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)