by Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
(May 30, 2008) The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has issued a decree stating that any woman being consecrated a priest, and the bishop who consecrates her, is automatically excommunicated from the Church.
The decree, published today by the ‘Osservatore Romano’ establishes that: “The Congregation for Religious Doctrine, to protect the nature and validity of the sacrament of the holy order, in virtue of the special faculty to be consecrated by the supreme authority decrees that both the one trying to consecrate a woman in the holy order, and the woman who has tried to receive the holy order, will be excommunicated ‘latae sententiae’, reserved to the Apostolic See.”
Excommunication is usually “ferendae sententiae”, imposed as punishment. However, offenses such as heresy, schism, and laying violent hands on the Pope are considered to be so disruptive of ecclesiastical life that they trigger automatic excommunication, or ‘latae senentiae.’
The decree applies to all rites in communion with Rome, and comes into immediate force from the moment of publication in Osservatore Romano. Pardon for these offenses can only be given by the Apostolic See.
Fr Tom Reese, a senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Centre at Georgetown University, told reporters 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,” he said.
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