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Unsanctioned Ordination: Washington's First Catholic Woman Priest


Washington is about to have its first Roman Catholic woman priest. Oregon has at least four. And many more serve around the country. The unsanctioned ordination will take place Saturday in Olympia.


Tom Banse / Northwest News Network
Diane Smith Whalen

Diane Smith Whalen says she’s been called to the priesthood since she was a girl.

She’s a lifelong Catholic, married with two grown daughters. Has a Doctor of Ministry and works as a spiritual counselor. For thirty years she was an active member of her Olympia parish.

But now she’s about to do something that will result in her excommunication from the Catholic Church.

Whalen plans to become ordained by a breakaway group called Roman Catholic Womenpriests.

Why? Whalen says it’s about serving Catholics who feel alienated from the official church like one woman she met recently.

Diane Whalen: “Who came up to me crying saying I’ve been waiting for you my whole life. I hoped this would happen. Many, many people have said that to me. We’ve been waiting for someone to step forward.”

A spokesman for the Seattle Archdiocese says there are no plans to take formal action against Whalen. But a 2008 Decree from the Vatican said women who take this step are automatically excommunicated.