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point of order

By Diogenes (articles ) | Jul 27, 2007

Utterly null, absolutely void, and endowed with gushing media coverage: another non-ordination of non-Catholics -- in Santa Barbara this time -- by persons in error on both counts. Brace yourself for some elegant and lucid journalism:

Besides their gender deviating from the Catholic priest norm, neither of the two deacons ordained Sunday -- who are scheduled for re-ordination as priests on July 28 -- is celibate. Norma Coon, of San Diego, has been married for 40 years. Toni Tortorilla, of Portland, lives with her lesbian partner. Cordero, a newly anointed priest who lives in San Luis Obispo, is a former nun who has been married for 30 years to a former Jesuit priest.

The ceremony, which took place on the feast day of Mary Magdalene, also differed from the standard Catholic ordination in the names the presiding clergy used for God, who is ordinarily referred to as "the Father." The female priests instead referred to "Mother and Father" and to "God/de." (The latter is pronounced like "God," with the silent, extra letters hinting at a goddess that those in the ceremony declined to refer to explicitly.) Jesus Christ retained his masculine identity, however.

Clear, I hope?

Viewed as a magic act, the present paradigm-shattering stunt is a disappointment. It's one thing to watch a conjurer pull a rabbit out of a hat, another to watch him pull a hat-lining out of a hat. So here we see three perfectly conventional Unitarians kneel down, the secret formula is intoned over their heads, and -- presto! -- when they get to their feet we find three perfectly conventional Unitarians. None of the parties starts off close enough to Catholic churchmanship to make the ceremony a plausible counterfeit, whence it's hard to see why they bother in the first place.

That said, the article is interesting in its mention of the circumstances by which the South African "ordaining bishop," Patricia Fresen, lays claim to Holy Orders.

The women ordained Sunday join 18 others in North America who belong to an international organization called Roman Catholic Women Priests, which counts among its number approximately 50 female priests and deacons worldwide, including a few whose identities remain undisclosed in an effort to protect their jobs within the church. Also secret are the identities of the male bishops who ordained Bishop Fresen. Film and documentary evidence of that ceremony is being kept by a notary public, not to be released until the deaths of the male bishops.

Assuming that the incident described above happened as stated, and that the male bishops involved were Roman Catholics, one is moved to wonder what consequences follow from the automatic excommunications prescribed by Canon 1382 ("Both the Bishop who, without a pontifical mandate, consecrates a person a Bishop, and the one who receives the consecration from him, incur a latae sententiae excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See"). It's not unthinkable that a couple retired bishops could be sufficiently loose in the hinges to attempt this prank. Since it's all secret, however, we won't know who they are or the date on which they excommunicated themselves for some time. Presumably the sacraments they perform are valid even after their excommunication, but it's odd to think that one's confirmation or consecration might be effected by a man revealed after the fact to have been a non-Catholic. The theological force of episcopal collegiality, moreover, is stretched to the breaking point by the image of patchwork communion. If Bishop X is buried in the cathedral crypt, will they disinter him after the video surfaces and re-bury him in partibus infidelium?

Maybe it'll turn out to be a hoax, and the "male bishops" merely part-time kleagles hired from one of those goofy autocephalous outfits. But the general drowsiness with which many Catholic ecclesiastics treat of the sacraments suggests they view their ordination in the same terms as Patricia Fresen and company: a ritual of empowerment conferring the confidence to preach, counsel, and lead the singing of hymns. Do you get the sense the college of bishops is as keen to spy out the offenders in their midst as a college of surgeons would be to rid themselves of impostors in theirs?

Photo: Paul Wellman, Santa Barbara Independent

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Show 12 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: - Jul. 31, 2007 2:05 PM ET USA

    I'm looking at the photo. I'll bet those postures are even more familiar without the albs.

  • Posted by: - Jul. 31, 2007 12:01 PM ET USA

    I'd like to announce that I am now President of the United States. I have duly taken the oath prescribed in the Constitution, even with my right hand on the Bible. Many people say that I'd be a better president that the "official" one. So, here I am,. Hail to the Chief! (The bombing of Santa Barbara starts in ten minutes, by the way.)

  • Posted by: - Jul. 31, 2007 7:35 AM ET USA

    Pray to San Andreas and tell him that it is not our fault.

  • Posted by: - Jul. 30, 2007 5:01 PM ET USA

    Where is her miter? She didn't want to have hat hair.

  • Posted by: - Jul. 30, 2007 7:24 AM ET USA

    I just spent a week in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara on a business trip. News like this explains a lot...

  • Posted by: - Jul. 28, 2007 12:08 PM ET USA

    "Words mean what I say they mean." Humpty Dumpty I guess these folks aren't big on Thomistis realism.

  • Posted by: - Jul. 27, 2007 11:23 PM ET USA

    special ops, it probably will not surprise you to learn that Santa Barbara is located in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. lrslattery, perhaps this "interfaith center," which the Santa Barbara Independent agreed not to name in return for an invitation to the big dance, is a former Catholic Church that Cardinal Mahoney had to sell to pay off that $660 million settlement. (Who knows, maybe he's also one of those secret bishops, too? After all, the good Cardinal has real talent for secrecy.)

  • Posted by: - Jul. 27, 2007 5:01 PM ET USA

    The article says that this "ceremony" took placed at an 'interfaith center in Santa Barbara'...Take a close look at the pictures and notice the stations of the cross. Is that normal for an 'interfaith center'? Surely this didn't happen at a Catholic church?

  • Posted by: - Jul. 27, 2007 4:33 PM ET USA

    Just because I tell everyone I'm a baseball player doesn't mean I'm ever going to play at Fenway.

  • Posted by: - Jul. 27, 2007 3:01 PM ET USA

    Santa Barbara is in what Diocese? Uncle Di, do you think that the actual Roman Catholic bishop who has true/real jurisdiction in San Barbara, should publicly state that these women are not Roman Catholic & that they cannot be ordained because the Church has not & never will call them to ordination? God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit did not give to His Church's apostles or their successors, the bishops, the authority to ordain women. Regardless of who "ordains" them, women cannot be priests.

  • Posted by: - Jul. 27, 2007 2:27 PM ET USA

    The surgeons would feel as though they had a body of knowledge to safeguard, proficiency at which those allowed entrance into the organization would be able to prove by certification or interrogation. In other words, they're entrusted with something valuable that must be protected. Perhaps we should seek ordinations from the surgeons. At least they know a bit of Latin.

  • Posted by: - Jul. 27, 2007 1:58 PM ET USA

    Canon 1379 states, "...one who simulates the administration of a sacrament is to be punished with a just penalty." Considering that 1379 explicitly refers to 1378 (concerned with non-priests saying Mass or hearing confessions), and that 1378 provides for automatic suspension clerics who simulate sacraments (and allows for excommunication if the offense is serious), I should think that these bishops would be suspended AND excommunicated, calling into doubt any sacraments celebrated by them.

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