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RALEIGH (ChurchMilitant.com) - A dissident group pushing for female clergy is sending a letter to priests in the diocese of Raleigh, North Carolina, to promote the appointment of a bishop open to their demands.
Regional members of the group Supporting Women in Ministry (SWIM) International are hoping to gather support for a bishop who will ordain women. SWIM describes itself as a group of women "who have been appointed by God to minister to the Body of Christ according to His revealed will."
"From the teaching of Holy Scripture, we believe that some women, as well as men, are called by God to pastor a local church, yet others are called to use their God-given gifts, skills and talents to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ."
The letter, sent in email form to many parish priests in the diocese, uses the current pontificate to push its liberal agenda. "We want to affirm that we find the direction in which Pope Francis is taking our church to be very hopeful," it continues. "We have been very encouraged by the recent appointments of Cdls. Blase Cupich and Joseph Tobin: 'Pastors' in the truest sense of the word."
Cardinal Joseph Tobin, the newly appointed archbishop of Newark, New Jersey, and Cdl. Blase Cupich, the archbishop of Chicago, have been outspoken proponents of progressive politics in the Catholic Church.
SWIM is barely known and has a minimal presence in the Raleigh diocese. A priest of the diocese who spoke with Church Militant said he has never heard of the group, and disclosed that other priests he spoke to haven't heard of the group either. They did recognize, however, that some of the 15 signatories of the letter were parishioners at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Raleigh.
"It saddens me that this letter below will be received by many of my brother priests as reflecting their hopes for a new bishop," said the priest. "It does not reflect mine or friends of mine who want to remain faithful to the traditions and teachings of our beloved Church."
SWIM's letter continues, "Pope Francis has also warned bishops to be wary of seminarians 'who take refuge in rigidity' of practices. In the Raleigh diocese, current practice is to send candidates to markedly conservative seminaries."
"We know that many bishops are struggling with a shortage of priests," it goes on. "The pope warned them not to be 'tempted by numbers and quantity' of vocations but rather to focus on 'quality.'"
This dissenting group then claims:
We look to our next bishop to encourage the entire community to be part of priesthood discernment classes, seminary life and diaconate formation. In light of Pope Francis's openness to discussing ordaining women to the diaconate, it would be exciting to have a bishop with openness of mind and heart and the courage to lead our diocese to ordain women deacons.
Although SWIM does not maintain it is a Catholic group, several self-professed Catholic women in the Raleigh area adhere to the group's principals.
The Raleigh priest told Church Militant, "My parishioners and I are praying every day that the Holy Spirit will overshadow Pope Francis and the Sacred Congregation for Bishops and send us a faithful, holy and courageous bishop," he concludes.