Dissident Catholic group to ordain Kentucky woman as priest

Source: The courier journal

Dissident Catholic group to ordain Kentucky woman as priest

Written by Peter Smith The Courier-Journal

Apr. 24

Rosemarie Smead poses at St. Andrew United Church of Christ. Smead will be ordained April 27 im a service of the dissident group of Roman Catholic Womenpriests. April 16, 2013 / Michael Clevenger/The Courier-Journal

Rosemarie Smead sees herself as preparing all her life for the step she’s about to take.

She was brought up a devout Catholic. She lived for a short time as a cloistered nun. She has theology and counseling degrees. She marched for civil rights in Selma, Ala. — then worked with troubled children there for years. She forged a career as an Indiana University Southeast professor, training school counselors.

Now the petite 70-year-old from Bedford, Ky., is preparing for what she freely admits is a flagrant defiance of Roman Catholic law — specifically Canon 1024, which restricts the priesthood to baptized men.

On Saturday, Smead is scheduled to be ordained by the dissident Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests. The service will take place in a Protestant sanctuary, St. Andrew’s United Church of Christ on Browns Lane.

It will be the first such ordination in Louisville by the decade-old Women Priests group, which has been holding such services around the world.

“It’s illegal, but it’s valid,” said Smead. “In order to challenge this law, we have to break it.”

National and Kentucky polls have shown around two-thirds of all Catholics — but a minority of those who frequently attend Mass — support ordaining women. But church leaders insist that public opinion won’t alter Catholic doctrine.

“Despite the name, the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests is not an entity of the Roman Catholic Church or the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Louisville,” Louisville Archbishop Joseph Kurtz said in a statement. “Its action in carrying out a simulated ordination of Dr. Rosemarie Smead stands in direct opposition to the Roman Catholic Church’s teaching on the priesthood.”

Kurtz said the “simulation of a sacrament carries very serious penal sanctions in Church law, and Catholics should not support or participate.”

In 2008, the Vatican stated that any woman who attempts ordination, and anyone seeking to confer it on her, faces automatic excommunication.

The association’s 2008 ordination of a Lexington, Ky., woman, Janice Sevre-Duszynska, led to the defrocking of a Roman Catholic priest who took a prominent role in the ceremony, Roy Bourgeois of Georgia, who is renowned for leading protests against American support for Latin American military regimes.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says Jesus chose men as his apostles and that they chose men as their successors.

“The Church recognizes herself to be bound by this choice made by the Lord Himself. For this reason, the ordination of women is not possible,” it says.

In the face of such opposition, Smead admits she hesitated to seek ordination at a retirement age, a decision “that would require me to have a great deal of courage and to stand up to the dudes.”

But, she added, “I have never been a stay-in-the-box person. Because of my relationship with God, I have no fear of excommunication.”

The Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests traces its roots to 2002 and says it has ordained about 100 women priests worldwide, including several bishops, many leading small congregations independent from Vatican authority.

Bishop Bridget Mary Meehan of the association said its first bishops were ordained by a Roman Catholic bishop whose name has not been disclosed, giving them valid orders in the line of succession from the apostles.

Advocates for women’s ordination contend there is evidence in ancient texts, burial art and other sources that early churches ordained women.

“We’re reclaiming that earlier tradition,” said Meehan, who will preside at Smead’s ordination. She also cited gospel accounts of Jesus first appearing to women after his resurrection and telling them to bring the good news to others.

“That’s the meaning of the word ‘apostle,’ (one commissioned to) go and tell,” she said.

Meehan said Smead has had “a lifelong call” to serving others and that ordination “would enhance and expand her ministry.”

Smead attended Catholic schools while growing up in Ohio in the 1940s and 1950s. She said she felt a call to serve God and others, but the notion of a woman priest was never discussed then.

“I felt like the best thing I could possibly be is a contemplative nun in a monastery,” Smead said.

She spent about three years at a Carmelite convent but left after her health broke down. “We went to bed at 11 o’clock at night. We got up at 4:30 in the morning,” she said. “I could not deal with the sleep deprivation.”

Eventually she went to Marquette University, where she earned an undergraduate degree in theology. In 1965, she and fellow students took part in the historic march through Selma in support of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil-rights activists.

