Canon Lawyer Ed Peters on the Archbishop
Burke’s excommunication of
three “women priest.”
I would like to say that Abp. Raymond
Burke’s excommunication of three women who recently participated in a
pseudo-ordination in Saint Louis is a “text-book illustration” of how
(non-judicial) excommunication is supposed to be applied in the Church
today, but I can’t say that: Why not? Because Abp. Burke’s attention to
juridic details and his provisions for the pastoral care of the people
entrusted to his care so exceed what the textbooks teach, that it is
the textbooks that must copy from him, not him from the textbooks.
The four-page decree of excommunication deserves to be read in its
entirety, but I’ll summarize the sanctions themselves, for they are
1. All three women (Fresen, Hudson, & McGrath) are declared to
have incurred latae sententiae (automatic) excommunication under Canon
1364.1 for schism. The consequences of excommunication are set out in
2. All three women are also declared to have incurred ferendae
sententiae (formally imposed) interdict under Canon 1371.1 for
pertinaciously rejecting a definitive truth of the Faith (namely, that
women cannot be ordained priests) subsequent to a specific warning to
avoid such conduct. The consequences of interdict are set out in Canon
3. One of the women (Fresen) is declared to have incurred ferendae
sententiae excommunication under Canon 1379 for simulating a sacrament
other than the Eucharist or confession (here, holy orders). The
consequences of excommunication are set out in Canon 1331.2.
He then goes on with some
analysis of th Archbishop’s decree.
I need hardly add that the faithful
and in charity should, join
Abp. Burke in praying for the reconciliation of all three women. Might
I suggest, in that vein, seeking the intercession of St. Hippolytus,
the some-time antipope who later reconciled with the Church and died a
martyr’s death for her about 235. Miracles happen.