BOSTON, Massachusetts (AFP) – Three women are to be ordained as priests Sunday here in one of American’s most Catholic cities, but they will face automatic excommunication by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese.
The trio is to be ordained in a ceremony performed by a woman at a Protestant church affiliated to the US Presbyterian Church and the United Church of Christ, in Boston’s first female ordination.
The move has angered the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, which has sent out an email to local priests reminding them of Vatican law that women are allowed to have key roles within the church, but cannot become priests.
The Archdiocese says the three women will be automatically excommunicated. Historically, the Vatican’s position has been that women cannot become priests because Jesus did not have female apostles.
However, the women say they are united in the belief of being called to the priesthood and compelled to resist what they believe to be wrong church teaching.
“We’re part of a prophetic tradition of disobeying unjust law,” said Gabriella Velardi Ward, 61, a New York based architect.
“Excommunication or not, I will still be able to serve the people of God,” she told the Boston Globe.
The two others are Gloria Carpeneto of Maryland and Mary Ann McCarthy Schoettly of New Jersey.
Dana Reynolds of California, a women consecrated as a bishop in Germany earlier this year, will perform the ceremony.
Reynolds and the others are members of the organization Roman Catholic Womenpriests, holding ordinations for women since 2002. The organization reports 28 women Catholic priests in the United States.
The organization claims its ordinations are valid because its first bishops were ordained by Catholic bishops in good standing. The identity of the bishops is kept secret to protect them from being sanctioned by the Vatican.
The Church of the Covenant on Newbury Street in Boston’s Back Bay, led by Rev. Jennifer Wegler-McNelly, offered support by renting its historic edifice with Tiffany windows depicting women of the Bible.
However, the Archdiocese was stern in its email warning.
“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.”
Referring to “the loving ministry of Jesus Christ, we pray for those who have willingly fallen away from the church by participating in such activities.”
The Boston ordination ceremony is scheduled to coincide with the first joint conference of four organizations advocating for the admission of married men and also women into the priesthood. The meeting is expected to draw 200 participants.