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Woman Priest Resigns Church Position
The Irish Times - Saturday, April 24, 1999 by ROISIN INGLE

The English woman who was ordained a priest by the dissident Bishop Pat Buckley last September has resigned as a church administrator after he allowed the BBC to film a wedding scene for a comedy episode in her Co Louth church.

Mother Frances Meigh (67) told The Irish Times she was "shocked and stunned" when she walked into St Andrew's Church in Omeath, Co Louth, on Tuesday and saw an actor in vestments standing in front of a congregation that included Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness "lookalikes".

The actors were filming a wedding scene in the popular BBC television series, Give My Head Peace, set in Northern Ireland, where the bride is pregnant and a hymn-like version of The Men Behind the Wire is played.

After meeting BBC staff some weeks earlier, Mother Meigh said she was under the impression that the crew were there only to take still photographs of the interior of the church.

"I phoned Bishop Buckley immediately to say how upset I was and relinquished my position as administrator," she said.

The mother of three said she would not be saying Mass in the church again because it made a mockery of everything she stood for.

"A holy place, where the Blessed Sacrament is kept, should not be used for such activities," she said.

Parishioners had phoned her to complain about the incident. "They said a bishop should know better," she said.

Bishop Buckley said yesterday that Mother Meigh's stepping down had been a mutual decision agreed by both of them due to the "stress of commuting" from her home in south Armagh to say Mass each week. He added that Mother Meigh had been aware of the filming of the episode and that it was "precious" of her to complain.

"I have always said the church should be open to everybody and the BBC drama department is very reputable. If the actors had been having sex in the aisle it would have disrespecting the church," he said. The BBC paid him £120 for the use of the building. A BBC source said Mother Meigh had known about the filming and seemed quite happy about it on the day.

Mother Meigh denied she was under stress and insisted the decision was "in no way mutual" but was made because of her dismay at what she viewed as "sacrilegious" activities being sanctioned by Bishop Buckley.


Ordaining Women
The Irish Times - Friday, September 25, 1998

Sir, - In my opinion it is only the unenlightened and the unthinking who could possibly take exception to your fine and very measured Editorial, "Ordaining Women" (September 16th). You quite accurately assert that the ordinations of Mother Frances Meigh and Rev Lynda Peilow are challenges to the ban on women priests - an ancient but unjustifiable bias in our beloved Catholic Church. Women priests (and bishops) will become a common sight in our country and the Frances Meighs and Lynda Peilows will be looked back upon as courageous pioneers.

The Irish Times is simply fulfilling one of its solemn social duties as a serious newspaper when it highlights sexism in all its forms and habitats. But for many of us the issue of the ordination of women is a profoundly spiritual and theological issue and your Editorial writer displayed a prophetic spiritual awareness when he/she declared: ". . . there can be no true unity without openness; and suppression of honest debate is the path to disheartenment and schism."

Twelve years ago, when the then Bishop (later Cardinal) Cahal Daly removed me from my parish because of my liberal views and radical actions, my pleas for diversity within unity fell on stony ground. I will not go, or be pushed, into schism. But I have been tempted to be disheartened and have resisted that temptation by evolving into a "marginalised" shepherd to the ever increasing numbers of "marginalised" sheep. I very deliberately chose the words: "Tolerance - Love - Diversity" for my episcopal motto.

We Catholics believe that Scripture and Tradition (not traditions) are the two sources of God's Revelation. On both counts women can be ordained and the Pope of Rome displays staggering error and fallibility when he declares that the Church has no authority to ordain women.

The first person to give the body and blood of Christ to the world was Our Lady. If a woman can do it physically and literally, she can certainly do it sacramentally. The argument that a priest must be a man to sacramentally represent the male Christ is dangerously flawed. Christ became "man", not "a man". We have always believed that ordination conveys a sacred character. That character is communicated to the spirit, the soul, and not to the body. Gender therefore is not an issue and never can be a authentic bar to ordination.

St Paul writes of the Deaconess Phoebe of Caesarea and of other women in the ministry. St Cyprian writes of a female priest who served the Church at Cappadocia. St Priscilla is written of as: "the priest officiating along with the other priests in the central act of worship in the Church." In the ninth century Pope Pascal I was the son of Theodora the bishopess. Also in the ninth century we find the English Pope John (really Joan) who was deposed when she fell pregnant.

And in more recent years a Roman Catholic bishop in Czechoslovakia secretly ordained women when the political regime there suppressed the Church and its male priests.

