August 02, 2006

Questions and answers about the so-called “ordination” ceremony of several women in Pittsburgh on July 31, 2006

On Friday, July 28, 2006, the diocese of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, published the following.

What is the ceremony…?

According to an organization called “Roman Catholic Womenpriests,” a ceremony will take place on the rivers of Pittsburgh on July 31 that is represented to be an “ordination” to the priesthood. Among those taking part in the ceremony is Joan Houk, currently a parishioner at St. Alexis Parish in Wexford.

What is Roman Catholic Womenpriests?

It is a group founded in Germany that in June 2002 had excommunicated Argentine Bishop Romulo Braschi, founder of the schismatic Catholic-Apostolic Charismatic Church of Jesus the King, conduct an ordination ritual for seven women. In August 2002, the Holy See issued both the notification of excommunication for those involved and declared the ordinations null and void, which was upheld after an appeal in January 2003.

During the year following their alleged ordination, two of those women, Christine Mayr-Lumetzberger and Gisela Forster, claimed they were consecrated bishops in a secret ceremony by several bishops whose identities they have not revealed. Patricia Fresen, a former Dominican nun ordained by Mayr-Lumetzberger and Forster in August 2003, also came to consider herself a bishop.

In July 2005, Fresen, Mayr-Lumetzberger and Forster conducted a ritual on the St. Lawrence Seaway in which they claimed to ordain four women as priests and five women deacons. Roman Catholic Womenpriests announced it would conduct such rituals in ceremonies in Switzerland on June 24, 2006, and in Pittsburgh on July 31. In Pittsburgh, 12 women are expected to take part in such a ceremony with the claim that eight will be ordained to the priesthood and four to the diaconate.

What are the essential elements of the teaching of the Church on ordination of women?

“(The Catholic Church) holds that it is not admissible to ordain women to the priesthood for very fundamental reasons. These reasons include: the example recorded in sacred Scripture of Christ choosing his apostles only from among men; the constant practice of the church, which imitated Christ in choosing only men; and her living teaching authority, which has consistently held that the exclusion of women from the priesthood is in accordance with God’s plan for his Church” (Pope Paul VI, 1977).

Ordination to the priesthood must be conferred by an ordained bishop on a baptized man. A candidate must receive the blessing of the Church, which has the authority and responsibility to determine if a true call to the priesthood exists. The ordination of males to the priesthood is not merely a matter of practice or discipline within the Church. Rather, the Church has determined that this is part of the deposit of faith handed down by Christ through his apostles. The Church is, therefore, bound by it and not free to change in this regard.

Participation in this event is, therefore, a very serious matter with very serious consequences.

What are the consequences for those participating in this event?

As this unfortunate ceremony will take place outside the church and undermines the unity of the Church, those attempting to confer holy orders have, by their own actions, removed themselves from the Church, as have those who present themselves for such an invalid ritual. Additionally, those who by their presence give witness and encouragement to this fundamental break with the unity of the people of God place themselves outside the Church.

This separation is not a discipline, judgment or mandate of the Church. Nor is it the result of opinion or advocacy of a theological view by those involved. Rather, by conducting and taking part in such a ceremony, it is the choice of the participants to place themselves outside the community of believers.

Additionally, if those present as witnesses to the event serve in ministry in the Church— as teachers, administrators, catechists, chaplains, etc.— they will be deemed to be in violation of the Cardinal’s Clause and/or the Code of Pastoral Conduct. As such, the most serious consequence would be dismissal from ministry and/or loss of employment.

What constitutes “participation” in this event?

The women conducting the ceremony and claiming to be bishops, and the women who present themselves for ordination to the priesthood and diaconate, are the direct participants. Those who, through their presence at the ceremony, encourage and openly defy Church teaching, are also considered to be direct participants.

Practically speaking, what does it mean to say that they place themselves outside the Church?

It means they are not to participate in the life of the Church, including reception of the sacraments, until they are reconciled with the church. For those attempting to confer holy orders and for those presenting themselves for holy orders, their reconciliation must come through the Holy See. For those present as witnesses, their reconciliation must come through their pastors in the sacrament of reconciliation.

Does that mean anyone who attends this ceremony must be denied the Eucharist or removed from ministry in the Church?

It is the responsibility of those receiving the Eucharist to make certain they are properly disposed to receive the sacrament, not the priest or the extraordinary minister of the Eucharist. It is also understandable that those distributing holy Communion may not be aware of all those who attended the event, or whether they have been reconciled, or whether there were circumstances surrounding their attendance that might serve to mitigate their individual responsibility.

However, it is clear that those conducting the ordination and those being ordained must reconcile through the Holy See. They could not be properly disposed to receive the sacraments or take part in the life of the Church until notification has been made by the Holy See.

Aren’t we really just punishing these people because of their views?

Those who take part in the ceremony are removing themselves from the community as an immediate and direct consequence of their own actions. This has nothing to do with what they may think or their views. They have chosen to take part in a public ceremony that abuses the sacrament of holy orders and undermines the unity of the Church. In doing so, they have chosen to remove themselves from the Church by their actions, not their views.

Isn’t denial of the sacraments and excommunication extreme? The Church doesn’t excommunicate those clergy who abused minors. And politicians who vote in favor of legal abortion are not denied Communion.

Those who present themselves for Communion are expected to be in communion with the Church. People can be “not in communion” in several ways. Those who have committed mortal sin and are not in the state of grace are out of communion and should not present themselves until they are reconciled through the sacrament of reconciliation. Those who deny a core tenet of the faith either by publicly espousing something contrary to the faith, such as the denial of the divinity of Christ, or by a public action that repudiates the laws, teachings or morals of the Church are also not in communion.

There are certain actions that by their public nature, by their immediate threat to the unity of the Church, by their explicit undermining of the sacraments and by their conscious break with the apostolic authority of the Church derived from Christ result in removing oneself from the community of the faithful. In regard to this ceremony, engaging in a public— and highly publicized— abuse of the sacrament of holy orders that threatens Church unity, and to take such action knowingly and willingly in defiance of the apostolic authority of the Church, does place oneself outside the Church.

However, even in these cases, the goal of the Church is reconciliation. Announcing that there are those who have removed themselves from the community of the faithful is not a punishment but a call to conversion.

The diocesan newspaper "Pittsburgh Catholic" is online.
Click HERE for it.


Anonymous Bob Farrell said...

To me, the best argument against the ordination of women is the sacramental character of the priesthood.

If a person would agree that a cross with a female corpus is not a crucifix, why would they consider that a woman in a stole is a priest?

5:49 PM  

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