Responding to Rocco

Our readers weigh in on Rocco Palmo's column on women's ordination

Catholic Suicide

Dear Rocco,

I will always read your impressive work, a gift handed down to you by no one other than God. I also felt unease about the women’s ordinations on the river in Pittsburgh, because they cannot be done in the style and “tradition” of our church. You could create beautiful paragraphs on that with graciousness, knowledge and wit. Your recent commentaries on this event however, did not glide in that direction. They were a bit on the heavy side, mocking with wit more than perspective, of which you have both in abundance for a 23 year-old gifted male who loves the church and who can write intelligently at such a young age, relatively speaking.

However, I am disappointed with the use of your personal, going into questionable theologically-based, opinions about women not being able to become priests. Disparaging the polls favoring women’s ordination, you use as an example, Jesus’ crucifixion, saying that the crowd was for it, and therefore polls are not the best indicator of policy setting.

Very, unintentionally of course, unworthy of Jesus’ final moments before the crowd; and unworthy, and non-related to the current argument of women in the church.

I don’t know if there were no women in the room at the Last Supper. Do you?? Da Vinci painted it, he didn’t photograph it. Catholics have used the historical airbrush for Mary Magdalene or any other “formative” woman, since the Gospels were first recorded. Save a few, so they didn’t look entirely unbalanced, or they acknowledged, but diminished their roles. Furthermore, this is not an argument for women not being priests.

There are those who want to keep the tradition, there are those who don’t. Male priests are falling apart at the seams, which you so eloquently write. Churches are closing, scandals are frothing. Jail terms are now an option for abusers. Some of those who covered it up are even losing high positions. Others have been promoted, especially to Rome.

The good priests suffer, and we along with them. Catholics continue to be underserved in terms of the sacraments, pastoral care, and just being Catholic in a community. But keep the male line tradition at all costs. This is Catholic suicide in the 21st century. We are sinking (and even killing) our priests, while continuing to stand proudly on tradition. The God who is love is not looking to make it harder for us Catholics (along with His other non-Catholic universe) to partilcipate in his love by closing down churches because we have no priests.

In conclusion, I continue to enjoy your writing and reporting. But you’re going down a “rocky” road (forgive me), when you write about very sensitive areas with your personal opinions, particularly about half of the planet’s population, and way more than half of the Catholic Church’s participation and support. This is not sitting around with friends in Philly over a beer. Your impact is very wide. And you have a long way to go. Travel well.

Claudia McGeary
New York City

Please Be Seated

I agree with Rocco on this one, (are you all sitting down) and I’m an active gay catholic man. I could use all the big words, look up all the cannon law, but come on ladies, it’s all about power, let me share this with you…most priests don’t have any anymore…YOU are equal, just not the same, just like I am but I am not making any babies with my life partner…sometimes an apple is just an apple and an orange is just an orange…
Remember that we are all call to priesthood, a stole and pulpit stand is not in the cards for everyone…

Rocco keep up the good work
New York

A Gorilla in the Room


More good stuff from Rocco, give that man a raise!

I like Palmo’s blog Whispers in the Loggia and usually like his other writings too. Despite the plug, his recent piece on the rogue ordinations that happened in Pittsburg was good, but I wish it went further. I think he misses the preverbal gorilla in the room. My question to him is this: why not women’s ordination? Don’t give me church law, give me something heart felt, something that speaks to modern culture. Give me something that speaks to the thousands of women around the world who are denied leadership (read: ordination) in the RCC.

Like it or not, the women who participated in the boat ceremony in Pittsburg are in favor of women’s ordination. Because of their actions they sealed the deal, so to speak, on how they think church reform should take place—it should happen outside of the church, hence their willingness to accept defacto excommunication. So be it. Palmo brings up the idea that these actions point to clericalism. They do, and clericalism is bad, really bad. But Palmo is unwilling to stick his neck out about women’s ordination. In the BH piece he says this:

“Even if 99.9% of those queried sought it, ordaining women is one of those things the Church can’t do. As Catholics, we believe that the priesthood takes its origin from the Last Supper of Holy Thursday, when Christ instituted the Eucharist and charged the Apostles to “do this in memory of me”—a mandate that, over time, came to include preaching and the broader functions of sacramental ministry.”

Frankly, that’s not good enough.

Why can’t we engage this topic? Even if it is a closed case in Rome (it might not be anymore, I’m not sure), why is it such a taboo? Perhaps this speaks to a broader issue or transparency and dialogue. Why are we bad Catholics for talking about an issue like the role of women in the church?

These are big questions, but questions that need to be brought more into the light, especially by young, engaged, and invested people in the church. Palmo closes his article with this line: “we need to be reminded more often that our identity comes not from the role we play in the grand scheme of it all, but in our journey together as the People of God.” Together, as the people of God, why can’t we talk more openly about it…or frankly talk about it at all? I would venture to say that doing so is an important part of the journey.

