A divorced, 64-year-old woman became the second female in North Carolina to be ordained by the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests (ARCWP), a “renewal movement” that advocates from gender equality in the Church.
As The Charlotte Observer reports, Abigail Eltzroth was ordained Sunday at Jubilee!, a nondenominational community. She is the first woman priest ordained by the ARCWP in the 46 counties that make up the Catholic Diocese of Charlotte, North Carolina.
Elzroth was raised Presbyterian and converted to Catholicism in her 50s. She has served as a pastor at two churches in Nebraska, as a pastoral associate in Montana, and as a prison chaplain in Michigan.
Although several Protestant groups have accepted women clergy, the Catholic Church continues to bar women from priesthoods. In 1994, Pope John Paul II, who died in 2005, wrote an Apostolic letter claiming that the Church “has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women.” In 2007, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith declared that any person who tries to ordain a woman will be automatically excommunicated.
Though Pope Francis has taken a liberal stance on number of controversial issues — he has allowed priests to absolve the “sin” of abortion, for instance — he has not softened the Church’s stance on women clergy. “St. Pope John Paul II had the last clear word on this and it stands,” he said last year.
But the ARCWP simply refuses to accept the Church’s official position. The Vatican states that we are excommunicated,” the group wrote in a statement on its website, “however, we do not accept this and affirm that we are loyal members of the church. We continue to serve our beloved church in a renewed priestly ministry by welcoming all to celebrate the sacraments in inclusive, Christ-centered, Spirit-empowered communities wherever we are called.”
Read more at The Charlotte Observer.