Former ‘woman priest’ returns to the fold

While I occasionally hear stories of women being “ordained” to the priesthood by the group Roman Catholic Women Priests, I’ve never heard of any women leaving the heretical organization…until now. Norma Jean Coon, who participated in one of these ordinations in 2007, recently posted the following on her personal website:

[T]he ordinations were illegitimate and not recognized by the Roman Catholic Church. Thus an excommunication process called Latae Sententiae occurred, excommunicating oneself by failure to observe the Canon Laws of the Church.

I wish to renounce the alleged ordination and publicly state that I did not act as a deacon as a part of this group except on two occasions, when I read the gospel once at mass and distributed communion once at this same mass. I withdrew from the program within two weeks of the ceremony because I realized that I had made a mistake in studying for the priesthood. I confess to the truth of Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis . I confess the authority of the Holy Father on these issues of ordination and recognize that Christ founded the ordination only for men.

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Formally, I relinquish all connection to the program of Roman Catholic Women Priests and I disclaim the alleged ordination publicly with apologies to those whose lives I have offended or scandalized by my actions. I ask God’s blessings upon each of these folks and their families.

This is wonderful news. It’s always a happy thing when someone returns to the fold, and I’m impressed by the courage it takes to acknowledge a wrong and confess it publicly like that. But I have to admit that I’m curious to know more: What was it, exactly, that led her to conclude she was in the wrong? Presuming she was in “priestly formation” for some time, what transpired in those two weeks after her “ordination” to make her change her mind?

Elsewhere on the page, Coon includes a prayer of thanksgiving for “my Bishop and my pastor and priests in Rome who have assisted me in the process of being re-instated into the Roman Catholic Church.” That’s another angle that I don’t think we hear enough about: So many people think that excommunication means casting someone out from the Church forever, but the Catholic Encyclopedia says it is just the opposite: “It is … a medicinal rather than a vindictive penalty, being intended, not so much to punish the culprit, as to correct him and bring him back to the path of righteousness.”

In Coon’s situation, it seems that this is precisely what happened — that the excommunication may have been the wake-up call that brought her back to the Church, where she was surrounded by help on the way. I don’t want to assume too much, though — which is why I hope Coon will tell more of her story in the future. Meanwhile, I’m thrilled that she has found her way safely home.

  • Margaret Cabaniss

    Margaret Cabaniss is the former managing editor of Crisis Magazine. She joined Crisis in 2002 after graduating from the University of the South with a degree in English Literature and currently lives in Baltimore, Maryland. She now blogs at SlowMama.com.

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