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Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ:
Earlier this week, you may have read or seen news reports about a schismatic group calling itself “Roman Catholic Womenpriests” attempting to ordain or confer the Sacrament of Holy Orders upon a woman. This group has no valid connection to the Roman Catholic Church or the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. Any supposed “ordination” this group performed has no relationship with the sacraments of the Roman Catholic Church and is not valid.
The Roman Catholic Church does not ordain women. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is very clear on this issue. As it states in the catechism: “Only a baptized man validly receives sacred ordination. The Lord Jesus chose men to form the college of the twelve Apostles, and the Apostles did the same when they chose collaborators to succeed them in their ministry. The college of bishops, with whom the priests are united in the priesthood, makes the college of the twelve an ever-present and ever-active reality until Christ’s return. The Church recognizes herself to be bound by this choice made by the Lord himself. For this reason, the ordination of women is not possible” (#1577).
The ordination of men to the priesthood is not merely a matter of practice or discipline with the Catholic Church, but rather, it is part of the deposit of faith handed down by Christ through his Apostles. The Catholic Church has always followed Jesus’ example, and does not believe it has the authority to change what Jesus instituted. The will of Christ is not arbitrary.
The woman who attempted ordination this past weekend may have chosen to be a priest in some other “catholic” church, but it is not the one headed by Pope Benedict XVI. She cannot be a priest in a church that has not called her to that priesthood.
She herself states that by attempting ordination and denying the Roman Catholic Church’s teaching in a public act, she has placed herself outside of the Church’s communion. This offers further argument against her “ordination” since to be ordained to the sacred priesthood is to be ordained to obedience in mind and soul to the Church’s magisterium. One cannot serve in obedience if one was ordained in an act of disobedience.
The Catholic Church’s teaching on the ordination of women does not mean that the Church values women less than men. The Catholic Church is sustained by the important contributions of women each and every day. The Catholic Church has always taught that men and women have the same dignity, but they have different duties or gifts. All these gifts are central to the faith and the life of the Catholic Church.
In secular society today, we talk about equal rights and equal protection under the law. That means many different things to different people. In the Church, we believe in an equality of dignity between men and women that is bestowed on each of us by the Holy Spirit in our equal call to holiness. The only universal call is the call to holiness.
No one has a right by baptism to ordination. Ordination to the ministerial priesthood is a distinct gift. It is a gift that exists for the service of God and the Church. In accepting and handing on this gift, the Church is bound by fidelity to the example of Christ to reserve ordination to males who have legitimately received this call from God, and who are accepted by the Church as having received this call.
I am saddened that the woman who attempted ordination and anyone who took part in this invalid ceremony have chosen to take such a public action to separate themselves from the Church. I am sorry they have chosen this path. It is clear that they believe they are doing the right thing.
I wish them all the best, but hope they will decide to return to the Church’s communion.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Most Rev. Christopher J. Coyne, SLD
Archdiocese of Indianapolis