Monday, June 25, 2012

Pilgrimage--Day Eleven

No hiking today.  This was my last full day at St. Niklausen.  I spent the day savoring impressions.  My last lauds with the Dominican Sisters of Bethany, my last Mass with my fellow Pilgrims, my last Eucharist in this chapel, etc.

I did manage to go up on the roof to get some sun.  It was cloudy: when the sun was behind the clouds, it was cold; when the sun was shining brightly, it was hot.  It was also too windy.

Everyone finished their packing and came down to sit in the lobby, to relax and talk.  We were joined by Sister Renata's nephew and wife.  They are theologians.  While we did have an interesting discussion, the talk disturbed me.  I didn't say anything, however.  I just sat there like a dummy.  The nephew has a doctorate in theology.  I guess that made me feel naive.  I hesitated to offer an opposite opinion on what the doctor was saying.  Well, he is the learned expert, and I, well, I'm just an old lady praying on her rosary beads.  Although, most of us in the group are Lay Dominicans, nobody said anything until Paul ventured to speak, "Why do you stay in the Church when you're so negative about it?"  

The theologian had just said that we were not obliged to follow the Pope.  He said that no where does it say that we must follow him.  In the Apostle's Creed, we say, "I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Catholic Church, the Communion of Saints..."  It doesn't say that we believe in the Pope.  We, people, are the Catholic Church.  

This opinion elicited Paul's comments.  The theologians said that they love the church, that's why they criticize it.  They called it "faithful criticism."

The lady theologian also told us a story that upset me.  I googled it when I got home and I believe that it's true.  Because it's true, I was very saddened.  This new information depressed me because I had always believed that the church operated in the best interests of her faithful.  I had always thought that the church respected women (look at our veneration of Mary).  But it seems that the church shunned the very ones who loved her so much, who trusted so much, who believed so much, who risked everything, to serve the Holy Roman Catholic Church.  

The story we were told began with setting the background.  The lady theologian was working for the diocese and was on a trip to Germany.  She completed her work with the bishop, and he introduced his secretary to her.  The bishop said to sit down with the secretary for awhile, because he has an interesting story.  His story:

The secretary was a married priest with seven children.  It seems that during the Communist rule in Czechoslovakia, religion was forbidden.  At this time, the secretary was working in animal husbandry, in an office.  He struck up a conversation and a friendship with the window washer.  They found out that they were both Christians.  They were both Catholics.  

Eventually, the window washer brought the secretary to clandestine Masses.  The Secretary brought his family.  They became involved in the underground Catholic Czech community.

One day as the secretary was waiting for a bus, he was approached by someone involved in the Catholic Czech community, who asked him if he'd be willing to be ordained, as a priest.  "How can this be?" He asked.  "I'm a married man with a family."

"You are exactly what we're looking for."  They reasoned that the communists would never suspect a family man as being a priest; they knew priests were celibates.

The secretary discussed the offer with his family.  It was decided that he would be a priest.  And so he ministered to the Catholic Czechs, during the Communist regime.

When Communism fell, the Catholic Church sat down with the secretary and told him that they would give him a choice: become laicized, or become an Eastern Orthodox priest.  He chose to be laicized.

That's not the end of the story.  And that's not the disturbing part.  There's more to the story.

Remember that the underground Czech Catholic Church approached the secretary because he wouldn't be suspected, as a married family man.  Well they also approached AND ordained women, for the same reason (They wouldn't be suspected.).  Only the women were given the dangerous job of ministering to those incarcerated in women's prisons.

Since there were no religion, there were no chaplains, and therefor no one to administer the sacraments to Catholics.  So the women priests were specifically called to serve in this dangerous ministry.  They had to break the law, be convicted and sentenced to prison, on purpose.  Can you imagine the Czech prisons?  Yet, these women priests knew what they were getting themselves into, and willingly accepted this ministry for God, for country, and the church that they so loved.  Once inside, they could hear confessions, perform Last Rites, baptize, and secretly have Mass.

The difference between the clandestine male priests, and the women priests was that some women priests died in prison.  And they weren't offered the same deal as the secretary.  The women were told to not let the door knob hit them, on the way out.

I checked the story out by "googling" Czechoslovakia Women Priests.  There's a plethora of information: pages of entries.  There's too much factual information for it to be a legend.  There's too many facts that are proven documentary.  There are too many people still alive that swear to the veracity of the facts, of women priests serving in prisons.  Go ahead; do your own research.  Living

Why did the story depress me?  Maybe because I thought the church wouldn't treat people who were trying to serve her, so shabbily.  Maybe because the church says women can not be priests, yet these women were ordained.  Maybe because the church says that she doesn't have the authority to ordain women, yet she did.  Maybe because I want the church to be perfect, like my heavenly father is.

Now that almost a week has past, since I've heard the story of the Czech women priests, I'm not so disheartened.  I recall that the church has ordained cardinals, in secret.  This is because the cardinals lived under repressive conditions that would have put their ministries in jeopardy.  This is called in pectore.  Wikipedia says,

In addition to the named cardinals, the pope may name secret cardinals or cardinals in pectore (Latin for in the breast).
During the Western Schism many cardinals were created by the contending popes. Beginning with the reign of Pope Martin V,[1] cardinals were created without publishing their names until later, termed creati et reservati in pectore.[20]
A cardinal named in pectore is known only to the pope; not even the cardinal so named is necessarily aware of his elevation, and in any event cannot function as a cardinal while his appointment is in pectore. Today, cardinals are named in pectore to protect them or their congregations from reprisals if their identities were known.
If conditions change, so that the pope judges it safe to make the appointment public, he may do so at any time. The cardinal in question then ranks in precedence with those raised to the cardinalate at the time of his in pectore appointment. If a pope dies before revealing the identity of an in pectore cardinal, the cardinalate expires. 

Living under the Czech communist regime certainly would qualify as priests not being able to function as priests.  Hence perhaps some sort of creati et reservati in pectore may have been formulated.  But if it were, then when conditions changed, the ordinatate expired, just as a cardinalate expires.  

The Lord giveth.  The Lord taketh away.  I serve the Lord.  I don't serve myself, so whatever He wills, I will.  And does it really matter whether the world knows, or not?  

God knows.