Saturday, April 28, 2007

Catholics quiz Archbishop Meyer

~from NJ Star-Ledger

What would you ask Archbishop John Myers if you had the chance to talk to the leader of more than 1 million Catholics in the Newark Archdiocese? If the responses we received when we posed that question a few weeks ago are any indication, you want to talk to him about spiritual, political and financial issues facing the church. The questions asked most often by our readers were about eulogies, about sex-scandal cases and about the decision to bar groups such as Voice of the Faithful from using church facilities.

Q. The topic of ordination of married men and women to the priesthood and diaconate has been discussed as a solution to the dwindling numbers of competent ministers in the church. Does the archbishop expect that women and married men will be welcomed into full participation in ministry in the near future?

A. The topics associated with ordination are examined in an ongoing way by church leadership. Such decisions are reached at a higher level than that of the diocesan bishop. In general, even recent discussions have reached the conclusion first of all that the church is not authorized to ordain women in the Sacrament of Holy Orders and that the Church of the Latin Rite will continue to restrict Ordination of the Priesthood to men who are also called to celibacy. I do not anticipate this discipline changing. Certain Eastern Rites of the Catholic church do ordain married men as well, but they are rare in our area. The same is true of some married clergy converts from other Christian traditions. The church does permit married men who are properly prepared and meet other conditions to be ordained to the Diaconate. I do not anticipate this discipline changing.

Q. How do you reconcile the Catholic church's exclusion of women from the priesthood with Christ's inclusion of women as his followers in ways that often challenged the cultural traditions of His time, (i.e., speaking with the Samaritan woman, traveling with women in his company, etc.).

A. Women played an important part in the life and ministry of Jesus. This is clear from the gospel accounts. It is also clear that, even though Jesus did not hesitate to challenge the culture and society in which he lived, he did not include women among the ordained leadership of the church. This is why the pope and the ecumenical councils have determined that the church is not free to change the practice as established by Jesus. This in no way intends to belittle the role of women in the church. Women have long held significant leadership roles and had great influence in the life of the church. I am confident and happy that this will continue. Both lay women and women religious (sisters and nuns) make great contributions to church life and church administration today on the archdiocesan and parish level. They are great contributors in the decision-making process, pastoral life and Catholic education. Sisters and nuns bring a unique grace to the church community through their witness of community prayer and energetic good works. The Catholic church cherishes the gift of feminine sensitivity and the intuitive insight of laywomen and women religious.

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