Monday, September 20, 2010

Rights of Catholic Women In The Public And Private Square

The Philippine bishops exercise their voice in the Philippines Public Square and it's a lot louder than most others. Bishop Olmstead has the only voice in his private square.

Two stories today, each involving an aspect of Catholic theology and the rights of women.  Bishop Olmstead of Phoenix excommunicated a priest over ordaining a woman.  It's amazing to me how fast some bishops can work on some issues and how slow to act on others.  The second story comes from the Philippines where the debate is hot and heavy about a reproductive health bill.  It appears some women are making a macabre statement, or is it really a cry for help?

Priest excommunicated for ordaining woman in Arizona
By Michael Clancy, The Arizona Republic

PHOENIX — A Catholic priest has been excommunicated because he participated in ordaining a woman last month.  (Olmstead was surely quick with his axe for this act.)

The Rev. Vernon Meyer, who had submitted his resignation to the bishop of Phoenix earlier this summer, becomes at least the fifth priest to be ousted from the church under Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted. He was not defrocked, which is a separate penalty.

Meyer was penalized because of his participation in the ordination of Elaine Groppenbacher in Tempe, Ariz., last month.

"Actions such as these are extremely serious and carry with them profoundly harmful consequences for the salvation of the souls participating in this attempted ordination," Olmsted said on the diocese website. (I'm not so sure God cares as much about this as Olmstead does--and no matter the ostentatious theology, Olmstead is not God nor God's voice.)

Meyer, 58, is a longtime pastor and educator in the diocese. He most recently served at St. Patrick's Church in Scottsdale, Ariz.

He founded the Arizona Center for Theological Studies, which offers religious-studies classes.

Meyer said he never doubted his vocation until Olmsted came to Phoenix.

One of the bishop's initial actions was to order nine priests to recant their support of a statement supporting gay rights within churches. Meyer said he removed his name from the statement but began to question the bishop's actions.  (This is the less publicised function of actions like that of Bishop Olmstead.  They force people to look at their own beliefs and make choices they otherwise would prefer to avoid.  They also take away the complacent hypocrisy of those in the center because in Olmstead's case there is no center.)


Fetus dumped in trash heap in QC found with rosary

 GMANews.TV - Phillipines - 9/20/2010
A day after a Catholic archbishop warned of excommunication for those engaging in abortion, another fetus was found abandoned near a trash heap in Quezon City.

Ironically, even though abortion is a no-no for Catholics, it seems that the mother of the abandoned fetus is a Catholic as a rosary was found inside the box where the fetus was placed.

On Sunday, Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales voiced alarm over the abandonment of fetuses in Metro Manila, some near churches.

In a pastoral letter read in churches in the Manila Archdiocese, Rosales said the fetuses indicated abortion remains rampant and is a sign of a “grave moral decadence" that threatens the country.

Radio dzBB's Paulo Santos reported child scavengers found the fetus inside a box thrown into a trash heap along San Mateo Road, Batasan Hills, Quezon City at around 1:00 a.m. on Monday.

Village officials who rushed to the site described the fetus as male, about five to six
months old.

Aside from the rosary, a P5 coin was found inside the box where the fetus was placed, the officials said.

The police are now trying to track down the mother who abandoned the fetus.


Rosales said a deliberately procured abortion is a moral evil and the Church attaches the canonical penalty of excommunication on those who procure and helped obtain it. (How does he know these fetuses aren't due to miscarriage?)

“Abortion is a grave sin against a defenseless life; and for this the severe canonical penalty to perpetuator/s is excommunication," he said.

He added unwanted pregnancies could be avoided if only people are “less selfish, and more disciplined and capable of self control, exercising a strong will, and capable of making sacrifices." (It's really difficult for women to practice 'discipline' in a society which gives all conjugal rights to the male.)

“These are virtues that are much needed in a country of disciplined people," he said.

“The placing and exhibiting of aborted human fetuses in public places are not favored in other cultures, and decent people refuse to do the same," he added......  (Except these are desperate women and sometimes decency is a luxury the desperate can't afford.)

Church partly to blame?

However, a representative of the Reproductive Health Advocacy Network indicated that the Catholic Church hierarchy, which has strongly opposed the reproductive health (RH) bill in the Philippine congress, is partly to blame for the problem.

"The root cause [of abortions] is that these women were not prepared for pregnancy and giving birth," said Beth Angsioco. "The best way to really address the problem is to prevent unwanted and unplanned pregnancies."