After a brief marriage, Smead began working toward a doctorate in counseling psychology at Auburn University while starting a clinic in nearby Montgomery, Ala., for children with severe learning disabilities and emotional problems.

She later returned to Selma to direct a treatment program for juvenile delinquents.

“They were lost in the system, but we took them,” she said.

Seeking to train others in similar work, she became professor of counseling education at IUS in New Albany in 1981 and published how-to textbooks on group therapy for children.

Heart attacks in the 1990s prompted Smead to scale back her stressful regimen of teaching, publishing and conference travel. She pursued a new avocation: raising Australian shepherds and bringing them to dog shows, then training children on how to do the same. Smead retired from IUS in 2007.

“All this time I was going to my Catholic church on Sundays, following what I believe is my spiritual life,” she said.

But, she added, “doing couples counseling and family counseling for 40 years, you get pretty darn liberal. … I’ve counseled so many women who would come in crying. They had six kids, and the husband and the priest were saying, ‘Sorry, you cannot use birth control,’ when she was at her wit’s end.”

When Smead learned about Bourgeois’ plight, she looked up the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests online.

She contacted members, began attending its meetings in Cincinnati and was urged to apply for ordination. She said that was an answer to her prayer for direction after retirement.

“I’m in good health,” she said. “I’m not going to sit on my duff. I never have. I need to be giving back.”

Smead took correspondence courses in theology and was ordained a deacon by the association last fall.

Many women priests host small churches, as Smead has begun doing in recent months, calling it Christ Sophia Inclusive Catholic Community. Starting May 11, she’ll be leading monthly services, using space at St. Andrew.

St. Andrew’s pastor, the Rev. Jimmy Watson, said hosting the service was natural for a congregation that welcomes openly gay members and whose denomination was a pioneer in ordaining women.

“These acts reflect the United Church of Christ’s extravagant sense of hospitality and inclusion,” Watson said.

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8 comments on “Dissident Catholic group to ordain Kentucky woman as priest

  1. Poor confused thing! I volunteer to drive south and talk to her, if anybody will go with me! Like, she has some confusion about licit and valid.

    Hey, could I make a site suggestion? Sometimes I have a problem sorting out the posts. First, here, Secretman did not ‘write’ this post as stated. A writer named Peter Smith did. Could you find another verb, like Re-posted by Secretman, or Placed by Secretman, or something like that? Because there doesn’t appear to be any material here except that by the original writer. Since I write myself, it is not a happy surprise to find material of my own posted under someone else’s name, with no attribution (I don’t put my name in the text, as Smith does). And besides it’s hard, then, to follow the thread and follow up on ideas and keep things straight, if who wrote what is jumbled.

    But if material IS added, commentary, then could you please not mix it in with the original article, but make it in a clearly designated separate section? Then you could put the original writer’s name with their material, and put something like Commentary by — Whomever.

    Thank you, loves. I hope you’re all doing well. We appear to have made it through the winter. Thank you for your work and patience.

  2. By the way, how do you post things here? I found this most interesting article, who would have thought Fiji had a religious state? What religion would it have been? I looked all over trying to find info. Also, the Liberians have just petitioned for a religious state, I have a post on it on my blog.

    Here’s the link to the Figi article, if you were to post it as you do with others, don’t put that I ‘wrote’ it because I would have not left out all the good stuff this writer does:


    Regarding religious states, I am re-reading Pritchard’s book about Catholic Loyalism in England after the protestant rebellion. With consideration, it would appear now, to me at least, in retrospect, that those forces that opposed Allen and Parsons were wrong. Allen wanted full-bore focus on restoring the Catholic state, including support of an invasion, and had a detailed plan of reforming the country, all the re-education needed, etc., including reform of the Church, especially in the holiness of the priesthood, unlike Mary’s unplanned response when she had her chance, and failed. Others opposed Allen’s idea and wanted to make peace, and appealed legally to ‘religious freedom of conscience.’ Pritchard notes that it was the latter who ensured the ‘survival’ of Catholicism in England, although Allen’s work was vastly superior in scope.

    But one has to ask, now: did it? Did it survive, actually? Is the liberal wing of Catholicism that is killing us now not the form that ‘survived’? Is it possible for us to make the number of compromises with heresy that are necessary to live under a secular state? (A secular state is just a protestant state further down the road of development and history; it is the inevitable legal structure, given all the ‘faiths’ that accompanied protestantism from the very first day, from the very first minute.)

