Attempted “Ordinations” on the St. Lawrence River

Most Reverend Anthony G. Meagher, Archbishop of Kingston

Regarding the proposed “priestly ordinations” of several women on 25th July 2005, I wish to clarify several points in order to avoid confusion among Catholics and others of good will:

• Jesus Christ is the source of every priestly vocation. No one – male or female – can assert the right to ordination: No one takes this honor on himself; instead, a person is called by God (Hebrews 5:4);

• The question of the ordination of women has been exhaustively discussed for several decades. Our late Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, definitively confirmed the constant practice of the Church in his 1994 document, Ordinatio sacerdotalis. He taught that it is not a question of policy or discipline, but a “matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself … that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church's faithful”;

• A priestly ordination can be conferred only by a validly ordained bishop upon a candidate who is eligible to be ordained according to Church law. The proposed “ordinations” cannot be called such, as they fail on both counts. Those who plan to confer these “ordinations” do not have the authority to do so; those who plan to be “ordained” are not eligible;

• The organizers of this event claim to be doing so in “international waters”. They will be leaving from and returning to Gananoque, which is in the Archdiocese of Kingston. It is clear that this event does not have the support of the Archdiocese. It is profoundly contrary to both the spirit and the letter of the Church’s law to attempt to create some geographical ambiguity in an effort to legitimize one’s failure to be in communion with the local Church;

• It is obvious that women do much good in the Church, and it is inaccurate to think that priestly ordination is the only route to working for the spread of the Gospel. Lay men and lay women are equally called to sanctify the worlds of work and family, and they do not need to be priests to do so. We must ensure that there exist, in parishes and in the Church, structures which enable women to exercise real leadership based on their own special gifts, their unique awareness of people’s needs, and their understanding of how best to address those needs;

• Finally, it is very important to acknowledge the good faith and integrity of those who sincerely believe in the merit of this issue. While I cannot accept their position, I appreciate their sincerity.

• Jesus said, “I will be with you all days until the end of time.” May a spirit of trust in the Lord and mutual respect mark this moment in the Church’s history.

An Additional Note From Father Peter Timmins

On a personal note, while I consider the "ordinations" to have been an inappropriate response to an understandable frustration, I sense that the end result will be to give a positive thrust to the process of addressing and reducing the dominance of the clerical culture.

I believe that  we are already witnessing a trend toward more and more women accepting official positions of ministry, leadership and influence in our Church and that this, in turn, will relegate to history the exclusive relationship of "ordination" to all of the above.

What I am saying is that the "race" to be ordained to the clerical state may well become less urgent when we are seen to be addressing the above underlying issue which is not only a women's issue...not by a long shot.

Even if the ordination of women does not become less urgent we will at least find ourselves in a better space within which to discuss it.

And so I suggest that the St. Lawrence ordination ceremony was both well intentioned and misguided but that the international publicity given to it will help to lay bare the futility of attempting to maintain an unbalanced clerically dominated structure that will be rendered no less clerical by the ordination of women.

Finally, lest I be misunderstood, I believe in the traditional role of diocesan bishops and the pope. I simply want to see them informed by, inspired by and represented by the best people the Holy Spirit has to offer!

Your comments are welcome.

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