Women’s Ordination: Another Route To Automatic Excommunication

Not only does approving an abortion necessary to save a woman’s life in a case where her fetus would die in either case get you automatically excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church, but so does seeking ordination while being female.  Lifelong Catholic Janine Denomme this week was denied a Roman Catholic burial for having the audacity to seek ordination into the priesthood:

Last month, Janine was ordained in a simulation, according to the Archdiocese, which carries an automatic penalty.

“Any woman who seeks ordination incurs excommunication,” said Fr. Daniel Smilanic.

Archdiocese Canon lawyer Smilanic said the Cardinal had no choice. Janine knew that when she took her vows a month before she died.

Her longtime partner, Nancy Katz, said that Janine was also aware that she risked being denied a formal church funeral.

“I don’t think she believed the church would lack a pastoral sensibility,” said Katz. “And what she said to me as we talked about her funeral wishes, ‘I can’t imagine having my funeral anywhere but my parish.’ And yet she knew that there was a risk involved with heeding her call for ordination.”
“We have to understand what the theology is,” Smilanic said. “The Holy See has said that if people do this, they are automatically excommunicated. And the excommunication is reserved to the Holy See.”

Translation: orders from Rome. Instant excommunication. Decreed by the same authority which takes years to excommunicate priests who abuse children.

However unjustly sexist and misogynistic the policy against women’s ordination is, one does understand an organization’s right to enforce its policies with penalties and to make clear distinctions as to who its acknowledged authority figures are and are not.  But automatic excommunication for acts of conscientious protest?  That’s pure authoritarianism of thought and practice.  This would be the equivalent, in my mind, of a nation that denied citizenship to anyone who committed an act of civil disobedience (all the while letting criminals such as, say, pedophiles, get off free).  Signs of an institution guided by a Holy Spirit?  Nope, not at all.  It is evidence quite to the contrary.  It is frustrating that people whose lives the Church has no genuine interest in understanding or helping to flourish still clamor for her favor and die desperate for it.  It is like a religious Stockholm Syndrome.

Thanks to my friend and colleague Tim Czech and condolences to his mom, who was a friend of Janine.

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About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.