a response to beautiful heresy by Ruth Wasylenko, priest of the Emmaus Catholic Inclusive Community

It is always interesting to see what people take away from their first or even 50th meeting of our Emmaus community.  It also comes as a reminder to me to be careful about my speech, especially in squeezed moments when my attention is on a couple of other things and someone asks a deeper question.

We could discuss this in person, and I hope we will have this and other fruitful discussions about issues that interest us, or intersect our beliefs and hopes for the world. But I am choosing to post it on your blog so as to stimulate discussion among many more people. It is, in this way, that concepts are developed, thought through, and defined.

I’ve studied this question since I was a young student. All my study has led me to believe that we can and should be considerate of the plight of women in the world including their reproductive choices in the world.

However, where we differ is our understanding of the “product/person” that may result from reproductive activities. I think, you can correct me if you disagree, that humanists and many feminists (even some RCWP people) view the product of reproduction as a part of the woman’s body. Much like the decision to remove a cancerous breast, or amputate an appendage, you perhaps feel that the fetus is a clump of undifferentiated cells and part of the protoplasm of a woman’s body.  This is where I disagree in feeling that the developing fetus is a unique and eventually viable human person already in the uterus.  Science goes both ways.

‘So what?’ you may ask.  So Catholic moral theology makes it imperative that our actions in the world and our choices around life always favour the ones who are the most vulnerable; we are called to be a voice for the voiceless; and to defend the defenceless: i.e. the baby who has no way of self-defence, so we have to defend it first. In fact this belief is in line with most religious doctrine and humanist doctrine, to the best of my knowledge.

From that point of view pro-life is not only about a woman’s body, it’s about giving a voice to the child. But it is also about trying to better the lives of the poor, sustain the earth’s improvement and protect it, looking after the handicapped, the elderly, other marginalized people, including not having the death penalty and ­no racism and looking out for other women’s rights when they can’t do it for themselves.

This is the teaching of God in scripture over and over again, usually couched in terms of the “widow and the orphan” in the Old Testament, and in the New Testament in terms of “those who hunger for justice; the immigrant; the grieving; the imprisoned; the enslaved; the hungery; elderly; ill;  and poor in so many different ways” including women. In other words to look out those who have little or no power of their own.  This is the basis of the feminist movement to begin with.

As far as RCWP, I know there are people who accept abortion and others who don’t.   There is, to my knowledge, no definitive statement about it in the RCWP texts. But RCWP hasn’t examined 2000 years of Christian tradition and picked out everything. We are primarily called to prepare, ordain and support women priests in the Roman Catholic tradition. That’s essentially our mission statement. Other issues come up and various communities struggle with them. Let us remember that we are all still on the journey, still moving, and growing, and not there yet.

Finally, while the above is the ideal we aspire to and in fact must choose as often as possible as Catholics, there are pastoral reasons (note: pastoral meaning: on-the-ground-often-extremely-difficult-real-life-situations) wherein the rules may have to be broken.

It is unlikely that the basic premise of the personhood or not of the fetus will change in the near future for either side. But the pro-life side has a looooong way to go in supporting life in other realms in our world. You can see that I am not a republican in this sense. Being pro-life is not just being pro-birth.

I hope you can see the difference in a wider view. But I think it is a great topic so please bring it up so we can discuss it.  Likely others feel the same. Now that we are a more mature community it may be time to discuss some of these issues.


Roman Catholic Woman Priest

Emmaus Catholic Inclusive Community.


August 16, 2015


5 thoughts on “a response to beautiful heresy by Ruth Wasylenko, priest of the Emmaus Catholic Inclusive Community

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