The Deacon's Bench

This has echoes of the story I posted recently from Chicago.

From the Atlanta Journal Constitution:

deacondiane_1114_00_750142c.jpgDiane Dougherty lives in a neat, white house that she shares with her cats, Pete and Gypsy Rose. She teaches second grade in Fayetteville. She smiles a lot, her eyes flashing with intellect.

A public school teacher in Fayetteville, Diane Dougherty of Newnan had previously been a nun and taught in Catholic school classrooms.

She hardly looks like someone flouting centuries of tradition, challenging the Roman Catholic Church.

Dougherty, 65, wants to be a deacon. But in the Catholic Church, the position of deacon — like that of priest and bishop — is held by men only.

The Newnan resident is in the forefront of a movement that seeks to change all that. In ordination ceremonies in the United States and across the world, nearly 200 Catholic women have declared themselves deacons, priests and bishops. A male priest whose support of ordaining women drew a rebuke from the Vatican calls the issue “unstoppable.”

The Vatican remains opposed to the ordination of women, calling it a “grave crime.” Church officials say women are highly valued and stress female equality in all areas of life. The example the church follows, officials say, was set by Jesus.

If she declares herself a deacon, Dougherty is nearly guaranteed to be excommunicated — removed from the faith she’s embraced since childhood.

Excommunication is not too high a price to pay, Dougherty said. She thinks the Catholic Church is behind the times.

“I want to give the next generation a vision” of the roles women could have in the church, Dougherty said. “Forbidding [positions of authority to women] is sexism, and sexism is evil.”

The Archdiocese of Atlanta, overseeing nearly 1 million Catholics, doesn’t agree.

Deacon “is a uniquely male role,” said the Rev. Theodore Book, the archdiocese’s director of the Office For Worship. Jesus’ 12 disciples, the original deacons, he noted, were men.

“It’s something Jesus Christ gave to the church.”

Dougherty politely disagrees. “Jesus,” she said, “didn’t ordain anyone.”

Read on.

On a hunch, I’d say that in the end, the only thing Ms. Dougherty is going to get out of all this is attention. 

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