|Fr. Bill Brennan, S.J. and Janice Sevre-Duszynska|
A Catholic priest who participated in a eucharistic liturgy with a woman priest last month has been ordered to no longer celebrate the Mass or perform any other priestly duties. Jesuit Fr. Bill Brennan, a 92-year-old Milwaukee-area priest, said the superior of his religious community told him of the restrictions Nov. 29, saying they came at the request of Archbishop Jerome Listecki. Brennan, a retired parish priest and former missionary to Belize, participated in a liturgy Nov. 17 with Janice Sevre-Duszynska, a woman ordained in the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests movement. Brennan said he was hesitant to confirm the news regarding his loss of faculties because he was also ordered not to talk to the press. "I'm risking my existence in the Jesuit order by talking to you," Brennan told NCR. "But if I've committed a serious sin, [the archbishop] is supposed to be responsible for condemning me ... he's supposed to stand up and be responsible for that."
Brennan said the restrictions include:
- Suspension of priestly faculties, prohibiting him from performing any priestly duties in public;
- Refraining from contact with media, "through phone, email, or any other means";
- Not appearing as a Jesuit at any "public gatherings, protests or rallies";
- Not leaving the Milwaukee area "for any reason" without his superior's permission.
Brennan said he hasn't had any formal communication with Listecki. Jeremy Langford, the director of communications for the Jesuits' Chicago-Detroit province, which is merging with the Wisconsin province, said in a statement Monday the order removed Brennan's priestly faculties "after conversation with the Archdiocese of Milwaukee." The Jesuits "did not approve or sanction" the November eucharistic liturgy and "regrets Fr. Brennan's participation in it," read the statement. "The Wisconsin province has no plans to take any further action,"
Langford said in an interview, calling Brennan a "wonderful Jesuit" who has "fought for great causes his whole life."Julie Wolf, communications director for the Milwaukee archdiocese, said the restrictions on Brennan were a "mutually agreed upon decision" between Listecki and Brennan's Jesuit provincial, Fr. Tom Lawler.
Brennan likened his support for women's ordination to support for women's suffrage: He remembers that at one time, his mother was not able to vote. "I was born in 1920," Brennan said. "All the while my mother was carrying me and six months after, she could not vote. That's the real initiative in my attitude toward women's ordination." Brennan said he understands arguments that women do not have a right to ordination and said ordination is a "privilege that is granted to men." "Why isn't it granted to both?" the priest asked. "And the fundamental approach that I have is that, after all, women have an eminent role to play in the work of creation of children with men. What about the sanctification process? Don't they have any share in the preaching of the Gospel?"
The Vatican labels the ordination of women in the Catholic church as a grave offense and says participants are excommunicated latae sententiae, or automatically. Pope John Paul II's 1994 letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis effectively forbade discussion of the issue, saying the church's teaching on the matter was to be "definitively held by all the Church's faithful." Before deciding to participate in the November liturgy, Brennan said he discussed the matter with Lawler.
The invitation to join Sevre-Duszynska at the liturgy was causing him a "real, genuine conscience problem," Brennan said he told Lawler. "I'm not trying to defy the church," Brennan said he told Lawler, adding that he sees women's ordination as a legitimate question. "Why is it that this privilege of celebrating the Mass and preaching, why is that exclusively a male privilege? Where do we get that? Isn't that worth discussing?" Lawler told him not to assist at the liturgy, Brennan said. "At the time, I was still struggling to try to decide what I wanted to do, because obviously I knew I might end up outside the Jesuit order," Brennan said. "But I just felt this was an earthy issue, and you can't cover it over with spiritual or authoritarian dictates."Link (here) to NCR for the full story.