Diogenes has, unfortunately, ceased writing. But this essay from our archives,
written in July 2007, has lost none of its original relevance.
Utterly null, absolutely void, and endowed with
gushing media coverage: another non-ordination of non-Catholicsin Santa
Barbara this timeby persons in error on both counts. Brace yourself for some
elegant and lucid journalism from the Santa Barbara Independent:
Besides their gender
deviating from the Catholic priest norm, neither of the two deacons ordained
Sundaywho are scheduled for re-ordination as priests on July 28is celibate.
Norma Coon,* of San Diego, has been married for 40 years. Toni Tortorilla, of
Portland, lives with her lesbian partner.…
The ceremony, which
took place on the feast day of Mary Magdalene, also differed from the standard
Catholic ordination in the names the presiding clergy used for God, who is
ordinarily referred to as “the Father.” The female priests instead referred to “Mother
and Father” and to “God/de.” (The latter is pronounced like “God,” with the
silent, extra letters hinting at a goddess that those in the ceremony declined
to refer to explicitly.) Jesus Christ retained his masculine identity, however.
Clear, I hope?
evidence, accepted on faith
Viewed as a magic act, the present
paradigm-shattering stunt is a disappointment. It’s one thing to watch a
conjurer pull a rabbit out of a hat, another to watch him pull a hat-lining out
of a hat. So here we see three perfectly conventional Unitarians kneel down,
the secret formula is intoned over their heads, andpresto!when they
get to their feet we find three perfectly conventional Unitarians. None of the
parties starts off close enough to Catholic churchmanship to make the ceremony
a plausible counterfeit, whence it’s hard to see why they bother in the first
That said, the article is interesting in its
mention of the circumstances by which the South African “ordaining bishop,”
Patricia Fresen, lays claim to holy orders.
The women ordained Sunday join 18 others in North
America who belong to an international organization called Roman Catholic Women
Priests, which counts among its number approximately 50 female priests and
deacons worldwide, including a few whose identities remain undisclosed in an
effort to protect their jobs within the Church. Also secret are the identities
of the male bishops who ordained Bishop Fresen. Film and documentary evidence
of that ceremony is being kept by a notary public, not to be released until the
deaths of the male bishops.
Assuming that the incident described above
happened as stated, and that the male bishops involved were Roman Catholics,
one is moved to wonder what consequences follow from the automatic
excommunications prescribed by Canon 1382 (“Both the Bishop who, without a
pontifical mandate, consecrates a person a Bishop, and the one who receives the
consecration from him, incur a latae sententiae excommunication reserved
to the Apostolic See”). It’s not unthinkable that a couple of retired bishops
could be sufficiently loose in the hinges to attempt this prank.
Since it’s all secret, however, we won’t know
who they are or the date on which they excommunicated themselves for some time.
Presumably the sacraments they perform are valid even after their
excommunication, but it’s odd to think that one’s confirmation or consecration
might be effected by a man revealed after the fact to have been a non-Catholic.
The theological force of episcopal collegiality, moreover, is stretched to the
breaking point by the image of patchwork communion. If Bishop X is buried in
the cathedral crypt, will they disinter him after the video surfaces and
re-bury him in partibus infidelium?
Maybe it will turn out to be a hoax, and the “male
bishops” merely part-time kleagles hired from one of those goofy autocephalous
outfits. But the general drowsiness with which many Catholic ecclesiastics
treat of the sacraments suggests they view their ordination in the same terms
as Patricia Fresen and company: a ritual of empowerment conferring the
confidence to preach, counsel, and lead the singing of hymns.
Do you get the sense the college of bishops is
as keen to spy out the offenders in their midst as a college of surgeons would
be to rid themselves of impostors in theirs?
*In February 2011, Norma Coon publicly renounced
her “ordination,” affirmed the truth of John Paul II’s apostolic letter Ordination Sacerdotalis that the Church
may ordain men only, and severed all ties with the Roman Catholic Women