A spin-off “group” of the Roman Catholic Church has ordained a woman priest — a decision not in union, of course, with the church.
The Association of Roman Catholic Priests ordained Abigail Eltzroth, 64, this past weekend in Asheville, North Carolina. The ordination is not endorsed by, nor does it follow the correct process of, the Roman Catholic Church, which does not ordain female priests.
“We use equal rites to promote equal rights.”
“I’m sure that I will be [excommunicated] if I haven’t been already,” Eltzroth told The Charlotte Observer. “But there are plenty of saints who have been excommunicated. So that’s not going to stop us.”
Eltzroth “now plans to to start a Catholic worship community in the Asheville area,” according to The Observer.
She joins the ranks of 250 other women priests who are part of a “renewal movement within the Roman Catholic Church.” Eltzroth converted from Presbyterianism to Catholicism in her 50s.
As far as the Catholic Church is concerned, Eltzroth is not an actual priest. “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 David Hains, a spokesman for the Catholic Diocese of Charlotte.
The women’s priest group views the situation quite differently.
“We prepare and ordain qualified women and men to serve the people of God as priests,” the organization’s website maintains. “We use equal rites to promote equal rights and justice for women in the church.”
The group claims to welcome all and to offer an “inclusive” service.
“The Vatican states that we are excommunicated; however, we do not accept this and affirm that we are loyal members of the church,” the organization claims. “We continue to serve our beloved church in a renewed priestly ministry by welcoming all to celebrate the sacraments in inclusive, Christ-centered, Spirit-empowered communities wherever we are called.”
Some church denominations allow women to serve in leadership roles. The Catholic Church, however, has kept its longstanding tradition of male leadership in the church.
“For one, it should be noted that Jesus did not ordain any women,” the Catholic Education Resource Center notes. “He selected all of his apostles, and none were women … There were other roles that Christ had in mind for women. For example, they played a key role in the spread of the Gospel, being the first to spread the news of the risen Christ.”
In 2016, Pope Francis created a commission to study the idea of having women in deacon roles within the church.