The Common Good
November-December 1998

Rome Not Quite Ready for Women Priests

by Jim Rice | November-December 1998

For many Christian churches, having women in pastoral leadership is the norm. For a Catholic parish in New York, it’s apparently a firing offense.

For many Christian churches, having women in pastoral leadership is the norm. For a Catholic parish in New York, it’s apparently a firing offense.

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Father Jim Callan, for 22 years the pastor of Corpus Christi Church in Rochester, New York, was removed from the parish in Septemberùhe said he was "fired"ùin part because of the role of Associate Pastor Mary Ramerman. Five years ago, Father Callan presented Ramerman with a stole that she wears over one shoulder when she leads communion servicesùa stole draped over both shoulders is the symbol of ordained priests. Rome apparently didn’t approve of the compromise; Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, head of the Vatican’s Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith, wrote to Rochester’s bishop and ordered Callan’s removal.

Father Callan’s parishioners have rallied to his defense, signing petitions, sending press statements, setting up a Web site, and organizing demonstrations in his support. Even Father Enrique Cadena, the priest that the diocese chose to find a replacement for Callan, resigned the task in protest, saying he could not be part of the inevitable firings to come. A statement of faith approved by 99 percent of Corpus Christi parishioners decried the "punishment" of Father Callan and reflected concern about the future: "This effort by church hierarchy to dismantle our Christian family has caused a profound spirit of sadness, and leaves our community filled with apprehension."

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