Video: A dissident group ordains seven women as priests
By Kevin Coughlin
It was the Lord’s Prayer… but with an updated introduction:
“God, our mother and father … “
And there were a few other little changes in Saturday’s Catholic Mass in Morristown.
For starters, the priests were women.
Which is why the service was celebrated in the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer, not a Catholic sanctuary.
An organization called Roman Catholic Womenpriests ordained seven women, who invited excommunication by defying centuries of canon law from the Vatican.
Pope Francis has been emphatic on the question of women priests, declaring in 2013: “The church has spoken and says no… That door is closed.”
“It’s a man-made law from the middle-Middle Ages that does not ring true to what we know about men and women and who we are as human beings. We have a very different view of humanity today than we did at that time,” countered RCWP Bishop Andrea Johnson, who traveled from Annapolis, MD, to preside over the ordinations.
Johnson said she anticipates women priests eventually will become part of Catholic orthodoxy–because people will demand it.
Sex abuse scandals — which have cost the U.S. Catholic Church nearly $3 billion since 2004, according to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops — could have been averted if women served alongside men as priests, Johnson said.
“I think we would have had a much different scene,” the bishop said. “Investigations would have been immediate and very straightforward.”
Established in Germany in 2002, RCWP now counts about 200 women priests in Europe and North- and South America; the majority are in the United States.
“We are committed to a ministry that is all-inclusive, and we believe that the law of the church that prohibits women from being ordained is an unjust law,” said the Rev. Susan Schessler, a former nun from High Bridge who was ordained into the RCWP priesthood on Saturday.
When the Archdiocese of Newark — unjustly, in her opinion–fired some priests who were her friends, Schessler said she resolved to press for changes by pursuing ordination.
“Enough is enough,” she said.
Asked why she did not convert to the Episcopalian faith, which welcomes female clergy, Schessler said she loves the Catholic church and wishes to help bring reforms.
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“We are prophetic people, believing that the Catholic Church needs reformation in terms of its work in dealing with women, and others as well in the human race,” said Schessler, a nun for 32 years who now volunteers with a Newark group that advocates for the disadvantaged. She plans to establish a ministry in Bergen County.
The other new priests hail from Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and Maryland.
They were installed during a service that ran more than two hours, in front of pews packed with friends and family who applauded and cheered at the event’s conclusion. The ceremony included a ritual in which the initiates prostrated themselves on the church floor.
Traditional hymns were punctuated with liturgical dancing by The Rwandan Women in Diaspora. Communion was offered to everyone. The communion wafer, symbolizing the body of Jesus Christ, was gluten-free. The wine, representing the blood of Christ, was alcohol-free. The women priests received communion after everyone else.
The Rev. Cynthia Black, pastor of Redeemer, said her church was thrilled to host the service.
“It’s part of our DNA to support and be hospitable to women in this way, especially to our Roman sisters,” she said.
Bishop Johnson’s closing blessing was delivered “in the name of our Mother and Father, God.”