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* Pope Francis’ Logic Suggests a Woman

* One of my favourite reads

* CNWE National Conference, Ottawa, ON – May 26-28, 2017

* Of Francis and feminism

* Now is the time for married priests

* Syro-Malabar Catholic Church to exclude women in feet-washing ceremony

* Sri Lankan bishops want women in washing of feet

* The power and problems of Pentecostalism

* Continuing Features

* Comments to the Editor

* Francis, the comic strip

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CNWE National Conference 
Ottawa, ON – May 26-28, 2017

Plan now to attend this exciting conference at St. Paul University, with keynote speaker Sr. Christine Schenk, founder of Future Church (USA). 

2017 is Canada’s Sesquicentennial so perhaps add a few days to your trip and join in the celebrations!

For more information click here.

Of Francis and feminism

Christine Schenk  |  Mar. 15, 2017

Four years ago this week, I stood in St. Peter's Square nervously watching white smoke billow from the Sistine chimney. Rumor had it that if the election went quickly, as this one had, the new pope would be conservative. This did not bode well for advancing gender balance in church decision-making.

But as Jorge Bergoglio bent low to receive the blessing he had humbly requested from thousands of rain-soaked Catholics, I dared hope that a new respect for the spiritual giftedness of all the people of God (and not just clerics) might at last be at hand.

Four years on, what can be said of Francis' papacy as it relates to women in the church?

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Now is the time for married priests

Thomas Reese  |  Mar. 16, 2017

It is time for the Catholic bishops to stop hoping for an increase in vocations to the celibate priesthood and to acknowledge that the church needs married priests to serve the people of God. We cannot have a Catholic Church without sacraments, and a priest is needed for the Eucharist, confession, and anointing.

At the Last Supper, Jesus said, “Do this in memory of me,” not “have a celibate priesthood.” The need for the Eucharist trumps having a celibate priesthood.

Read More

Syro-Malabar Catholic Church to exclude women in feet-washing ceremony

T.K. Devasia | March 31, 2017

The Syro-Malabar Church in India has directed its parishes not to include women in the feet-washing ceremony on Maundy Thursday with the major archbishop of that Eastern Catholic church saying that Pope Francis' directive to include women apply only to the Latin rite.

Cardinal George Alencherry of Ernakulam-Angamaly, major archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church said in a circular that the decision of its synod is to continue with its tradition of washing the feet of 12 men or boys during Maundy Thursday. The ceremony that commemorates Jesus' washing the feet of his disciples at the Last Supper falls April 13 this year.

Pope Francis had last year instructed the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments to effect the changes in the rubric of the missal regarding the washing of the feet.

Sri Lankan bishops want women in washing of feet

ucanews.com reporter | February 19, 2016

Sri Lankan bishops have asked that priests follow Pope Francis' instruction of including women in the washing of the feet during Mass on Holy Thursday.*

"Pastors may select for the washing of the feet, a small group of the faithful to represent in variety and unity each part of the people of God," said Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo, president of the Sri Lankan bishops' conference, in a statement Feb. 19.

"Such small groups can be made up of men and women, and it is appropriate that they consist of people young and old, healthy and sick, clerics, consecrated men and women and laity," the cardinal said.

Pope Francis had in January instructed the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments to effect the changes in the rubric of the missal regarding the washing of the feet.

This new directive will take effect on Holy Thursday, March 24.

The power and problems of Pentecostalism

Fr. Dwight Longenecker | March 31, 2017

As a former Evangelical, I can explain some of the strengths of Evangelical churches.

Evangelicalism has always been a primitivist movement. That is to say, Evangelicals are energized by the belief that they are returning to the essential, primitive forms of Christianity.

Their conviction is that they are going back to basics, and while this is largely an illusion, it does create eight characteristics that attract Catholics and which provide a critique of a Catholic Church that is too often institutionalized and ossified.

