By Claire Bushey
Sunday, August 26, 2007
Two Roman Catholic women were just ordained in Minneapolis, joining a roster that is condemned by Rome. On another front, advocates who prefer to engage the Vatican on female ordination pursue a "Ministry of Irritation."
CHICAGO (WOMENSENEWS)--Alice Iaquinta's classmates, all men, had left her behind.
After studying together for six years at Saint Francis Seminary in Milwaukee, Iaquinta attended the ordination ceremony of one of them, a close friend, in 2006 at the city's cathedral. She noticed a corona of thorns circling the crucifix hanging above the altar.
"As they were called forward, he said, 'Here I am, I am ready,'" she recalled. "I just felt like I'd been stabbed in the heart."
She was ready too, but the Roman Catholic Church does not ordain women.
Iaquinta considered converting to another denomination, but one night, after several hours of research, she closed her computer and told God, "Sorry, I'm Catholic. I'll do whatever you want. You make it happen."
The next day she received an e-mail from a stranger telling her about Roman Catholic Womenpriests. Composed of communities in the United States, Canada and Europe, the group represents an international initiative within the church to ordain women without the blessing of Rome. The group's bishops, including both men and women, have ordained about 25 women as priests since 2002 and another eight as deacons.
Through them Iaquinta was ordained on Aug. 12 in Minneapolis, as was Judith McKloskey of Minnesota.
Iaquinta admitted to still being a little overwhelmed five days later when she arrived in Chicago for Women-Church Convergence, a three-day gathering of female Catholics, sponsored by a coalition of more than 30 groups from across North America, including Mary's Pence in Metuchen, N.J., Catholics for a Free Choice and DignityUSA, both in Washington, D.C.
But she was among like-minded company. For those who attended the Aug. 17-19 conference, women's ordination constituted just one of many struggles to discuss and pray over. There were liturgies praising divine wisdom, workshops on ministering to immigrants and eradicating heterosexism, and keynotes delivered by womanist theologians.
The movement to ordain women as priests in the Roman Catholic Church began in the 1970s and continues today with leaders pursuing a dual approach.
While groups like Roman Catholic Womenpriests forge ahead with ordinations, some organizations try to engage the Vatican, which asserts women are theologically unfit for priesthood.
Women's Ordination Conference, an advocacy organization based in Fairfax, Va., operates a "Ministry of Irritation," which writes letters to bishops, protests their meetings and invites them each March to World Day of Prayer, an ecumenical observation for women around the globe.
Three main obstacles exist to women's ordination.
The first, Canon Law 1024, part of the church's official law, says only baptized men can be ordained.
The second is a 1994 apostolic letter by Pope John Paul II, which declared an end to the official debate over female ordination.
The third and still most controversial is a teaching p