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Church views women priests as loathsome.

Byline: Dianne Williamson


Jean Marie Marchant was ministering to the sick on Thursday when she learned that the Vatican had made yet another tactical error in its antiquated and increasingly desperate crusade to ban women from the priesthood.

It seems like only yesterday that the late John Paul II announced that the ordination of women priests was not up for discussion - essentially telling everyone to just shut up about it - always a dangerous demand of the fairer sex.

"You can't tell a woman not to talk about something," noted Marchant with a laugh. "So we started talking about it. How can we not?"

But Marchant did more than talk. Five years ago she was among nine women who took part in an ordination ceremony on the St. Lawrence Seaway in Canada. The ceremony is considered invalid by the church hierarchy, but that hasn't stopped Marchant from holding weekly Catholic services and performing other pastoral duties.

"I felt called by God," said the 65-year-old Framingham resident. "The call has always been there and it just kept growing,"

On Thursday, the Vatican issued new rules and made the "attempted ordination" of women one of the gravest crimes under church law, lumping it in the same category with - wait for it - the clerical sex abuse of minors. Women attempting to be priests and those who ordain them already risk automatic excommunication, but the decree goes further and labels the action "a crime against sacraments."

In other words, even though the church is facing a steep decline in male priests, and even though there's growing support to allow women to become priests in the wake of the clergy abuse scandal, the women called by God are Canon criminals. Hardest to believe, the hierarchy is equating female ordinations with the rape of children, even though the presence of more women in the rectories and vestibules would have gone a long way toward squelching the abuse.

Irony, thy name is the Vatican. On the plus side, the latest out-of-touch missive serves to draw more attention to the issue, which will likely increase Catholic support for women priests.

"The Vatican's decision to list women's ordination in the same category as pedophiles and rapists is appalling, offensive, and a wake-up call for all Catholics around the world," said Erin Saiz Hanna, executive director of the Women's Ordination Conference. In an interview, she said that 100 women worldwide have been ordained as priests, often in secret.

Marchant was director of healthcare ministry for the archdiocese of Boston in 2005 when she was ordained by female bishops associated with Roman Catholic Womenpriests. That group says its ordinations are valid because its female bishops have been ordained by Roman Catholic bishops - you know, the male legit ones - who secretly support their cause.

Leave it to a female to find a celestial loophole. Now, Marchant says Mass each Sunday at a Congregational Church in Weston.

"As a Catholic, our ground zero is our conscience," she said. "It would be contrary to my conscience not to follow my calling. It's been a huge dilemma all my life. But it became clear that nothing would happen from the top down. Only when women come forward and find a way to make it happen, will anything change."Except for the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Catholic Church is virtually alone in its insistence on an all-male priesthood, and we've all seen how that's been working out. But despite the serious drawbacks with the old boys' club, the hierarchy continues to trot out the same old rationalization that Jesus had no female apostles.

"The church tells us that priests personify Jesus Christ," Marchant noted. "To say that women can't personify Christ is pretty scary stuff. We've done nothing to harm or hurt anyone. To put us on the same level as men who commit atrocious acts against children is outrageous."

It's worse than outrageous. It's a grave crime.

Contact Dianne Williamson via e-mail at
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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Jul 18, 2010
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