Read More

    Comments to the Editor

I have two kinds of comments

1. What the title above says to me, and
2. My thoughts on each point in Kevin’s article.

Returning:  Can we actually “return” to how the original Jewish community of “The Way” (as they were called) lived their faith?  This would mean living in community, sharing everything etc. as described in the NT.  The closest I can think of is already happening in the many small faith communities.  Perhaps this is a natural response to the big anonymous church gatherings.
God’s revelation in Jesus:  Listening to preachers, one get’s the impression that the message of Jesus was a new revelation, something never heard before, as if previous generations were somewhat deprived.  I find that hard to swallow.  I believe that God loves all humanity equally.  So all that Jesus said was already revealed by God to humanity before Jesus, just in a different way.
Jesus as the Christ:  The Jews already believed in Christ, not to be confused with the historical Jesus.  Christ means “the anointed one”, which for the Jews was called the Messiah.

When Jesus was crucified, the disciples at first suffered a great delusion – how could Jesus be the Messiah who was to make them free.  They were still a subjugated people.
So here is what we can imagine happened.  In a similar way that charismatic leaders of our own day, (however misguided we think they are), are able to capture the minds and hearts of their followers, what happened to the apostles is certainly believable.
In their trauma after the crucifixion, trying to make sense of their dashed high hopes in witnessing the death of their charismatic rabbi, it suddenly dawned on probably a few at first, that Jesus was not talking about a mere political freedom from Rome, but about a greater human freedom possible only by unconditional love.
In their enthusiasm, little by little, the others “saw the light” so to speak.  And this is the “resurrection” of Jesus, the embodied example of God’s love, spoken in the language of their time:  “I and the Father are one (John 10:30)”; “the kingdom of God is within you (Luke 17:20)” etc.  When all the pieces suddenly fell into place, imagine their relief and depth of joy! Now they understood what it meant when Jesus told them that “the Holy Spirit will come upon you” (acts 1:11).
Comments on each point in Kevin’s article.  Briefly; lots of signs of hope:
1. Original sin – Augustine’s idea that we are ‘born in sin’ is being challenged by evolutionary science.  Many preachers are either avoiding the subject, or preaching that we are not just dust of the earth, but truly “stardust”.  Writings of contemporary theologians indicate that atonement theology is losing it’s credibility.  Preachers today can interpret Baptism in a different way than “washing away original sin”.
2. Dualism – We are slowly emerging from dualism, a black and white world, us and them.  This is manifest in the worldwide feminist movement and LGBT acceptance, etc.
3. Humanity vs nature – Laudato Si coming from the pope is quoted even by non-catholics.
4. Priesthood, clericalism – Sadly there are still seminaries that turn out clericalist young priests who think their excrement doesn’t stink.  Good for Pope Francis in his fight against clericalism in the Vatican itself.  This would have been unthinkable before him.
5. Laity – Hooray for Vatican II with the amazing announcement that the Church is “the People of God” and does not belong to the pope and hierarchy.  As ‘lay’ people are doing more ministry, they are more and more conscious of their importance in being the bearers of “the good news”.
6. Central authority – This will be a tough nut to crack.  As the saying goes “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. Once in power, it takes great courage to give it up.  There doesn’t seem to be much of that either in the church or society in general.  The teaching of Jesus to be the servant of all is hard to swallow.
7. Inclusion – There are attempts being made for greater understanding of the world “catholic” which means inclusion of everyone regardless of their religion.  The Assisi gatherings are a sign of hope.
8. Church and the world – The old idea taught by the Church that, ‘the world, the flesh and the devil’ are out to get you, must go.  The world is our home and family. We need to work at making it better.  The flesh, our bodies are the temple of God, and to be nurtured as God’s beautiful gift.
9. Women – The brave women being ordained are a sign that if institutions do not render justice, it will simply be taken.
10. Indigenous people – It may not have been ourselves personally who have hurt indigenous people.  But they have been hurt.  We are all God’s family.  They are our brothers and sisters.  If we believe and act on that, then justice and love will be served. Thank the brave men and women who take part in the peace and reconciliation meetings.
11. Science and religion – At last, the gap between science and religion is closing.

