Catholic Worker hosts “woman priest.” What would Dorothy Day think?

This news caught my eye this morning:

In the middle of a living room, a table is set like an altar, with wine and bread prepared for Holy Communion. At the head is a priest dressed in a black shirt, jeans and sandals, hair tied behind the head revealing a gold earring hanging from each ear. She has a deep purple stole around her neck, which rests on her lap as she sits.

This is Janice Sevre-Duszynska, 64, an ordained Roman Catholic priest with one exception: The Roman Catholic Church does not recognize her status as a priest.

Sevre-Duszynska said she and her colleagues do not accept the church’s stance on their issue.

“We’re leading the church, not leaving the church,” she said.

Sevre-Duszynska celebrated Mass on Wednesday night at St. Francis House, an open house for homeless men that is run by the Catholic Worker Movement. She was invited there by Steve Jacobs, 59, who works at the house, while on her way to an event in Kansas City…

…The Catholic Church does not view Sevre-Duszynska’s priesthood as legitimate because, as Canon Law 1024 states, “a baptized male alone receives sacred ordination validly.” In 2008, the Vatican issued a statement that anyone involved in the ordination of a woman would be automatically excommunicated, according to the Catholic News Agency.

Dan Joyce, communications director for the Diocese of Jefferson City, said the diocese shares the Vatican’s position on female priests and the services they hold.

“People can attend or not attend as they wish, but they shouldn’t be under the impression that it’s valid liturgy under the Roman Catholic Church,” he said.

Jacobs, a member of the Catholic Worker movement, said he believes women should have the same right to become Catholic priests as men have.

“You can’t say that God cannot inspire women to be priests the same way God has inspired men,” Jacobs said. “If you do that, then you’re putting God in a box … . You can’t put God in a box like that.”

What would the founder of the Catholic Worker, the great Dorothy Day, think?

In 1966, she wrote: 

How strong and positive a virtue is this obedience to God and to one’s conscience! St. Peter said, speaking for himself and the Apostles: “We must obey God rather than men.”

Certainly the staff of editors and all the volunteers who are so at home with us that they call themselves Catholic Workers must have tried the patient endurance of the chancery office in New York, not only because of our frequent sojourns in jail and because of the controversial nature of the issues taken up in the paper and by our actions, but also because of the false ideas put forward by many of our friends as being our positions.

One time I made the statement, whether in writing or in a speech I do not remember, that I was so grateful for the freedom we had in the Church that I was quite ready to obey with cheerfulness if Cardinal Spellman ever told us to lay down our pens and stop publication. Perhaps I had no right to speak for more rebellious souls than mine. Or for those whose consciences dictated continuance in a struggle, even with the highest authority, the Church itself. Perhaps I have sounded too possessive about the Catholic Worker itself and had no right to speak for the publication, but only for myself. I do know that Peter Maurin would have agreed with me. Most cradle Catholics have gone through, or need to go through, a second conversion which binds them with a more profound, a more mature love and obedience to the Church.

I do know that my nature is such that gratitude alone, gratitude for the faith, that most splendid gift, a gift not earned by me, a gratuitous gift, is enough to bind me in holy obedience to Holy Mother Church and her commands.


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