The Danube Seven — Christine Mayr-Lumetzberger, Adelinde Theresia Roitinger, Gisela Forster, Iris Muller, Ida Raming, Pia Brunner and Angela White (the last a pseudonym for Dagmar Braun Celeste, the Austrian born former first lady of Ohio in the United States) — are a group of seven women from Germany, Austria and the United States who were ordained as priests on a ship cruising the Danube river on 29 June 2002 by Rómulo Antonio Braschi, Ferdinand Regelsberger, and third unknown bishop.
Braschi, an Independent Catholic bishop whose own ordination is in the line of apostolic succession and thus considered valid by the Roman Catholic Church, was excommunicated. Regelsberger had been ordained by Braschi a few months prior to the ordinations on the Danube. The problematic ordination of Braschi thus makes Regelsberger's problematic as well, according to ideas on apostolic succession lineage, providing an opportunity for criticism by those who oppose women's ordination in the Roman Catholic Church.
The women's ordinations were not, however, recognized as valid by the Roman Catholic Church, although the women (and their successors) consider their own ordinations to be valid and even studied in a three year program, designed by Christine Mayr- Lumetzberger, prior to their ordinations.
Legal consequences and responses
As a consequence of this violation of canon law, specifically canons 1008-1009 and 1024-1025, and their refusal to repent, the Vatican excommunicated the women in 2003. The women asked the Vatican to revoke the excommunication, but this request was denied in Decree on the Attempted Ordination of Some Catholic Women. Since then several similar ceremonies have been held by Roman Catholic Womenpriests, a group in favor of women's ordination in Roman Catholicism. These womenpriests were not excommunicated as quickly as the original Danube seven, however, since 2008, all people involved in the ordination of women are automatically excommunicated by the Roman Catholic Church, through the mechanism of latae sententiae. Despite this threat, some of the women ordained as priests became ordained as bishops, in order to continue to the womenpriest movement without putting more male bishops in jeopardy.
"The Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and [...] this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church's faithful."
Pope John Paul II asserted the theological impossibility of ordaining women, arguing that the action is unfounded in holy scripture and absent from the church's bimillenial tradition. Pope John Paul II maintained that it is ontologically impossible for the church to ordain women because the priesthood is a participation in the relational aspect of the Trinity which, according to the Catholic Church's own teaching, is dependent on a masculine nature, the idea of gender complementarity, and the phrase In persona Christi. Supporters of women's ordination argue that there are both direct and indirect scriptural references to women's ministry, and an ancient tradition of ordaining women, some say intentionally clouded over by the male hierarchy.
Other notable Roman Catholic documents that deal with the ordination of women include
- Rerum Novarum, Pope Leo XIII 1891
- Vatican II 1962-1965
- Inter Insigniores, 1976 Declaration by Pope Paul VI
- Canon 1008-1009
- Canon 1024-1025
- Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, 1994 Letter by Pope John Paul II
- Responsum Ad Propositum Dubium, 1995 Pope John Paul II
The sacramental validity of the Danube Seven ordinations is not recognized by the Roman Catholic Church, setting up a fundamental dispute and controversy between the Danube Seven and the Church. Although the women believe that they are validly ordained, the Catholic Church teaches that because a valid subject for ordination (in this case a male person) was not present, no ordination took place. The Church says that this teaching is based on Divine Law. Despite the position of these seven women and some Catholic scholars, the Catholic Church continues to consider the ordination of women to be impossible.
Relationship to other Christian Denominations
At the 1978 Lambeth Conference the Anglican Communion decided that all of its churches were autonomous and thus had the right to make their own choices on the legality of the ordination of women. The admission of women to the priesthood in many parts of the Anglican Communion, including the Church of England in 1992, and the actions of the Philadelphia Eleven and the response of the Episcopal Church in the 1970s, fueled some Catholics' calls for a greater role for women in ministry. At the same time the Anglican Communion's moves created an apparently insurmountable obstacle to Anglican-Catholic unity.
- General Decree regarding the delict of attempted sacred ordination of a woman 
- Can. 1024 Archived December 3, 2010, at the Wayback Machine: A baptized male alone receives sacred ordination validly
- "Roman Catholic Womenpriests". romancatholicwomenpriests.org.
- Peterfeso, Jill Marie. “Transgressive Traditions: Roman Catholic Womenpriests and the Problem of Women's Ordination.” University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2012.
- Connoly, Kate and Willan Phillip. "Vatican casts out 'ordained' women", "The Guardian", August 6, 2002.
- Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Decree on the attempted ordination of some Catholic women In the course of these meetings the members arrived at the collegial decision to confirm the decree of excommunication. In the case under consideration, in fact, hierarchical recourse is not possible as it concerns a decree of excommunication issued by a Dicastery of the Holy See acting in the name of the Supreme Pontiff (cf. Canon 360).
- John Paul II. "Ordinatio Sacerdotalis", Number 4 Archived January 18, 2012, at the Wayback Machine