"Father, forgive them, they know not what they do."
Vatican City, May 29, 2008 / 02:29 pm (CNA).- The Vatican declared today that any women who attempt ordination or any bishops who attempt to ordain women are automatically excommunicated from the Church by their actions. The decree from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is said to be absolute, universal and immediately effective.
The decree which was published in the Vatican daily, L’Osservatore Romano, comes in the wake of several women attempting to be ordained as Catholic priests.
The most recent attempt to ordain a woman occurred on May 4 in Winona, Minnesota when Kathy Redig, participated in a ceremony of ordination.
Bishop of Winona Bernard Harrington responded to the news of Redig’s purported ordination by saying it made him “very, very sad.” The bishop also said that “She, by her actions, has excommunicated herself.”
Another occurrence of attempted ordination occurred in St. Louis, Missouri on November 11, 2007. The ceremony involved a German woman named Patricia Fresen conducting a would-be ordination ceremony at a St. Louis synagogue. Fresen used the formula and rite of a Catholic ordination to “ordain” as priests two St. Louis-area women, Rose Hudson and Elsie McGrath.
The attempted ordination caused Archbishop Raymond Burke of the Archdiocese of St. Louis to declare the three women excommunicated for taking part in an attempted ordination of women to the priesthood. The archbishop said the excommunication was part of his “solemn duty” to protect the faith and unity of the Church.
Archbishop Burke, who is regarded as one of the foremost experts on canon law, explained that this type of situation has been addressed before. In August 2002, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith also excommunicated two women who had taken part in an invalid ordination ceremony, he said.
Patricia Fresen, the archbishop said, had “formally and directly engaged” in founding a “new and separate sect” called Roman Catholic WomenPriests USA.
The decree from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith also mentions that it applies to all people in communion with the Catholic Church, including any bishops or women who are members of the Eastern Churches. Anyone who incurs this excommunication can only be received back into the Church by the Apostolic See, the decree says.
The declaration, which is signed by Cardinal William Levada, concludes by saying that it is absolute, universal and immediately effective upon its publication in L’Osservatore Romano.
Translated text of the Decree:
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
Regarding the crime of attempting sacred ordination of a woman
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, to protect the nature and validity of the sacrament of holy orders, in virtue of the special faculty conferred to it by the supreme authority of the Church (see canon 30, Canon Law), in the Ordinary Session of December 19, 2007, has decreed:
Remaining firm on what has been established by canon 1378 of the Canon Law, both he who has attempted to confer holy orders on a woman, and the woman who has attempted to receive the said sacrament, incurs in latae sententiae excommunication, reserved to the Apostolic See.
If he who has attempted to confer holy orders on a woman or if the woman who has attempted to receive holy orders, is a member of the faithful subject to the Code of Canon Law for the Eastern Churches, remaining firm on what has been established by canon 1443 of the same Code, they will be punished with major excommunication, whose remission remains reserved to the Apostolic See (see canon 1423, Canon Law of the Eastern Churches).
The current decree will come into immediate force from the moment of publication in the 'Osservatore Romano' and is absolute and universal.
William Cardinal Levada
Angelo Amato, S.D.B.
Titular Archbishop of Sila