On Sunday (Feb. 10), the day after Beverly Bingle’s scheduled ordination as a Roman Catholic Womanpriest, she will hold her first Mass in Toledo.
Why so soon?
“I never even thought about waiting, honestly,” she said this week. “I guess I don’t see any reason to wait.”
Bingle, 68, has been waiting most of her life for this weekend’s events.
A cradle Catholic who retired after serving as a pastoral associate at Toledo’s Blessed Sacrament Church, Bingle felt a calling to the priesthood for years but knew it was not an option under Roman Catholic law.
Then she learned of Roman Catholic Womanpriests, an international mission with more than 90 ordained female priests who consider themselves to be legitimate members of the Roman Catholic Church.
The first seven women in the movement were ordained by an unidentified male Roman Catholic bishop in 2002 on the Danube River in Germany. The same bishop ordained two women as bishops a year later.
Bingle, who has a doctorate in ministry degree from Ecumenical Theologial Seminary, was ordained a deacon in September and will be Toledo’s first Roman Catholic Womanpriest.
With the Danube Seven’s ordinations performed by a male Roman Catholic bishop in good standing, the Roman Catholic Womenpriests movement claims it has proper Apostolic Succession.
But that is not how the Vatican sees it.
Canon Law 1024, in the church’s legal code, unequivocally states, “Only a baptized male validly receives sacred ordination.”
Bishop Leonard Blair of the Toledo Catholic Diocese, citing church law and papal rulings, has stated that any woman “who attempts to receive a sacred order” incurs “excommunication immediately, one that can only be lifted by the Holy See.”
And anyone who attempts to confer a sacred order on a woman also is immediately excommunicated. [Related article: Priest to appeal his 'no appeal' excommunication]
“The Catholic Encyclopedia” states that “excommunication, the principal and severest censure, is a medicinal, spiritual penalty that deprives the guilty Christian of all participation in the common blessings of ecclesiastical society.
Being a penalty, it supposes guilt; and being the most serious penalty that the Church can inflict, it naturally supposes a very grave offence.”
Members of Roman Catholic Womenpriests do not accept the church’s penalty.
They believe the church law barring women from the priesthood is unjust, therefore the Vatican’s punishment is invalid.
“There’s something wrong at the top,” Bingle said. “We need a renewed church. That’s as important as women’s ordination.”
She said the “affirmative response” from Catholics in the pews has meant more to her than the church’s punishment.
After she was excommunicated, one priest told her directly that if she came to the altar he could not serve her communion. “I admire him, because most priests cringe and turn the other way,” she said.
The “real people of God” have sidestepped the communion ban, she said.
“I can’t go to Mass when someone doesn’t offer me their communion wafer,” Bingle said. “The people of God are really affirmative and supportive.”
She said her new church, Holy Spirit Catholic Community, will be a “Vatican II community,” putting into practice many of the reforms called for by the Second Vatican Council that met half a century ago.
“It will be a regular Catholic Mass, but it might be a little more inclusive than people are used to in their parishes,” Bingle said. “We’ll use inclusive language, for one thing, not just about people but about God, too. And some parts of the Mass we’re going to try to include people in more.”
During the Eucharistic prayer, for example, there will be a place for the people to respond with an “amen,” “so there’s not just a monologue by the preacher,” she said.
Bingle said Holy Spirit Catholic Community will appeal to people who feel disenfranchised from the church.
“I think there are lots of people out there who will benefit from a community that doesn’t excommunicate them. There are people who are excommunicated because they are in same-sex relations. There are people who are excommunicated because they remarried after a divorce without getting an annulment. There are people who are using contraception and are considered in a state of mortal sin and barred from the sacraments because of that,” Bingle said.
She said many Roman Catholics are still hurting after the Toledo diocese closed 17 parishes in 2005 and merged 16 others. There are many who don’t go to church at all, and others who float from parish to parish – a group often referred to as “Roaming Catholics.”
At Holy Spirit Catholic Community, communion is open to everybody, Bingle said.
“If a Lutheran or an Episcopalian or a Baptist walks in they can go to communion if they want to,” she said. “Can you see Jesus doing that on the side of the mountain: ‘If you’re not Jewish, cross your arms and receive a blessing instead of the Eucharist?’
“If I go to a Lutheran church, I don’t hesitate to go to Communion. We’re Christians, we’re all one,” she said.
Bingle and others in the Roman Catholic Womenpriests movement believe the Roman Catholic Church will change its law someday and allow the ordination of women.
They chose to act now rather than wait for that change, performing what a womanpriest at Bingle's deacon ordination called an act of civil disobedience.
But Bingle isn't ruling out the possibility of a rule change in her lifetime.
“We can always get another Pope John XXIII [who convened Vatican II],” she said. “The windows could be open again… I don’t know if it will. I’m not predicting it. But it’s possible. The Holy Spirit works in marvelous ways.”
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Beverly Bingle will be ordained as a priest and Ann Klonowski of Beachwood, Ohio, will be ordained as a deacon in the Roman Catholic Womenpriests movement, with Bishop Jean Houk presiding, at 2 p.m. Saturday (Feb. 9) at First Unitarian Church, 3205 Glendale Ave., Toledo. Noting the controversy of the ordination, Bingle has arranged a “no photo” area for people who wish to avoid media contact.
Reverend Bingle will celebrate Mass in the new Holy Spirit Catholic Community at 5:30 p.m. Sundays starting Feb. 10 at Unity of Toledo, 3535 Executive Parkway, Toledo.