QUAERITUR: Penalty for allowing a “womanpriest” to concelebrate

From a reader:

What penalties, if any would a Catholic Priest incur if he allowed a “womanpriest” to “concelebrate” Mass with him?

In the 1983 Code of Canon Law for the Latin Church we find can. 1365: “One who is guilty of prohibited participation in religious rites is to be punished with a just penalty.”

The law provides latitude for the one who imposes the penalty.  It is hard to speculate about the actual penalty.  Penalties are imposed for the sake of justice and to bring about a reform in the offender. Different circumstances warrant different penalties.  The judge would need to consider the circumstances and what would be the most effective means of bringing about that reform.

If you, dear questioner, actually saw this happen, bring the matter to the attention of the priest’s pastor, superior, or bishop.

If you, dear questioner, are a priest thinking about doing this and wondering how much trouble you might get into get into, I urge not to do anything so deeply foolish.

If you, dear questioner, are merely curious, pray for those deluded priests – and women – who might be tempted to engage in such divisive and stupid behavior.

UPDATE:

A commentator added:

Can. 1378 §2. The following incur a latae sententiae penalty of interdict or, if a cleric, a latae sententiae penalty of suspension: (1) a person who attempts the liturgical action of the Eucharistic sacrifice though not promoted to the sacerdotal order…

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15 Responses to QUAERITUR: Penalty for allowing a “womanpriest” to concelebrate

  1. Choirmaster says:

    If you, dear questioner, are a priest thinking about doing this and wondering how much trouble you might get into get into, I urge not to do anything so deeply foolish.

    The use of quotation marks for “womanpriest” and “concelebrate” lead me to believe that we don’t have to worry that the questioner is a priest thinking about doing this.

  2. Choirmaster says:

    I have serious question, though.

    If this scenario happened, would the Mass still be valid?

  3. Tim Ferguson says:

    If the Catholic priest were the main celebrant, and everything else was done appropriately, I would posit that the Mass would be valid, if highly illicit. If the “main celebrant” was the woman, and the Catholic priest were concelebrating, I think the validity of the Mass would be extremely highly suspect. I would deem it invalid.

  4. dans0622 says:

    Interesting question. Would such a priest be the one “guilty of prohibited participation in religious rites” or does a properly strict interpretation of the law mean that this delict would only apply to the woman? The priest is certainly allowing this to happen but is he himself doing it?
    –Dan

  5. Choirmaster says:

    @Tim Ferguson: I would hope that if the non-priest were the “main” celebrant validity would be less than “highly suspect”. It is a bit disconcerting that I would even have to ask this question. I would hope that any sacerdotal act by a woman would be immediately recognized as a simulation (even with a real priest as the main celebrant) and it’s validity would be rejected out-of-hand. However, since today we have women constantly deputed for priestly functions (e.g. as altar boys) we seem to be very confused about just how far things can stray before invalidity kicks in.

    If the “main” celebrant (meaning, I assume, the priest that utters the Words of Institution) were a real priest, could we doubt the validity at all, regardless of who is up there with him and what they were saying?

    I hereby formally petition the Holy See for another De defectibus. I think, if they took such an undertaking seriously, a great many people would be surprised (if not offended) at what invalidates a sacrament.

  6. Papabile says:

    This was pretty much standard practice in the early 1990’s at the mid-day Mass at Caldwell Chapel at Catholic U.

    Except…. they weren’t pretending to be Priests. The assertion was that the “community” consecrated the Host, not just the Priest. They all just happened to be nuns though….. I did see one wear a stole once however…

  7. Tim Ferguson says:

    Choirmaster, I find it odd that you would posit a question, and then state that it’s disconcerting that you would have to ask the question. If the matter were so self-evident, then why ask the question in the first place?

