LYON, France (AP) – A French woman defied a threat of excommunication by the Roman Catholic Church and held a ceremony proclaiming herself a priest on Saturday.

In a small ceremony on a boat, Genevieve Beney was joined by other women from around the world who have taken similar dramatic action to draw attention to the church’s policy against women priests.

“This is not a rupture with the Roman Catholic Church,” Beney said in a statement read aloud before she boarded the boat. “If there is a rupture on my part, it is with a situation that I consider to be obsolete and unjust to women.”

The Vatican has not commented on the case but has made clear it sees no room for debate about opening up the priesthood to women. The Church says Jesus chose men to be his apostles and that the practice of ordaining only men must stand.

In 2002, seven women – from Austria, Germany and the United States – conducted an ordination ceremony and were promptly excommunicated from the church.

Two of the women who participated in that ceremony – Gisela Forster of Germany and Christine Mayr-Lumetzberger of Austria – led Saturday’s ceremony, along with a third woman who followed in their footsteps, Patricia Fresen of South Africa.

Beney, a theologian, says its time for the church to change.

“We consider ourselves Catholic,” Beney told AP in an earlier interview. “But we do not agree with the church law … that says only a baptized male can be ordained as a priest.”

The Archbishop of Lyon, Philippe Barbarin, urged Beney earlier this week not to follow through with her plan, saying it “will constitute a serious act of rupture in respect to the Catholic Church.”

“There will be no truth to the words that will be pronounced,” Barbarin said. “For many Catholics, this will be a source of useless injury and suffering.”

A spokesman for the archbishop, Vincent Feroldi, said that no decree of excommunication would technically be necessary since Beney’s act violates church law and automatically makes her incapable of receiving the sacraments, such as communion.

Before boarding the boat, Beney’s husband, Albert Ratz, called his wife’s act “a magnificent adventure, an act of resistance against incomprehensible blockage by the Catholic church.”


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.