The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench

Buh-bye: women priests formally excommunicated

Women who consider themselves ordained in the Catholic Church can now consider themselves not ordained — and not Catholic.

Here’s how Reuters reports the news:

The Vatican issued its most explicit decree so far against the ordination of women priests on Thursday, punishing them and the bishops who try to ordain them with automatic excommunication.

The decree was written by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and published in the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, giving it immediate effect.

A Vatican spokesman said the decree made the Church’s existing ban on women priests more explicit by clarifying that excommunication would follow all such ordinations.


Excommunication forbids those affected from receiving the sacraments or sharing in acts of public worship.

Rev. Tom Reese, a senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University, said he thought the decree was meant to send a warning to the growing number of Catholics who favor admitting women to the priesthood.

“I think the reason they’re doing this is that they’ve realized there is more and more support among Catholics for ordaining women, and they want to make clear that this is a no-no,” Reese said.

The Church says it cannot change the rules banning women from the priesthood because Christ chose only men as his apostles. Church law states that only a baptized male can be made a priest.


Proponents of women’s ordination say Christ was only acting according to the social norms of his time.

They cite the letters of Saint Paul, some of the earliest texts of Christianity, to show that women played important roles in the early church.

Attempts to ordain women priests are highly unusual. But the archbishop of St. Louis earlier this year declared three women excommunicated after an ordination ceremony in his diocese.

Excommunication is usually “ferendae sententiae”, imposed as punishment.

But some offences, including heresy, schism, and laying violent hands on the Pope, are considered so disruptive of ecclesiastical life that they trigger automatic excommunication, or “latae sententiae”.

The decree says that women priests and the bishops who ordain them would be excommunicated “latae sententiae”.

Somehow, I don’t think we’ve heard the last about this issue.

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Padre Steve

posted May 29, 2008 at 5:27 pm

This issue seems to come in cycles. I’m sure it will come up again as well. I suppose they will test every new Pope that comes along. I appreciate the clarity of Pope Benedict on all of these kinds of issues. We are blessed to have such a gifted man as our Holy Father! God bless! Padre Steve, SDB

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Jeff Miller

posted May 29, 2008 at 6:52 pm

Fr. Reese always has some uninsightful commentary. Like duh! And of course we will keep hearing about this beause of dissident Catholics who are virtual Protestants anyway and won’t realize that the Church has no authority to change this.

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Mr Flapatap

posted May 29, 2008 at 8:19 pm

mfranks, I hope that was a typo:”Now if we can get Rome to formally excommunicate one, two or the whole lot of Pro-Life Politicians, we’ll be golden.”

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posted May 29, 2008 at 8:41 pm

Perhaps, I’m missing something – where’s the typo?I believe they should be excommunicated… Just my personal opinion.

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posted May 29, 2008 at 8:42 pm

Here’s the decree:GENERAL DECREE OF THECONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH:Automatic excommunication for “ordination” of women Congregation for the Doctrine of the FaithGeneral DecreeOn the delict of attempted sacred ordination of a womanThe Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in virtue of the special faculty granted to it by the Supreme Authority of the Church (cf. Can. 30, Code of Canon Law), in order to safeguard the nature and validity of the sacrament of Holy Orders, decreed, on the Ordinary Session of December 19, 2007:In accordance with what is disposed by Can. 1378 of the Code of Canon Law, he who shall have attempted to confer holy orders on a woman, as well as the woman who may have attempted to receive Holy Orders, incurs in the latae sentantiae excommunication, reserved to the Apostolic See.If he who shall have attempted to confer Holy Orders on a woman or if the woman who shall have attempted to received Holy Orders is a faithful bound to the Code of Canons of the Oriental Churches, he is to be punished with the major excommunication, whose remission remains reserved to the Apostolic See, in accordance with can. 1443 of the same Code (cf. can. 1423, Code of Canons of the Oriental Churches).The present decree enters in force immediately after its publication in L’Osservatore Romano.William Cardinal LevadaPrefectAngelo Amato, s.d.b.Titular Archbishop of SilaSecretary

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Deacon Greg Kandra

posted May 29, 2008 at 9:07 pm

mfranks…Do you mean perhaps “Pro-abortion” politicians”? Dcn. G.

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posted May 29, 2008 at 9:34 pm

Yes, indeed! Ooops.

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posted May 29, 2008 at 9:40 pm

It’s about time! Roman time seems to move at such a slow pace… :-)Now if we can get Rome to formally excommunicate one, two or the whole lot of Pro-Abortion Politicians, we’ll be golden.[Deleted previous post – corrected here. Thanks for pointing out my typo!]I’m not sure why the Church doesn’t do more excommunications… It’s not like it’s a permanent state.Quoting the Catholic Encyclopedia:”Excommunication, it must be remembered, is a medicinal penalty intended, above all, for the correction of the culprit; therefore his first duty is to solicit pardon by showing an inclination to obey the orders given him, just as it is the duty of ecclesiastical authority to receive back the sinner as soon as he repents and declares himself disposed to give the required satisfaction.”

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posted May 29, 2008 at 10:07 pm

I notice that all the headlines forget to put the “scare quotes” around “priests”.

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Stone of Bethel

posted May 30, 2008 at 12:59 am

Ordination of women unfortunately leads to the mess that the Episcopal and Anglican Churches are dealing with and fractures the very fiber of their theology. Ordained men stand more on doctrine than emotion and that’s why the Church survives. Women have a WONDERFUL role in the Church, they stand on the very front line of Catholic education for our young. The nurturing and loving presence in a child’s life, much like the Virgin Mary herself. But I find that some feel that such a call is beneath them. My wife is far more intelligent than I and had a very successful career. She left the work environment to take care of our children. And she is often looked down upon for such a decision. I don’t know why moms at home became such a secular sin!

