Two women who took part in a ritual they claimed was an ordination ceremony have been placed under interdict, the Associated Press reports.
Rose Marie Dunn Hudson, 67, and Elsie Hainz McGrath, 69, underwent the ceremony at a St. Louis synagogue. The ceremony was led by a South African former nun who claimed to have been ordained a bishop by a German bishop in communion with Rome. The two women plan to "co-pastor" a community, starting December 1, in a space offered by a local Unitarian church.
Archbishop Raymond Burke of the archdiocese of St. Louis sent a three-page letter to the women after they underwent the ceremony. He ordered the women to "renounce any attempts" to celebrate Mass, hear confessions, or officiate at any other sacrament. The letter summoned them to appear before a church tribunal on December 3.
In the archdiocesan newspaper on Friday the archbishop wrote that the women would confuse and lead astray the faithful by their "sinful action."
Ms. McGrath claimed the two women are helping to "bring about badly needed reforms," to heal the church's "dysfunction."
Reverend Arthur Espelage, executive coordinator for the Canon Law Society of America, said the actions of Archbishop Burke are "extremely formal" measures.
He said each rite the women preside over creates a deeper separation from the church.
"He knows the law very well," he said, speaking of the archbishop. "He's a very conservative archbishop, he's going to take a severe stand here. But even if you had a very liberal bishop, you'd have the same response.
"Civil disobedience doesn't change laws in the church."
Catholic teaching holds that an attempted ordination of women would be invalid.