says her ordination
as Catholic priest will
be valid despite ban
CLEVELAND, Ohio -- As a woman who also happens to be the married mother of two grown children, Ann Poelking Klonowski will violate at least two church laws on Sept. 7 when she is, in some eyes, ordained as a Roman Catholic priest.
The Vatican, in fact, has decreed that "attempted sacred ordination of a woman" is a "grave crime" accompanied by automatic excommunication.
The Catholic Diocese of Cleveland said in a statement that "the ordination of a woman is not authentically Catholic." In February, the Catholic Diocese of Toledo said Klonowski would lose her standing in the church by participating in the "invalid and illicit attempted ordination" there that made her a deacon.
Klonowski also stands outside Roman Catholic practice since the 12th century by being married, though non-Latin Catholic rites ordain married men -- and though the church permits Protestant clergy who become priests to remain married.
But Klonowksi of Independence does not consider herself separate from the church or part of "some protest movement. I've been called. I'm here to serve the people of God," she said.
"We consider ourselves faithful Catholics. I'm as Catholic as anybody."
Her ordination has the sacramental validity of what is called apostolic succession, she said, because it will be performed by Bishop Joan Houk of the sponsoring Roman Catholic Womenpriests.
The group has been holding its own ordinations since 2002, when it says that seven women in Europe were ordained by three male bishops in good standing whom the group has pledged not to identify. Among the women was the Rev. Dagmar Celeste, former first lady of Ohio and the first American ordained by Roman Catholic Womenpriests.
They believe acceptance by the Vatican will come in time, though Pope John Paul II said the church does not have the authority to recognize women as priests, arguing that Jesus chose only men to be his apostles.
Klonowski, who has a graduate degree in theology from John Carroll University, spent more than 20 years teaching in Catholic high schools and colleges and another 15 years working for the Cleveland diocese. She said following the Gospel and conscience is more important than following canon law.
"The hierarchy do not have a monopoly on the church. The hierarchy do not have a monopoly on the Holy Spirit," she said.
"Jesus didn't ordain any men, either," she added, citing the Bible in support. "It is not there."
Her ordination, at 2 p.m. Sept. 7, will be hosted by the Brecksville United Church of Christ.
"Other Christian communities are very welcoming" of women clergy, Klonowski said. But she would not change congregations, even though "some of my best friends are Protestant," she quipped, adding that the Womenpriests movement is intended to be reformative, not divisive.
Seventy percent of U.S. Catholics said the church should let women become priests, a New York Times/CBS News poll found earlier this year.