CBSN

Former Ohio First Lady Reveals A Secret

Dagmar, left, and former Gov. Dick Celeste are shown in Cleveland in this undated file photo. Dagmar Celeste revealed Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2002, that she was one of seven women ordained as Roman Catholic priests in late June and later excommunicated by the church.
AP (file)
A former Ohio first lady revealed Tuesday that she was secretly ordained as a Roman Catholic priest earlier this year and then excommunicated by the church.

Dagmar Braun Celeste, ex-wife of former Gov. Richard Celeste, said she was the only American among seven women who were ordained as priests by Bishops Romolo Braschi of Argentina and Rafael Regelsberger of Austria on June 29 in a ceremony on a boat on the Danube River between Germany and Austria.

The church excommunicated the women Aug. 5 after warning them that they must renounce their posts by July 22.

Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone of the Vatican said the ordination attacked "the fundamental structure of the Church as it was wanted by its founder." Church teaching holds that because Jesus chose men to be his apostles, only males can serve in the priesthood.

The women have appealed their excommunication.

Celeste, 60, said she was ordained under the pseudonym Angela White because she did not want to divert attention from her daughter's wedding. However, she added, "It was always agreed that I was not going to be an anonymous priest."

Celeste said she has not celebrated Mass or performed other priestly duties such as confession or consecration of the Eucharist, but would do so if asked.

"Women, just like men, deserve to follow their conscience and calling," Celeste said.

She said she did not consider the possibility of becoming a priest until after her 1995 divorce from her husband of 33 years, who was Ohio's governor from 1983 to 1991.

Asked about her excommunication, Celeste said: "I don't think too much about it."

Celeste runs Tyrian, a Cleveland nonprofit ministry group. She was born in Krems, Austria, a small city on the Danube, and holds dual citizenship in the United States and Austria.

Celeste is no longer permitted to participate in church sacraments, according to officials with the Diocese of Cleveland. "She's been excommunicated. Anything she does is invalid," diocese spokesman Bob Tayek said.

The Rev. Ralph Wiatrowski, chancellor of the diocese, added that the the bishop who performed the ordination, Romolo Braschi of Argentina, was excommunicated after breaking with the church in 1998.

The Women's Ordination Conference, of which Celeste is a former board member, supports the ordinations, spokeswoman Erin Hanley said.

"I think it's another step in the process of women who are tired of sitting and waiting for approval from a system that has no place for them in ordained ministry," she said.

By Joe Milicia