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Women told to ‘get off our property’


Five Catholic women staging a “witness” at St. Patrick’s Seminary in favor of “enlarging inclusivity in the Roman Catholic church” were told they could not do so on church property, according to a group member.

An archdiocesan spokesperson, who said he was unfamiliar with the details of the incident, confirmed to NCR that it was policy not to allow demonstrations at church facilities.

In conjunction with the Ratzinger lecture Feb. 13, the women unfurled a banner and handed out postcards inviting people to an “inclusive liturgy” on Feb. 21 in Oakland, Calif.

The five initially took up positions along the seminary’s driveway, but group member Victoria Rue said they were instructed to “get off our property” by a man in clerical dress who was guiding traffic.

They relocated to the point at which the long, curving driveway empties into a street running in front of the seminary. Two men — either seminarians or priests, Rue said — stood nearby and waved cars past, though some drivers chose to stop and receive the postcards.

Rue said she felt the group had the right to be at the seminary. “The property of St. Patrick’s Seminary was paid for by the Roman Catholic people,” she said. “It’s like going to Congress and being told to get off the property. But it’s my property,” she said.

Rue said the experience was “very positive” in terms of the response the women received, but also “very jarring, very chilling” in terms of the hostility of seminary personnel.

Maurice Healey, spokesperson for the archdiocese, said there is an “across the board” policy against demonstrations on church property. “It isn’t written down, but that’s pretty much how we’ve always handled it,” he said.

Healey rejected the argument that since Catholics paid for church facilities, they should have the right to demonstrate on them. “You could take that logic to an extreme, and it means that anybody could seize the pulpit,” he said.

National Catholic Reporter, February 26, 1999