Georgia Walker Excommunicated For Attempting To Become Catholic Priest

Woman Excommunicated For Attempting To Become Catholic Priest

Georgia Walker, the Missouri woman who underwent an unsanctioned ordination ceremony earlier this month in an attempt to become a Roman Catholic priest, has been excommunicated from the church.

On Jan. 7, Bishop Robert W. Finn of the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph sent Walker a letter informing her that she'd incurred automatic excommunication for participating in an ordination ceremony not recognized by the Vatican. Walker, who identifies herself as a reverend but whose title is not acknowledged by the church, participated in the ceremony on Jan. 3.

In his letter, Finn cited several infringements of the Code of Canon Law, including canon 1024, which limits the priesthood to men. He also noted that the diocese is ready to assist Walker should she choose to reconcile with the church.

In an email to The Huffington Post, Walker said that she was "very disappointed to be excommunicated."

"I love the Church and I particularly love the local parish in which I have previously been very active," Walker told HuffPost on Wednesday. "However, I am not at all surprised."

Bridget Mary Meehan of the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests, who conducted Walker's ordination ceremony, responded to Finn's letter on her personal website Monday.

"The Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests are faithful members of the baptized who serve our beloved church in a renewed priestly ministry that welcomes all to celebrate the sacraments in inclusive, Christ-centered, Spirit-empowered communities wherever we are called," Meehan wrote.

Meehan, who identifies as a bishop but whose title is similarly not recognized by the church, argued for ARCWP's claim to validity, citing the organization's "apostolic succession with the Roman Catholic Church."

"The principal consecrating Roman Catholic male bishop who ordained our first women bishops is a bishop with apostolic succession within the Roman Catholic Church in communion with the pope," she wrote on her website. "Therefore, our bishops validly ordain deacons, priests and bishops."

In an earlier interview with HuffPost, Walker had implied that she was prepared for excommunication or a similar outcome.

“What the official church does to me is not relevant,” she told HuffPost shortly after her ordination ceremony. “They can’t take away my baptism, they can’t take away my calling to the priesthood. All they can do is deny me their sacraments.”

Jack Smith, director of communications for the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, noted in an email to HuffPost that Pope Francis clearly reaffirmed in his 2013 apostolic exhortation "Evangelii Gaudium" that priesthood is considered the domain of baptized males only. In the same document, the pope said the church must "create still broader opportunities for a more incisive female presence in the Church," a point that Smith also addressed in his email.

"We certainly agree with Pope Francis on the importance of increasing women’s roles in leadership in the Church," Smith wrote. "In this diocese, women serve as directors of diocesan offices, members of the diocesan finance council, heads of schools and charitable agencies and numerous other leadership roles."

Smith added that the diocese was ready to assist Walker in reconciling with the church, should she choose to renounce her claim to ordination and apply to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to remove her excommunication.

For Meehan, Walker's excommunication raises larger questions about the future of women in the Catholic Church.

"Women's full equality in the church is the elephant in the church's living room," Meehan wrote in an email to HuffPost. "I think the institutional church is moving in the direction of gender justice and women priests are leading the way toward the full equality of women in the church and society."

Meehan told HuffPost that she herself has been excommunicated multiple times for ordaining women.

Walker, for her part, described where she'd like to go from here in her email to HuffPost.

"I intend to move ahead with my plans to form an intentional, inclusive Roman Catholic community with persons who are interested in participating in weekly liturgies," she wrote. "This type of worship community will be egalitarian, non-hierarchical and all will be free to actively participate in the worship, service and governance. All will be welcome at the table."


Infographics by Alissa Scheller for The Huffington Post.

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