.- The ordinations of nine women yesterday on a boat in the St. Lawrence River are not valid and cannot be recognized by the Catholic Church, said canon law expert Msgr. Jean Pelletier. The chancellor of the Archdiocese of Quebec told CNA that the ordinations are not valid because they are contrary to the very “nature of the Catholic priesthood”, which is male.
“To be a priest is not a right,” explained the monsignor. “Even a man cannot just become a priest because he decides he wants to be a priest. The priesthood is a calling that has to be recognized by the Church.”
The ordinations Monday came at the end of a three-day international conference on the ordination of women in Ottawa. The boat set sail from Gananoque (Thousand Islands), west of Ottawa. It sailed between the Canadian and U.S. borders.
Of the nine women, seven were American, one was German and one was Canadian. Four were ordained priests and five were ordained deacons. This was the first known women’s ordination ceremony in North America.
Two women bishops conducted the ceremony. They had been ordained priests on a boat in the Danube River, along with another five women, in 2002, but all seven were excommunicated the following year. Some expect the new ordinands to face excommunication as well.
In a telephone interview from Quebec City, Msgr. Pelletier cited Article 1024 of the Church’s Code of Canon Law, which states that only a baptized male can receive ordination.
He also explained the significance of the male priesthood in relation to the feminine image of the Church and the Catholic understanding of the Church as the bride of Christ. The male priest, as the spouse, respects and completes this important complementary image.
Msgr. Pelletier said the ordination ceremony was a “gesture empty of meaning.
“The ordinations are recognized only by the women themselves,” he said. “Where will they exercise their ministry? No Catholic parish could accept them.”
Msgr. Pelletier said Catholics should know that none of the sacraments performed by these women, such as Eucharist and reconciliation, has any value. However, he clarified, they, like anyone else, could baptize in situations of emergency.
The monsignor added that, given the Church’s understanding of the priesthood, it could seem to some that the Church is against women, but this is not the case. He recalled recent comments by Cardinal Marc Ouellet of Quebec, who said that in the Gospel women are regarded as more important than men. Mother Mary, he said, was a notch above the Apostles.
Spokespeople from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops said the bishops were not issuing any statements about Monday’s event.
The Women’s Ordination Conference, who promoted the ordinations, did not reply to a request for an interview.