“Female Catholic Deacon” Comes Home to the Church

Rutgers University is planning on hosting an event in which it claims that a woman named Patricia Fresen is a Roman Catholic bishop.  Seriously:

“Roman Catholic Bishop Patricia Fresen, one of only three ordained female bishops in the world,” will lecture at the university at 12:20 p.m. April 15, according to a Rutgers news release.

Don’t get me wrong. If this woman just called herself a “bishop,” it’d be hard to refute her. After all, if you reject the authority of the Roman Catholic Church, who gets to say who really is and isn’t a bishop?  We could say she was delusional, but it’s hard to see how she’s objectively wrong.  Not so here.  By claiming to be a Roman Catholic bishop, she’s alleging membership in an Institution she not only isn’t a member of (the Roman Catholic hierarchy), but which has excommunicated her. In other words, Patricia Fresen is either delusional or fraudulent, but isn’t a Roman Catholic Bishop.  If she presented herself as a doctor at John Hopkins, or a Senator from Iowa, or a teacher at the local public school, and she objectively wasn’t (by those institutions’ own records), she’d be denounced for it.  Instead, we get Rutgers (and a number of media sources) parroting this absurd, and easily-falsified, claim.  They present it not only as plausible, but as true: the claim about how there are three ordained female Catholic bishops is bizarre and untrue.

With that in mind, here’s a heartwarming twist.  One of the  women “ordained” by Fesen announced in February that she was returning to the Church (h/t Broken Alabaster):

Norma Jean Coon

Document of Renunciation of Ordination to Diaconate 

On July 22, 2007, I was ordained to the diaconate by Bishop Patricia Fresen, of Germany and South Africa who was ordained by three male bishops in Germany for the group called Roman Catholic Women Priests. The ordination took place at the Santa Barbara Immaculate Heart Spiritual Center. Because neither Patricia Fresen nor myself were given permission for the ordination by Pope Benedict XVI, the ordinations were illegitimate and not recognized by the Roman Catholic Church. Thus an excommunication process called Latae Sententiae occurred, excommunicating oneself by failure to observe the Canon Laws of the Church. 

I wish to renounce the alleged ordination and publicly state that I did not act as a deacon as a part of this group except on two occasions, when I read the gospel once at mass and distributed communion once at this same mass. I withdrew from the program within two weeks of the ceremony because I realized that I had made a mistake in studying for the priesthood. I confess to the truth of Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis . I confess the authority of the Holy Father on these issues of ordination and recognize that Christ founded the ordination only for men. 

Formally, I relinquish all connection to the program of Roman Catholic Women Priests and I disclaim the alleged ordination publicly with apologies to those whose lives I have offended or scandalized by my actions. I ask God’s blessings upon each of these folks and their families.
Norma Jean Coon, RN, MFCC, PhD
San Diego, California
Tuesday, February 8, 2011

She followed on March 25th:

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has lifted any canonical sanctions that I incurred by attempting ordination as a deacon. A letter from Bishop Robert Brom states that I may now return to the full practice of our Catholic faith. I have been very touched at the remarkable support of my actions and the prayers offered in my behalf during this trying time. I wish to thank all those who have prayed for me and for my family. The prayers and masses have been deeply appreciated. May Lent and Easter hold many blessings for you and your family.

Sincerely in our Lord,
Norma Jean Coon
March 25, 2011

Welcome home, Norma Jean!  And may this serve as a powerful testimony to those like Fesen who still wander in darkness.  Fr. Z has offered a Mass for Norma and her family, and I urge Masses to be offered for both women.

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