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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (ChurchMilitant.com) - The diocese of Charlotte, North Carolina, used the word "fake" to describe the so-called ordination of a Catholic woman, saying she excommunicated herself in the process.
Abigail Eltzroth, a divorced Catholic and mother of two, participated in a simulated ordination ceremony Sunday, which was performed by "Bishop" Mary Meehan of the nondenominational group called, the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests.
The same day, David Hains, spokesman for the diocese of Charlotte, denounced the mock ceremony. "I hope that Catholics in the diocese will understand that it would be sinful to receive a fake sacrament from a woman priest and that includes attending a fake Mass," said Hains.
In 2007, Cdl. William Levada, then prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, issued a decree stating that female Catholics, who participate in fake ordination ceremonies, are automatically excommunicated. "[Both] the one who attempts to confer a sacred order on a woman and the woman who attempts to receive a sacred order, incur an excommunication latae sententiae reserved to the Apostolic See."
In his statement Sunday, Hains echoed this teaching. "When a woman is ordained to 'holy orders,' the person who does the ordination and the person who is 'ordained' is excommunicated automatically from the Church."
Before the fake ceremony, Eltzroth declared that she knew she'd be excommunicated and was OK with it. "I'm sure that I will be (excommunicated) if I haven’t been already. But there are plenty of saints who have been excommunicated. So that’s not going to stop us."
Eltzroth explained that she had the right to deny the Church's moratorium on women's ordination and thus had the right to refuse the resulting punishment for violating the Church's prescript forbidding it. "Since we reject the law that says women can't be ordained, we also reject the punishment," said Eltzroth. She added, "We are forging ahead, leading the Church into a different future than is envisioned by the male hierarchy."
Many Catholics believe that Eltzroth is on the right path. A 2015 poll from Pew Research Center showed that six out of 10 Catholics believe "the Catholic Church should allow women to become priests."
In February, an article appeared in the prestigious publication La Civiltà Cattolica, calling into question the papal teaching on women's ordination. After casing doubt on the magisterial teaching that holds women priests as an impossible goal, the article proclaims, "One cannot always resort to the past, as if only in the past are there indications of the Spirit. Today as well the Spirit is guiding the Church and suggesting the courageous assumption of new perspectives."
The article concludes by indicating that Pope Francis is seemingly open to letting this question be settled "by the Spirit who guides the Church." Pope Francis, however, did speak on this issue and declared that Pope St. John Paul II had already put it to rest.
In 1994, John Paul II closed the door on women's ordinations with his apostolic letter, Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, which declared, "[T]he Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women. This judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church's faithful."
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a statement in 1995 approved by the Roman Pontiff, confirming that John Paul II's teaching on female ordinations was infallible and "requires definitive assent."
Pope Francis upheld this papal teaching as recently as last November. On a return flight from Sweden November 1, the Pope was asked by a reporter on the plane, "Is it realistic to think of women priests in the Catholic Church in the next few decades? If not, why not? Do Catholic priests worry about the competition?"
Pope Francis responded, "As for the ordination of women in the Catholic Church, the last clear word was given by St. John Paul II and this holds."