Dissident group claims three women ordained as priests
Church calls ceremony invalid
From left, Judy Lee of Florida, Gloria Carpeneto of Maryland,
and Gabriella Velardi Ward of New York, during the ceremony in which the Roman
Catholic Womenpriests organization said they were ordained as priests. (Travis
Dove for The Boston Globe)
Globe Staff / July 21, 2008
A group advocating for the ordination of women held a ceremony
yesterday in a packed Protestant church at which it declared three women to be
Catholic priests and a fourth woman to be a deacon.
The ceremony, like several others that have taken place around the world
over the past six years, was denounced by the Roman Catholic Church, and
critics said the event was a stunt with no religious significance. The Catholic
Church has consistently taught that only men can be ordained as priests, and
the Archdiocese of Boston said that the women who participated in yesterday's
ceremony had automatically excommunicated themselves by participating in what
it said was an invalid ordination ceremony.
But the women who participated in the event, along with the several hundred
people who spent nearly three hours in the sweltering Church of the Covenant,
said they rejected the excommunications and believed that the women had been
validly ordained. The women were vested with white chasubles and red stoles and
greeted with a standing ovation as they were declared to be priests. They then
helped preside over a service at which they declared bread and wine to be
consecrated and offered what they called Communion to anyone who wished to
The ceremony was organized by Roman Catholic Womenpriests, an organization
that is not recognized by the Roman Catholic Church. Catholic Church officials
say the women are not Catholic, their ordinations are not real, and any sacraments
they attempt to celebrate, including yesterday's Eucharist, are invalid.
"The organization calling itself Roman Catholic Womenpriests is not
recognized as an entity of the Catholic Church," the Archdiocese of Boston
said in a statement Thursday. "Catholics who attempt to confer a sacred
order on a woman, and the women who attempt to receive a sacred order, are by
their own actions separating themselves from the Church."
The Womenpriests organization says their ordinations are legitimate because
Catholic bishops in good standing ordained their first members to become female
priests and bishops. Therefore, they argue, the women being ordained can claim
apostolic succession, or direct descent from Jesus's apostles.
"Why is Rome so upset about us? Because they know the ordinations are
valid," said Bridget Mary Meehan, the spokeswoman for Roman Catholic
Womenpriests. "We are not intimidated. We feel so strongly."
The organization has not released the name of the bishops it says
consecrated the first women bishops, saying they would face sanction by the
Vatican, but says it will release the names once the male bishops die.
C.J. Doyle, of the Catholic Action League of Massachusetts, in an e-mail
yesterday called the ceremony "a sacrilegious parody of Holy Orders
conducted at a Protestant church by a collection of apostates misappropriating
the Catholic name." Three women were declared to be priests at the
ceremony yesterday: Gloria Carpeneto of Baltimore, Judy Lee of Fort Myers,
Fla., and Gabriella Velardi Ward of New York City. A fourth woman, Mary Ann
McCarthy Schoettly of Newton, N.J., was declared a deacon.
"I'm feeling such joy, I could rise up," Lee said in an interview
after the ceremony. She pointed out that she was wearing a cross from Dignity,
an organization of gay Catholics. "I am a priest for the poor and those
who live at the margins, and we deserve the full sacraments of the Catholic
Church," she said.
The women did not pledge obedience or chastity - the promises made by Roman
Catholic priests - and one was introduced to the congregation by her daughter;
another by her husband.
The ceremony was presided over by Dana Reynolds of California and Ida
Raming of Germany, both of whom have been declared bishops by Roman Catholic
Womenpriests. But church officials say the women are neither bishops nor
Catholic - that they too have been automatically excommunicated as a result of
"We know only too well in how many ways Vatican church leaders refuse
to acknowledge the equality in Christ that God has established between men and
women, and how they constantly try to reimpose the precedence of men over
women, which is unchristian," Raming said. "We give witness to the
whole world that it is not male gender which is the prerequisite for a valid ordination,
but faith and baptism, the foundation of our dignity and equality."
The ceremony was held at the Church of the Covenant, which is affiliated
with both the Presbyterian Church and the United Church of Christ. The interim
pastor of the church, the Rev. Jennifer Wegter-McNelly, declared the ordination
of women "an important part of this church's identity," and said
"we stand with you today."
The former president of the Massachusetts conference of the United Church
of Christ, the state's largest Protestant denomination, was among several
Protestant clergy who attended the ceremony to express their support for the
women seeking ordination as Catholic priests.
"Prejudice in liturgical clothing is still prejudice," said the
Rev. Nancy S. Taylor, the former conference president, who is now senior
minister of Old South Church.