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The Beat Goes On

Roman Catholic Womenpriests stepped up the action this summer, overseeing two more “ordination” ceremonies: One in Switzerland on June 24, in which three women were “ordained” priestesses and one woman “ordained” a deaconette, and another in Pittsburgh on July 31, in which eight women were named priestesses and four deaconettes. The Pittsburgh event was the first of its kind in the U.S., and the fourth worldwide.

All four ceremonies, including this summer’s, took place on boats: the June ceremony aboard a passenger ship on Lake Constance between Switzerland and Germany, and the July ceremony aboard the clipper boat Majestic on the Pittsburgh rivers. Why in a boat rather than in a church, where Vatican-sanctioned ordinations always take place? As if to parody the traditional notion of the Barque of Peter, Patricia Fresen, a “bishop” who helped oversee the 2005 ceremonies of nine women on the St. Lawrence Seaway, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (June 15) that a boat is one of the earliest symbols of the Church: “Jesus…taught on a boat. Some of the earliest disciples were fishermen.” Fresen’s rationalizing, however, runs aground of ruder realities: “To be honest, the main reason is that no Catholic priest or bishop is brave enough to give us a church.”

Fresen, a South African Dominican nun for 45 years who left the order in 2004, along with fellow “bishops” Gisela Forster and Ida Raming — all of whom currently reside in Germany — “presided” at the Pittsburgh event. According to the Post-Gazette, “The women claim they are part of the church’s valid apostolic succession because Roman Catholic bishops in good standing ordained them secretly. The women refuse to name those bishops to protect them from reprisals by Vatican authorities in Rome.”

Among the Pittsburgh “ordinands” to the diaconate are Cheryl Bristol and Janice Sevre-Duszynska. Bristol is described by the Womenpriests website as: “lesbian by birth, Catholic by choice…. Cheryl served as a delegate to the United Nations Non Governmental Organization Conference.” Sevre-Duszynska (pictured next to a dumpster) is “A local and national peace activist, she is a former Prisoner of Conscience for the School of the Americas Watch….”

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