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Joliet Priest Supports Peer Who Is In Trouble For Ordaining Woman

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Raymond Lescher, a Joliet priest, says all Catholics should be allowed to speak their views on church issues. (CBS)

Raymond Lescher, a Joliet priest, says all Catholics should be allowed to speak their views on church issues. (CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – Pope John Paul II banned all discussion of the topic of women priests, but it’s still being talked about in the Catholic Church.

Now, as CBS 2’s Derrick Blakley reports, the most controversial proponent of ordaining women is finding support from 200 of his fellow priests, including one from Joliet.

Known as a longtime anti-war activist, Father Roy Bourgeois has turned to leading a one-man campaign for women priests.

“I cannot and will not recant my support, my belief, that God is calling women to the priesthood,” he has said.

But Bourgeois went further, taking part in a ceremony ordaining a woman.

And now he faces removal as a priest.

“To crucify him on this one act, to me, is sad,” says Father Raymond Lescher of Sacred Heart Parish in Joliet.

Lescher is one of 200 priests nationwide who have signed a petition organized by the liberal catholic group Call to Action supporting Bourgeois’ right to speak from his conscience.

“Each individual catholic has the right to follow his or her own informed conscience,” Lescher says.

It’s a right, he says, confirmed by the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s. But Pope John Paul II banned all discussion of women priests within the church.

Like Father Bourgeois, Father Lescher believes the priesthood shouldn’t be limited to men.

“It’s a matter of justice, I think, full equality,” he says.

Bourgeois’ status as a priest now lies in the hands of the Vatican.

Pope John Paul’s edict hasn’t ended discussion about women priests. Last month, a Portuguese cardinal said, theologically, there’s no fundamental obstacle to women priests. He added it will only happen if God wills it, and not in our lifetime.

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