The pastor of the Milwaukee parish that hosted a women’s ordination conference and generated a storm of interest nationwide has apologized in writing and states that he was wrong in his beliefs about Church teaching. The letter appeared in the April 10 issue of the archdiocesan newspaper, the Catholic Herald:
After consultation with my spiritual director and other people, I have come to realize that my recent decision to allow the Women’s Ordination Conference of Milwaukee to hold a prayer service at St. Matthias was a grave error. It caused distress, confusion, and disappointment in the church of Milwaukee. It is more serious because the local news article was picked up by the Catholic News Service and publicized far beyond Milwaukee.
I was guilty of poor pastoral judgment as well, and should not have allowed this group to use church property without first consulting the archdiocese. Thus I have caused not only confusion, but embarrassment for our archbishop. I realize in hindsight that this group used St. Matthias for their own agenda; simulated the Eucharist in a potentially sacrilegious way; and did not abide by my restrictions.
In addition I was also in error regarding the teaching of the Catholic Church. Our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, has taught in his 1994 apostolic letter, “Ordinatio Sacerdotalis,” “The church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the church’s faithful.” The following year, the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said the pope’s teaching against the ordination of women “requires definitive assent” by Catholics since it is a “formal declaration, explicitly stating what is to be held always, everywhere and by all, as belonging to the deposit of faith.” I recognize the importance of giving assent to important magisterial teachings of the Catholic Church. I apologize for giving the impression that this teaching is less than definitive, or open to different interpretations.
Because I have caused confusion and disruption in the Body of Christ, I do ask the forgiveness of all the faithful in the archdiocese, and especially of our archbishop, Timothy M. Dolan. In my conversations with him about this painful matter, he has been very wise and compassionate. I had arrived at these sentiments of regret prior to meeting with him.
I recognize the errors of pastoral judgment and pledge not to engage in such activities in the future.
It looks like Archbishop Dolan did what was necessary, called the pastor in privately, and let him know where his error was. Interesting that Fr. Cooper says he came to see the error of his ways prior to meeting with the archbishop. Perhaps it’s true, although somebody must have set him straight.
Anyway, I applaud Fr. Cooper for being man enough to admit his error so publicly and to strongly uphold Church teaching on the matter.