The Roman Catholic Womenpriests Community ordained eight priests and four deacons yesterday in a ceremony on a riverboat plying Pittsburgh's three rivers. But the Catholic Church in which the women claim a role says that by participating in the ceremony they have excommunicated themselves.
This is the fourth such group ordained worldwide since 2002, and the first in the U.S. The women came from across the nation. All have been held on boats, because they are a traditional symbol of the church.
The Catholic Church teaches that only males can be ordained because the 12 apostles were male. It holds that ordination is handed down by a chain of bishops that can be traced back to those 12 apostles.
Patricia Fresen, a bishop in Roman Catholic Womenpriests, compared their movement to the anti-apartheid movement.
"I am utterly convinced that our ordinations are totally valid," she said. "Although they break [canon] law, we believe we are breaking an unjust law. I come from South Africa. We learned from Nelson Mandela and others that if a law is unjust, it must be changed. ... If you cannot change it, you must break it."