St Brigid of Kildare was ordained priest and bishop by St Mel, Bishop of Ardagh, and Mel declared: "Brigid's successor is always entitled to have episcopal orders and the honour due to a bishop." Hilda of Whitby and her successor, St Beoferlic (Beverley of York), were also bishops. St Therese of Lisieux, the Church's patron of the missions, wrote: "I feel in me the vocation of the priest." The Bavarian mystic and stigmatic Theresa Neumann, who died in 1962, is reputed to have been ordained in secret by a sympathetic bishop.

This letter will send a whole bevy of canon lawyers, theologians, church historians, scripture scholars and other enthusiastic "defenders of the faith" racing to their typewriters. I can well imagine how they will quote from this scholar and that scholar, from this text and that text and maybe even feel at the end of it all that some great theological battle has been fought and won. But the Jesus who chooses the weak to confound the strong, the foolish to confound the wise, the contemptible to confound the respectable and who made Mary Magdala the first witness of the Resurrection is Himself placing women at His altar. Frances Meigh and Lynda Peilow are profound signs of the things to come. –

Yours, etc.,

Pat Buckley,
Presiding Bishop,
The Society of St Andrew,
Co Antrim.


Ordaining Women
The Irish Times - Friday, September 25, 1998

Sir, - Mr Jim Cantwell has maintained on behalf of his employers that Bishop Pat Buckley, in ordaining a woman priest, has no authority from the church.

But what if he has authority from Jesus Christ?

Yours, etc.,

Leslie Craven,
Orsett Terrace,
Woodford Green,


Editorial, The Irish Times - Wednesday, September 16, 1998

The ordination of Mother Frances Meigh by the dissident Bishop Pat Buckley is a deliberate challenge to the Catholic Church's ban on women priests - a challenge embodied in the striking and memorable photograph in yesterday's editions of Mother Meigh lying prone, arms outstretched, during the ceremony. But just as challenging in its own way, though not deliberately so, was the ordination at Christ Church Cathedral last Sunday of Rev Lynda Peilow who, at 24, has the distinction of being the Church of Ireland's youngest priest.

In time, women priests may become a commonplace sight in this country, but for now the sight of Rev Peilow, with long, fair hair falling around her clerical collar, is undeniably arresting. The Church of Ireland could hardly dream of a more positive and engaging image for our times. In a recent interview for this newspaper, Rev Peilow acknowledged the significance of her ordination - and that of other female ministers - for women in the Catholic Church: "I suppose sometimes I think about other women out there, around my age, who would love to do what I'm able to do, but they can't because they're Catholic," she said. "I feel sorry for them. I mean, I don't know what I'd have done if I couldn't follow my calling."

Those words must resonate with Catholic women who feel they are called by God to a ministry from which their church debars them. It would be facile to pretend that the Vatican's opposition to ordaining women is based merely on misogyny and outmoded tradition. But it would be equally misguided to dismiss the demand for female ordination as a "women's issue" (as if that diminished its importance) or to reduce it to secular terms. It is in fact an issue of the greatest significance for the church, raising profound questions about justice, power and the credibility of Catholic moral teaching, especially on matters of social equality.

And there is also no doubt that many of its proponents genuinely feel called to priesthood and believe the stirrings of feminism within the church to be inspired by the Holy Spirit.

"In baptism there is neither Jew nor Gentile, slave or free, male or female, for you are all one in Jesus, the Christ," St Paul wrote (Gal. 3:28). Yet in past times the church tolerated anti-Semitism, racism and slavery - abuses it has now admitted and rejected. In his Letter to Women of 1995, Pope John Paul II went some way to doing the same with sexism, apologising for the marginalisation of women and calling for a "campaign for the promotion of women". However, while talking of the need to achieve "real equality in every area", he made it clear that the priesthood was still strictly for men only.

This week's female ordinations, in their different ways, remind us that the issue of women priests - like that of clerical celibacy - will not go away. Instead, it is likely to be the greatest challenge facing the institutional Catholic Church in the coming century. It is to be hoped that the church can learn to welcome unreservedly what the Pope has called the "genius of women" and allow the question to be aired fearlessly and openly. For there can be no true unity without openness; and suppression of honest debate is the path to disheartenment and schism.


Bishop Buckley Ordains English Woman as Priest
The Irish Times - Tuesday, September 15, 1998  by ROISIN INGLE

The ordination into the priesthood yesterday of a 67-year-old English woman represented "history in the making", dissident Bishop Pat Buckley has said.

