In defiance of Vatican authority, the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests ordained Rosemarie Smead on Saturday in Louisville, Kentucky.
Smead, formerly a cloistered Carmelite nun, earned a degree in theology and a doctorate in counseling psychology. She taught at Indiana University for 26 years, and works as a couples and family therapist.
Since the women priests movement began in 2002, about 150 women have been ordained worldwide. A bishop in the movement, Bridget Mary Meehan, ordained Smead, 70, in a service based on traditional Catholic ordination liturgy attended by some 200 people.
The Vatican, as a matter of doctrine, does not allow women priests because Jesus chose only men for his apostles. In a statement, Louisville Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz called the planned ceremony a "simulated ordination" in opposition to Catholic teaching.
He reiterated that anyone participating in a ceremony purporting to ordain a woman would be automatically excommunicated. "The simulation of a sacrament carries very serious penal sanctions in Church law, and Catholics should not support or participate in Saturday's event," Kurtz said.
Meehan said that “sexism in church and society is sinful and should always be challenged,” reports the Courier-Journal.
Seventy percent of U.S. Catholics believe that women should be allowed to be priests, that priests should be allowed to marry, and that artificial birth control should be allowed, according to a New York Times/CBS News poll earlier this year.
American Catholics also believe the Vatican's crackdown on U.S. nuns for “a prevalence of certain radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith," is heavy-handed.
“I knew there would be some pressure not to do something so illegal,” said The Rev. Jimmy Watson, pastor of St. Andrew where the service was held. "We decided that we could not stand in God’s way.”