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posted May 30, 2008 at 1:46 am

I agree Stone of Bethal! It’s a shame this country is so poorly cathecized. If the 60 million American “Catholics” knew their faith and even a little of the theology behind it, gay “marriage” would be not only non-existent, but about as prosaic as men giving birth to babies, in other words, nadda!The gay “marriage” and “women priests” thing is a real connection. Women priests in Catholicism would be “theologically”, a “Spritual lesbeism”, i.e, the bride of Christ (the church) being married to an in persona Christi “women.” In writing this I just came to realize, with gay “marriage” closing in on us, how as Catholics, regardless of who’s fault it is that we don’t know our catechism and the “Whys” of what the church teaches, we have to also take some of the blame for the “gay marriage agenda.” The good news; it’s never too late, we just need more Catholic Evangalists out there.

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posted June 2, 2008 at 3:40 pm

I was simply going from site to site in the hopes of finding people who were as outraged regarding the excommuncation of women trying to be priests as I was. Instead I find my fellow catholics agreeing with this whole heartedly and I am ashamed. I believe that our Lord weeps each time he sees how little we follow his tenants. Not once did he discriminate based on gender, race, or whatever. READ EVERY SINGLE STORY that revolves around him and you will see him surrounded by people that were not acceptable by the so called moral majority of the time. He healed the sick, he invited sinners to dinner, he protected prostitutes. Oh and lets not forget the first person to see him after his resurrection was a WOMAN, who the church continues to mislabel as a prostitute. This wonderful man would never in a million years keep women from being ordained. Women who read this site open your eyes and see: Our religious leaders are telling us that they have so little regard for us as intelligent and faithful Christians that they would rather have us barred from the church than to stand as equals. I don’t care what you beliefs are, this is wrong.

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posted June 3, 2008 at 11:22 am

Zelda,Thanks for the good news that you couldn’t find anybody to support you! It appears that the windows are being opened to air out the “smoke of satan”. Thank you, Pope Benedict XVI!

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posted June 8, 2008 at 1:05 pm

Zelda, I agree with you and wish Jesus’s message of Love was more important to Christians than Law.Because eating meat on Friday was once a sin and now it’s not. Because bishops once owned slaves and now they don’t. Because Junia was a female apostle, despite that they tried to hide her as the male “Junias”. Because Mary Magdalen was not a prostitute. Because the Church is the people, and the Magisterium is a small and ideologically-skewed portion of those people. Because Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these, my brethren, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25) Because women presided at the Eucharist until the 9th century. Because in 1976, the international biblical experts of the Vatican’s own Pontifical Biblical Commission concluded with a majority of 12 to 5 that there are no scriptural objections to the priestly ordination of women. Because Pope John Paul II put a gag-order on legitimate debate about women priests, while Gaudium et Spes says “all the faithful, both clerical and lay, should be accorded a lawful freedom of inquiry, freedom of thought and freedom of expression, tempered by humility and courage in whatever branch of study they have specialised” Because it’s hypocrisy to say that the masculine language of the Bible doesn’t mean God is male and merely reflects the bias of an ancient culture, while explaining that women can never become priests because Jesus didn’t pick a female disciple, even though he needed to conform to that same culture. Because the Magisterium has too often chosen to sacrifice truth in the service of comfort.

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posted June 9, 2008 at 1:36 pm

You know, I was always on the side of NO WOMEN PRIESTS but I never knew why until recently when I attended a diaconal formation retreat. The question was brought up regarding women priests and of course I had the “gun loaded” and was prepared to “fire” as soon as my turn came up…and I did…I let the group have it with both barrels – the general concensus was that women should be allowed to become priests and those that didn’t agree at least stated with a forceful conviction that they would OBEY ANY DECISION the Catholic Church would properly promulgate…I was definately in the minority and felt very alone, but in a proud way. It wasn’t until after the discussion broke up and we were walking to our rooms to retire for the night (still VERY proud)that I realized that I truely didn’t know the reason I felt so strongly against female clergy…I had never critically thought about it, I just used my masculinity to explain it away…and so I went to bed with this on my mind.You guessed right….I awoke the next day with this answer…an answer that I am personally very comfortable with. It is not an answer for everyone and theres a very goood chance that you won’t like it “zelda” and “teresawymore” but I am telling you this not to raise your ire, but to get you and every other woman in the world to critically think about this as I did – this is food for thought…I have never, never, NEVER met a woman who wanted to become a priest that didn’t have another agenda – a worldly agenda – a feminist agenda. The only women I have ever met who want to become priests, want to become priests because they feel they are ENTITLED.NO WOMAN or MAN FOR THAT MATTER IS ENTITLED TO BECOME A PRIEST. If you want things to change, women need to find an argument that does not involve entitlement.I have little expectation that you’ll understand because I don’t know you, but I pray that you and every other woman will at least think about the modicum of truth that just might be found in this post.If your desire is of this world…Have Nothing To Do With It…You will Fail!But if it is of God, IT WILL HAPPEN and there is NOTHING anyone of us can do to stop it.In the name of Our Lord, I love you all.

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Stone of Bethel

posted June 12, 2008 at 3:48 pm

+doug… Well spoken.

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