In his first such ceremony since becoming a bishop last May, he ordained Mother Francis Meigh, a mother of three, at St Andrew's Church in the Co Louth village of Omeath.

Watched by her daughter, Melanie, and a congregation of around 150, Mother Meigh entered the church at 3 p.m. dressed in white robes and a black habit.
She left the recently renovated church just under two hours later as a newly ordained priest. According to a spokesman for the Catholic Press and Information Office, her status is not recognised as valid by the Catholic Church.

The ceremony differed little from the traditional ordination ceremonies of male religious. Mother Meigh, who has lived as a hermit in north Yorkshire for the past 10 years, was prostrate for some of the service. Later Bishop Buckley laid hands on her and consecrated her as a priest.

In his homily, Bishop Buckley said Mother Meigh was "a practical modern saint . . . an outstanding candidate for the priesthood.

"In a few moments we will ordain Sister Frances Meigh the first known Roman Catholic woman priest in this part of the world. What we are doing and witnessing today will be written and talked of by church historians for decades and centuries to come," he said.

"Frances Meigh is a thousand times more spiritual than I am and a million times more worthy to be a priest," he added, saying that gender was an irrelevant issue when it came to ordination.

After her ordination, Mother Meigh described the event as "the most momentous day of my entire life".

Bishop Buckley had made a tremendous leap of prophetic faith, she said. "I will never be able to describe the joy I feel . . . it is forever written in my heart," she added to a sustained round of applause.

Her daughter, Ms Melanie Meigh, who had travelled from England for the ceremony, said she was "delighted" for her mother. As she gave them Communion after her ordination members of the congregation said: "Congratulations Mother Frances."

Blessing some people after the service, Mother Meigh smiled constantly and said her ordination had been "wonderful".

Also attending the service was Bishop Michael Cox, who had made Pat Buckley a bishop just five months earlier.

Assisting at the service were Father Michael Noone from Galway and four deacons who did not want to be identified. All four are to be ordained as priests in Bishop Buckley's newly established Society of St Andrew in the near future.

According to Bishop Buckley, the ordination of a woman into the Catholic Church is not without historical precedent. One example he cited was a woman priest named Ludmilla who was ordained, he said, in 1940s Czechoslovakia when "the church ran out of priests".

Omeath's new priest, Mother Frances Meigh, will live in a cottage near St Andrew's Church and celebrate Mass there every day, despite the fact that the Catholic Church will not accept her ordination.


Dissident Bishop to Ordain Woman Today
The Irish Times - Monday, September 14, 1998  by ROISIN INGLE

The dissident Bishop Pat Buckley will ordain a woman priest in Co Louth today in the latest of a series of controversial actions which have broken with traditional Catholic Church practice.

According to Mr Jim Cantwell of the Catholic Press and Information Office, Bishop Buckley has "no mandate or authority from the church to ordain anybody and any ordinations that he carries out will not be recognised by the church.

"The very clear and consistent teaching is that the church has no authority whatever to confer priestly ordination on women," he said yesterday.

However, Bishop Buckley, who was consecrated by Bishop Michael Cox last May, claims he is a valid bishop and is entitled to perform today's controversial ordination despite the fact that 67year-old hermit Sister Frances Meigh is a woman.

"It is not the body that is being ordained but the soul. Gender is irrelevant" said Bishop Buckley. "Over 50 per cent of the church are women and over 50 per cent of the world's parishes have no priests."

London-born Sister Frances Meigh has three children from a marriage which broke down due to her desire to take up religious life.

She began corresponding with Bishop Buckley after his consecration and has been taking instruction in his oratory in Larne, Co Antrim, for the past few weeks.

Sister Frances, who is currently writing a book, One Mass Before I Die, said she did not believe the Catholic Church's views on the ordination of women were valid.

"The biblical commission set up by Pope Paul VI found no evidence to support the exclusion of women from the priesthood. He was much more open than the current papacy to moving towards the ordination of women," she said.

Both Bishop Buckley and Sister Frances have received threatening phone calls and letters since the public learned of her plans for ordination. One letter passed on to the RUC by Bishop Buckley threatened to burn his house in Larne, Co Antrim, and the church in Omeath, Co Louth. Sister Francis has also been called a heathen priestess.

About 300 lay people and clergy have been invited to the ordination ceremony at 3 p.m. today at St Andrew's Church, Omeath.