Emil Kutarna, Regina, SK

I have a concern with one of the topics listed [Now is the time for married priests.]  I have not read the article yet.
Where does Roman Catholic Women Priests stand on the church ordaining married men while they are not ordaining any women priests yet?  This change would result in gender segregation with all men having all rule over all women.  I personally would fight aggressively against the church ordaining married men if they are not also ordaining married women to priesthood.
However, I don’t know what your group’s stand on this is.  Could you let me know?
Peace and Blessings,
Nora Bolcon

[This timely topic will be proposed to a group session of RCWP Canada -- ed.]

Continuing Features:

Statement of RCWP Canada National Leadership Circle to Pope Francis' "Never, never . . . In that direction" assertion

Sara Butler, MSBT / Robert J. Egan, SJ Debate on the Ordination of Women

Women Priests -- Answering the Call


See preface from the book by Catherine Cavanagh -- click here

Editor's note:  The author has given permission to download for free the complete 48 page booklet and read on your computer or e-reader

Click here for pdf format of Women Priests -- Following the Call

My Journey From Silence to Solidarity

This book available for free as a pdf file downloaded here.

Book length pdf file.



On May 12, 2016 Pope Francis  announced that he will create a commission to study the possibility of restoring the tradition of ordaining women deacons in the Catholic Church.

Follow this special section to stay up to date and get insights and commentary on developments from many news sources.

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Towards a new model of Christianity:

Historical accumulations seem to have diminished or even distorted the Charism of God's Revelation in Jesus and the Spirit, but what if the Church had chosen other paths in its mission?

Kevin Treston | April 2, 2017

These historical accumulations are posed as a series of 'What ifs?' – asking questions of 'what if' the church had chosen other paths in its mission?  Each of the themes is embedded within complex political, theological, philosophical, cultural contexts which defy any simple analysis here.

The doctrine of Original Sin...

'What if' the church had never chosen Augustine's teachings on original sin as an official doctrine of the church to be held by all the faithful? 'What if' the teaching church instead had chosen teachings that reflected the experiences of parents with their new born children, what neuroscience tells us about the newborn, what the bible says about sin, that is, we are born with a propensity towards both altruism and sinfulness as we mature. We are not born as a sinful race, birth-marked by inherited sin. Without the doctrine of original sin Christian spirituality would have been much more positive about our humanity and less obsessed with sin. The impulse for the redeeming mission of Jesus would have been expressed differently.


'What if' we were encouraged to live as holistic beings within the oneness of the universe? 'What if' the church had firmly resisted the insidious and pervading influences of dualism – body/spirit, matter/soul, heaven/earth?' These dualistic influences spanned the centuries of Christian life through heresies such as, Gnosticism, Manichaeism, Albigensians and Jansenism. 'What if' the church had confronted the bias towards the 'other-world' spirituality and celebrated more comprehensively the 'this-world' spirituality? 'What if' the rejection of dualism had empowered the church to develop holistic teachings on sexuality? A holistic appreciation of human sexuality would have composed a very different document than Humanae Vitae (1968) and official teachings on LGBT people would have been more biologically authentic and compassionate.

Humanity being separated from nature and creation...

'What if' humanity had not become separated from creation? For over a thousand years the 'Two Books of God' — the book of the Bible and the book of Nature were honoured in Christian thinking. When we read sayings by such luminaries as St Bernard of Clairvaux, Hildegard of Bingen, St Francis of Assisi, St Bonaventure and Meister Eckhart as well as the influence of monastic farming traditions, we recognise how the Two Books of God were honoured. However after the rise of the scientific revolution in the 16th century, the bible becoming more widely accessible through printing and the excessive intellectualism of late scholasticism, the Book of Nature was relegated to the fringes of Christianity and the Romantics. However the Catholic principle of sacramentality endured, especially in sacramental theology and liturgy.  In more recent years there is a slow recovery of a theology of creation in mainstream Christianity (see Laudato Si 2015).

Priesthood – from ministry to clericalism...

'What if' the development of the ministry of priesthood had remained within the Christian community as a service to that community and not as a cultic office?

