Vatican police ask women priest campaigners to leave
By the CNN Wire Staff
Vatican City (CNN) -- Activists campaigning for the Catholic Church to ordain women as priests were asked to leave the Vatican on Tuesday.
They argue that women in the priesthood could have helped lessen the impact of the child abuse scandal sweeping the church.
"We believe that if women had a say in the church, if there was more accountability and more transparency, that the men would have been held more accountable," said Erin Saiz Hanna, executive director of the U.S.-based Women's Ordination Conference.
The half-dozen campaigners had unfurled a banner and were handing out leaflets when Vatican police asked them to go.
They left peacefully, returning to Italian soil from the small patch in Rome controlled by the Roman Catholic Church. Vatican police regularly ask protesters to leave.
The activists were trying to draw attention to the church's refusal to allow women to be priests, bishops or deacons, they said.
One woman who was ordained in 2002 -- and was excommunicated as a result -- said the child abuse scandal was partly a result of the church's disrespect for women.
"If women and children were respected -- and that includes if they respected us enough to ordain us -- then that would set a different tone," said Mary Ann M. Schoettly.
"Any abuse of children or women or the pedophile crisis itself probably would have been mitigated," she said.
Thousands of people have come forward in the United States, Ireland, the Netherlands, Austria and Pope Benedict XVI's native Germany saying they were abused as children by Catholic clergy.
The crisis has particularly shocked deeply Catholic Ireland, where three government-backed investigations have uncovered physical and sexual abuse stretching back decades.
Critics charge that the Vatican systematically covered up abuse around the world by shuffling abusive priests from one parish to another or quietly pushing them to retire.
The pope has met with victims in the United States and Malta, and vowed that the church will seek justice for the victims.
Schoettly rejects her excommunication and acts as a priest for a congregation of 40 to 70 people, she said. She has performed baptisms, and will officiate at her first wedding next month, she said.
"The Catholic people have accepted us. Many priests accept us," she said of women priests, adding that there were now more than 100. "We are not going away," she said.
Therese Koturbash, a Canadian lawyer and the international coordinator of the womenpriests.org campaign, said her group was seeking "dialogue" with the Vatican hierarchy.
"Obviously, our church leaders aren't showing us leadership and dialogue. So if they are not doing it, we are here gracefully showing leadership, coming, knocking at the door year after year," she said. "Please, we want to talk about this."
The Catholic Church has traditionally not ordained women, noting that all of Jesus's disciples were men.
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Google News - Associated Press June 8, 2010
Sex abuse crisis gives new momentum to dissidents
ROME — The clerical sex abuse crisis is energizing Roman Catholic dissidents who want to open up the priesthood to women and ditch celibacy requirements.
They marched on Rome Tuesday even as Pope Benedict XVI called on priests to converge on the Vatican to cap a yearlong celebration of the priesthood. And in a sign of the deepening crisis, the faithful in traditionally Catholic Austria are at the forefront of demands for change.
In Rome, church reformers demanded changes in the male-dominated church structure they say is responsible for covering up priestly sex abuse for decades, pressing their case on the eve of a three-day rally of the world's priests summoned by Benedict.
What was meant to be a year of celebration has turned into one marred by revelations of hundreds of new cases of clerical abuse and Vatican inaction to root out pedophile priests.
Representatives from a half-dozen pro-women's ordination groups denounced Benedict's rally, saying the Vatican shouldn't be honoring priests amid a clerical sex abuse scandal.
"The worldwide shocking disclosures of sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church and its concealment for decades clearly shows the scandalous aberration that can be caused by a supervalued male priesthood with forced celibacy," said Angelica Fromm, a representative of We are Church, a reform group born after an infamous clerical abuse scandal in Austria.
We are Church is one of many reform groups calling for women's ordination and a relaxation of the church's celibacy requirement for priests.
While progress in the women's ordination campaign seems far away since church doctrine holds that only men can be priests, there are indications that the tradition of a celibate priesthood may see some change — albeit not under Benedict.
A grassroots movement in Austria has a powerful champion in Vienna's archbishop, Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn — a papal confidant who has openly called for an honest examination of issues like celibacy.
Another Austrian bishop, Eisenstadt Bishop Paul Iby has also said it should be up to priests to decide whether they want to live a celibate life and that he would welcome it if married men could be ordained. Iby has also said that eventually the ordination of women should be considered.
Pro-women's ordination groups staged a brief, peaceful protest in St. Peter's Square on Tuesday. The dozen or so protesters were stopped by police and told to leave.
"The Vatican is all too happy to turn a blind eye when men in its ranks destroy the lives of children and families, but jumps at the chance to excommunicate women who are doing works and responding to injustice and the needs of their communities," said Erin Saiz Hanna, executive director of the U.S.-based Women's Ordination Conference.
An estimated 9,000 priests from around the world are expected to attend Benedict's rally, which amid the scandal morphed into a show of support for the pontiff under fire for the Vatican's handling of abuse cases.
It's not clear whether Benedict will address the abuse scandal during his two public events Thursday and Friday, but news reports and a high-ranking Vatican official have said he may.
Also converging on Rome Tuesday ahead of the priest rally were representatives of the main U.S. clerical abuse victims group, Survivors Network for Those Abused By Priests. They demanded Pope Benedict XVI use the occasion to issue an apology and a zero-tolerance policy to keep abusive priests away from children.
They also demanded the immediate halt to the beatification process of Pope John Paul II pending an investigation into his knowledge of cover-ups of clerical abuse. Among the most egregious cases of alleged Vatican inaction in abuse involves the founder of the Legionaries of Christ, the Rev. Marciel Maciel, who was held in great esteem by John Paul for his ability to attract vocations.
Recent news reports in the National Catholic Reporter have said Vatican officials received payoffs from Maciel and otherwise turned a blind eye to allegations of Maciel's misdeeds for decades.
Last month, after conducting an investigation, the Vatican said it was taking over the conservative order after determining that Maciel had led a double life "devoid of any scruples and authentic sense of religion" that allowed him to abuse young boys unchecked.
The Vatican admitted no wrongdoing, however.
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