Women Priests Protest Catholic Doctrine

By Christian Schaffer

August 4, 2008

There is a movement within the Catholic Church to try and pressure The Vatican to allow women to become priests. The Vatican says it goes against Catholic doctrine, and has excommunicated women who say they've been ordained.

One of those women is from our area. Gloria Carpeneto of Catonsville sees herself as part of a movement to break through what she calls the stained-glass ceiling. She grew up Catholic in Northeast Baltimore, and later spent years working within the church and social organizations. Finally she began to wonder, ’I've done everything up to the point of, and then I have to pull back,’ she said. ‘Why couldn't I go one step further. If I've prepared children for the sacraments, wouldn't it be nice to be able to offer them their First Communion?’

Then she came upon an organization known as Roman Catholic Womenpriests. ‘And just like that I realized, that's what I'm supposed to do.’ After two years of training, last month Carpeneto participated in a Womenpriests ordination ceremony in Boston.

Gloria Carpeneto

‘When you see someone who looks like you up on the alter, suddenly you say, I can do that,’ she said.

The Vatican says women who try to go through the ordination process are effectively excommunicating themselves. And in a statement, the Baltimore Archdiocese told ABC-2 news, ‘Through Baptism, all Christians are called to serve God's people using the many gifts and talents God has bestowed on us. Women and men alike answer this call in many ways by serving the Church in many capacities.

Women have long held positions of leadership and authority in the Archdiocese of Baltimore. They serve as Catholic school administrators, directors of centers of charitable outreach, diocesan and parish leaders and key members of administrative boards. Their dedicated and able service remains and will continue to be an integral component of our ministry to the people of this Archdiocese.’

But not as priests. Regardless, Gloria Carpeneto believes that she is responding to a higher authority than the Archdiocese of Baltimore, or even The Vatican. ‘I would like to say to God when I die, I heard your voice and I wasn't afraid to respond to it.’

Carpeneto has been married for nearly 39 years. She has two grown daughters. Part of her belief that women should be allowed to become Catholic priests stems from the practices of other Christian denominations. But she says she's committed to staying with the Catholic Church. ‘I've had people say to me, ‘Why don't you just become an Episcopalian and skip all this? Well, I'm not Episcopalian.. That's not where my home is and I don't feel like I ought to be driven from my home, because I feel a call from God to be something that the church doesn't see as legal yet.’

She also feels the church’s doctrine that excludes women from the priesthood is a form of discrimination. ‘It may be that you have to be a person who has been at the margins to really get that. You may have to be -- here comes the race card -- you may have to be an African-American to fully experience the feeling of seeing Barack Obama getting as far as he's gotten.’

Carpeneto still attends Catholic masses from time to time. And on Sunday afternoons she holds a service along with another Womenpriest at church buildings belonging to other denominations.

She says she doesn't mind that many Catholics might disagree with her stance. ‘I was just reading a book by Rosa Parks and she said, 'I didn't get on that bus to get arrested and I didn't get on that bus to start a movement. I got on the bus to go home.' And I think the Roman Catholic Womenpriests would say that too.'

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