Local Woman Defies Vatican, Works To Become Priest


ATLANTA,None - A Roman Catholic would recognize the sights, sounds and actions inside a Sarasota United Church of Christ, but the Roman Catholic Church did not approve of what happened on a Saturday afternoon this month.

Four women maintain they became deacons and eventually will become priests after a ceremony inside the central Florida church.

One of them, Diane Dougherty, is a second-grade teacher from Newnan. The devout Irish Catholic said she first had the calling 44 years ago.

"I always knew I had a calling and in my time the only way that calling could be expressed was through my sisters," said Dougherty.

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Dougherty followed that call for 23 years, then left the sisterhood, but still felt there was something more so she decided to become a priest.

"Aren't you afraid of excommunication?" asked Channel 2 Action News anchor Monica Pearson.

"I believe that the law that has kept me and so many wonderful and brilliant women from priesthood is unjust," responded Dougherty.

The Association of Roman Catholic Womenpriests organized the ordination into the diaconate.

Bridget Mary Meehan is a bishop with the group but she doesn't want to be called bishop. Meehan told Pearson, "We are trying to deconstruct the clerical hierarchal church."

"This is our Church, we belong to it, we are as Catholic as the pope is," Meehan told Pearson.

The issue of women's ordination has been the subject of fierce debate. The Vatican recently condemned the action as a grave sin, on par with the sexual abuse of children.

The Archdiocese of Atlanta declined requests for an interview. Instead, Archbishop Wilton Gregory issued a statement which said in part. "The attempt to ‘ordain' women by the group titled Roman Catholic Womenpriests brings division and fractures in the church."

Gregory also said, "The Catholic Church has consistently taught that the Church has no authority to confer priestly ordination of women since among His twelve Apostles, Jesus Christ did not include any women..."

Dana Greene, a practicing Roman Catholic and dean emerita at Emory University's Oxford College told Pearson, "You've got groups within the Catholic Church working on this issue, but it is highly contentious."

"Women can be pastoral administrators in rural areas where there are no priests, women can be chancellors, they can be canon lawyers," said Greene. "So those of us who are Catholic are balancing obedience and freedom."

Dougherty said she knows her ex-communication is near her feet stand in Roman Catholicism. She said she won't follow others who left the church and become Episcopal priests.

"I'm not doing anything wrong, I'm doing everything right," Dougherty said.

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