribune Review
Mercury News: Bay Area woman ordained as
On a chartered boat in Pittsburgh, Emeryville resident Kathleen Strack Kunster, a member of the Roman Catholic Womenpriests, which is dedicated to equal treatment of women in the Roman Catholic Church, was slated to be ordained as a priest this afternoon.
`This ordination, as the first of its kind in the U.S., is a momentous event in the struggle for women's justice and equality in the Catholic Church,` Aisha Taylor, executive director of the Women's Ordination Conference, said in a statement. `We pray that it sparks continued dialogue, growth and change in our church.`
According to Catholic Diocese of Santa Rosa spokeswoman Deirdre Frontczak, Kunster and the other women will not be considered priests and deacons in the eyes of the church following today's ordinations.
`The ordination would not be considered a valid ordination,` Frontczak said. `The church won't recognize their ordination.`
Frontczak said the women could face excommunication from the church, meaning they cannot receive sacrament.
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: Women defy tradition
The women who were ordained came from Pennsylvania, California, Michigan, Florida, Wisconsin and Kentucky. Most were gray-haired, some were married and one was divorced, and another was a self-described "lesbian by birth."
North Side native Joan Clark Houk, 66, the mother of six and a grandmother, said she has helped lead two Catholic parishes that didn't have a resident priest. But the experience was unfulfilling, Houk said, because she couldn't perform the duties of a priest.
"I did this so women will be respected and treated as equals," the McCandless woman said. "Right now, people of God only hear the man's experience and not the women's."
During the ceremony that included the ordination of four deacons, the presiding female bishops frequently made reference to Rosa Parks and Susan B. Anthony, citing them as outspoken critics for women's rights.
Several priests who had left the Catholic church were among the hundreds in attendance.
Bill Hausen said he left the Pittsburgh Diocese after 40 years and was excommunicated after his "common-sense" approach to controversial issues brought him into conflict with the church.
He is now a priest with Christ Hope Ecumenical Catholic Church in Avalon and said when his congregation chooses a new pastor, it will likely be a woman.
"Probably the first person to be picked by the church will be a woman. Women practically run the church, as it is," Hausen said.
Similar ceremonies conducted by Roman Catholic Womenpriests have been held before in other countries, and most of the participants have been excommunicated. The initial seven women ordained in the summer of 2002 on the Danube River in Europe were excommunicated.
Rebecca Denova, an instructor at the University of Pittsburgh's department of religious studies, said the church's ban on female priests is based on a number of cultural, religious and political factors.
"The church keeps putting out these claims that Jesus set it up this way. That's absolutely absurd," said Denova, who was not at the ceremony.
"There is nothing in the Gospels that say that. The Gospels say Jesus had women disciples and women followers. St. Paul refers to some women as apostles and leaders," said Denova, who believes the Vatican eventually will change its stand.
"I hope it does. They have a huge lack of priests. There is no reason women should be banned."
Okay, disturbing images follow. Hope your breakfast has settled.
Eileen McCafferty DiFranco of Mount Airy pours water into a bowl in a "Mingling of Waters" ceremony the community's ordination rites yesterday.
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Group ordains 8 women as priests
The ceremony followed the form of the Catholic rite, but with changes in ritual and language.
Dagmar Celeste, a former first lady of Ohio who was among the group's first ordinands in 2002, said, "Today we give honor to our mother God ... Just as the water broke in the wombs of our mother, so we open the waters of mother church."
In the most traditional part, the candidates -- most of whom are grandmothers or old enough to be so -- prostrated themselves on the floor before a makeshift altar. The congregation chanted a litany of saints with many traditional names, but also those of non-Catholics, such as the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., and whose lives also challenged Catholic teaching, such as Harvey Milk, a gay San Francisco city councilman who was shot to death in 1978.
But at the prayer of consecration, they offered their first Eucharist, "together with Benedict, our pope, and with all our bishops, men and women."
For a variety of reasons, including the fact that none of the women's diocesan bishops gave permission for their ordination, "there is no chance of the Catholic Church accepting the orders," she said.
Patricia Fresen, a bishop in Roman Catholic Womenpriests, compared their movement to the anti-apartheid movement.
"I am utterly convinced that our ordinations are totally valid," she said. "Although they break [canon] law, we believe we are breaking an unjust law. I come from South Africa. We learned from Nelson Mandela and others that if a law is unjust, it must be changed. ... If you cannot change it, you must break it."