'Schizmatic' Women Lose Church Appeal
Vatican Condemns Self-Styled Priests

Associated Press, carried in Boston Globe
January 28, 2003

VATICAN CITY - The Vatican said yesterday it has upheld its decision to excommunicate seven women who call themselves priests, saying the move was necessary to protect the rest of the faithful.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican's orthodoxy watchdog, said in a statement that it had rejected the women's appeal of the excommunication order because of the ''gravity of offenses committed.''

The women - who include the former first lady of Ohio, as well as women from Austria and Germany - participated in an ordination ceremony aboard a boat traveling Europe's Danube River on June 29. Performing the ceremony was Romulo Braschi, an Argentine who calls himself an archbishop but who is branded by the Vatican as the founder of a schismatic community.

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the congregation, declared them excommunicated on Aug. 5 after they refused to renounce their claims. He prohibited the women from celebrating Mass or receiving the sacraments.

The women appealed the decision and asked for clarification on what constitutes ''schismatic'' conduct and on biblical passages regarding equality of women.

The Vatican rejected the appeal and said the women were ''accomplices in schism'' for having participated in the ordination ceremony with Braschi, who already has been excommunicated.

The women ''formally and obstinately reject a doctrine which the church has always taught and lived ... `that the church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women,''' the statement said, citing a document by Pope John Paul II.

''The penalty imposed is not only just, but also necessary, in order to protect true doctrine, to safeguard the communion and unity of the church, and to guide the consciences of the faithful,'' the statement said.

One of the women, Dagmar Braun Celeste, former wife of Richard Celeste of Ohio, said she was trying to send a message that the time had come to admit women into the Roman Catholic clergy.

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