Did you get your invitation to the first consecration of a female Catholic bishop? Too bad. Neither did I. But the media was abuzz about it all. Of course it was since the media delights in giving dissidents prominence -- especially when those dissidents adhere to the sacred political agenda of the media (feminism, same sex marriage, gender identity, etc.).
So here is the story (from their own website). Spiritus Christi is an inclusive, mission-driven Catholic Church in Rochester, New York. The community officially began on Valentine's Day, 1999. 1100 people attended the Masses that first weekend. Most of them had previously belonged to Corpus Christi Roman Catholic Church in Rochester, but they had found themselves unwelcome there following a Vatican crack-down on the parish the previous year. [The Vatican took issue with a woman concelebrating the mass with their priest, the support of homsexuality and, indeed, the celebration of gay and lesbian weddings (though not on church property), and an open communion policy.] The Diocese of Rochester, under pressure from Rome, fired the leaders and ended these inclusive practices.
This happened back in 1998. In 2001 the dissidents (a goodly number, some 1200-1500 people) gathered to re-establish their old identity but as an independent Catholic church (whatever that means). They ordained the woman who has been acting as a de facto priest before and have continued to the present day. There is no doubting that the congregation is appealing and has a steady membership of over 250 families and that they are very active -- in many good and laudable causes but also and very prominently in support of a pro GLBTQ agenda. The old Roman priest is back, no longer Roman, but an associate pastor of the group. Now one of their number has been consecrated a bishop, Denise (MeMa) Donato. You can read it all for yourself.
You can also notice the prominent coverage given to the group by the so-called National Catholic Reporter (here, here, and here). Which is my point. Rome is filled with dissidents who have not left and who are agitating still for the same old causes (many dating back to the 1970s). Here is a semi-official voice of the Roman Catholic Church giving big coverage to this particular dissident group of people who fought and left but still claim the identity. It is as if these were the heroes in the eyes of this journal and the Church was the oppressing force of wrong. It is also a hint that the problems in Rome are not simply a guy named Frank who wears a pallium and is called papa and who lives in the Vatican. No, indeed. There are many (many boomers of my vintage) who have older but not weaker voices in favor of a church that mirrors the movement of culture. But there is no future for the Church in becoming a pale echo of the sins of the world around us. Yet the cause of faithfulness rarely wins any publicity contests.
Finally there is that phrase: an independent Catholic church. It is a contradiction in terms. Catholic is a word that means nothing less than no independence but rather dependence upon and adherence to the catholic tradition. We Lutherans recognized this early on. We insisted in our first public confession that we have not departed from the catholic faith in doctrine or practice. It is this contention by which we insist we must be judged. But this community, Spiritus Christi, that insists that faithfulness requires departure from the catholic tradition and faith. Indeed, they have made this the litmus test of faithfulness. And this is where it all ends up so strange. They claim to be catholic but they have rejected every catholic dogma with regard to the pastoral office, to the sacred nature of marriage between one man and one woman, and the cause of sexual purity (over sexual indulgence). That they have a following is no surprise. The world loves the show more than it has loved the faith for a long time. They love the image of being the church while at the same time rejecting the basic truths that define and shape the church's faith and life. But make no mistake. This is not the path of faithfulness. In this case, the trappings of church are being used to foment error. And they are not alone.