Kentucky woman ordained as priest in defiance of Roman Catholic Church

Mon Apr 29, 2013 12:50pm EDT
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By Mary Wisniewski

LOUISVILLE, Kentucky (Reuters) - In an emotional ceremony filled with tears and applause, a 70-year-old Kentucky woman was ordained a priest on Saturday as part of a dissident group operating outside of official Roman Catholic Church authority.

Rosemarie Smead is one of about 150 women around the world who have decided not to wait for the Roman Catholic Church to lift its ban on women priests, but to be ordained and start their own congregations.

In an interview before the ceremony, Smead said she is not worried about being excommunicated from the Church - the fate of other women ordained outside of Vatican law.

"It has no sting for me," said Smead, a petite, gray-haired former Carmelite nun with a ready hug for strangers. "It is a Medieval bullying stick the bishops used to keep control over people and to keep the voices of women silent. I am way beyond letting octogenarian men tell us how to live our lives."

The ordination of women as priests, along with the issues of married priests and birth control, represents one of the big divides between U.S. Catholics and the Vatican hierarchy. Seventy percent of U.S. Catholics believe that women should be allowed to be priests, according to a New York Times/CBS News poll earlier this year.

The former pope, Benedict XVI, reaffirmed the Catholic Church's ban on women priests and warned that he would not tolerate disobedience by clerics on fundamental teachings. Male priests have been stripped of their holy orders for participating in ordination ceremonies for women.

In a statement last week, Louisville Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz called the planned ceremony by the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests a "simulated ordination" in opposition to Catholic teaching.

"The simulation of a sacrament carries very serious penal sanctions in Church law, and Catholics should not support or participate in Saturday's event," Kurtz said.   Continued...

Rosemarie Smead, a 70-year-old Kentucky woman, sings with the audience during a Celebration of Ordination at St. Andrew's United Church of Christ in Louisville, Kentucky April 27, 2013. REUTERS/John Sommers II