Sunday, March 10, 2013

'Pink Smoke' demonstration calls for more female leaders in the Catholic church New Orleans

'Pink Smoke' demonstration calls for more female leaders in the Catholic church

Pink smoke 2.JPG
The Women's Ordination Conference staged a demonstration outside of St. Louis Cathedral in the French Quarter on Sunday, March 10, to advocate for more female voices in the Catholic Church. (Photo by Juliet Linderman, | The Times-Picayune)
Juliet Linderman, | The Times-Picayune By Juliet Linderman, | The Times-Picayune
on March 10, 2013 at 4:42 PM, updated March 10, 2013 at 4:53 PM
In response to the unorthodox departure of Pope Benedict XVI -- who on Feb. 28 became the first pope to resign from the papacy in six centuries – and the subsequent gathering of 115 male cardinals to designate his replacement, a small group of Catholic women, and a few men, gathered just before noon outside of St. Louis Cathedral on Sunday to advocate for equal rights in the church.
The demonstration, organized by the local chapter of the Women's Ordination Conference (WOC), consisted of prayers, songs and a call for gender equality in the Catholic church that includes the ordination of women as priests, and an expanded effort to include women’s voices in the church and in the Vatican.
Should the Catholic Church allow women to be ordained as priests?
On Tuesday, when the conclave officially begins, a chapter of WOC will travel to Rome and send up a plume of pink smoke – a direct response to white smoke that will rise once a new pope is selected – to draw attention to the group’s cause. There will be similar demonstrations in nine cities across the United States.
“(On Tuesday) the women of the church, and the members of the Women’s Ordination Conference, send up pink smoke to protest the lack of women’s voices at the conclave, and to protest the ban on women from all leadership and decision making positions in the church,” said Kim Nunez, clad in a pink T-shirt. “We recognize this 'election' as the celebration of patriarchy, and the painful reminder of the misogyny of the hierarchy.”
Organizer Jennifer Molina, who is a leader of the local chapter of WOC, cited the papal election as a “historic moment” in the Catholic Church – and an opportunity to pursue policies that have been previously frowned upon, such as the inclusion of women in priestly positions, as well as an inclusive and welcoming attitude towards gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Christians. Additionally, the group called for transparency and accountability for victims of sex abuse, and an end to corruption.
“It’s just as divine and just as valid when the call from God goes to a woman as to a man," Molina said. "This practice is based on sexism, and it’s a sin; it’s time for us to be called to repentance, and dialogue, and reconciliation together.”
As the morning rolled into afternoon, and churchgoers began spilling out of St. Louis Cathedral into the French Quarter, demonstrators eager to discuss the cause provoked mixed reactions.
Dorothy Haase, who is visiting New Orleans from her native New York, rebuffed the efforts of one demonstrator to engage her in conversation. Haase said she is a practicing Catholic, and does not believe the church should change its policies regarding women in the priesthood.
"We can have a fuller church by including women in the priesthood." - John Fitzgerald, Women's Ordination Conference demonstrator
“They say they want respect as humans, and they are respected,” Haase said. “But if they want to do this, they should go somewhere else, to another religion. I'm not interested in listening to it.”
A male churchgoer also refused to accept the pink pamphlet demonstrators were handing out on Sunday. “That’s not right. That’s not exactly right,” he muttered as he hurried away from the protest.
But other Catholics were thrilled to see the Pink Smoke brigade outside of St. Louis Cathedral, and jumped at the chance to join the cause.
“I’ve been looking all over for you!” said Bertha Deffes, a New Orleans resident. “I hope this has some effect somewhere down the line. All you have to do is look at the history of the church, and it’s ridiculous. It’s time; it’s way past time.”
“This dialogue is centuries overdue,” said Lois Blatters, who joined the demonstration. “The church is still stuck in the medieval times.”
John Fitzgerald, also a demonstrator, said that he believes the exclusion of women from the priesthood is a sexist act, and that such an act tarnishes the integrity of the church.
“Sexism is a sin, and it’s time to repent,” he said. “My experience as a human and a Catholic is degraded by that sexism. We can have a fuller church by including women in the priesthood.”
Former Archbishop of New Orleans Alfred Clifton Hughes would not discuss the demonstration, but said that his hope for the next pope is “someone who is going to bring people together…and help us respond to God in our lives.”
“We want women in the church,” he added, “in every way that God intends.”

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