The group Roman Catholic Womenpriests recently announced that they are “ordaining” two female “priests” and one “deacon” in an upcoming ceremony in Sarasota, Florida. The Diocese of Venice issued a statement on Thursday denouncing the “ordinations” and saying that the group's attempt “brings division and fractures unity in the Church.”
In a recent press release, Roman Catholic Womenpriests (RCW) announced that “On Saturday, February 6, 2010 at 3:00pm Dena O'Callaghan of Ocala, Florida and Katy Zatsick of Lexington, Kentucky will be ordained priests. Mary Ellen Sheehan of Tucker, Georgia will be ordained a deacon. The presiding bishop will be Bridget Mary Meehan.”
Explaining the group's purported mission, the press release stated that “Roman Catholic Womenpriests advocate a new model of priestly ministry united with the people with whom we minister. We stand in prophetic obedience to Jesus who calls women and men to be disciples and equals.”
“We disobey Canon 1024, an unjust law, that prohibits women’s ordination,” RCW also stated.
The Diocese of Venice, whose territory the ceremony is taking place in, responded by emphasizing that “The Catholic Church has always taught that the Church has no authority to confer priestly ordination on women.”
“The ministerial priesthood is a gift from God, not something that someone 'earns,' 'deserves' or has a 'right' to, due to advanced education, devoted service in the Church, or simply because of one’s own personal desire,” the diocese noted.
“Sacred Scripture further reveals that Jesus did include the participation of women in His public ministry in ways that shows a differentiation of roles between men and women,” the diocese explained. “Together both worked to build up the unity of the Church, avoiding divisiveness.”
“Specific to the role of women, the Church gives thanks for the feminine 'genius,' appearing in the course of history, in the midst of all peoples and nations, and for the charisms of the Holy Spirit on women’s manifestations of faith, hope and love. However, the attempt to 'ordain' women by the organization titled 'Roman Catholic Womenpriests' brings division, and fractures unity in the Church.”
The RCW claimed that their “ordinations” will be valid, saying in their announcement, “The Roman Catholic male bishop who ordained our first women bishops is in a line of unbroken apostolic succession within the Roman Catholic Church in full communion with the pope. Therefore, our bishops validly ordain deacons, priests and bishops.”
But the diocese refuted RCW's claim that the “ordinations” are valid, stating, “the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has issued a General Decree stating that those who attempt to confer Holy Orders on a woman, and women who attempt to receive Holy Orders, incur automatic excommunication.”
“Excommunication is knowingly and willingly to place oneself outside the communion of the Catholic Church.”
The Diocese of Venice continued to explain that “pastoral and spiritual concern for those who present themselves for such an invalid ritual, those who conduct it, and those who are direct participants” is what motivated their detailed response to the upcoming event.
“This situation is sad for the entire Church,” concluded the diocesan statement. “The Diocese prays that all those involved in this attempt to 'ordain,' 'Roman Catholic Womenpriests' will be reconciled with the Church, and that the harm and division caused will be healed, with the help of God's grace.”