Longtime peace activist removed from ministry after concelebrating Mass with woman priest

(NCR Online) A longtime peace and human rights activist arrested countless times, Franciscan Fr. Jerry Zawada has been removed from public ministry for concelebrating Mass with a woman priest in 2011.

The letter removing the 76-year-old’s public priestly faculties — a copy of which NCR obtained March 21 — came from the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which reviewed documentation related to the Nov. 22, 2011, liturgy Zawada concelebrated with Roman Catholic Womanpriest Janice Sevre-Duszynska.

“Having carefully examined the acts of the case, and the vota of the former Minister General and the Rev. Zawada’s Provincial Superior, this Dicastery has decided to impose on Rev. Jerome Zawada, OFM, a life of prayer and penance to be lived within the Queen of Peace Friary in Burlington, Wisconsin,” the letter states.

In addition, Zawada cannot present himself in public as a priest or celebrate the sacraments publicly; however, he can concelebrate Mass with other friars at the friary and in private.

“I don’t mind the prayer part,” Zawada told NCR Monday, “but when they called, when they say that I need to be spending time in penance, well, I’m not going to do penance for my convictions and the convictions of so many others, too.”

Fr. John Puodziunas, provincial minister of the Franciscan Friars of the Assumption BVM Province, said he has not yet discussed the letter with Zawada but plans to in the coming weeks. He confirmed the letter removes him from his public priestly ministry but said it hasn’t been decided how it will restrict his movement outside the friary. At the same time, he said, “Friaries are not jails.”

“I can’t imagine us approaching it from a perspective that this would be, ‘He’s restricted, he cannot leave the friary’ type of thing,” Puodziunas told NCR. “I think the letter is pretty clear that he’s not to act publicly as a priest, which he hasn’t done in years anyway.”

Zawada has not held a parish or chaplain assignment for years, Puodziunas added, and he agreed following the 2011 liturgy not to act publicly as a priest until the matter received clarity. In June, Zawada will celebrate the 50th anniversary of his ordination. [More]

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NCR Online