American lawyer takes women priests issue to court

 A lawyer from Vermont, New Hampshire, is suing the Catholic church and US government tax offices over the issue of women's ordination. Susan Rockwell, filed a case on 22 May in the New Hampshire District Court, against the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston Massachusetts, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Manchester New Hampshire, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Charles O. Rossotti, commissioner of Internal Revenue Service of United States, Defendants. Ms Rockwell is calling for the commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service to revoke the church's current charity status which allows them tax exemption. In a statement she claims that the Commissioner is 'enabling and subsidizing the church's sexually discriminating policies regarding the exclusion of women from the priesthood.' Ms Rockwell claims she personally will suffer irreparable harm by continued sex discrimination by the church, and its abridgement of her civil and Constitutional rights. She also challenges the church policy of silencing debate on the issue of priesthood for women as an abridgement of her free speech under the First Amendment of The Constitution of the United States. Ms Rockwell says she is basing her case in part on the US Supreme Court's landmark decision in the Bob Jones University case of 1983, in which that university's tax exempt status was revoked for racial discrimination. The court held that BJU's sincerely held belief in miscegenation was too far from public policy to warrant tax exempt status. Ms Rockwell claims that: 'the Catholic church's all-male priesthood is not a sincerely held religious belief, because most Catholic theologians believe it can not be justified scripturally.' Even if it were a 'sincerely held religious belief', she claims that 'it departs too far from the social norm to warrant tax exempt status, in a society in which women are in every profession, including rabbis and Episcopal priests.' Ms Rockwell said: "The infallibility of the phallocracy of the Catholic church on the all-male priesthood is a fallacy. A phallocracy is a society or system that is dominated by men and it which the male sex is thought superior, as defined in the New Oxford American Dictionary, 2001." A life-long Catholic, Ms Rockwell has lived in the Archdiocese of Boston for 25 years, as a resident of Cape Cod and New Hampshire. The 'Statement of Facts' states that Rockwell received a rejection letter dated March 11, 1996 from then Bishop Leo O'Niel concerning her request to be admitted to study for the priesthood. The Bishop wrote to her: "I do not doubt the sincerity of your request inspired by the depth of your faith in and love for our Lord Jesus Christ.It is the firm and ancient tradition of the church that our Lord has called only men to the ordained ministry."

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