UPDATE: “womynchurch” simulated Mass at St. Joan of Arc

You have all read about how one of the women pretending to be a Catholic priest, Virginia Nicolosi, was scheduled to simulate saying Mass at the infamous St. Joan of Arc parish in Minneapolis. A good deal of anger and shock has been demonstrated in the blogosphere over this "event" which was published in the St. Joan of Arc bulletin. I actually had e-mails from friends in Rome asking what the heck was going on there.

St. Joan of Arc parish and his Excellency the Archbishop, Harry Flynn, were taking it on the chin pretty hard since that bulletin was released.

In the interest of complete information and the truth here is some information I was sent. I am compelled to share it with you. A good and reliable source sent me a copy of this correspondence. I have only slightly reformated it. I have not changed the text. The emphasis in mine. It is from Dennis McGrath, who is the spokesman for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis to someone who was a parishioner of mine when I was in that Archdiocese and whom I know. This was an e-mail:

From: "McGrath, Dennis"

I just finished responding to a New Prague couple who inquired about this same issue, which, understandably, given the severity of the subject, is taking on an email life of its own. Please let me share with you the email reponse I sent to this couple (below). Please share this with all the Call to Action members you sent your original email to because I don’t have their emails.


Let me assure you that Virginia Nicolosi, who claims she’s a priest because she was "ordained" by some "bishop" of a breakaway schismatic group, on a boat in the St. Lawrence Seaway, will not be celebrating the Eucharist at St. Joan of Arc or any other parish within this Archdiocese. Archbishop Flynn has communicated directly to her that she IS NOT a priest of the Holy Roman Catholic church and, in fact, has violated Church law.

Let me take a minute to briefly describe how this rumor about Ms Nicolsoi celebrating the Eucharist at St. Joan of Arc got started and has taken on a life of its own. One of the parish volunteers at St. Joan of Arc inserted the news of this upcoming "Eucharistic celebration" by Ms. Nicolosi into the St. Joan of Arc parish bulletin. Worse yet, it was written in such a way that the reader would assume it would take place at St. Joan of Arc. In fact, I thought so myself when I first saw it earlier this week. However, that is not the case. Her event is not taking place in any church but rather at Normandale Junior College in Bloomington in a space she and her followers have rented.

Neither the pastor of St. Joan of Arc, nor the associate pastor, had read the bulletin before it was distributed. They have both been spoken to about this and have agreed to carefully proof it and henceforth approve all of its content. They have also agreed to issue a renunciation of the story about Ms. Nicolosi and her "celebration".

The centuries old laws of the Church regarding ordination to the priesthood have not, we can assure, changed one iota.

Thanks for your faithfulness in bringing this to our attention and giving us a chance to set the record straight. Please share these facts with others in your parish or among your associates who may be disturbed by this matter.

Dennis McGrath
Director of Communications
Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis

You will all be sure to know that I am no fan of St. Joan of Arc parish. However, in this case, they got a bad rap. It is clear that the pastor, at whose feet the buck must stop, should have a better grip on the bulletin. The Archbishop moved with proper diligence in this matter.  That said, let the truth be known about this sad fiasco.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. BC says:

    Well, as of 8:47 a.m. CDT, 1 September 2006, this announcement remains on their webpage:

    Call to Action Minnesota: Womenpriests Celebrate the Eucharist. On Saturday, September 23, 4-8 pm. Call to Action invites you to a Eucharistic Celebration with Regina Nicolosi presiding. Rev. Nicolosi was ordained as a womanpriest this summer. Following the Eucharist is a presentation by SJA parishioner Dr. Dorothy Irvin on “Ancient and Contemporary Models of Womenpriests and Deacons”. Supper is included. FFI contact Judy McGuire at 612.927.6825.

  2. Argent says:

    Sleep-deprived me read your post headline as “wormy church”. Blame Ernesto.

  3. Henry Edwards says:

    Does use of the term “womanpriest” indicate conscious acknowledgement by these folks that they’re not real priests? And at least they did not allege that she will be celebrating the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, merely that she’s presiding at a “Eucharistic Celebration”, which these days can mean almost anything.

  4. If SJA issues a retraction or repudiation of the post in their bulletin, that’s
    a HUGE step for them. As a former member of that parish, I can tell you
    that they have never publicly admitted an error like that. However, it will
    be interesting to read what they say when they do post it.

