Catholic Priest Jerry Zawada Risks Vatican Censure to Support Women’s Ordination

Thank you, brother Jerry.

Despite rumors that Franciscan Fr. Jerry Zawada would be excommunicated and expelled from his order for his participation in a liturgy led by a female priest, Zawada and the leadership of his order say that has yet to be discussed. Zawada participated in the Nov. 19 liturgy while attending the School of Americas Watch in Fort Benning, Ga. Fr. John Puodziunas, provincial minister of the Franciscan Friars of the Assumption BVM Province, told NCR that he has not received any contact from the Vatican on the matter. …

Zawada joined Janice Sevre-Duszynska, who was ordained as a priest in 2008 in the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests, in leading a liturgical service for more than 300 people at the annual SOA Watch in Columbus, Ga., north of Fort Benning. Zawada said he has pondered the issue of women’s ordination for “quite a long time,” adding that there’s “something unjust” with the current structure. “Our structure needs reshaping,” he added.

For him, the opportunity to follow his conscience and to join others to “support the movement” toward female ordination presented itself in the liturgy at SOA Watch. “[It’s what] the Holy Spirit is calling us to do,” Zawada said.

Previous cases involving support of women priests have resulted in latae sententiae, or automatic excommunication. Attempted ordination of a woman was added to the Vatican’s list of “grave crimes” in 2010. Quigley, a law professor at Loyola University New Orleans, said Zawada and others in the church are entitled to due process and a right to a hearing. Quigley said Zawada did not want an adversarial situation, but did want a transparent process.

When asked about a possibility of excommunication, Zawada said the thought was “hurtful on some levels” but told NCR he does not plan to challenge any disciplinary action. “Whatever consequences come for me, I’m willing to accept,” he said, adding he has no intention to retract his opinion and has “no intention of leaving the Catholic church.” … –Brian Roewe, National Catholic Reporter (Nov. 30, 2011)

On Three Continents, Catholic Priests Challenge Vatican on Women’s Ordination

Fr. Roy Bourgeois, MM

More than 150 Roman Catholic priests in the United States have signed a statement in support of a fellow cleric Roy Bourgeois, who faces dismissal for participating in a ceremony ordaining a woman as a Catholic priest, in defiance of church teaching.

More than 300 priests and deacons in Austria – representing 15% of Catholic clerics in that country – last month issued a “Call to Disobedience,” which stunned their bishops with a seven-point pledge that includes actively promoting priesthood for women and married men, and reciting a public prayer for “church reform” in every Mass.

And in Australia, the National Council of Priests recently released a ringing defense of William Morris, the bishop of Toowoomba, who had issued a pastoral letter saying that, facing a severe priest shortage, he would ordain women and married men “if Rome would allow it.”

In the 22 July 2011 New York Times, Laurie Goodstein writes:

While these disparate acts hardly amount to a clerical uprising and are unlikely to result in change, church scholars note that for the first time in years, groups of priests in several countries are standing with those who are challenging the church to rethink the all-male celibate priesthood.

The Vatican has declared that the issue of women’s ordination is not open for discussion. But priests are on the front line of the clergy shortage — stretched thin and serving multiple parishes — and in part, this is what is driving some of them to speak.

A press release from Call to Action spells the whole situation out more clearly. In an unprecedented move, 157 Catholic priests have signed on to a letter in support of their fellow embattled priest, Fr. Roy Bourgeois, who has been told to recant his support for women’s ordination or be removed from the priesthood. The letter that supports Roy’s priesthood and his right to conscience was delivered, Friday, July 22nd, to Fr. Edward Dougherty, Superior General of the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers in Maryknoll, NY.

“We can no longer remain silent while priests and even bishops are removed from their posts simply because they choose to speak their truth,” said Fr. Fred Daley, a spokesperson of the effort and a priest of the Syracuse Diocese. “Together, we are standing up for our brother priest, Roy, and for all clergy who have felt afraid to speak up on matters of conscience. “We hope that our support as ordained priests in good standing will help give Fr. Dougherty the support he needs to make a decision that is fair and just.”

This stance of priests from the United States follows a series of recent actions where priests collectively have taken a stand for justice in the Church.  Last year, priests in Ireland formed a union aimed at organizing the 6,500 priests there in response to the clergy abuse crisis.

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