BOSTON — Jean Marchant quit her post as director of the Boston Archdiocese’s Health Care Ministry July 17.

Her reason: She revealed that she had participated in a ceremony last year in which she claimed “ordination” as a priest. Using a pseudonym, she was among nine women who took part in an invalid ceremony in Canada.

Marchant, 62, went public when she decided to attend the July 31 “ordination” ceremony in Pittsburgh of eight women as “priests” and four women as “deacons” by women “bishops.”

According to the website of the group Roman Catholic Womenpriests, five of the 12 have been active in parish ministry, and four have worked as chaplains. Joan Clark Houk of Pennsylvania told the Register she had been coordinator of two parishes without a resident priest in the Diocese of Lexington, Ky.

“Those attempting to confer holy orders have, by their own actions, removed themselves from the Church, as have those who present themselves for such an invalid ritual,” said a statement issued by the Diocese of Pittsburgh before the ceremony.

Robert Lockwood, director of communications for the Diocese of Pittsburgh, said in an interview that this is an example of latae sententiae (by your actions) excommunication.

“This is our interpretation of it, although we don’t actually use that word, but any interpretation of canon law would show that these ‘ordinations’ fall under that and so there’s no need for a canonical trial. It’s an attack on the unity of the Church, an undermining of the sacraments, an abuse of the sacrament of Holy Orders; you can go down the list,” he said. “The so-called bishops who performed the ceremony were already formally excommunicated, and the Vatican previously confirmed that.”

The statement added that those “who by their presence give witness and encouragement to this fundamental break with the unity of the people of God place themselves outside the Church.”

Regina Nicolosi, who was “ordained” recently in a similar ceremony in Switzerland, told the Pioneer Press of St. Paul and Minneapolis that she remains active in her parish, St. Joseph’s in Red Wing, Minn.

Contacted Aug. 1 by the Register, Karen Nedeau, a spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, said that a statement the archdiocese issued last summer “still stands.” That statement, issued when Nicolosi was “ordained” a deacon, said that the Church continues to hold that only men may be ordained to the priesthood.

“Thus the ‘ordination ceremony’ of Mrs. Regina Nicolosi of Red Wing, Minnesota, reportedly scheduled to take place aboard a vessel on the St. Lawrence Seaway this coming Monday, will … not be recognized by the Roman Catholic Church,” the statement said.

Sending a Message

Pope John Paul was clear when he issued a declaration on the matter of women’s ordination.

 

He wrote in the 1994 apostolic letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis (On Reserving Priestly Ordination to Men Alone):

“In order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter that pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (see Luke 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.”

In 1995, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said the Church’s teaching on this matter pertains to the deposit of faith and is taught infallibly.

Boston archdiocesan spokesman Terrence Donilon said in an interview that “as far as we know,” Marchant did not disclose her affiliation to anyone in the archdiocese until she submitted her resignation.

Marchant, in a phone interview, said she had quietly “anointed” some sick people and “privately presided” over several “Masses” on invitations from small faith groups, which she declined to identify. She said she didn’t do this publicly because of her job.

For the past four years, Marchant supervised the Catholic chaplaincy programs in 72 hospitals, including Brigham and Women’s in Boston where her second husband, Ronald Hindelang, is chaplain. She also directed spiritual care at the Catholic Carney Hospital in Boston for five years and worked 16 years in hospice ministry.

Donilon told the Boston Globe: “The cardinal has imposed no penalty on Jean Marchant, because, according to Church law, she separated herself from the Church by her own action.”

       

Gail Besse is based in

Hull, Massachusetts.