North Carolina

Group ordains North Carolina's 2nd woman priest

ASHEVILLE, N.C. — A rebel Catholic group has ordained its second woman priest in North Carolina, the first in the 46 counties that constitute the Catholic Diocese of Charlotte.

The Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests ordained 64-year-old Abigail Eltzroth on Sunday at Asheville's Jubilee, a nondenominational faith community. The group is opposed to the Roman Catholic Church's ban on women priests.

"We are no longer waiting for permission, but giving ourselves permission and saying we have the power to give ourselves permission," Eltzroth said.

Asheville falls under the Catholic Diocese of Charlotte, which represents 450,000 Catholics in North Carolina. Diocese spokesman David Hains said Eltzroth's ordination will not be recognized by the church and she is no longer with the church.

"The person who does the ordination and the person who is ordained is excommunicated automatically from the church," Hains said.

Hains said Catholics who receive sacrament from a woman priest are sinning.

Eltzroth said she, along with The Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests, rejects the excommunication. The group, which has ordained 240 women priests worldwide, has been pushing for women's equality in the church for more than 15 years.

"A lot of condemnation from the church, so I've always been aware of it. It was always in the back of my mind that this was a step I was going to be taking," Eltzroth said.

The Diocese of Charlotte said for 2,000 years, in alignment with the scripture, the Catholic church has not allowed women to become priests. But Hains said women still play a prominent role in the church.

Eltzroth, who plans to start her own church, hopes the things will change.

"We're leading the church into something bigger and greater than it has ever been," Eltzroth said.

The Diocese said that the policy banning women from becoming priests will likely never change.

The Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests said they will continue with ordinations of female priests so they can bring attention to the issue and open up a dialogue with the Vatican.