Anomalies From the Rooftop

Theology from Anomalies. One story a day from the world of Christianity that is just a little off-beat. Sometimes, in shouting the good news from the rooftop, Christians do some strange things.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

8 Women "Ordained" To the Catholic Priesthood

This editorial piece, written by Phyllis Zagano at Hofstra university, draws attention to the recent ordination of eight women to the Catholic Priesthood and four other women to the deaconate. Much more on the organizing groups can be found on the websites of Roman Catholic Womenpriests and Womens Ordination Conference.

This ordination, which is the first time that an ordination of women such as this has taken place in the borders of the United States, occurred on a boat in Pittsburgh. Ms. Zagano does a great job of sympathetically laying out the basic issues with this action in her piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer. Basically, the ordinations can't be valid without valid bishops, and there is no way that the three of the women who played the role of bishops have been ordained validly as bishops. Ms. Zagano, however, clearly and forcefully points out that there it is impossible for the Roman Church to deny the possibility that women can serve as deacons. They have in the past, and we can only hope they will be able to again soon.

These ordinations of women by women to the Catholic priesthood always take place on a boat in the middle of a river. Look at this Google query, for 'ordination boat women.' According to 'Bishop' Patricia Fresen:
We like the rich symbolism of a ship for our ordinations: a ship or boat was a very early symbol of the church; Jesus often preached from a boat and some of his first disciples were fishermen; we too are learning how to fish, how to weather storms, we learn not to give up when we have laboured all night with no result ... The water is also rich in symbolism, as source of life, as alive, flowing, life-giving, moving, dynamic, often unstable and sometimes dangerous. And it's part of prophetic obedience to find that we're all in the same boat!
There are some "Catacomb Ordinations" that are held in secret for women who cannot risk their church positions with a public ordination, but for the most part, if a women is unofficially ordained in this manner, she is ordained on a boat.

However, I think there is another reason for boat ordinations that 'Bishop' Fresen didn't speak to. There is no better way to control attendance and manage crowds than to go out on a boat. Such a tactic is even Biblical: when Jesus wanted some time away from the crowds, he often got into boats. My guess is that the real reason these ordinations take place on the boat is so that nobody who disagrees with them can come and disrupt the service. Practical I guess, but it certainly contributes of a general air of clandestine, illegal activity that it would probably be best for the group to leave behind sooner rather than later.


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