On Saturday, in Louisville Kentucky, Rosemarie Smead, a 70-year-old former Carnelite nun, was ordained a Roman Catholic priest. With a bachelor's in theology and a doctorate in counseling psychology, Smead is eminently qualified to be a priest. The local bishop, unsurprisingly, demurs:
In a statement last week, Louisville Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz called the planned ceremony by the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests a "simulated ordination" in opposition to Catholic teaching.
The simulation of a sacrament carries very serious penal sanctions in Church law, and Catholics should not support or participate in Saturday's event," Kurtz said.Catholic teaching certainly does define such ordinations as invalid. Some snippets from Canon Law:
In other words, the bishop (if there was one) who consecrated bishop Meehan (shown above) have both been automatically excommunicated:Can. 1382 A bishop who consecrates some one a bishop without a pontifical mandate and the person who receives the consecration from him incur a latae sententiae excommunication reserved to the ApostolicSee.
Can. 1383 A bishop who ordains without legitimate dimissorial letters someone who is not his subject is prohibited for a year from conferring the order. The person who has received the ordination, however, is ipso facto suspended from the order received.
While on the surface, this canon applies to a bishop who ordains another bishop's "subject," that is, someone from another diocese, there remains the sense that, if applied, the canon would invalidate an invalid ordination of other sorts as well.
So much for canon law. There is "risk" in ordaining a female priest. People could get excommunicated. But, there are far worse things than excommunication. There is infidelity to one's conscience and to one's sense of integrity.
There is a time when unjust laws need to be flouted in order for justice to prevail. To my mind, there is nothing just about preventing women from becoming priests. I have heard all the arguments, and have judged them lame. To continue to maintain an all-male priesthood damages the Church, which is supposed to be based upon faith AND reason.
Hooray for "Father" Smead and others like her! They have listended to the voice of the living Christ, who animates his Church and pushes us beyond the bounds of clerical sanction and constricted love.