A former advocate of women's ordination, who attempted to be ordained as a deacon, has renounced her attempt to join the priesthood and declared her adherence to Church teaching.
“I relinquish all connection to the program of Roman Catholic Women Priests,” Dr. Norma Jean Coon stated in a recent declaration on her personal website. “I disclaim the alleged ordination publicly, with apologies to those whose lives I have offended or scandalized.”
“The ordinations were illegitimate, and not recognized by the Roman Catholic Church,” she wrote. “I withdrew from the program within two weeks of the ceremony, because I realized I had made a mistake in studying for the priesthood.”
Dr. Coon explained that she participated in an attempted ordination to the diaconate on July 22, 2007, at the hands of Patricia Fresen, a former Dominican sister from South Africa who claims to have been consecrated as a bishop.
Fresen's orders are also invalid according to Catholic doctrine – meaning that her attempt to ordain any other individual to the diaconate, priesthood, or episcopate would have no sacramental effect.
While Coon made reference to “Bishop Patricia Fresen” in her formal recantation, she also described the ceremony in which she participated as an “alleged ordination” – implying she did not consider it valid – and also acknowledged “the authority of the Holy Father on these issues of ordination.”
“I confess to the truth of Pope John Paul II's Apostolic Letter ‘Ordinatio Sacerdotalis’,” she stated, “and recognize that Christ founded the ordination only for men.”
In that letter, the Pope declared that “the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women,” and taught that this judgment was to be “definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.”
While sacramentally futile, the attempt to confer Holy Orders on a woman involves a profound rejection of Catholic unity, through the establishment of separate structures and communities for worship. The simulated ordinations and other liturgies also represent a form of sacrilege, making them especially serious.
As such, their canonical consequences are also serious – a fact Dr. Coon acknowledged in her public recantation.
“An excommunication process called 'Latae Sententiae' occurred,” she said, explaining that this is the technical term for “excommunicating oneself by failure to observe the canon laws of the Church.”
Since July 2010, cases of attempted women's ordination – and any subsequent reestablishment of communion for those who renounce it – have been under the jurisdiction of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, along with other serious offenses against the priesthood and the Eucharist.