Deacon Judy Beaumont's Response to Bishop Frank Dewane's Letter
December 26, 2011
Dear Bishop Dewane:
I have received your letter regarding my ordination on January 21, 2011. I understand that you are fulfilling your obligation as Bishop and I take your words seriously. However, I must reply that as I have tried throughout my life to answer the call of the Gospel to serve God’s people, I must again answer this new call to sacramental ministry with the poor and otherwise marginalized persons in our midst. Members of the Catholic community here including the people of the Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community and the Bishop of the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests have affirmed my call, in fact, they also have called me forth to serve.
While a Benedictine sister, I served as theology teacher, sacristan, trainer of altar boys and member of liturgy committees. I never thought of myself as being called to the existing all-male clergy. However in recent years, it has become clear to me that I am called by God to take on the sacramental ministry with our people. Four of the formerly homeless persons from our ministry presented me to Bishop Bridget Mary Meehan for my ordination to the diaconate.
I am convinced that in spite of Ordinatio Sacerdotalis women are being called by God to ministerial priesthood. In prophetic obedience we must answer and my answer is “Yes”. Surveys of Catholic faithful have reported that the majority are in favor of the ordination of women. Recognition of a woman’s call to ordination by the Vatican probably won’t happen in my lifetime nor in yours, but I do believe it will happen.
As a member of the Pontifical Peace and Justice Commission and attendee at the Bejing Conference on Women, you must be aware of the many injustices suffered by women worldwide. What a difference it will make for all women in our world when the Roman Catholic Church recognizes that God calls women as well as men to ministerial priesthood. What a blessing for the Church and our world it will be.
Thank you for your concern. Oremus pro invicem.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Deacon Judith Beaumont
BISHOP DEWANE'S Letter:
December 1, 2011
Dear Ms. Beaumont:
Greetings in Christ!
It has been brought to my attention that you purportedly reside in the Diocese of
Venice in Florida and may attempt to be "ordained" to the ministerial priesthood here
within this Diocese on January 22, 2012. This is a most grave and serious matter of
consequence for your soul.
The Catholic Church has always taught that the Church has no authority to
confer priestly ordination on women. The Church shares this teaching with our Orthodox
Christian brothers and sisters. The ministerial priesthood is a gift from God, not
something that someone "earns," "deserves" or has a "right" to, due to advanced
education, devoted service in the Church, or simply because of one's own personal
desire. The reasons for this include: the example recorded in sacred Scripture of Christ
choosing His Apostles; the constant practice of the Church, which imitated Christ in
choosing only men; and the Church's living teaching authority.
In calling only men as His Apostles, Christ acted in a completely free and
sovereign manner. Throughout His earthly ministry, Our Lord also emphasized the
dignity and the vocation of women, and in so doing, did not conform to the prevailing
customs, traditions, and legislation of the time. Still, among His twelve Apostles, Jesus
Christ did not include any women. This fact withstands any so-called "scholarship" to the
contrary. Sacred Scripture further reveals that Jesus did include the participation of women
in His public ministry in ways that shows a differentiation of roles between men and
women. Together both worked to build up the unity of the Church, avoiding divisiveness.
Specific to the role of women, the Church gives thanks for the feminine "genius",
appearing in the course of history, in the midst of all peoples and nations, and for the
charisms of the Holy Spirit on women's manifestations of faith, hope and love.
Through the Sacrament of Baptism, all Christians, both men and women, share
equally in the "common priesthood of believers." Through the Sacrament of Holy Orders,
priests also share in the "ministerial priesthood" of Christ, the High Priest. However, no
individual has the "right" to be ordained to the ministerial priesthood. Ordination to the
ministerial priesthood must be conferred by a validly ordained bishop on a baptized man.
A candidate must receive the authorization of the Church, which has the authority and
responsibility to determine if a true call to the priesthood exists for the said candidate.
Below is a 1995 responsum, issued by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger [now Pope
Benedict XVI], then Prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, in response
to the to the question of, "whether the teaching that the Church has no authority
whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women, which is presented in the Apostolic
Letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis to be held definitively, is to be understood as belonging to
the deposit of faith,'
The answer follows:
Responsum: In the affirmative.
This teaching requires definitive assent, since, founded on the written Word of
God, and from the beginning constantly preserved and applied in the Tradition of
the Church, it has been set forth infallibly by the ordinary and universal
Magisterium (cf Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church
Lumen Gentium 25, 2). Thus, in the present circumstances, the Roman Pontiff,
exercising his proper office of confirming the brethren (cf Lk 22:32), has handed
on this same teaching by a formal declaration, explicitly stating what is to be held
always, everywhere, and by all, as belonging to the deposit of the faith.
Further, as you may know, on May 30, 2008 The Congregation for the Doctrine
of the Faith issued the general decree, "On the Delict of Attempted Sacred Ordination of
a Woman." The decree affirms that, "he who shall have attempted to confer holy orders
on a woman, as well as the woman who may have attempted to receive Holy Orders,
incurs in a latae sententiae excommunication," that is, an automatic excommunication.
Futher, reconciliation for this excommunication must come through the Holy See in
As your Bishop, I urge you, to refrain from participating in what will be an invalid
attempt at "ordination." This opportunity is taken to inform you that, should you proceed
with this action, you would in fact, separate yourself from the Catholic Church, by your
own free choice.
With this in mind, for the good of your immortal soul, I exhort you to choose not to
participate in this attempted "ordination."
+ Frank Dewane
Bishop 0f the e Diocese of
Venice in Florida