Brian Emerson

Good Enough for Jesus

Dear editors,

Was there no one who wrote in to agree with Rocco’s column? From what’s posted, it sure doesn’t seem like it. I have to object to your editorial stance for not publishing any emails in support of his view, assuming there were some. And I can’t believe that someone didn’t agree.

I am a 30 year old woman who is active in the Catholic Church and I cannot understand why so many Catholics have such a huge problem with the male priesthood. If Jesus didn’t make his own mother, his first and best disciple, concieved without sin, an apostle, he did so for a good reason. I’m not willing to question him on it.

I think it all boils down to a lack of humility and a flawed understanding of what it means to be human, male or female. I am made beautifully different from my husband. In the eyes of God I am his equal in every way, but we are not the same and we are not interchangable. In the eyes of God, I am my pastor’s equal in every way, but we are not interchangable. I may be capable of “doing the job,” but I am not made to live the vocation. There is a huge difference.

Amy Giglio
Linden, NJ

Untrue Facts


The Almost Holy article this week has a bunch of untrue facts. I appreciate Rocco’s writing but he hasn’t studied theology or history and, therefore, doesn’t realize that what he is saying is actually untrue. The historical and textual evidence that scholars now have tells us:

  1. Jesus didn’t ordain ANYONE
  2. there WERE likely women at the “Last Supper”
  3. the first ordination ritual that we know of comes from 180 AD and doesn’t resemble ordination as we know it today…in fact, the people help to call out and commission the priests.
  4. we have evidence that women were ordained as deacons, priests and bishops for centuries after Jesus’ death until the patriarchy snuffed women out etc. etc.


Classic Condescension

Dear Busted Halo,
I’m certain this was not Mr. Palmo’s intent but in his article “Down By the River” on the ordination of twelve women in Pittsburgh I hear an echo of that classic condescension, “There there dear, this is much too complex for your simple feminine mind, but don’t you see that we must remain unified? I know that you’re abused and disappointed, voiceless and objectified, but let’s keep that between us shall we?”

If Mr. Palma’s point is that priesthood does not equal holiness then we agree. I must however, respectfully but passionately disagree with a number of other ideas he raises. I do not believe that the desire of the women ordained in Pittsburgh was to make themselves important. Is that why men get ordained? Nor was it to perpetuate a clergy over laity mindset. These twelve women have served the Catholic Church and their communities all their lives. They are nurses and university professors, mothers, spiritual directors, scientists. These are smart women. They deserve more credit. These twelve are women whose faith in God and commitment to the Gospel called them to face a terrible choice. They knew that their ordinations would cost them their church.

There are all kinds of reformers. For some, conscience and circumstance call them beyond the boundary of the Church. Martin Luther addressed the abuses of the hierarchy in his time and ended up excommunicated. Eventually the Council of Trent accomplished some of the reforms he sought. For these women too, their love for their church and their fidelity to the Gospel brought them to a point beyond the boundary. It is not always possible to call for justice from within a structure, particularly when an absence of dialogue and a climate of fear exist. In spite of the best efforts of the hierarchy to close the debate it rages on and these ordinations are simply one more chapter in the story of a church still on the journey.

When injustice is present discussion and disagreement must also be present otherwise it is not the Kingdom that we are striving for but false piety and religious pretense. If we wish for the church to image the kingdom, to truly be the body of Christ then we cannot reserve leadership (liturgical or hierarchical) to a fraction of its members. Can’t we all just get along? Not if getting along means silence, fear, and a limiting of the God giftedness of women.

Nora Bradbury-Haehl

Rochester, NY

Vigorously Disagree

Dear Editor:
I am a regular reader of Busted Halo and have subscription to the PodCast, which I typically enjoy very much. I appreciate many of the articles on your site, even those that present opinions with which I disagree.

I’d like to write in response, however, to a recent article “Almost Holy” by Rocco Palmo. While many of Mr. Palmo’s points are fairly well constructed, I vigorously disagree with his conclusions and believe them to be rooted in a misogyny that, indeed, spans time back to that of Jesus. While I appreciate the assertion that the gifts and service of all of the Church, not just the clergy, are important, this article fails to address the root cause of the injustice in the institution of the priesthood. The demand for equality in this particular and important role does not diminish other roles.

I am dismayed that your publication has featured this article which is neither objective (gives very little information about the actual event in Pittsburgh), nor well balanced. It further fails, I believe, to really address the issues at the heart of the ordination debate. And while I enjoy the Beatles, I believe that the reference in the Opening paragraph is offensive —a glib reaction to something that many Catholics, including myself, think is an honest and challenging response to the call of the Holy Spirit.

Thank You,

Nancy Lima