The Catholic Bishop of Phoenix responded Wednesday to a priest’s reported participation in an attempted priestly ordination of a woman. Urging prayers for all involved, he said such actions are “divisive” and have “profoundly harmful consequences.”
Writing in a Sept. 1 letter published in the Catholic Sun, Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted informed Catholics in the diocese that a “schismatic group” in Tempe, Arizona called the Ecumenical Catholic Communion tried to ordain a woman. Fr. Vernon Meyer, a priest of the Diocese of Phoenix, reportedly participated in the alleged ordination.
“To feign the conferral of the Sacrament of Holy Orders results in the penalty of excommunication,” Bishop Olmsted explained, saying the penalty applies both to the person attempting the ordination and to the person attempting to be ordained.
“The attempted ordination of a woman is a grave offense against a sacrament and the structure of the Church,” he added. “Please pray for all involved in this divisive, scandalous act against the Catholic Church.”
The teaching of the Church is “of paramount importance,” he said, citing the Catechism of the Catholic Church’s statement that only a baptized man can be validly ordained. The Catechism says the ordination of women is “not possible.”
“The Church’s position on the Sacrament of Holy Orders, of course, does not mean that women are of any less value or dignity than men,” Bishop Olmsted noted. “We are all called to Christian service, and women have always played an instrumental role in the life and holiness of the Church.”
Bishop Olmsted also challenged recent news reports that the Holy See considers the attempted ordination of women to be on par with the sexual abuse of minors.
“This is simply not true,” he stated, saying the media portrayals arose from a July letter from the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith (CDF) which concerned updates to the norms governing grave crimes in church law.