In 1994 John Paul II wrote an apostolic letter
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.
Roman Catholic group lobbies for female
Judith Meinert hands out
information on The Purple Stole Action on Tuesday outside the
Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Saint John
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 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
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
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
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.
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
"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
CNWE members maintain that, unlike the church, they do not
discriminate based on gender, and there were men who also came to show
"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
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