A 71-year-old Indiana resident has defied the Roman Catholic Church's ban on ordaining women priests to become the state's first female Catholic priest in an effort to challenge what she sees as an "unjust law."
"According to the Roman Catholic Church, we excommunicate ourselves through ordination," Maria Thornton McClain explained. "I choose to disobey and break this unjust law and to change the church. It's an honor to help people in the state of Indiana and anyone who has been marginalized to reclaim their right to develop their spiritual life and to follow God."
McClain, who is a former nun, also served in 1977 as a director of religious education at St. Pius X parish. She became a deacon last year, and was ordained on Sunday, one week after the Catholic celebration of Easter, at Freiden's United Church of Christ in Indiana, the Indy Star reported.
Pope Benedict XVI has openly declared his opposition to women priests and reform movements trying to force this change.
"Is disobedience a path of renewal for the hurch?" the Pope asked at a mass in St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican before Easter Friday.
"Do we sense here anything of that configuration to Christ which is the precondition for true renewal, or do we merely sense a desperate push to do something to change the Church in accordance with one's own preferences and ideas?" he added about propositions to change this ruling.
An important 1994 document written by Pope John Paul II established that the Catholic opposition to women priests is part of its "divine constitution." The ruling was declared to have been "set forth infallibly," and points to the Last Supper, where Jesus Christ only chose men to be his apostles and serve as priests.
McClain's ordinance went through without negative incidents, however, and John Kirby, a spokesman for CORPUS, one of the oldest reform groups of the Catholic Church, shared with the newspaper the significance of the event:
"There is a fear of ramifications, but we have to stand up for inclusivity."
During the two-hour ordination of McClain and four female deacons, Kirby declared, "Yours is a voice that is being heard more and more. I know you will bring healing and hope to all you meet."
"Where I came from, being progressive was not a problem," McClain expressed.
"You heard God's call and you responded," she added. "The knowledge of how to respond has evolved over time. The essence of Jesus' commandment is to love."
Many women who become Catholic priests are forced to serve at house churches or chaplains of prisons or hospitals.
According to Roman Catholic Womenpriests (RCWP), an international movement within the church in support of women priests, such clergy hold office in over 23 states.
"The Catholic people have accepted us as their priests and they continue to support us as we grow from the seven bold women first ordained on the Danube River in 2002. Ordained women are already ministering in over 23 states across the country. We are here to stay. We are not going away," the organization's website states.