    The reason I say it would be “highly suspect,” (and not my following statement, “I would deem it invalid.”) is that an argument could be made (in my opinion, a flimsy and specious argument), that the priest, in concelebrating, is somehow supplying validity. After all, he would be vocalizing the words of institution along with the “main celebrant.”

    If the priest were the main celebrant, again, as I said, I would posit the Mass to be valid. However, I am aware that an argument could be made that the priest, were he to welcome an “ordained” woman into his sanctuary would be legitimately raising questions about his understanding of his own ordination, and his intention with regards to the confection of the sacrament. Ordained priests are also capable of simulation.

    Dan, the possibility of penalty would adhere to the priest, since he is the one participating (by concelebrating, or permitting a woman to concelebrate). The woman in attempting an act of Orders would merely be digging herself into a deeper trench, as she would already be excommunicate in virtue of her attempted ordination.

  8. Choirmaster says:

    @Tim Ferguson: I was thinking that something like this should be more obvious to me, or somehow more “black and white”, so to speak; a lament for my poor understanding of this topic.

    an argument could be made … that the priest, in concelebrating, is somehow supplying validity.

    *head starting to hurt* I guess you’re right, since concelebration implies that all the priests in the sanctuary have an equal participation in the confection of the sacrament (right?). However, and maybe I’m just causing more trouble here, since the other “concelebrants” are most definitely not priests, could the real priest supply validity to someone that cannot accept it?

    I think the take-away point here is that I have no idea what I’m talking about. If I saw this happening I think I would quietly take my leave of the building, give myself an “A” for effort in attending Mass, and see if I could find a later one at a different church.

  9. Tim Ferguson says:

    I think that would be the best approach – the only thing I would add is a letter written to the diocesan bishop the following day asking what the heck is going on! (In a polite and respectful way, of course – following Fr. Z’s tips for writing to bishops

  10. Ed Mechmann says:

    In addition to the “just penalties” cited by Fr. Z, the priest would be automatically suspended, and the “concelebrant” would be automatically interdicted:

    Can. 1378 §2. The following incur a latae sententiae penalty of interdict or, if a cleric, a latae sententiae penalty of suspension: (1) a person who attempts the liturgical action of the Eucharistic sacrifice though not promoted to the sacerdotal order…

  11. Supertradmum says:

    If the intention of the priest is to separate from Rome, the Mass is invalid. In the case of a priest con-celebrating with a so-called woman priest, this is clearly the case. Priests, obviously, have stricter rules re: excommunication, than the laity. Only Rome could remove the stricture. As to such a thing happening, a bishop usually knows what is going on. In our diocese, the bishop excommunicated everyone who attended, and the priests involved in ordaining woman priesst. In a college or university chapel, or in a parish, a bishop may not know what is happening as readily. It is the duty of the laity to involve the bishop in such situations as described above.

  12. dans0622 says:

    Tim, I suppose you are correct.

    @Ed Mechmann: I don’t see how the cleric would incur any penalty (suspension) based on c. 1378.2. In the example, he is a priest, promoted to the sacerdotal order. The woman would be automatically interdicted, yes.
    –Dan

  13. Ed Mechmann says:

    @Dans0622

    The principle in Canon Law is similar to that in civil law — liability as an accessory to the crime of another.

    Can. 1329 §2. Accomplices who are not named in a law or precept incur a latae sententiae penalty attached to a delict if without their assistance the delict would not have been committed, and the penalty is of such a nature that it can affect them; otherwise, they can be punished by ferendae sententiae penalties.

  14. dans0622 says:

    Hmm. Not sure if c. 1329 would apply. If it did, wouldn’t the priest incur an interdict?

  15. Tim Ferguson says:

    the suspension spoken of in c. 1378 §2 would only apply to a deacon who attempted the Eucharistic sacrifice: note the wording: “a cleric….though not promoted to the sacerdotal order.” The punishment of the priest in this case would not be latae sententiae, and would be indeterminate – the judge who renders the sentence would determine what penalty would apply, but a penalty would be required.