    Father DeBruckyer has been making some real efforts there. No, it’s not
    the wholesale immediate housecleaning that some may hope for, but he has
    some 30 years of garbage to fight and he’s pretty much all alone.

    Friends, If I can revert after 20 YEARS of membership in that parish, there
    is hope for anyone.

    Pray for them.

  5. midwestmom says:

    A “parish volunteer” got this into the bulletin? What does that mean? I’m sorry but in a parish the size of SJA, there are no “volunteers”. Everyone’s paid and paid well. They’re passing the buck here.

    If nothing else, it should say something about the competency of the person who types u the bulletin. Whoever it is….

  6. Folks, I think we can also give the benefit of our doubts about certain things and, despite their truly scandalous track record, cut the new pastor a little slack. Give him a while to get some things done there and show his real colors. The work of cleaning up that place will be tantamount to the Augean Stables.

  7. Ray from MN says:

    The “womenpriest” announcement is no longer on the SJA Bulletin in the location where it was first posted. No mention is made of its removal.

    It does show up in their search engine, when searching for “womenpriests” however, which probably uses a cached copy of the original bulletin. That might be more difficult to remove.

  8. Ray from MN says:

    I take that back. It is still there.

  9. midwestmom says:

    And the woman in charge of the bulletin is single mother raising three children on her salary. She’s been there since ’99. I suppose there is a chance someone may have been filling in for her when the bulletin was typed up, though. But the announcement is STILL on the website.

  10. Ken Schwab says:

    First the real facts. Her first name is Regina, not Virginia.

    Second: There is no proof that the email being circulated was actually sent by Dennis McGrath.

    Third: Saint Joan of Arc’s website still has the information as it was originally published. The online version still has not been “corrected.” Not to mention the fact that they still have the notice of their annual GLBT retreat at Dunrovin.

    Fourth: How can Father DeBruycker clean up his new parish
    when he cannot even clean up his own language in his bulletin?

    Fifth: Why has Archbishop Flynn not publicly excommunicated Regina Nicolosi?

  11. Ken: I report what I received. You would do better to address your concerns to those who are involved.

  12. John says:

    Why has Archbishop Flynn not publicly excommunicated Regina Nicolosi?

    I believe the Vatican has already spoken on this matter regarding excommunications therefore why would it bethe duty of Archbishop Flynn to excommunicate her.

  13. Cornelius says:

    Sept 2, 1128 Central European Time, and the web site announcement is still there.


  14. John: I believe that this woman is already excommunicated, along with the other women… er um… womyn who participated in that river sham and their subsequent blasphemous simulations of sacraments. We ought not throw the concept of excommunication around as if it were so much confetti.

  15. John says:

    Fr. Z, that was the point I was making to Ken who was asking why Archbishop Flynn hadn’t excommunicated her.

  16. John says:

    Fr. Z, here is a link to an article on twincities.com where Mz. Nicolosi admits to receiving letters from the Archbishop not recognizing her ordination. Just for all those people who see nothing good in Archbishop Flynn and even when he does make a stand for the faith choose to attribute it to outside influences and accuse him of still secretly supporting their liberal position.

  17. Just so that it doesn\’t become inacessible, here are the relevant bits:

    Tue, Aug. 01, 2006
    Chaplain praises women\’s ordinations
    Minnesotan could be excommunicated after her symbolic recognition as priest, deacon
    Pioneer Press

    Although Nicolosi said she has received several letters from the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis threatening excommunication and met personally with Archbishop Harry Flynn in October, she feels her Red Wing parish and its priest have been very supportive.

    \”For me, the church is not just the hierarchy in the Vatican,\’\’ she said Monday. \”I really believe what we are doing is supported by many in the community.\’\’

    Nicolosi, 64, a chaplain in a nonchurch-affiliated nursing home, remains active in her St. Joseph\’s parish. She said she has celebrated Mass for a group of women in the Twin Cities and has plans for more in the Red Wing area. She also plans to lead a public Mass in September at Normandale Community College in Bloomington.

  18. midwestmom says:

    I’m sure the retraction will be in this weekend’s bulletin (cough, cough)

  19. We shall see! I hope someone will check it out. It would be wonderful if someone could actually GO THERE (having confessed their sins ahead of time) to see what happens this Sunday.

  20. amy welborn says:

    When I blogged this, I noted that the even didn’t seem to be hosted at St. Joan’s.

