CHARLOTTE, NC — A breakaway Catholic group is in the news for attempting to ordain a woman as a Catholic priest at a non-denominational church in North Carolina.
Abigail Eltzroth, 64, went through the simulated ordination at the Jubilee! church in Asheville, N.C. under the aegis of the group Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests. She has said she intends to start a Catholic community in the area of Asheville.
The local diocese, however, reaffirmed Catholic teaching that such an ordination is null.
“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, spokesperson for the Catholic Diocese of Charlotte.
Eltzroth converted to Catholicism from a Presbyterian background in her 50s, the Charlotte Observer reports. The simulated ordination was carried out by Bridget Mary Meehan, who presents herself as a Catholic bishop.
Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests traces itself back to the attempted ordination of seven women on a ship cruising the Danube River in 2002. Attempted ordination of a woman is automatic excommunication for both the person attempting the ordination and the person attempting to be ordained.
From the beginning of his papacy, Pope Francis has been clear on the issue of women priests, while still emphasizing the unique and important role of women in the Church.
On his return flight from Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families Sept. 28, 2015, the Pope reiterated that women priests “cannot be done,” and called for a more comprehensive theology on women.
In an interview with Vatican Insider in December 2013, Francis responded to a question on whether or not he’d ever consider naming a woman a cardinal. The very question, he indicated, stemmed from an attitude of clericalism.
“I don’t know where this idea sprang from. Women in the Church must be valued not ‘clericalized,’” the Pope said. “Whoever thinks of women as cardinals suffers a bit from clericalism.”
Throughout the three years since, Francis has consistently called for a more “incisive” feminine presence in the Church, yet has refrained from limiting this presence to a mere position.