She added that "the RH Bill will help women, especially poor women, to plan their families and time pregnancies , pregnancies that they want and are well prepared for."


Bishop Olmstead's penchant for exerting his control through excommunication is a somewhat limited phenomenon in that individuals are paying the price for individual actions.  What's happening in the Philippines is vastly different.  This is a case of the Catholic Bishop's Conference of the Philippines exercising so much influence in the public square that it might just as well run the country, a sentiment expressed by Beth Pangalangan a law professor at the University of the Philippines: 

"I think the problem is that legislators allow themselves to be swayed by the church. They forget that they were elected into office by Filipino people for them to pass laws that will be good for everyone."

"We have very weak legislators who think they cannot survive politically if it were not for the church's support," she said. "What happens is our legislators yield whenever they are threatened by the church. I've said once that it's not really a problem of a powerful church but a problem of a weak state."

Pangalangan added that the problem is not the Catholic church per se but the Roman Catholic hierarchy.


The common thread for me in these two stories is how they put to rest JPII's notion of complimentarity between the sexes.  There isn't any real complimentarity.  In sexual morality there can't be any complimentarity for women when the entire theology was written by celibate males. This is an insane a proposition as if celibate women had written the Church's sexual theology.  What in the world would celibate women actually understand about male sexuality, or for that matter, pregnancy and child birth as these sexual aspects pertained to other women?  They wouldn't, but they would have the self assigned total authority to do so if they held all the episcopal power. 

Married men also have no say in our current system and this is another shame, as it is married men who share the inherent risks women take in pregnancy and child birth, and the responsibilities for raising the children. It's probably no coincidence that the Christian denominations who first sanctioned some form of artificial birth control also have married clergy.  And I won't even get into gay sexuality because that has become the foundational issue used to blind married heterosexual men to their own 'impotency' in defining Catholic sexual morality or their paricipation as full sacramental ministers in the Church.  They too have been assigned a a from of secondary status - deacons only - with no meaningful input in the power structure.

The one line in the above story from the Philipines which speaks volumes is this one: "child scavengers found the fetus inside a box thrown in a trash heap'.  Child scavengers, in a trash heap.  Eleven women per day die in child birth in the Phillipines. Malnutrition is rampant in the poorest women,  fueling miscarriages and infant mortality statistics,  but Philipine Catholics are being asked by their celibate male bishops to adhere to the bishops' concept of a culture of life.  Make no mistake, when it comes to birth control, it is the bishops' concept of the culture of life.  Where ever artifical birth control is available,the vast majority of lay married Catholics use it,----and not always and everywhere for selfish reasons.

As long as our hierarchy is exclusively male and single, (I won't say chaste), the Catholic flock is at the mercy of a unique and non representative group of humanity.  This is especially true for women.  I might have a more charitable attitude about this state of affairs if the members of this uniquely self chosen group actually were service oriented.  But it just seems for far too many of them,  that the further up the food chain and the more isolated an ordained male gets, the less of a connection they have with the reality their flocks actually live.

Every time I read of a Fr. Meyer, or the meeting like the one involving 300 priests in Ireland, I have hope that rank and file Catholic priests are coming to the same conclusions---that the hierarchy is way out of touch, and that's the way Rome wants it in order to protect it's own perogatives.  This state of affairs has to end if only for the sake of Catholic countries like the Phillipines.


  1. It is deeply sad that we continue to witness these excommunications. they serve to remove some of the best and most compassionate priests among us.

    I must continue to believe that God does not wish this, and that someday we shall, through the Spirit introduce a Church that listens to the call of all her children

  2. Perhaps the Spirit is demanding the all God's children act like responsible and accountable adults. A task the leadership seems both unwilling to accept for themselves or to allow for in the laity.

  3. The truth is that they don't know that this is an aborted fetus that was found. It could have been a miscarriage as you've also pointed out Colleen. It makes no sense that there would be a rosary found with the remains if it was an intentional abortion.

    There is way too much hysteria from some quarters in the Church about this issue of abortion, of which they are too willing to cast stones than to understand or hear from the women in their own Church about ways to address the issue that would be helpful. The statistics for mother's who die giving birth in poor countries is an issue that if priests were truly concerned about women and life they would address, but they are not and they turn away from any discussion to resolve the problem. The other issue is the one about the plight of the poor who do not have health care, are very vulnerable to having a miscarriage due to that lack of health care and are also vulnerable to death in childbirth for the same reason - No health care and a diet that is less than adequate for even a dog to live on, let alone a pregnant woman to live on.

