Not long after local Catholic men gather at Duquesne University, Catholics who support the extraordinary steps that some Catholic women have taken to push for women's ordination will have an opportunity to hear a leader of that movement. Patricia Fresen, a former Dominican nun and seminary professor from South Africa, who is now a bishop in Roman Catholic Womenpriests, will speak Wednesday Aprtil 13 at 7 p.m. in the Allegheny Unitarian-Universalist Church, 416 North Ave., North Side.
Those ordained by Roman Catholic Womenpriests claim to be valid Catholic clergy because they say that their first bishops -- including Ms. Fresen -- were secretly ordained by an active Catholic bishop in Europe, or by a man who was ordained by a former legitimate Argentinian bishop who left his office and married. The Catholic Church maintains that Roman Catholic Womenpriests is schismatic and that its bishops, priests and deacons are excommunicated.
The movement has an active Pittsburgh presence in Joan Houk, 70, of McCandless. She was ordained a priest in 2006 and in 2009 was elected and ordained bishop of Roman Catholic Womenpriests' Great Waters Region, which spans the central United States. She celebrates the Eucharist on Sundays at 9 a.m. in the basement of All Saints Episcopal Church, 3577 McClure Ave., Brighton Heights. The gathering, called Sunday's Bread, identifies itself as Catholic, but is not recognized by the Catholic Church.
Although Ms. Houk and the other Roman Catholic Womenpriests have the academic and theological credentials to be ordained as Episcopal priests, they choose not to because their goal is to change what they regard as an unjust law against women's ordination in the Catholic Church. Ms. Fresen's talk will focus on her work against apartheid in South Africa and the parallels she sees in the Catholic Church.
"I do not intend to form a separate church. Our small community of deep faith is a gathering of Catholics who remain in the Roman Catholic Church," Ms. Houk said of her Sunday Eucharists. She still attends Mass at her home parish, but abides by a request to abstain from receiving Communion.
"Although the diocese says that I have taken myself out of the Church, I have not -- and I do not intend to let them push me out. I have never received excommunication papers from the Vatican or any diocese. I live in tension, but with great hope for the future of my Church," she said.