Beverly Bingle has taken a big step in her quest to push the boundaries of the all-male priesthood in the Roman Catholic Church.
Catholic since birth, Ms. Bingle, 68, defied centuries of church law Thursday night when she was ordained a deacon, a required step in the church for the sacrament of holy orders and ordination as a Catholic priest.
The ordination ceremony, held at First Unitarian Church, 3205 Glendale Ave., was sanctioned through an association called Roman Catholic Womenpriests , a reform movement that began 10 years ago in Europe to bring gender equality into the Roman Catholic Church.
Ms. Bingle, a former teacher who had been a pastoral associate at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church and pastoral assistant at St. Richard Catholic Church in Swanton, is the first woman in Toledo to be ordained by the Roman Catholic Womenpriests.
PHOTO GALLERY: Ordination of deacon Beverly Bingle
Joan Houk, a bishop with the same association who presided over the liturgy, said during the homily that among the obstacles to face Ms. Bingle in following her spiritual calling will be the Roman Catholic Church itself, because its hierarchy does not recognize the ordination of women as deacons and priests.
"The Vatican does not allow for the ordination of this woman because it is divisive; it is a scandal, and she is guilty of grave crimes," Ms.Houk of Pittsburgh said.
The more than 50 people who attended the ceremony heard Dagmar Celeste, the ex-wife of former Ohio Gov. Richard Celeste and an ordained priest in Roman Catholic Womenpriests, read several verses from the Gospel of St. Mark.
While acknowledging the institutional church's ban on female clergy because its canon law only permits baptized males to receive sacred ordination, Ms. Bingle said she will continue with her lifetime quest to enter the priesthood.
"It's time for our church to acknowledge that God calls women as well as men," Ms. Bingle said. "Women served in the early church both as deacons and as priests. We need to remember our history and move past discrimination to practice the equality of all persons in our church communities."
Ms. Bingle said she will receive additional training and undergo further study to prepare for the sacrament of priesthood. She hopes to be accepted by the organization in 2013.
The formation of Roman Catholic Womenpriests goes back to 2002 when seven women were ordained aboard a ship on Europe's Danube River by three male bishops. The group claims the ordinations are valid because they conform within the bounds of "apostolic succession."
Roman Catholic Womenpriests claims to have ordained nearly 140 women into priesthood, with about 90 of them in the United States. They believe there is historical evidence that women held leadership roles in the church's early days.
The Diocese of Toledo issued a statement before the ceremony that said "the woman who attempts to receive" the sacrament of holy orders for ordination as a deacon, priest, or bishop faces automatic excommunication from the church.
The diocese said the ordination of women as deacons continues to be discussed and studied within the church.
"But there is no indication at this time that the church's practice of not doing so can or will be changed," the statement said. "The simulation of a diaconal ordination is utterly null and void, and incurs the penalty of excommunications for those who attempt to confer the sacrament and for any who would attempt to receive it."
Ms. Bingle earned a bachelor's degree at Ohio State University that she put to use teaching and working in state government.
She later picked up a master's degree from Bowling Green State University.
More recently, she earned a doctorate of ministry at Detroit's Ecumenical Theological Seminary, certification that helped in Detroit.
To carry out her ministry, Ms. Bingle said she will seek Protestant churches that are accepting of female priests to host space for Catholic-style services.
The ministry, she said, will appeal to current and former practicing Catholics who may not feel comfortable in the church because they are gay, lesbian, divorced Catholics who were not given annulments, or others who have been hurt by the church's teachings.