Friday, April 23, 2010

Joan Workmaster

A week ago Dr. K over at Cleansing Fire reported on an upcoming 9-hour course at St. Bernard's that is being billed as an exploration of the "history and development of the Roman missal, as well [as] an examination of the projected changes." The instructor is identified as Joan Workmaster.

I was interested in learning a little more about the instructor but it turns out there is very little of substance on the Internet concerning Ms. Workmaster.  The only significant information I could find comes from pages 136-7 of Chava Redonnet's 2002 account of the Corpus Christi/Spiritus Christi fiasco, "Standing in the Light: A Parishioner's Story." That information is, however, quite revealing.

Ms. Redonnet's text is in black; my comments are in red ...

"[In late 1998 a]bout three hundred people came to the first of the educational series of meetings sponsored by the Spring Committee. Peg Rubley had gathered a panel that could give a variety of perspectives on the issue of Women in the Church: Joan Workmaster, Director of the Office of Liturgy for the diocese, and possessor of a Masters in Liturgical Theology; Mary Ramerman, who held a Masters in Theology; Chris Schenk, csj (sic), a nun with Masters degrees in Midwifery and Theology; and Dan Daley, co-founder of Call to Action.

"Joan Workmaster spoke first. She reminded us that while progress has not been fast, it had been only twenty-six years since roles in the Church opened up to women at all. In August, 1972, Pope Paul VI issued 'Ministerium Quaedam,' which abolished some roles, such as lectoring, from being the province of the ordained, and gave them to lay people as ministers. 'The Church has been on an uneasy way of inclusion ever since.' There had been a tremendous rise in the number of lay people, men and women, in ministry. 'In the midst of revolutionary change, it can be easy not to see the forest for the trees.' [Revolutions are messy things that tend to tear up and discard as worthless everything that has gone on before them. It is unsettling that Ms. Workmaster, then DOR's Director of the Office of Liturgy, viewed the changes since Vatican II in this light.]

"Joan said that she was committed to men, women an children in some form of liturgical ministry. She said, 'The Church is not standing still,' and that this has been possible because we took seriously the call to understand baptism as the priesthood of all believers. The Church is coming to understand the role of the assembly in the Eucharistic prayer. [I wish that Ms. Workmaster had elaborated a bit more on this point.] The role of the priest is to be the presider, the leader of prayer. The words said, the gestures made, and the things worn become the essence of sacramental theology. Context puts meaning around these items. 'If you pour water on a child's head, what does it mean?' she asked. 'It could mean a number of things: abuse, play, cooling off - or baptism. It depends on the context.'

The wearing of an alb is not an issue, Joan told us. The alb is for all of the baptized, and everyone could wear one. That's why children wear white at first Communion, and why brides and grooms are encouraged to wear white. [No, Ms. Workmaster, the alb is not for 'all the baptized.' According to GIRM, the alb is one of the 'sacred vestments' whose use is reserved to the ordained as well as 'acolytes, altar servers, lectors, and other lay ministers.' Furthermore, in Article 6 of Ecclesiae de mysterio we are told that 'Every effort must be made to avoid even the appearance of confusion which can spring from anomalous liturgical practices. As the sacred ministers are obliged to wear all of the prescribed liturgical vestments so too the non-ordained faithful may not assume that which is not proper to them.']

"She agreed that the issue of ordination is a justice issue - but not only for women. The ranks of the ordained are narrowed to include only male celibates, and many people are affected. In addressing this justice issue [If this is a justice issue, then who is fit to serve as judge?  I suspect Ms. Workmaster's answer would not be 'the Magisterium'] , we can't act autonomously, but need to act collectively. What would Jesus do? - he would collect people for discussion, teaching and understanding. [When did Jesus ever collect people - other than the apostles, his first bishops - for 'discussion, teaching and understanding?' And even with them the very idea of 'discussion' is almost comical.  These guys were usually so clueless regarding what Jesus was trying to teach that they made fools of themselves just about every time they opened their mouths. Rather, Ms. Workmaster, I suspect what Jesus would have done would have been to fashion a whip from some cords and use it to drive the dissenters out of his Father's house.]

"Joan summed up by saying that in twenty-five years, tremendous strides had been made in making ministries inclusive, but that the role of the presider was still limited to the ordained. No one can assume the right to preside, and individual communities can't confer it. 'Work for solutions, but act together. We gain nothing by working alone.'" [Here Ms. Workmaster is either rejecting the papal teaching found in Mulieris Dignitatem and Inter Insigniores, or she is suggesting that the "role of the presider" might somehow, someday be opened up to the non-ordained.]


Matt said...

greaaaat...I'm glad to know that my fears, as always, have been realized

St. John Fisher and St. Bernard, ORA PRO NOBIS!

Anonymous said...

"What would Jesus do? - he would collect people for discussion, teaching and understanding."

I sometimes wonder if progressives are reading the same Bible as the rest of us.

~Dr. K

Interstate Catholic said...

Chava Reddonet is being "ordained" next Sat. at Spiritus Christi.

Mike said...


I'm sure I'll have a previous engagement.

gretchen said...

Mike, you'll be washing your hair next Saturday, right? ;-)

(And I'll be sorting my sock drawer...)

Mike said...


Hair? What hair?

I'm thinking nap.

Anonymous said...

A friend who goes to Spiritus invited me to Chava's pretend ordination. I told him that he would have to revel in this heresy on his own.

~Dr. K

Robert Manners said...

I too was trying to do research on Ms. Joan Workmaster and I came across this blog from 2010, and I have to say that I am appalled at the way those who are commenting on this are treating Mr. Reddonet and Ms. Workmaster. Surely what Jesus would have done was have been loving and inclusive instead of shunning or shaming those who think differently.

It is precisely because of the sentiment behind these comments and this blog that people leave or never join the catholic church. I truly hope you all come to a better understanding of Jesus.