Purple smoke protesters want women priests - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Purple smoke protesters want women priests

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MADISON (WKOW) -- From Rome's Piazza Garibaldi to Washington D.C. to Madison, women infused some color into traditional black and soon-to-be white smoke emanating from the Vatican City chimney.

Tuesday, the Madison chapter of the Women's Ordination Conference released purple smoke into Library Mall near St. Paul's University Catholic Center to recognize the service of women to the Catholic church, according to the national group's co-president Johanna Hatch.

Vigils in other parts of the world, including San Francisco and Sarasota, Fl., featured plumes of pink smoke. However, Hatch says she chose purple because it symbolizes women's rights.

Whichever the hue, "we're here to say that the women are here and the women are ready to lead," Hatch said.

There were a few non-Catholics who also joined in the vigil.

"I wasn't raised Catholic, but I was raised Christian. And as a Christian, I find it disappointing that a large Christian institution would persecute women and deny them their true calling in their faith," Anna Grelson, who was raised Evangelical, said.

Like others at the vigil, she sees it as a social justice issue.

"Most religions are based around men in power and many religions have struggled with that inclusion. I think the Catholic church is one of the last standing to acknowledge women. I think they're just scared they're going to lose control of everything they have," Mark Nash, who was raised Lutheran, said.

And because of this the Catholic church loses out on ideas and opinions that could make it a stronger institution, according to Nash.

"I've been so honored to know women like myself, women who are nuns who have been in service to the church their whole life who have this call to priestly ordination, who want to serve the church, and who have these gifts. The fact that the church is denying that just breaks my heart," Hatch said.

Women who become ordained illicitly have been excommunicated, according to Hatch.

Women make up roughly half of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics.

Two out of three Roman Catholics in the United States are in favor of allowing women to be ordained, according to a poll released in March by The New York Times.

Inside the church, however, there is less flexibility due to tradition.

"To change the church's teaching on the ordination of women, those changes are impossible," said Bishop Robert Morlino, Diocese of Madison, after Sunday mass.

Morlino says that reforms such as women's ordination are not really reforms, but "sea changes in the doctrine of the church, which is impossible," Morlino said.

For Hatch, however, there is precedence in allowing women to become priests.

"It would be a sea change, but I don't think it's impossible. I think we've seen many other Christian religions ordain women and it's been just fine," Hatch said.

The smoke signals continue Wednesday, when another Women's Ordination Conference chapter in Chicago will send another smoke signal.

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