    Actually what has interested me the most in this is the tidbit in the article Fr. John posted above – about how Nicolosi is “active” in her parish and priests there. THAT’s the problem, and one that was addressed forthrightly, I think, in the statement made by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and maybe even by Dolan in Milwaukee in relationship to representatives in the Pittsburgh 12 – it was addressed to their parishes and fellow parishioners as well.

    I’m more interested in the pastors of Nicolosi’s own parish, myself. What’s up with that?

  21. amy welborn says:

    Forgive all the typos in the comment – no “preview” function – of course there’s only one pastor!

  22. Amy: As we say in Latin rem acu tetigisti! Bull’s-eye! If I am not mistaken, I was in seminary with the pastor. I am a little surprised at this, but not too surprised.

  23. BC says:

    They’ve moved the bulletin to the “last week’s bulletin” spot, and the ad remains in it. But the new bulletin, http://www.stjoan.com/bulletin.htm, has a note from the pastor in which he says, “women were ordained priests, if not bishops, at different times in the Church.”

    He also says, “In all honesty I often don’t invite others into the priesthood because I feel how exclusionary it is to women.”

  24. peter says:




  25. John says:

    BC, at least be honest and quote from the whole article that the Pastor wrote. While I don’t like the fact he made those statements you quote, he also reaffirmed the position of John Paul II defining an all male priesthood. Your first quote that “women were ordained…, omits the first part of the sentence, “There is evidence that women were ordained…” A big difference.

    He also states, “From about the seventh century on in the Latin Rite, a celibate clergy become more and more the rule. John Paul II saw it and defined it as part of the Traditio.”
    The other paragraph is, “An example of this was in last week’s bulletin. There was an ad for Womenpriests Celebrate the Eucharist. Needless to say, the phone calls and emails have arrived in force. In this case they are correct. The magisteriam does not recognize their ordination or their celebration of the Eucharist as a sacrament. The way we presented this in the bulletin as if it was no more than a small protest, has been interpreted by some as cavalier. It borders on schism and is not sanctioned by the magisterian as a valid sacrament. I know this sounds overtly pedantic and patriarchal but it would be a lie to pretend it was not portentous. I am sure Dr. Irvin’s presentation “Ancient and Contemporary Models of Womenpriests and Deacons” will be learned and factual, but it doesn’t change present Church teaching.”

  26. BC says:

    I quoted accuratly. He claims, contrary to fact and Church teaching, that women were ordained. And John Paul did not make a particular claim for the celibate priesthood (because married men are ordained in churches in union with Rome, and always have been. Rather, John Paul made a statement, using language common to all infallible declarations, what women have never been ordained by the Church and can never be ordained by the Church. And while he makes this claim now about the “womenpriests,” he does not remove the ad from the bulletin.

  27. Kevin says:

    Regina incurs a latae sententiae excommunication, meaning automatic. However, this is materially meaningless, though spiritually meaningful. Why is it materially meaningless? Because canon lawyers will call her position a “grey area” of law until her position is made clear by the Vatican or Arbp Flynn. While in that grey area she can pretty much go on pretending to be both a “womanpriest” and a Roman Catholic in good standing. At least this is the view of the canon lawyer for St. John’s Abbey.

    Her husband, who is an ordained deacon and took part as a deacon in her simulated ordinations, was installed as an oblate of St. John’s Abbey in July (oblation is like a Third Order Lay Franciscan for Benedictines). Though his participation in the simulations would incur a latae sententiae excommunication for him as well, any attempt to have the oblation delayed were pushed aside as his situation was considered a “legal grey area” by the abbey’s canon lawyer.

    St. Joan of Arc is a parish in trouble, but they are only a skim of scum on top of a cesspool that has been allowed to develop within the Roman Catholic Church. The good priests and bishops have a mighty job ahead of them, we must pray for their strength and courage, and offer support and help at every opportunity.
    in the US.

  28. John says:

    BC, stating that there is “evidence” and “proof” are different things. An attorney might produce evidence in a trial that is circumstantial which does not prove guilt or innocence. As Fr. Z shows in another post there is evidence of women deaconesses in the early history of the Church. However upon closer investigation we find the evidence was not an ordained diaconate of women but women “helpers.” By omitting “evidence” from his quotation you are presenting a different meaning to his words.

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