A band of women have made the news recently for being ordained… and for being kicked out of the Catholic Church in the bargain.
While many Christian denominations wouldn’t bat an eye at women in ministry, the Catholic Church still treats the priesthood as a boys’ club: only men are allowed. Even Pope Francis, lauded as God’s gift to liberal theology, considers that rule entirely unalterable. Though Francis wants to see women playing a greater role in Catholicism, he speaks about that role in very traditional terms — “the presence of women in a domestic setting” and “transmission to future generations of solid moral principles.” He’s not talking like someone who expects or supports women’s ordination. Benedict was even more direct about the chances of seeing women one day follow in his papal Prada footsteps.
In keeping with Benedict’s statement that women’s ordination is a “grave crime,” our old friend Bishop Thomas Paprocki — he of Illinois’ anti-gay-marriage exorcism — has released a statement reminding us that women who attempt ordination aren’t really ordained, because that’s impossible, but that they’re automatically excommunicated from the Church for even trying.
He mentioned one particular woman by name. In fact, Mary Keldermans, an affiliate of Roman Catholic Womenpriests USA, even gets her own official declaration of excommunication: color me jealous! The rest of the Church’s prospective lady priests have had to settle for a sharp reminder about the consequences of ordination attempts, written entirely in Canon Legalese:
The Christian faithful are cautioned that this attempted ordination and these purported “Masses” are invalid. Those who knowingly and intentionally participate in these schismatic activities also incur automatic excommunication in accord with canons 751 and 1364, with due regard for canons 1321-1324 of the Code of Canon Law.
Translated into everyday English, this basically means that women don’t just get kicked out of the Church for being ordained on an “it’s-only-illegal-if-you-get-caught” basis. Participation in the Rite of Ordination, if you’re a woman trying to become ordained, automatically causes you to be stricken from God’s mental Rolodex of Roman Catholics. Insofar as Catholicism is the one true path to heaven, women’s ordination is a one-way ticket to hell, and Bishop Paprocki wants all those uppity women to know about it.
You know who doesn’t get an automatic ticket to hell, though? Priests who assault, molest, and rape children. The Church is notorious for giving abusive priests a second chance (and a third, and a fourth, and… well, you know). Forget sending those guys to hell; Paprocki argues that even lawsuits against them constitute “the devil’s work.”
So, if you’re keeping track, the list of people who are going to hell in this story include: Ms. Mary Keldermans, other women who try to be ordained, and families who sue for damages after their kids are molested by Catholic religious authorities.
People who are not going to hell? The actual child molesters. And Bishop Paprocki, of course.