Church Ladies Be Damned, Part 2

Rose Marie “Ree” Hudson and Elsie McGrath took another step toward eternal damnation this week by failing to show up for a hearing before St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke.

Jennifer Silverberg

One step closer to damnation? Rose Marie "Ree" Hudson and Elsie McGrath
One step closer to damnation? Rose Marie "Ree" Hudson and Elsie McGrath

One step closer to damnation? Rose Marie "Ree" Hudson and Elsie McGrath
Immediately after being ordained on November 11 as part of the Roman Catholic Womenpriest Program, Hudson and McGrath were greeted by a special process server in the lobby of the Central Reform Congregation. That would be the same process server who, six days before their ordination, delivered the women the official word that they would be automatically excommunicated by going through with their planned ordination. This time the process server appeared with a letter from the archbishop stating that Hudson and McGrath were “summoned” to appear “personally before [him]” at 10 a.m. on Monday, December 3, in order to defend themselves against the charges of “schism” and “rejection of the definitive truth, de fide tenenda, infallibly set forth that women cannot validly receive the sacrament of ordination to the priesthood.”

Hudson and McGrath were MIA Monday.

“Failure to appear,” according to Burke’s letter, “will entail the imposition of an ecclesiastical penalty in [their] regard, according to the provisions of the Code of Canon Law.”

McGrath says she and Hudson did not consider showing up for the hearing. “We would have had one of two options at the tribunal. One: to plead guilty to the charges of heresy and schism and recant, which is, of course, a lie. Or two: to prove that we’re right and they’re wrong, which is, of course, impossible. There’s another reason, too, for not going, and that is to demonstrate that a mere man who presumes to speak for God has no power over us. Were we to have attended the hearing, we would be granting him a position of authority, which is one of the very things we want to eradicate in our model of priestly ministry.”

McGrath says she and Hudson don’t know what further penalties Burke might have in mind for them. “He considers us excommunicated,” McGrath adds. “We do not consider ourselves excommunicated.”

In his letter delivered to the women after the ordination, Burke also stated that the women would be punished if they attempted to “simulate” the Holy Eucharist.

But Hudson and McGrath already did so -- this past Saturday at their rented space in the First Unitarian Church of St. Louis.

McGrath says their 4:30 p.m. mass drew approximately 150 congregants -- far more than the chapel could accommodate and leaving standing room only. “It was marvelous,” says McGrath.

A spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of St. Louis declines to comment on the affair until Burke decides the women’s religious fate. It is unclear when that ruling will come.

Burke has, however, presented his own take on the matter, which you can find here. It’s his column in the November 9 issue of the St. Louis Review, the archdiocese’s weekly newspaper. After explaining why he considers the ordination invalid, Burke writes: “I urge you, therefore, to offer fervent prayers for the women involved, that they will repent and be reconciled with the Church. Please pray, too, for all who will be confused and led astray by their sinful action.”

-Kristen Hinman

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