Laity – from People of God to passive membership...

'What if' the followers of Jesus had not become separated into clergy and laity with laity becoming the passive members of the church?

Centralisation of authority and the role of the curia...

'What if' the church had not based its structures on the administrative structures of the Roman Empire during the first four centuries?

Inclusion – a movement from catholic to exclusion and separateness...

'What if' differences within the Christian community were utilised for reconciliation and growth rather than recriminations, mutual excommunications and exclusion?

Church and world...

'What if' Augustine had never composed writings about two worlds, the City of God and the City of the World (410)?

Subordination of women...

'What if' the wisdoms and gifts of women throughout the 2000 years of Christianity were utilised through the full participation of women in all levels of church life, including liturgical leadership?

The church and indigenous people...

'What if' the evangelising church initially had listened to the stories and traditions of indigenous people while preaching the Good News?

Relationship between science and religion...

'What if' the church after the 16th century, faced the extraordinary advances in science, responded with an openness to discern how both science and religion might contribute to the well being of humanity and world? 


The themes stated above are simply a sample of historical accumulations in the 2000 years of Christianity. Readers would readily identify with other significant themes. Follow the conversation on our forum.  In identifying these themes, it is important not to highlight the negative contribution of Christianity to the wellbeing of people and creation. Literally billions of Christians throughout the 2000 years have experienced God's love and healing grace, have courageously worked for justice and found spiritual solace in the church. Reflecting on the accumulations is not an exercise in self-flagellation but an invitation to authenticate how the gospel might be celebrated and lived more faithfully to the life and teachings of Jesus the Christ. Christians cannot reverse historical events but it can and must recover the essence of the Jesus as the Christ experience.

What a graced opportunity for the Christian church to return to its original charism of God's revelation in Jesus as the Christ!

Read More of the author's commentary on the 'what ifs', think about your own 'what ifs', and share them with others by sending them to the RCWP Canada website editor at rcwpcanada@outlook.com.

Pope Francis’ Logic Suggests a Woman Pope

Mike Rivage-Seul | April 2, 2017

Three years ago, I published a homily inspired by Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel (JG). I noted that what the pope said about women there was surprising and hopeful. In fact, I said, it suggested that women should run the church from top to bottom!

I still hold that opinion, even though The Joy of the Gospel and the pope’s even more important eco-encyclical, Laudato Si’, have virtually passed into oblivion. Neither is referenced much by the Church’s mostly backward-looking clergy educated under the reactionary pontiffs, John Paul II and Benedict XVI. They would rather talk about abortion and gay marriage.

My observations of three years ago remain relevant to the gospel reading – the familiar story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well. The narrative says a lot about Jesus and his “preferential option” for women. It also exemplifies once again how the women in Jesus’ life were more perceptive and courageous leaders than the rather dull, timorous men with whom he surrounded himself.

Pope Francis, if not exactly on the same page as Jesus, remains only a few paragraphs behind. He might even lag a sentence or two behind his own reasoning processes.

Before I explain, recall the gospel episode.

There, Jesus finds himself in Samaria among “those people” the Jews hated. Since the reasons for the hatred were located in Israel’s distant past, many Jews probably remained foggy about the exact reasons for their anti-Samaritanism. No matter: they had no doubts that Samaritans were despicable. [Just to remind you: Samaritans were the ones in Israel’s Northern Kingdom who seven centuries earlier had intermarried with Assyrian occupiers. Like “collaborators” everywhere, Samaritans were considered unpatriotic traitors. Religiously they were seen as enemies of God – apostates who had accommodated their religious beliefs to those of foreign occupation forces. (Grudges connected with foreign occupation and religion die hard.)]

In any case, in the gospel we have the counter-cultural Jesus once again on the social margins transgressing his people’s most cherished taboos. It’s not bad enough that he is in Samaria at all. He’s there conversing alone with a woman, and a Samaritan woman at that! (What kind of self-respecting rabbi would do either?) And besides, it’s a loose woman who’s his partner in conversation. She has a shady past that continues to darken her life. She’s been married five times and is currently living with a man without benefit of wedlock.

