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Mother of God and women priests

Published:Thursday | January 3, 2013 | 12:00 AM

By Devon Dick

Sunday's ago in The Sunday Gleaner, Roman Catholic Scholar, Theresa Lowe Ching wrote about 'Mary, Mother of God' and said of Mary, "Regarded as co-redemptrist, Mary has been accorded the highest veneration, dulia, second only to, and clearly distinguished from latria, the worship due to, and reserved for the triune God alone ... [Mary] stood beneath the cross in courageous commitment to continue the work of building the kingdom of God by her willingness to become mother of us all", (Catholic Opinion p. f).

This high regard for Mary, a woman, seems to make a farce of the ban on the ordination of females as priests and the ex-communication of priests who associate with female priests.

On November 17, Rev Bill Brennan, a 92-year-old Jesuit, performed a liturgy in Columbus, USA, at which Janice Sevre-Duszynska, an ordained member of the Roman Catholic Women priests, an advocacy group which is not sanctioned by the Vatican, was a participant. Brennan was stripped of his priestly duties because he presided over a Mass with a female priest. The Archdiocese of Milwaukee and its religious order, the Society of Jesus, ordered Brennan not to perform any priestly duties in public or present himself as a priest publicly. And Brennan is not the only one to have been disciplined by the Roman Catholic church. A few weeks earlier, Rev Ray Bourgeois, an American of the Maryknoll religious order, was dismissed by the Vatican's doctrinal watchdog, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, for his support of women's ordination.

Women's ordination PROHIBITED

The Catholic church prohibits women's ordination saying it has no authority to ordain women because Jesus chose only men as his apostles. The church's Canon Law 1024 says only baptised men may receive holy orders. However, the argument that Jesus only chose men so only men can be ordained to the priesthood is problematic. Jesus did not choose Jamaican men to be priests, but it does not mean Jamaican men cannot be ordained. And in the Old Testament the priestly line was hereditary, but the Church is under a new covenant and does not have to follow that example. Even if Jesus only had men as his main disciples, it is a descriptive collection and not a prescriptive principle. There is no command that it should be men only. At best, that is an interpretation, and at worst, it is putting words into Jesus' mouth.

Unfortunately, it does not appear that there will be a change soon, because earlier this year, Pope Benedict XVI criticised the priests supporting women's ordination and called for obedience. He was following the path of Pope John Paul II who, in 1994, issued a letter saying that the Church "has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women," and in 2010, the Church included the attempted ordination of women among the list of grave crimes against its law, under the same category as the sexual abuse of minors. Grave crimes are punishable by defrocking or excommunication. It is deplorable that ordination of women to the priesthood is perceived as a crime, equal to sexual abuse of minors. There is no link or similarity. And worse, many male priests who abused minors sexually were transferred to practise in some other parish. Many have not been defrocked or excommunicated, however, women are denied being priests.

On January 1, 2013, Roman Catholics celebrate the Feast of Mary - Solemnity of Mary, mother of God - and the implication of a woman being given such recognition in the Church and having been accorded the second highest veneration ought to be that women can be ordained as priests.

PS: Happy New Year to all my readers.

Rev Dr Devon Dick is pastor of the Boulevard Baptist Church in St Andrew. He is author of the Cross and the Machete, and From Rebellion to Riot. Send feedback to