Australian Jesuit Reiterates Support for Female Ordination

News: World News
by David Nussman  •  •  June 27, 2019   

Fr. Frank Brennan: 'I've long been a supporter of the idea of women being priests'

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CANBERRA, Australian Capital Territory (Church - A Jesuit priest in Australia is doubling down on his support for the idea of women priests.

Father Frank Brennan gave a farewell speech Wednesday night at the Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture, located in Barton, a suburb of Canberra.

He said during the speech, "I've long been a supporter of the idea of women being priests."

The Jesuit priest remarked:

We live in a society where, I look at my own family history, my own mother was one of the first women doctors at the Mater Hospital in Brisbane, my four sisters are all competent professionals and my nieces not only imagine but they've known a woman prime minister, a woman governor-general, a woman chief justice.

"So the need for the Church to adapt and ensure equality for everyone, I think, is essential," he opined.

Father Brennan is leaving Canberra later this year to become rector of Newman College at the University of Melbourne. With his departure, the Jesuits will soon be closing and selling the residence where Fr. Brennan has lived, the Xavier House in Yarralumla.

In his speech Wednesday, Brennan portrayed the all-male priesthood as outdated and nonsensical.

"The official position is no longer comprehensible to most people of good will," he claimed, "and not even those at the very top of the hierarchy have a willingness or capacity to explain it."

Father Brennan has spoken about his support for female ordination in the past. For instance, he said back in 2013, "Many of us Catholics see no theological objection to the ordination of women. Some of us suspect that the incidence of child sexual abuse and institutional cover-ups would be much less if women were included at all levels of the hierarchy."

But Brennan's recent comments come as Australia's bishops are preparing to meet next year to discuss a slew of topics — including heterodox ideas like female priests and Holy Communion for non-Catholics.

The bishops will be meeting in a plenary council in October 2020. The agenda for the council comes from the results of a survey, in which thousands of people responded to the question: "What do you think God is asking of us in Australia at this time?"

Survey results were compiled and organized into "National Themes for Discernment." One of these themes, titled "inclusive, participatory and synodal," is replete with heterodox ideas.

A word-cloud graphic on the webpage for that theme includes phrases such as "End discrimination of LGBTQ," "Communion for all" and "Welcome back priests who have left to marry."

Just this Sunday, the plenary council website released "snapshot reports" on the various themes. These reports feature full quotes from survey responses to show by example what respondents said about certain issues.

One survey response that is presented in the snapshot report for the "inclusive" theme states the following:

Women need to be equal and their presence in all Church governance needs to be equal to the male presence.

Women shouldn't only be able to be acolytes but also deacons and, yes, priests. There's a whole hurting humanity because some people don't want to go to a male priest for reconciliation. We are all Christ bearers.

However, some of the featured responses are more theologically sound. For instance, one respondent wrote about the persecution he/she undergoes in the workplace for being a devout Catholic, despite working at a supposedly Catholic school.

"Teachers like myself are few in number," that respondent wrote, "and many keep silent so as to not be found out for fear of reprisals."

During his pontificate, Pope St. John Paul II reaffirmed the Church's perennial teaching that only men can be ordained priests.

He wrote in the 1994 apostolic letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, "I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women, and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church's faithful."

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