Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary
Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary


By Fr. Paul Mankowski, S.J. ( articles ) | May 04, 2003

One summer Sunday in 1979:

She stepped up to the makeshift altar, made a sign of the cross, and began to say the liturgy. She lifted bread and, for the first time in earnest, uttered the words, "This is my body." Afterward, the community's regular priest -- whom the Catholic Church had removed from ministry when he married -- told her: "Judy, you have been ordained. Any other ceremony would only confirm it. Some in the group had qualms, however. They debated for nine months before voting to permit Heffernan to submit to an ordination ceremony.

On May 11, 1980, a Jesuit priest laid hands on her head before the community, and performed the ordination rite canonically done by Roman Catholic bishops.

No, Judy, you are not ordained. The bread you declaim over remains bread. The sins you shrive still bind the penitent. The Jesuit who laid hands on your head no more effected an ordination than a six-year-old playing Mass in his bedroom confects the Eucharist. This, at any rate, is the Catholic belief about Catholic belief.

You were voted into the job by your "group." Think about what that means. Either they have ceased to believe in consecration and absolution full stop (and simply prefer to take their bread and encouragement from you than from Father O'Halloran), or they have ceased to believe that Holy Orders confer any sacramental powers at all -- any power, i.e., that can't be ginned up by a half-dozen folks with a big red book and a candle.

By your actions you have proclaimed your denial of the infallibility of the Church. Well, is your group fallible or infallible? If infallible, how can you know it? If fallible, then think about the responsibility you have taken on yourself: the eternal destiny of souls which, henceforth separated from the Catholic Church and the graces channeled by her, are staking the rightness of every collective decision they take on the rightness of the decision they took in 1980.

Do you really want these men and women to die with your wafers on their tongues? Do you really want them to die with their sins hinging on your faith, your theology, your sense of election?

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