Ex-Catholic nun becomes priest, defies ban

A former Catholic nun defied the Church’s ban on women become priests and went through an ordination ceremony, joining a push to crack open the all-male clergy.

A female bishop from Minnesota led the April 15 ordination ceremony for 71-year-old Maria Thornton McClain at Friedens United Church of Christ on the south side of Indianapolis.

McClain said she was a nun for 15 years before leaving her order and has been married to her husband for 31 years. She said she has been a devoted Catholic, but believed the ban on female priests needed to be challenged.

“Some people call me courageous,” McClain told WTHR-TV. “I don’t see myself as courageous. I just feel I’m doing what I’ve been called to do.”

McClain joins more than 100 women around the world ordained in the Roman Catholic Womenpriests movement.

Pope Benedict XVI this month denounced such movements, saying that he had no authority whatsoever to allow women priests since an all-male priesthood was an “irrevocable” Church teaching.

Greg Otolski, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, said the Catholic Church traces the all-male clergy to Jesus Christ.

“He only chose 12 apostles, all men,” Otolski said. “He did not choose women, and that’s an unalterable part of the faith, a tradition the Church has held and carried on for 2,000 years.”

McClain received a standing ovation and warm hugs from many of the couple hundred people who attended the Sunday ceremony, The Indianapolis Star reported.

Maria Regina Nicolosi of Red Wing, Minn., presided as bishop during the two-hour ordination ceremony for McClain and four female deacons.

“You heard God’s call, and you responded,” she told McClain. “The knowledge of how to respond has evolved over time. The essence of Jesus’ commandment is to love.”

Since McClain cannot lead Masses in a Catholic church, she said she plans to find other places to hold services and that she’ll target those who feel alienated from the Church, including gays and lesbians, divorced Catholics and those who believe like she does on subjects such as the ordination of women.

“I choose to disobey and break this unjust law and to change the Church,” McClain said. “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.”

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