Woman who claims ordination leads Catholic service in San Diego

( SAN DIEGO / AP )- A woman who says she has been ordained a Roman Catholic priest led a service during the weekend – despite the risk of being excommunicated.

Jane Via, 58, is among 15 American women who have recently gone through ordination ceremonies that are not sanctioned by the Roman Catholic Church, which bars women from becoming priests or deacons.

A hundred congregants attended her service on Sunday at the Mary Magdalene Apostle Catholic Community in San Diego.

It was her first appearance since meeting with San Diego Bishop Robert Brom to discuss the consequences of her claimed ordination, which could ultimately include excommunication.

Via’s congregation is not affiliated with the Diocese of San Diego, which does not consider a Mass celebrated by an unordained officiant to be valid, diocese spokeswoman Bernadene Carr said Monday.

Via was ordained June 24 under the auspices of the pro-female ordination group Womenpriests, which says it has arranged ordinations for dozens of women priests and deacons around the world, including 12 in a Pittsburgh ceremony in July.

According to the group, a male priest presided over the first ordination of seven women in 2002 in Austria. The women were excommunicated by the Vatican in 2003.

Via said such consequences were “unwelcome,” but also, in a sense, liberating.

“I was so angry for so long at the church and church men who weren’t willing to make even the smallest change in language to include women,” she said. “My anger is gone.”

A majority of Catholic respondents to an Associated Press-Ipsos poll taken just after the death of Pope John Paul II in 2005 said they favored ordination of women.

A Roman Catholic canon says only baptized men may be ordained.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has not taken a formal position on the issue, but three of the American women who say they are ordained priests received letters from diocese officials warning that they had chosen to excommunicate themselves.

Via, a married mother of two, founded Mary Magdalene Apostle in November as an independent congregation.