Catholic Church advises parishioners in Kalamazoo to avoid ordination of female priest

May 28, 2014

Leaders of the Catholic Diocese of Kalamazoo are warning parishioners not to take part in an ordination ceremony this weekend, because the person being ordained is a woman.

In a weekly newsletter, Bishop Paul Bradley reminded parishioners who take part that they will be kicked out of the church. Those who witness what he called the “simulation” ceremony must confess before receiving sacraments of the church. The Diocese did not return requests for comment on this story.

Three Oaks resident Lilian Lewis says her journey to becoming a Catholic priest has “been a long road.” She got her masters in theology in 1963.

“The Jesuits that taught me gave me the idea that women’s ordination was right around the corner,” Lewis said.

But Lewis says a few issues made recently made her decide to seek out ordination: the cases of priests abusing children, and the way she believes church leaders treat people who are divorced or had an abortion or who are gay.

“It used to be a church of joy and inclusion. I don’t feel that anymore. I feel it’s a church that’s finger wagging and exclusion,” Lewis said.

By becoming ordained herself, Lewis says she hopes to help “repair that vitriol.”

Lewis will be ordained by Reverend Joan Houk from the group Roman Catholic Womenpriests, which is not recognized by the Church.

“Our first women Bishops were ordained by a Bishop in the Roman Catholic Church who is in good standing with the Vatican,” Houk explains. “His name cannot be revealed at this time because he did this against Church law. Those of us who’ve been ordained Bishops know who he is. And so we believe that our ordinations are valid. They are illicit because of church law that says only a baptized male can receive sacred ordination validly,” Houk said.

Houk says they don’t consider moving to a different denomination, although they’re asked about it all the time.

“We all have been asked by various people, 'Well why don’t you become, and then name your denomination, where you could be ordained in that church?' But we’re Roman Catholic and we want to serve in the Catholic Church,” she said.

“Although Jesus did not name any of his 12 apostles a woman, the first woman he announced the resurrection to was Mary Magdalene. The church itself gave her the title apostle to the apostles. So I don’t think the argument that’s being used right now can stand on its own,” she said.

Lewis admits if she were younger, she would worry more about being excommunicated.

“But as I’m older now I think ‘yes this is the right thing for me to do.’ I have nothing to lose. What I gain is my dignity for standing up for what I believe,” Lewis said.

Since the diocese issued the letter, Lewis says she has received harassing phone calls but also words of support about her decision. “I believe their response is over the top,” she said.