    The devil used patriotism to deflect Allen’s clarity of vision. Loyalty to the Queen. Loyalty to England. All virtues taught to them when the Catholic state sat with the queen. We were unprepared for a situation where the state turned on us. And perhaps it’s like that here, for many of us. We will see our children in literal chains before we’d allow ourselves to criticize the vision our founding fathers foisted on us.

    The thing is, in realizing how impossible a restoration is (and I do, I do), one can overlook that it might be easier now than it was then. Then it had all the romance of novelty. Freedom! How wonderful it seems! But now we see that it meant freedom to oppress us where the Church had protected us. Around the world there’s a whole bunch of people looking over an economic and moral precipice that was opened by liberalism. They know it. They’re forbidden to say it. Don’t you think the romance is over for the Free Market? We’ve got its drooling, twisted offspring right here in our laps.

  3. 1) My guess would be that Fiji and Liberia would be Muslim “religious” states, if anything, especially now that the smoke of Vatican 2 has betrayed the idea of Catholic States.

    2) How can this woman seriously believe that she is a Catholic and that she can be a priestess in the Catholic Church? These people are so deficient in catechesis–they apparently have almost no knowledge of what the Mass is, what the priesthood is, etc. Really, she looks old enough to remember the Church as it was before the evil council. Perhaps she is a Novus Ordo convert from a Protestant sect? It shows very grave dereliction of duty on the level of the Bishops and above, whose job it is to safeguard and defend the authentic Magesterium. Yet there are women who think that they can be Catholic priestesses. I wonder if they are not also deficient in gray matter.

  4. To Jan B: RE religious states

    I was taught in Catholic Jr High School that history has shown that the best form of government has been a “benevolent dictatorship,” which Catholic Monarchical States actually were. That nun got in a bit of trouble from a few parents, saying such a thing in the good ole USA, I must say. But I never forgot her words, and now I am old enough to believe that she was right. Free Market, Adam Smith type capitalism is a direct outgrowth of the Protestant mentality, as were all the much touted “advances” in civilization such as the so-called Enlightenment, rationalism, Darwinism–all leading into Modernism and culminating in the apparent (the gates of hell, etc) destruction of the Catholic idea of civilization.

    Instead of the Constitution, I would prefer to live under Rerum Novarum, Quadressesimo Anno, and the Gospel. In public High School, they taught me that Franco was a bad man, a fascist dictator. But look at the left wing atheists who fought him, the likes of Ernest Hemmingway and such. Seems I was taught propaganda, not history, in public school.

    America, let us never forget, was founded by radical Protestants, even Freemasons and Deists, and American thought, which is now a gumbo including a healthy dollop of the errors of Russia, has gained prominence, even first place, throughout the world.

    We must make our Five First Saturdays, at least once–the Hierarchy knows what it should do but does not have the courage or the faith to do what needs to be done. We live in a time when the Church is “in eclipse,” as Our Lady foretold at La Salette. Martyrdom may yet be asked of us, before all this is over.

    • Oh this comment by cfburns is so comforting. I’m sorry I didn’t see it until so late! I wish you lived in Chicago and we could share some books.

      We must have the Catholic state. There is simply no other solution. All Europe cries out for it, our own social and economic unraveling ought to wake us up, interim solutions, bubblegum fixes for secularism (as gpmtrad suggests below, we can ‘vote them out’ but we can’t seem to ever get a genuine alternative to vote for, right? and we won’t, because the genuine alternative puts God at the center, and Christ the King, and every other solution denies this most fundamental justice and thus is unable to deliver any other kind of justice) will waste just enough time until it’s too late. That’s what ALWAYS happens.

      Even bad kings . . . . I am so sickened by Obama, and by the process that selects his kind, even bad kings seem more bearable.

  5. I’ve thought over the benevolent king gambit many a time and, in the long run, it IS the best form, because efficient. However, the odds on a succession of bevolents are not impressive. Then, you’re really stuck.

    ‘Round here, at least, for the moment, we can tank the bastards at the poll if we get sufficiently organized and motivated.

  6. Chris Ferrara actually says that the rebels (aka Founding Fathers) created a tyrannical State that has far more power than George III or the other kings could ever have even dreamed of.

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