A former advocate of women's ordination, who later renounced her attempt to be ordained as a deacon and declared her adherence to Church teaching, announced on March 25 that she has been fully reconciled with the Church following a decree from the Vatican.
“The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has lifted any canonical sanctions that I incurred by attempting ordination as a deacon,” wrote Dr. Norma Jean Coon, in an online update to an earlier letter in which she acknowledged that her actions had resulted in excommunication.
Dr. Coon said the bishop of her diocese, Bishop Robert H. Brom of San Diego, had written to inform her of the Vatican congregation's decision that she “may now return to the full practice of our Catholic faith.” Under new rules established in July 2010, attempts to ordain women now fall under the jurisdiction of the doctrinal office, along with other offenses against the priesthood and sacraments.
“I have been very touched at the remarkable support of my actions and the prayers offered in my behalf during this trying time,” said Coon. “I wish to thank all those who have prayed for me and for my family.”
On July 22, 2007, Coon participated in an attempted ordination to the diaconate. The event was led by Patricia Fresen, a former Dominican sister from South Africa who claims to have been consecrated as a bishop.
The Catholic Church holds that Fresen – who has been excommunicated – is not a bishop, and that her attempts to ordain other women or men have no sacramental validity.
In her earlier letter renouncing her “alleged ordination” to the diaconate, Coon said she acknowledged “the authority of the Holy Father on these issues of ordination,” including the judgment that Pope John Paul II confirmed in his encyclical “Ordinatio Sacerdotalis.”
In that encyclical, the Pope declared that “the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women,” and stated that this judgment was to be “definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.”
Coon had previously sought to become a priest through a program offered by Fresen's group. But she reconsidered soon after participating in one of the organization's liturgies. “I withdrew from the program within two weeks of the ceremony,” she recounted, “because I realized I had made a mistake in studying for the priesthood.”
Although the attempt to ordain women has no sacramental effect, it is a serious offense from the perspective of moral theology and canon law.
The Church regards a simulated ordination, and any subsequent action in which a non-ordained person acts as a member of the clergy, as a form of sacrilege.