By Peter J. Smith

Susan TalveST. LOUIS, Missouri, December 18, 2007 ( – According to the St. Louis Dispatch, approximately 150 people from St. Cronan’s Catholic Church gathered under a big tarp outside their church in the chilly wind and rain last Tuesday for a prayer service with female rabbi Susan Talve. The move outside occurred after a personal phone-call from Archbishop Burke prompted the parish leadership to cancel Talve’s invitation. The advent service turned into just another episode in Talve’s campaign for women priests in the Catholic Church, which has provoked condemnation from both Jews and Catholics alike concerned that her rogue actions are damaging Jewish-Catholic relations in the St. Louis area.

Talve, a Reform Jewish rabbi and promoter of abortion and special privileges for homosexuals, brought to the outdoor service two guests, Rose Marie Hudson and Elsie Hainz McGrath, women who were both “ordained” by a group called Roman Catholic Womenpriests at her own Central Reform Congregation (CRC) on November 11. Appeals from Archbishop Burke and the archdiocese to withdraw hospitality for the event in the interest of Catholic-Jewish relations were ignored. Talve hosted the “ordinations” which then set off a storm of controversy and anguish among Catholic and Jewish leaders.

Fr. Vincent Heier, then the director of the archdiocesan Office of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, described Talve’s actions as a huge setback to hard-won Jewish-Catholic relations in the St. Louis area. He declared the archdiocese would no longer participate in interfaith events where Central Reform Congregation is “a leading player.”

According to the National Catholic Reporter, Heier said Talve had done the equivalent of a Catholic pastor inviting a Holocaust denier to speak at his parish.  The move was a blow to Heier, just now retired from his position, who had dedicated the past 25 years working with the Jewish Community Relations Council, the Interfaith Partnership and Faith Beyond Walls, and other inter-faith organizations. He was described recently by a Jewishlight Online editorial as “a close, consistent and reliable friend” to all faith communities, especially Judaism.

One Jewish reader of Jewishlight, Randee Shenkel, PhD, commented, “Would those who agreed with Rabbi Talve’s decision to host the ordination of women priests despite the feelings of the Catholic Church be willing to attend an ordination of rabbis in the Jews for Jesus ‘denomination’ if the Catholic Church offers to host?”

The Reporter says the president of the St. Louis Rabbinical Association, Rabbi Mark Fasman, personally found it inappropriate that a synagogue would host an event no Catholic parish would allow and stated that a number of rabbis support his position.

St. Louis Dispatch reports that St. Cronan’s pastor, the Rev. Gerald Kleba, did not attend the service, but mentions that Sister Louise Lears, a member of the pastoral committee, insisted the event “was not a protest. It was not a demonstration. It was a prayer service.”