    The Church is very quick to condemn others and loves to assume the leadership role, but it is leading only to a dead end street.

  4. "Actions such as these are extremely serious and carry with them profoundly harmful consequences for the salvation of the souls participating in this attempted ordination." How dare this Bishop make such a statement when he and his fellow bishops were involved in covering up sex abuse. They have lost all moral authority to speak about salvation of souls!!

  5. Mary, I was going to comment on that particular line and then had to delete about six attempts. It's incomprehensible to me that he could really believe this, but then I thought the alternative, that he's wreaking havoc like this because he's only towing the company line, is actually worse.

  6. "One of the bishop's initial actions was to order nine priests to recant their support of a statement supporting gay rights within churches."

    The Bishop is acting like a secular tyrant and not a shepherd of Christ. He's quite the control freak towards the lowerarchy to "order" priests to "recant" on an issue in which by their God given free will they had decided.

  7. Butterfly has put her finger on the crux of the matter. Freedom of conscience.

    Apparently the priesthood, under papal authority, has now been deprived of freedom of conscience. Indeed, Rome now recognizes only one person having that freedom - that being the pope. For, as the pope recently reminded everybody, even cardinals are exempt from rebuking one another. Only the pope can rebuke a cardinal. And all down the line it goes....

  8. Here is an excellent link I found to read regarding Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted.

    Olmsted is responsible for a lot of firing of priests and/or excommunicating them if they don't tow the line he wants them to tow.

    He sounds more like a politician or lawyer than a priest. He seems more focused on fishing for souls to feed to the lions in the Coliseum, I mean public square, than in saving anything.

  9. I think it is a matter of freedom of conscience too. The trouble is the hierarchy does NOT see it that way. Their version of 'my way or the highway' is that nobody has the right to exercise an 'ill-formed conscience'. Of course by their definition any conscience that does not agree with their version of morality is ill-formed.

    The hierarchy will again and again and again preach about the human need to conform to their doctrine and their morality. They push so far as to prescribe individual humility even to the point of acting against individual conscience.

    And again I ask: Why is the prescription for humility always and forever only in ONE direction? They never seem to accept the idea that it might just be themselves who need a dose. This must be the innate spirit-killing problem of a hierarchy.


  10. Here is another link:

    If one were to follow the line of thought of someone like Bishop Olmsted that one has to deny the Holy Spirit had anything to do with Vatican II and/or deny that there was even such a thing as freedom of conscience or freedom of religion.

  11. So, gathering from this, while the Bishop is not asking the priests, but demanding that the priest in his jurisdiction supposedly obey Church dogma and laws regarding issues of "life", what he is actually doing is demanding that they abandon the notions and teachings of Vatican II as well as abandon their own freedom of conscience. The Bishop cleverly does this within the context of the issues of gays and abortion. It is a deceitful way of having the lowerheirarchy render themselves without a free conscience or leg to stand on in any defense of freedom of conscience whatsoever.

    The only one's who have supposed freedom of conscience in a tyrannical or absolutist fascist form of government are the fascists themselves.

  12. There are two serious problems with the notion of 'creeping infallibility'. One is the already mentioned assault on the freedom of conscience, and the other is the absence of any kind of accountability. The Pope is not accountable to anyone but God, with Cardinals and bishops accountable only to the Pope. Benedict has stated only the Pope has the authority to criticise a cardinal.

    Given this theology, it is hardly surprising the Vatican engages in repeated attacks on Western secular culture and it's immorality. God forbid, these governments might actually demand some accountability and puncture the veneer of infallibility. This is also why Canon Law must take precedence over Civil Law.

    If the abuse scandal doesn't take down this theological house of cards, the financial scandals will.

  13. The sad thing concerns the reported child scavengers. Tell it like it is: these are throwaway children, abandoned by their families to fend for themselves. They have no care, no education, and no guarantee of living to see tomorrow.
    Long ago, I spent a day in Naples. The throwaway children were everywhere. They got around by jumping on backs of trams. The drivers would stop the trams, get out, yell at them, and seconds later, more were taking their places.
    Holy Mother Church has no problem with this practice, as long as the children are thrown away after they are born.

  14. Anon you are so correct. It would be nice if our teaching authority would recognise the existence of all these throw away kids and the ones sold into the sex trade. An industry the Philippines is well known for and for which you hear very little from official Catholic sources. Ranting on about abortion is much cheaper and it diverts people from really looking at what the Church's teaching on birth control is producing in poor Catholic countries like the Philippines.