Catholic Women Ordained; Taliban Kills Two Women

WOMENSENEWS–CheersSix Catholic women, including two Americans, were ordained as Catholic deacons on June 26 at a service on the Danube River in Passau, Germany. The service was a continuation of a series of ordinations that began in 2002 in the same location, at which point seven women were ordained into the priesthood.For a religious community still in the shadows of the clergy sex abuse scandals, these ordinations are seen as a positive step toward the healing of the Catholic church, according to advocates of female priests.”Women are taking steps to pro-actively create a renewed priestly ministry,” said Joy Barnes, executive director of the Women’s Ordination Conference, a U.S.-based organization that promotes a more equal gender balance in the church. The conference, she added, “affirms women who answer the call to ordination and are public in their witness to the Spirit’s call to them.”The two Americans to enter the priesthood last week are Victoria Rue and Jillian Farley, and they were joined by four women from France, Canada, Latvia and Switzerland. Ida Raming, a German theologian and one of the priests who performed the ordinations of women two years ago, argued that baptism, not gender, determines eligibility for the priesthood. At the 2002 service she said that the opinion of the current church leadership on women priests–as well as the Biblical canons that it is derived from–are “based on a grave lack of respect for the human dignity of women and their Christian existence.”

Women’s Basketball Gains; Gay Cleric Put on Trial

(WOMENSENEWS)–CheersWomen’s college-level basketball is gaining popularity amongst live and television audiences.The National Collegiate Athletic Association women’s basketball tournament begins this Saturday, and The New York Times has reported that the competition is attracting more crowds to its live games and registering higher-then-ever television ratings. The upswing is likely to continue with more young female players training for national competition-level basketball and four women’s college teams having rated No. 1 on The Associated Press Poll of college teams since January 5.”The women’s game is evolving at a rapid rate and at a high level, much like the men did in the early 1980’s,” says Doug Elgin, commissioner of the Missouri Valley Conference that hosts programs and competitions for student athletes. “Much of it has to do with numbers–more young girls are playing and getting better instruction at earlier ages.”There has also been an increase in enrollment by female basketball stars in colleges other than the traditional basketball colleges–Connecticut, Stanford, Tennessee–indicating a wider range of educational possibilities for upcoming competitors.The rise in recognition comes at the same time as a drop in interest in men’s college basketball. With more college-level players jumping to the National Basketball Association, and fewer basketball stars attending college, the state of the men’s game is in decline at a college level.JeersProtesters have been arrested outside a church trial that may remove a lesbian minister from her post at a Methodist church in Bothell, Wash.Rev. Karen Dammann, who leads the Bothell United Methodist Church, was married last week to her partner of nine years, Meredith Savage, in Portland, Oregon, where the Multnomah County officials have begun allowing same sex marriages, reports The Associated Press.

Pro-Choice Clergy Raising Moral, Religious Voice

Pro-choice religious leaders are seeking to enter in the abortion debate with views different from the Catholic hierarchy and fundamentalist leaders. Through books and forums, these leaders are bolstering the moral argument for reproductive rights.

In Age of AIDS, Condom Wars Take Deadly Toll

The Vatican’s anti-contraception campaign–which has an ally in the White House–has just been blocked by a New York court. In places such as Kenya–where HIV is rampant and the Catholic Church has sponsored condom burnings–the effect is ruinous.

Church Lawyer Aids Abused; Military Eyes Are Blind

(WOMENSENEWS)–CheersAfter five years of defending the Roman Catholic Diocese of Galveston-Houston in Texas against sexual abuse lawsuits, Robert Scamardo publicly revealed this week his own sexual abuse by a priest and a lay minister while he was a teen-ager. No longer part of the team that required those abused to sign confidentiality agreements, Scamardo, now 44, has made public the church’s practices to cover up the continuing scandal. Also, he said in an interview in The New York Times, that he may now be an expert witness on behalf of victims of abuse by Catholic priests.Scamardo also told the Times that it was the Catholic Church that demanded confidentiality clauses in settlement agreements, not the victims.David Clohessy, director of the St. Louis-based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests–an organization where Scamardo is now a member–has reported that half of his membership is female. In an interview, however, with Women’s eNews, he added that women tend to underreport their abuse.Scamardo settled with the Diocese of Austin–the district where he was abused–for $250,000 after seven months of battling church lawyers.When Scamardo originally asked for a settlement to cover medical bills, pain and suffering and lost income, the Bishop of Austin claimed, “Any financial settlement would be taken from the money that is given by the parishioners on Sunday in the collection,” reported The New York Times.”If they’re playing the game with me like that this year, then nothing has changed,” said Scamardo in the interview.At the age of 15, Scamardo awoke one night at Catholic convention to find Reverend Dan Delaney, the director for youth ministry, molesting him, reported the Houston Chronicle.

Catholic Church Limits Use of Altar Girls

(WOMENSENEWS)–A proposal drafted by the Vatican, but not yet approved by Pope John Paul II, suggests that altar boys should have preference over altar girls, reported the Washington Post.Citing a leaked directive published in the Jesus Magazine, a Catholic monthly, the Post reported that the proposal calls for permitting altar girls to serve only when there is “just pastoral cause,” a phrase not defined in the document.”We had a whole generation of girls and women angry that they could not be servers at Mass,” Thomas Reese, Jesuit priest and editor in chief of the Catholic magazine America, told the Post. “We don’t need this grief.”Pope John Paul II is generally seen as conservative and has made his opposition to the ordination of women widely known in the strongest of terms. However, in 1994, the Vatican gave bishops the authority to allow altar girls to serve at Mass and the practice is now widespread.– Carline Bennett.