Catholic World News News Feature
Excommunication for women claiming ordination March 14, 2008
Archbishop Raymond Burke of St. Louis has formally announced the excommunication of three women who participated in a ceremony that they described as ordination to the Catholic priesthood.
In defiance of warnings from the archbishop, two Missouri women-- Rose Marie Hudson and Elsie McGrath-- claimed ordination during a November 11 ceremony performed at a Jewish synagogue. A German woman who claims to be a bishop, Patricia Fresen, led the ceremony. Since that time, Hudson and McGrath have been serving as "pastors" of a group based in a Unitarian church.
All three women are excommunicated, the St. Louis archdiocese announced. The disciplinary action against Fresen was taken by Archbishop Burke because the offense-- the imitation of a sacrament-- was committed in St. Louis under his jurisdiction.
The penalties of excommunication apply throughout the world; the women cannot receive the sacraments unless they are reconciled.
Archbishop Burke revealed that he had warned the women against participating in the "ordination" ceremony, and subsequently issued repeated invitations for each woman to meet with him and repair the damage done by their public actions. The women have refused to accept his authority.
"Because they participated in the attempted ordination, Church law requires me to publicly declare the excommunication," announced the archbishop, who is an acknowledged authority on canon law. He explained that the Church does not have the authority to ordain women as priests, that Pope John Paul II solemnly reaffirmed the teaching, and that the teaching "is to be held definitvely by all the faithful."
"The situation is sad for the whole Church," Archbishop Burke said, urging the faithful to pray that the women will be reconciled.