Monday, October 24, 2011

Women's Ordination Supporters Detained by Police at Vatican: Bill Quigley Reports

On the weekend, I wrote about the Vatican statement (as it turns out, it's a document from the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace) on economic justice that's has just been released this morning.  As my posting noted, the statement is supposed to issue a reminder that Catholic teaching places the dignity of individuals and the demands of justice front and center, when we assess the morality of economic institutions.  

My posting maintains that people will listen respectfully to any statement like this by a church leader to the extent that the church in which (s)he is a leader enshrines those principles in its own life.  I wrote, 

Another matter I'm assuming the papal statement will discuss: society at large has come increasingly to recognize that women are as fully human as men are and deserve the full range of human rights accorded to men.  And so I am certain that, in this statement about the dignity of the individual and the demands of justice, the Holy Father intends to address the question of how the Catholic church regards and treats women.  Since, if the church itself ignores the dignity of some of its members due to their gender, and treats some of its members unjustly due to their gender, it cannot make a convincing case to society at large when it calls social institutions to behave justly.

And because I do not see how a church that treats women as second-class citizens and as inferior human beings, and which denies them rights accorded to men solely on the basis of gender, can effectively teach justice to the world, I'm interested to read Bill Quigley's powerful eyewitness testimony of what happened when he, Fr. Roy Bourgeois, and several others were apprehended by Italian police last week.  They were seeking to deliver to the pope a petition supporting women's ordination.  Fr. Bourgeois is the Maryknoll priest who has been excommunicated for taking part in the ordination of a woman, and the Vatican is now trying to drum him out of his religious community.

Quigley's article, at Common Dreams, is entitled "Challenging the Old Boys' Network in the Vatican."  With him and his wife and Bourgeois were Erin Saiz Hannah of Women’s Ordination Conference and Miriam Duignan of and a group of supporters.  They were delivering a petition with more than 15,000 signatures asking that Fr. Bourgeois not be expelled from his religious community and that Rome begin ordaining women.  The group also had a banner proclaiming that God is calling women to be priests and three ordained women in the group were wearing long white liturgical robes (Fr. Bourgeois was in his Roman collar).

And here's what happened when the group approached Vatican Square, according to Quigley:

The police presence quickly outnumbered the group and stopped them as they tried to enter Vatican Square.

Protests were not allowed in the Vatican said the police. But we are here to deliver a petition, the group responded. But you are carrying signs said the police. We can put the signs down responded the group. But the women are dressed like priests and that is a protest the police insisted. But we are legitimately ordained priests they told the authorities.

After much back and forth with Vatican authorities the police said Fr. Roy could go into Vatican Square because he was a real priest. When Fr. Roy insisted all the priests, men and women, should be allowed to enter, an undercover policeman violently grabbed the banners away from those peacefully holding them and the authorities arrested Fr. Roy, Erin Saiz Hannah who the police decided organized the event, and Miriam Duignan, who was acting as the translator. 

Amazing, isn't it?  It's almost as if the Vatican and those who bolster its authority are living on some planet other than the one the rest of us live on.  On planet earth, it matters fairly intently whether someone  calling others to behave justly practices justice in his or her own life.  

I'm honestly not sure what counts in the Vatican any longer.  But I have a strong suspicion it's not really justice.  Or catholic inclusivity.  Or human rights.  

Except when church officials want to talk about those issues in entirely ornamental ways.  I highly recommend Bill Quigley's report--a man I've long admired, who has, as long as I've known of him (and known him), has always walked the talk that he talks.

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