Yet the compassionate Jesus eschews moralism and instead of scolding chooses this marginal woman to reveal his identity in ways more direct than to his male disciples. With no word of reproach, he tells her clearly, “I am the Messiah, the source of ‘living water’ that quenches thirst forever.” After her literalist failures to grasp Jesus’ spiritual imagery, the woman finally “gets it.” She calls her neighbors and shares the good news: “Come see a man who told me everything I have done. Could he possibly be the Christ?”

In sharing her good news, the Samaritan woman not only illustrates the privileged position of women in early Christian traditions (like the Gospel of John), she epitomizes as well the corresponding “missionary” role that Pope Francis centralizes in the Apostolic Exhortation that my friends and I have been discussing during Lent. There we find that, following Jesus, Pope Francis expresses a “preferential option” for women. He even suggests that women should be in charge before male priests and bishops.

I know; I know . . . You’re probably thinking, “But aren’t women the weak point of the pope’s ‘Exhortation?’”

True: that’s what everyone said immediately following its publication in 2013. Commentators said that Francis simply endorsed the position of his two conservative predecessors and excluded women from the priesthood. That said it all, they declared. It’s right there in black and white: the exclusively male priesthood is not open to discussion (104).

But there was more – lots more.

That is, while Francis’ rather wishful (and, of course, impossible) thinking clearly says “the reservation of the priesthood to males . . . is not a question open to discussion” (104), his prohibition actually downgrades the priesthood and bishops in the process, while raising to unprecedented heights the position of women precisely as women.

The pope’s reasoning runs like this:

Why should women consider the priesthood so important? After all, it’s just one ecclesiastical function among others. That function is simply to “administer the sacrament of the Eucharist.” Apart from that, the priest has no real power or special dignity (104).

Real Christian power and dignity come from baptism, not from ordination – or in the pope’s words: “The ministerial priesthood is one means employed by Jesus for the service of his people, yet our great dignity derives from baptism, which is accessible to all.” These words pull priests off their traditional pedestals and return them to the rank and file of “the People of God” along with other servants of their peers.
Even more, according to the pope, women enjoy a dignity above bishops simply in virtue of their gender. The pope sets the stage for this conclusion by stating, “Indeed, a woman, Mary, is more important than the bishops” (104).

Moreover, Mary “is the icon of womanhood” itself (285). That is, by looking at her, we see the idealized position that women should occupy – above both priests and bishops.

According to Francis, this realization opens the door to women assuming unprecedentedly powerful positions in the church.

He writes, “. . . we need to create still broader opportunities for more incisive female presence in the church (103). So he urges “pastors and theologians . . . to recognize more fully what this entails with regard to the possible role of women in decision-making in different areas of the Church’s life” (104).

As one of those theologians the pope references, I suggest that his words in other parts of his Exhortation direct us to put women in charge of the church as a whole – including the papacy itself. After all:

*“The church is a mother, and . . . she preaches in the same way that a mother speaks to her child” (139). (Why then expect men to preach like a woman?)

*The faith of the church is like Mary’s womb (285). (This means that faith nourishes Christians in a uniquely feminine way.)

*“. . . (E)very Christian is . . . a bride of God’s word, a mother of Christ, his daughter and sister . . .” (285). (“Every Christian!” Is it possible to issue a clearer invitation to men – including the hierarchy – to recognize their own feminine qualities so essential to Christian identity? And who can better exemplify and evoke those qualities than women leaders?)
The “female genius” (with its “sensitivity, intuition and other distinctive skill sets”) equips women more than men to be the out-going missionaries the pope’s Exhortation centralizes (103).

*And since “missionary outreach is paradigmatic for all the Church’s activity” (15), it seems that women “more than men” are uniquely equipped to embody the essence of what the church should be doing in the world.

