Examples of humility and legitimate public repentance do present themselves often enough. Partly because our culture of the sensual-erotic and sensationalistic wishes us to look at Lady Gaga more than Mother Theresa. Partly also by definition: it cuts against what it means to be humble to promote one’s own self-humbling.
But with the example of Abby Johnson still fresh and current, I was pleased to see another example pop up on Zenit: Norma Jean Coon.
In 2007, Coon attempted ordination to the diaconate at the hands of a German “bishop” of the international organization known as Roman Catholic Women Priests.
Earlier this month she officially repudiated all association with that organization, and just yesterday posted her full message of renunciation of Orders, public confession, and repentance for the scandal caused.
She says, in part:
I withdrew from the program within two weeks of the ceremony because I realized that I had made a mistake in studying for the priesthood. I confess to the truth of Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis. I confess the authority of the Holy Father on these issues of ordination and recognize that Christ founded the ordination only for men.
Formally, I relinquish all connection to the program of Roman Catholic Women Priests and I disclaim the alleged ordination publicly with apologies to those whose lives I have offended or scandalized by my actions. I ask God’s blessings upon each of these folks and their families.
The specific mention of her recognition of Ordinatio Sacerdotalis is significant because it is perhaps one of the most misunderstood papal writings of recent memory (though far outpaced by Humanae Vitae). In OS Pope John Paul II discussed the nature of the priesthood, noted that some thought the male-only priesthood was a matter of discipline rather than doctrine, and ended with:
Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32) I declare that 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.
Supporters of women’s ordination read that and, rather than seeing a “definitive” declaration, saw a lack of ex cathedra definition of the matter. They would cite a later statement by JPII that in OS he did not intend to make a dogmatic definition, and conclude that, despite the fairly clear language of OS, the matter was still open to debate.
Norma Jean Coon got it right, through the grace of God and the prayers of many people.
Coon ended her statement with a beautiful prayer of thanksgiving, praying for unity, forgiveness, wisdom, and continued growth.
Hopefully her example of courage and humility, and her prayers for greater unity and openness to the Spirit, will help others who persist in public dissent from Church teaching to see the error of their ways and return home to the Father in humility.