A growing number of devout Catholic women, feeling a strong call to serve parishes as priests, have as the price of their ordination, accepted excommunication. That’s big. I generally don’t expect breaking news from the New Yorker, but the recent article, “Women on the Verge,” by Margaret Talbot, was news to me, and maybe to you as well.

One of these women has a parish of 1,000 who have all accepted excommunication. Has this ever happened before? Has the threat of excommunication lost its sting? To me, a non-Catholic, it’s a religious earthquake. At the risk of being rude about it, a phalanx of bishops and cardinals (though not the pope) remind me of the wizard of Oz getting the curtain yanked aside and exposing their thunder as merely a rattling sheet of metal. Sorry, that is too rude. And it’s on me—the women priests themselves remain respectful and do not take excommunication lightly. And it’s none of my business, right? But clearly Catholic leaders held too firm for too long and now face a crisis because they wouldn’t entertain any change.

It’s not as though this would be the first change Catholicism has undergone. The church’s current form and stances are the result of multiple changes since the first century. At long last they are under intense pressure to recognize the equality of women. But oh does the boys’ club hate that. Wow. Stay tuned. This could be part of a re-invigoration of a faith, with greater commitment to justice. And that is of great interest to me, so it is kind of my business, as it is the world’s. Wait. Why do I say could be, would be? Seems to me the change has already happened, whether endorsed by the Vatican or not.

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