My conclusion from all of this is simple. Regarding women, Pope Francis is far more radical than most realize (perhaps including himself). In fact, Francis’ “preferential option for women” actually mirrors Jesus’ choice expressed so fully in the gospel. There Jesus chooses a woman as an apostle (“one sent”) and preacher. Her simple words referencing her own uniquely feminine experience (“everything I’ve ever done”) persuade her village neighbors to meet Jesus and spend time with him. They then draw their own conclusions. They say, “We no longer believe because of your word; for we have heard for ourselves . . .”

All of this indicates that truly following the rabbi from Nazareth means thinking for ourselves and moving even beyond the pope’s perception of his words’ implications. Those words imply that the church and its mission are more feminine than masculine. They suggest that if only men (because of their physical resemblance to Jesus) can perform the newly demoted function of priest, then women’s physical resemblance to Mary uniquely qualifies them for offices “more important than the bishops.”

In the church hierarchy, what’s above a bishop? A cardinal, of course. And the pope is always drawn from the College of Cardinals. Hmm . . . .

Move over, Francis, make way for Pope FrancEs THE FIRST!

Used with permission of the author
Mike Rivage-Seul's Blog

One of my favourite reads
Abounding in Kindness: Writings for the People of God by Elizabeth A. Johnson, (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 2015).

This book is a collection of writings and addresses given over a period of time and reflects her easy style of both writing and speaking to general audiences.  While I found it easy to read, the depth of theology and spirituality doesn't disappoint. Much of it has been previously published so as I read it I recognized some of her thoughts to be from Consider Jesus, or She Who Is, or Truly our Sister, or Ask the Beasts, or Quest for the Living God. (The latter book propelled her to the spotlight because of her comeuppance with the USCCB Committee on Doctrine in 2011).

She has organized this book in four parts loosely following the pattern of the Christian creed.  She starts with the issue of belief itself and moves through the mystery of God the Creator, Jesus the Christ-Sophia, and the work of the Sacred Spirit which incorporates issues about justice, spirituality, and community.  She maintains in the introduction that it is not intended be a commentary on the creed or a discussion of its components.  She used this approach as a convenient arrangement of the broad range of topics she covers. 

With her clear, sometimes poetic style, the essays invite readers to muse about different aspects of Christian faith.  As an eminent feminist theologian, she poses questions and considerations from that perspective -  “What does it mean that...?” and “What if it were another way...?”  Such questions help to transform the way we think about God, faith, and church, and subsequently what we believe about each of these, and ultimately how we live that in our everyday lives.

This book is one that can be picked up and opened to any page; the reader will be richly rewarded.  It is also one that is hard to put down.  I highly recommend this book for group study.  The discussions are sure to be lively and rewarding.

(Elizabeth A. Johnson is a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph and is Distinguished Professor of Theology at Fordham University, NY.  She is a former president of the Catholic Theological Society of America and has received numerous awards for her work including the John Courtney Murray Award for distinguished achievement in theology.)

Jane Kryzanowski, RCWP Canada,
Regina, SK

Five years a priest; now in paliative care

Editor | April 2, 2017

Rev. Ruthie Wasylenko celebrated five years of priesthood within RCWP Canada on March 31, 2017.  Ruthie is now in palliative care.  Please keep her and her community, the Emmaus Inclusive Catholic Community, Edmonton, in your prayers.

All welcome to woman priest's Catholic Mass in Pickering, ON

Kristen Calis | April 10, 2017

Rev. Roberta Fuller will begin celebrating Catholic Mass at Dunbarton-Fairport United Church in the spring. She is part of a small group of women in Canada who have been ordained as Catholic women priests.

The offer to hold Catholic liturgy at the United Church in Pickering is one Fuller gladly took up, as the Roman Catholic Church does not recognize women as priests.
Fuller is one of 12 priests belonging to Roman Catholic Women Priests (RCWP) Canada, and feels she’s been called into priesthood.

“I’ve always been a feminist,” she says. “I believe women’s rights are human rights. I wanted to reach out to people.”

Read More

Francis, the comic strip                                                                                                           Francis Comic Strip Archive
by Pat Marrin | January 24, 2017
National Catholic Reporter

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