Dignity Canada Dignité

In 1994 John Paul II wrote an apostolic letter (Ordinatio Sacerdotalis) stating that the subject of women’s ordination to the priesthood is no longer open to debate. The teaching that the sacrament of holy orders can be conferred only on a baptized male is considered an infallible teaching of the Catholic faith.

Dignity Canada Dignité dissents with this teaching and works towards the eradication of all constraints on our personhood, based on the ascribed social roles of women as well as men.
- Norman

Roman Catholic group lobbies for female priests

(David Nickerson/Telegraph-Journal)
Judith Meinert hands out information on The Purple Stole Action on Tuesday outside the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Saint John
March 23, 2005

Protesters gathered in silent vigil outside the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Saint John Tuesday as part of a fight to have women ordained as Catholic priests.

Members of the Catholic Network for Women's Equality (CNWE) are devoted Catholics and they love their church, but they want it to change with the times.

The group of about 14 women and two men wore purple stoles, or scarves, around their necks and passed out purple flyers for an hour before entering the church.

"Purple is the traditional colour of penance and renewal in the church. We are here because we have committed ourselves to seek out a community of compassion for all. We believe in that, but we find ourselves in a church that discriminates based on gender," said event organizer Cathy Holtmann.

Ms. Holtmann has a masters degree in theology; she is a part-time professor of Religious Studies at St. Thomas University in Fredericton and has been involved in the movement for 15 years.

"The Purple Stole Action is a symbolic action that creates awareness that there are Catholics working for reform," she said.

"Women are discriminated against, and religion has helped to foster that."

"The Pope has made it consistently clear that the church does not have the authority to ordain women as priests," said the Most Rev. J. Faber MacDonald, bishop of the Roman Catholic diocese of Saint John. "The problem with this issue is that very quickly you will bump up against the fact that Jesus' disciples were men.

"The institution of the ministerial priesthood was given to us by Jesus Christ," said Bishop MacDonald. "You can't stop people from protesting, it is their civic right, but you must remember that the apostles were all men, and there is a statement in that."

Members of CNWE New Brunswick held the vigil to draw attention to the need for clergy and the faithful to work together for women's equality in the Catholic church.

The silent, respectful protest was the third annual vigil held by the group and it coincides with the Mass of Chrism. After the hour-long event, protesters entered the church to attend the Holy Week mass that celebrates the priesthood and blesses the oils used in anointment.

CNWE is an international body that adopted the Purple Stole Action in the early 1990s when women in England organized and began wearing purple scarves while attending mass. Throughout the Catholic world there are protests similar to Tuesday's that take place on March 25, the Feast of the Annunciation and the world day of prayer for women's ordination.

An international conference will take place at Ottawa's Carleton University in July and a few members of CNWE NB will be attending.

"Many people are supportive of our cause, even members of the clergy," said Ms. Holtmann. "Beginning in the 1960s, Canadian bishops were very vocal for the ordination of women, but in 1984 the Pope stopped them from speaking on the subject.

"There is a common belief that God is a man, and therefore man is God. We feel that God is beyond any of our presupposed images. Our work is important, and we are optimistic that, in time, the church will change, even if we don't see it in our lifetime.

"All we want is full membership in our church. The church needs to come to terms with the fact that the women in the world are not going away," said Judith Meinert, who has been a member of CNWE for three years.

"We are here in support of women who have been called to the priesthood but have been denied because of their gender."

"Baptism brings us into the church," said Colleen Grattan Gick, who came from St. Andrews to take part in the protest. "Baptism is supposed to grant us equal membership, but in reality women have no voice in the church. It is not a democracy."

CNWE members maintain that, unlike the church, they do not discriminate based on gender, and there were men who also came to show support.

"You don't have to be a woman to be a feminist," said Mrs. Grattan Gick's husband, Kevin Gick. "I'm here to support the movement for change in the Catholic church. The ordination of women, and the ability of male priests to marry should be brought up for discussion."

Dignity Canada Dignité is Canada's organization of Roman Catholics who are concerned about our church's sexual theology, particularly as it pertains to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered persons. We work in collaboration with other Catholic organizations seeking reform in our church's leadership and teachings.

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