Women Priests Movement Endorsed By National Catholic Reporter

From right, Janice Sevre, Reverend Roy Bourgeois, Ree Hudson, Donna Rougeux and Erin Saizhanna, members of the Women's Ordina
From right, Janice Sevre, Reverend Roy Bourgeois, Ree Hudson, Donna Rougeux and Erin Saizhanna, members of the Women's Ordination Conference group, stage a protest in front of St. Peter's basilica in Rome, Monday, Oct. 17, 2011. A U.S. Catholic priest who supports ordination for women has been detained by police after marching to the Vatican to press the Holy See to lift its ban on women priests. The Rev. Roy Bourgeois and two supporters were taken away Monday in a police car after their group marched down the main boulevard leading to the Vatican and chanted outside St. Peter's Square "What do we want? Women priests!". (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

In an editorial published Monday morning, a prominent Catholic newspaper endorsed the controversial movement to ordain women priests.

Calling the priesthood a "gift from God ... rooted in baptism," the National Catholic Reporter says that "barring women from ordination to the priesthood is an injustice that cannot be allowed to stand."

The Kansas City, Mo.-based newspaper's editorial pits it directly against the Vatican, where church leadership has strongly rejected any possibility of women being ordained, even as a small pro-ordination movement has grown and independently ordained several women in recent years.

The editorial comes weeks after the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's laicization and excommunication of Roy Bourgeois, a former American priest and peace activist who was a member of the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers and an outspoken supporter of the women's ordination movement in the U.S., was made public. In a Mass in 2008 in Lexington, Ky., Bourgeois participated in the ordination of a woman priest. His religious order later said that he was part of an "invalid ordination of a woman and a simulated Mass."

Denis Coday, the editor of the newspaper, said it supports Bourgeois and women's ordination activists, several of whom were shortly detained in Vatican City in October after attempting to march on the Vatican to protest its policy against ordaining women. The editorial argues that "exclusion of women from the priesthood has no strong basis in scripture or any other compelling rationale."

"In the late 1980s and early '90s, there was increased talk in church circles -- even at the bishops' conference level -- to reexamine the ban on ordaining women. At the same time, there was increasing Vatican pressure to stop such talk," said Coday. "The Vatican pressure to squelch even discussion of this issue culminated with Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, which tried to put the stamp of infallibility on this teaching," he said, referring to a 1994 apostolic letter by Pope John Paul II that said the church "has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women."

"Despite the Vatican's best efforts to suppress discussion of this issue, Catholics have discussed it and studied it and they have found the church's rationale unsatisfying," Coday said. "What the editorial says is that the Catholic faithful -- laypeople, theologians and perhaps even some bishops -- have studied and prayed over this issue and they have come to the conclusion that the ban on women priests must be lifted."

While the National Catholic Reporter, which has 33,000 print subscribers and a wider online reach, is known as a liberal newspaper, this is the first time it has directly challenged the Vatican and supported women's ordination in an editorial. The newspaper, which HuffPost Religion partners with to publish some of its articles, is run by lay people and not priests. Its staff does not report to the Vatican and is unlikely to suffer repercussions from church authorities for its position.

Previously, the newspaper has written that Pope John Paul II's statement that women can not be ordained is not "infallible teaching," which would mean the position could be challenged. On another issue, the newspaper has also come out supporting Catholics who are in favor of same-sex marriage legalization.

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