Woman Claims to Be Ordained As Roman Catholic Priest
Cardinal Called Ceremony "Invalid"

By Susan Snyder
Duluth News Tribune
August 16, 2006

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia will report a local woman to the Vatican for participating in an unsanctioned ordination ceremony in Pittsburgh last month.

In a statement published on the archdiocese's Web site, Cardinal Justin Rigali said he would notify the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome of the actions by Eileen McCafferty DiFranco, 54, of Mount Airy. He called the ceremony in which she participated "clearly and simply invalid."

Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of the Milwaukee Archdiocese, who noted that a local woman participated in the same ceremony, announced a similar step last week and said he expected the women would be excommunicated. The Pittsburgh Diocese also said it would forward all media coverage and information about the event to Rome.

DiFranco and others who participated believe they were being ordained Roman Catholic priests. However, the church does not sanction such ceremonies or permit women in the priesthood.

It was unclear whether the church would act to excommunicate DiFranco.

Archdiocesan offices were closed yesterday because of a holy day and officials could not be reached for comment.

"The ultimate goal of any action taken against Mrs. DiFranco is to encourage her repentance and reconciliation with the church," Rigali said in the statement. "I shall continue to pray for this intention."

A spokesman for the Pittsburgh Diocese said last week the church could take action or leave it to local dioceses to decide.

DiFranco said she would not repent and remained proud of her participation in the ceremony, at which eight women sought the priesthood and four were welcomed as deacons.

"I stand by my ordination. God has called me to do this. I can't help it if they cannot hear God's conversation with me," DiFranco said.

She criticized the church for threatening action against her and alluded to sexual abuse by clergy.

"The men get as many chances as they need, even though their actions caused spiritual death for untold numbers of children. For us women, it's one strike and you're out. Shame on them," she said.

"Let the bishop without sin be the first to discuss excommunication, censure, whatever you want to call it."

Rigali, who contacted DiFranco before the ceremony in an attempt to dissuade her, maintained that women can't be priests under Scripture and tradition.

"Each and every Catholic man and woman brings different gifts to the Church and exercises them in a variety of roles," Rigali said. "... In pledging to avoid scandal and discord, we can help to reap a bountiful harvest for our Lord Jesus Christ."

Contact staff writer Susan Snyder at 215-854-4693 or


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