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Pink Smoke Over the Vatican: Women Demand Greater Role in the Catholic Church

Web ExclusiveMarch 14, 2013
Media Options

While the world waited for white smoke to flow from the Sistine Chapel chimney to indicate a new pope had been chosen, smoke of a different color began billowing into the sky over the Vatican. It was released by protesters demanding a greater role for women in the Catholic Church.

[includes rush transcript]

On Wednesday, Democracy Now! spoke with protest organizer Erin Saiz Hanna, executive director of the Women’s Ordination Conference, and with Janice Sevre-Duszynska, an excommunicated Catholic priest. “Jesus, I mean, he was certainly a feminist for his time,” Sevre-Duszynska says. “He welcomed women, along with the rest of the marginalized and outcasts, at his table fellowship.”

ERIN SAIZ HANNA: My name is Erin Saiz Hanna. I’m the executive director of the Women’s Ordination Conference. We are the oldest and largest national organization network for ordained women priests into an inclusive and accountable Catholic Church. And we are here in Rome today with our coalition partners of women’s ordination worldwide. As we had waited for a new pope, we have been doing vigils every day here of pink smoke. As the world waited for white smoke, we were raising pink smoke to bring attention to the lack of women’s voices in the conclave and in the decision making of the Roman Catholic Church.

Yesterday, we did it as just a small vigil outside, you know, with St. Peter’s in the background. So pink smoke literally just lifted right over the sky over St. Peter’s. It was just this beautiful visual of this pink smoke all over the Vatican. And then today was a smaller pink smoke here in Rome where we lifted it just during mass. So we gathered in community with men and women who all agree that women deserve and are simply in need of a more inclusive role in the church. So we all gathered in prayer, and we lifted pink smoke in a very prayerful way then, as well.

There are so many women who have been marginalized in our church, not just women who seek larger roles like ordination, but women who’ve been divorced, lesbian women, girls who want to serve at the altar, women who use birth control. There are so many women who are left outside of the church and who have no place. So, our hope is, you know, Pope Francis will be a peacemaker, live up to his name, and really reach out to women. That would be a huge start. In 1994, Pope John Paul II closed officially any discussion on women’s ordination, and people can be fired from even discussing that. So, our hope is Pope Francis, you know, will even open the doors just to discuss it.

The Vatican is very much a monarchy, and they have a seat at the U.N., and they make very important decisions that affect women on a global level. There’s a lot of policy making. It’s more than a religion; it’s a government. And that government really affects the lives of millions of Catholic women around the world, when it comes to birth control, when it—you know, reproductive healthcare, condoms, LGTB issues. They were against the Violence Against Women Act last week. So these are all issues that I feel that women must have a stronger voice in. These statements cannot be coming from a leadership that is all old, celibate men.

JANICE SEVRE-DUSZYNSKA: I’m Janice Sevre-Duszynska. I’m an ordained Roman Catholic woman priest. I was ordained August 9th, 2008.

We had a pink smoke event at the Piazza Garibaldi here in Rome, and there were lots of people that attended it. It had rained before. And why did we shoot off the pink smoke? The pink smoke was to show—the white smoke we saw tonight at the St. Peter’s Square, but the pink smoke is about women’s decision making and leadership in our church, which is so desperately needed. We need to hear voices of women. We need to hear the interpretation of the gospel, of the gospel, from women, living and dying. We need, as we have in our women’s masses, feminine images of God, who is beyond gender. But if we’re going to speak of God in anthropomorphic terms, it is sinful and idolatrous to speak of God in only masculine imagery.

And Jesus, I mean, he was certainly a feminist for his time. He talked to women when it was really, you know, a huge taboo for a man to talk to women. And he welcomed women, along with the rest of the marginalized and outcasts, at his table fellowship. So, you know, there’s much that the holy spirit has been bringing to the forefront that has been denied by the one aspect of our church, which is the hierarchy. But meanwhile, the church has been rising up, in the grassroots, from the bottom up, with the people of God, and that is with the ordination of women priests and inclusive liturgies and people giving homilies and a fruitful example of a great blessing in our tradition of our church.

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