The Danube Seven (Christine Mayr-Lumetzberger, Adelinde Theresia Roitinger, Gisela Forster, Iris Muller, Ida Raming, Pia Brunner and Angela White) are a group of seven women from Germany, Austria and the United States who were ordained on a pleasure boat on the Danube on 29 June 2002 by Rómulo Antonio Braschi, an Independent Catholic bishop whose own episcopal ordination could possibly be recognised as 'valid but illicit' by the Roman Catholic Church. The women's ordinations are not, however, recognised as being valid by the Roman Catholic Church. As a consequence of this violation of canon law and their refusal to repent, the women were excommunicated.3
Currently there is a lobby within the Roman Catholic Church in favour of the ordination of women to the priesthood. However, the church officially teaches that the ordination of women is impossible, as Pope John Paul II stated in his apostolic letter Ordinatio sacerdotalis, number 4.
The Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and [...] this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church's faithful.The canon law which governs the administration of the sacraments limits the matter for ordination to males alone. Canon 1024 states, "Only a baptised man can validly receive sacred ordination."
The admission of women to the priesthood in many parts of the Anglican Communion, including the Church of England in 1992, fueled some Catholics' calls for a greater role for women in ministry. At the same time the Anglican Church's move created an apparently insurmountable obstacle to Anglican-Catholic unity. Pope John Paul II wrote of the theological impossibility of ordaining women, arguing that the action is unfounded in holy scripture and absent from the church's bimillenial tradition. Pope John Paul II maintained that it is ontologically impossible for the church to ordain women because the priesthood is a participation in the relational aspect of the Trinity which is dependent on a masculine nature. Supporters of women's ordination argue that there are both indirect scriptural references to women's ministry, and an ancient tradition of ordaining women, some say intentionally clouded over by the male hierarchy.
The Danube Seven have chosen a controversial path, that of ordination by an Independent Catholic bishop not in communion with Rome. The sacramental validity of the ordination is not recognised by the Catholic Church. Bishop Rómulo Antonio Braschi left the Catholic Church to lead an international missionary congregation, the Catholic Apostolic Charismatic Church of “Jesus the King”. Many supporters of the ordination of women would reject this move as inevitably leading to excommunication and separation from the Catholic Church. Although the women believe that they are validly ordained, the Catholic Church believes that because the matter for ordination (in this case a male person) was not present, no ordination took place. It is claimed that this teaching is based on Divine Law. Despite the opinion of these seven women and some liberal Catholics, the church continues to maintain that it is impossible to ordain women to the priesthood.
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