Sister barred from teaching catechesis due to dissent on women’s ordination

Sr. Louise Akers / Archbishop Pilarczyk
Sr. Louise Akers / Archbishop Pilarczyk


The Archbishop of Cincinnati Daniel Pilarczyk, citing his duty to safeguard authentic Catholic teaching, has barred a religious sister from teaching on behalf of the archdiocese after she refused to adhere to Catholic teaching on the ordination of women.

Sister of Charity Louise Akers, 66, was listed as an advisory board member for the Women’s Ordination Conference. Her photo and name were also on the site.

In April the archdiocese’s Office of Catechesis and Evangelization removed her from its list of approved teachers and speakers for archdiocesan programs and events.

In an early August meeting, she and Archbishop Pilarczyk discussed her removal from the list. According to the Catholic Telegraph, the archbishop told her that permission to teach would be restored if she rescinded her support for women’s ordination and disassociated herself from the Women’s Ordination Conference publicly.

Sister Louise has removed her name and photo from the group’s website but has said she cannot publicly withdraw her support for women’s ordination.

Speaking to the Cincinnati Enquirer, Sister Louise said her position concerned “an issue of justice within the Church” motivated by her belief in “the value, dignity and equality of women in the Church.”

According to the Enquirer, she characterized women’s ordination as both a practical and a fairness issue. She claimed the practice would address a shortage of priests and would put women on equal footing with men in the church.

Archdiocese spokesman Dan Andriacco told the Enquirer that the refusal of permission to Sister Louise was based on the principle that “someone who is teaching in the name of the church should be in accord with the teachings of the church.”

"Some people argue that ordaining women is a justice issue," Andriacco said. "The Church would say there is only injustice when you deprive someone of something they have a right to. Ordination is not a right, nor is the ability to teach in the name of the Church."

He added that the Church clearly states that because Christ chose only male apostles, the Church must ordain only male priests.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that the ordination of women “is not possible,” as only a baptized man validly receives sacred ordination.

Sister Barbara Hagedorn, president of the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati, said in a written statement that Sister Louise is “a member in good standing” and reported that the sister cannot “refute her beliefs on this issue” as “a matter of conscience.”

According to the Catholic Telegraph, she added “the issue remains between the archbishop and Sister Louise Akers,” saying the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati support Sister Louise “and all those involved in this difficult situation.”

Erin Saiz Hanna, executive director of the Women's Ordination Conference, claimed that the archbishop’s denial of permission for Sister Louise to teach was “just bullying,” the Enquirer reports.

Archbishop Pilarczyk discussed the case with The Catholic Telegraph.

“Questions have been raised about the role of a diocesan bishop and the teaching of catechetics in his diocese. It is a bishop’s responsibility to provide authentic and orthodox Catholic teaching in his diocese. Persons who are not in accord with the teaching of the church should not expect to be allowed to teach catechetical leaders or others in the name of the church.”

He explained that teachers of the Catholic faith teach more than infallible doctrines, but what is in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Tricia Hempel, editor of the Catholic Telegraph, told CNA in a Friday phone call that no further statement on the case would be issued.