Monday, February 28, 2011

Lesbian "Roman Catholic Woman Priest" Invited to Speak at SF Catholic High School

Note: An abbreviated version of this story appeared in this morning's California Catholic Daily.

The February 17 issue of “The Broadview,” the student newspaper of the Convent of the Sacred Heart /Stuart Hall High Schools in San Francisco reported:

“Tomorrow, during Principal’s Meeting students are scheduled to watch portions of the documentary “Pink Smoke Over the Vatican” and participate in a presentation about women attempting to become ordained by the Catholic Church. The Rev. Victoria Rue will be interviewed by Women’s Studies students about her own ordination experience.”

Pink Smoke Over the Vatican is a 2010 film produced and directed by Jules Hart and distributed by Eyegoddess Films. From the Eyegoddess Films web page:

“Pink Smoke Over the Vatican is a documentary film about the controversial movement of women seeking to be ordained as priests in the Roman Catholic Church. On June 3, 2008, The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which is the modern name for The Holy Office of the Inquisition, issued a sweeping order of excommunication for ‘the crime of attempting sacred ordination of a woman.’ Pink Smoke Over the Vatican chronicles the events that led up to this severe punishment and tells the stories of the determined women and men who, through the forbidden and illicit path of female ordination, are working to end the underlying misogyny and outdated feudal governance that is slowly destroying the Roman Catholic Church.”

While the screening of such a blatantly anti-Catholic movie to Catholic High School students should raise questions about the motivations and judgment of the school authorities, their choice of speaker is even more outrageous. Despite what the Broadview reported, the speaker scheduled to address the students, Victoria Rue, is not exactly a “Reverend.” She describes herself on her website as a “Roman Catholic Woman Priest,” and relates how she made that happen: “In 1997 I co-founded and con-celebrated a feminist, inclusive Eucharist with 12 other women and hundreds of witnesses on the former site of the Oakland cathedral in California. With this act, we claimed that we are all priests.” In point of fact, Ms. Rue has excommunicated herself from the Catholic Church. She also happens to be one of the women profiled in "Pink Smoke."

According to her webpage, Ms. Rue offers the following “Services and Sacraments”: Baptisms, Marriages, Funerals, The Celebration of the Eucharist, Spiritual Guidance and ministry to LGBT people. She also says she celebrates “Bi-monthly Feminist Masses at the chapel of Trinity Episcopal Church” in San Francisco.

(A little excursus: this last would seem to demand some high-level Catholic/Episcopal ecumenical dialogue. Why is an Episcopal Church allowing an excommunicated Catholic to celebrate "Masses" there? Are they being advertised as genuine Catholic Masses? The Trinity Episcopal website's "Services" page says:

10:30 A.M. Sophia in Trinity (2nd & 4th Saturdays of the month) Sophia in Trinity is an inclusive community welcoming everyone including all those on the margins and especially those marginalized by the Roman Catholic Church: LGBT people, as well as those who are divorced, remarried, those who witness to reproductive rights, and all those seeking justice, equality and the integrity of creation. Find out more on our Sophia at Trinity page.

Well, Trinity Episcopal's "Sophia in Trinity" webpage directs one to, which says :

"Bi-monthly Feminist Masses at the chapel of Trinity Episcopal Church. Click here to learn more." and "Presider: Victoria Rue, M.Div., Ph.D, Roman Catholic Woman Priest.")

Ms. Rue is also an open lesbian and homosexualist activist:

“In 1990 my partner Kathryn Poethig and I celebrated a ceremony of commitment with our families and friends. … Through the years we have worked for a more body positive theology, as well as the inclusion and ordination of lesbian and gay people in both the Protestant and Catholic churches.”

She has an affiliation with Dignity USA dating back to at least 1998. In June, 2009 California Catholic Daily reported that Ms. Rue gave a seminar at the Dignity USA convention in San Francisco. The title was Valid but Illicit: Being a Roman Catholic Lesbian Priest (“Dignity USA Catholics to Explore Leather Spirituality”).

In a number of ways, the screening of Pink Cloud is eerily reminiscent of the March 2009 performance of the homosexualist play “Be Still and Know” by students of Sacred Heart High School of Atherton, just south of San Francisco. San Francisco’s notorious Most Holy Redeemer parish had scheduled the students to perform the play in their church, but when the event became widely known, Archbishop George Niederauer forced the performance to be cancelled. (The Jesuit University of San Francisco, in defiance of His Excellency's wishes, allowed the play to be performed there). At the time, one of the questions raised was why the school chose MHR as a venue. Investigation revealed that the Principal of Sacred Heart of Atherton, Mr. Jim Everitt, was also serving as a lector at Most Holy Redeemer. Now investigation has revealed that the Department Chair of Religion/Theology at Stuart Hall, the Convent of the Sacred Heart’s sister school, Mr. Ray O’Connor, is a member of the seven-person Worship Committee at MHR. He is the coordinator of lectors for the church. The Winter, 2010 issue of the Convent of the Sacred Heart’s Broadview newspaper reported that Mr. O’Connor led a group of Convent students to Most Holy Redeemer.

On February 18, following the screening and Ms. Rue’s scheduled appearance, an email uninformative to the point of deception was sent to the parents of CSH students. The email was signed by Paul Pryor Lorentz, Chair of the Theology/Philosophy Department at CSH, and Andrea Shurley, CSH’s Head of School. They wrote, in part:

“Today we had a guest speaker who shared her views on the role of women in the Catholic Church. Her viewpoint was carefully and intelligently shared, and our Women’s Studies students led a question and answer session. Unfortunately, given our time constraints, we did not have the opportunity to allow exploration of contrasting viewpoints.”

Unless another woman substituted for Ms. Rue, between the time the advertisement appeared in the Broadview on February 17 but before the email was sent on February 18, that email refers to her. Significantly, nowhere in the email are the parents informed of the identity of the speaker. That suggests the possibility that it was Ms. Rue, that the school was quite aware of Ms. Rue’s background and that the school wished to keep that background from the parents. Nowhere are the parents informed that the “careful and intelligent” Ms. Rue considers herself a Roman Catholic Woman Priest. Nowhere are they informed that she is excommunicated from the Church. Nowhere are they informed that she is an open lesbian and homosexualist activist. Faced with an issue where souls are at stake, not the least being that of Ms. Rue, those responsible at the Convent of the Sacred Heart did not even bother to find a spokesperson for a "contrasting" non-excommunicated, non-lesbian viewpoint—that of the Catholic Church.

Posted by Gibbons J. Cooney

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