Judy Beaumont, 74, of Fort Myers, is defying centuries-old doctrine in becoming the first woman in Southwest Florida to be ordained a Roman Catholic priest. The church decrees this role is reserved for men. Bishop Frank Dewane of the Diocese of Venice, which oversees the Catholic faithful in 10 counties, including all of Southwest Florida, has warned her not to cross that patriarchal line.
â€œIt has been brought to my attention that you purportedly reside in the Diocese of Venice in Florida and may attempt to be â€˜ordainedâ€™ to the ministerial priesthood here within this Diocese,â€ Dewane wrote in a letter to Beaumont. â€œThis is a most grave and serious matter of consequence for your soul.â€
The consequence is automatic excommunication, or expulsion from the church, the bishop wrote. The same penalty applies to anyone who participates in the ordination ceremony.
â€œWith this in mind, for the good of your immortal soul, I exhort you to choose not to participate in this attempted â€˜ordination,â€™â€ Dewane wrote.
Beaumont says she will follow her conscience and take the consequences. The ordination will be held at 3 p.m. at Lamb of God Church, a Lutheran-Episcopal congregation on Cypress View Drive in Fort Myers.
â€œOf course, we all reject that excommunication, because itâ€™s a man-made rule that does not really follow what we know of Jesus, what Jesus would do,â€ said Beaumont, who entered the convent at 17 and was a Benedictine nun for 35 years. â€œHow can any group of human beings say to God, â€˜You canâ€™t call a woman.â€™?â€
She is one of more than 124 women priests and 10 woman bishops who say they have been called to serve in the Catholic Church. Most are in the United States, but others are found in South America, Germany, Austria, France, Ireland, Canada and other countries. The movement began in 2002 with the ordination of seven women by a male priest on the Danube River.
The movement has generated controversy and debate between traditional and progressive Catholics who favor the concept of â€œinclusion,â€ embracing women priests, married priests, gays and others not accepted by the church. [More]