Waukesha resident Kathy Sullivan Vandenberg faces excommunication for seeking the priesthood in an unsanctioned ordination ceremony, Milwaukee Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan said in a statement handed out at weekend Masses at Vandenberg’s home parish.
Dolan wrote to parishioners at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Waukesha that it was his duty to notify the Vatican of Vandenberg’s action. Dolan said her excommunication could come soon. The Roman Catholic Church prohibits women from becoming priests.
Vandenberg, 64, said Monday that she was "startled" by the letter and surprised that Dolan had "spent so much time and energy" on it when "other important things" might demand his attention.
In his letter to the parish, Dolan said he was "disappointed because Ms. Vandenberg and I had begun a fruitful dialogue on the matter last fall. At that time, . . . I had advised her that any attempted ordination would affect her relationship with the church.
"I believed her sincerity when she assured me that she was unaware of such a consequence, and did not want that to happen."
Vandenberg said Dolan requested the September 2005 meeting, and in a letter the month before it, he told her that "in the interim, you should not be exercising any liturgical or pastoral ministry in the Catholic church lest confusion or scandal arise among the people."
The next day, she said, she resigned her positions as a eucharistic minister and lector. "I cooperated with the archbishop," she said.
Vandenberg called her meeting with Dolan "very cordial . . . very respectful. . . . I told him about my call to ordination . . . and he was trying to give me some reasons to stay" in the church.
She was stung that Dolan made details of their talk public. "We both agreed that the meeting would be private," she said.
Dolan and Vandenberg disagree on what happened after the meeting.
"She promised she would confer with me about her next step," Dolan wrote to the parish. "In two subsequent letters, I have asked for her decision. Her regrettable participation in the protest gives me her unfortunate answer."
I didn’t realize the definition of startled included being warned ahead of time of an action and then that action occurring. I also find it strange that these groups of women who crave publicity for their actions get perturbed when a bishop "spends time and energy" over their actions. And if she realized that he was working with her for reasons to stay then it is obvious she was leaving the Church. Thankfully Archbishop Dolan is acting like a true shepherd in this case in his concern for both her and his flock.