Belgian prelates Archbishop Luc Terlinden of Mechelen-Brussels (left) and former archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels Cardinal Jozef De Kesel were fined by a Belgian court after they denied a woman entry into a diaconate formation program. / Credit: HATIM KAGHAT/BELGA/AFP via Getty Images

CNA Staff, Jun 27, 2024 / 17:15 pm (CNA).

A Belgian civil court has fined two Catholic prelates after they denied a woman entry into a diaconate formation program.

According to the Belgian newspaper De Morgen, the woman, Veer Dusauchoit, asked the Archdiocese of Mechelen-Brussels to register for training as a deacon in June 2023 and again in October 2023. 

Dusauchoit made her first request to Cardinal Jozef De Kesel and her second to Archbishop Luc Terlinden after De Kesel’s 2023 resignation at age 76. Both times, her request to join the four-year diaconal training program was denied. 

The two prelates will have to pay 1,500 euro (about $1,605) each, the court ordered.

The court in Mechelen ruled that the archbishops made a mistake when refusing Dusauchoit entry to the program but did not address the question of actually ordaining Dusauchoit. According to De Morgen, the court cannot overturn the archbishop’s refusal or decide in his place who will be admitted to deacon training. 

“We received the verdict yesterday afternoon, are now studying it, and will then decide how to proceed,” a spokesman for the archdiocese said in response to a request from the website on Wednesday. 

The Catholic Church teaches that holy orders — of which there are three degrees of diaconate, priesthood, and episcopate — is the sacrament of apostolic ministry and is reserved to baptized men.

Pope Francis has reiterated numerous times that holy orders are “reserved to men.”  

Dusauchoit, 62, has served at her parish church in a Flemish part of Belgium for years, according to De Morgen. As her parish no longer has a priest, Dusauchoit got involved with arranging funerals and scriptural readings, reported. 

In an April 22 op-ed, Dusauchoit described herself as a “religious, socially committed, feminist, and ecologically inspired woman.” She claimed that as late as the 1970s in Belgium, wives of deacons were required to attend deacon training together with their husbands. 

“Women in the Church are still not fully appreciated and given their equal place,” she wrote. 

“Out of that frustration, from the conviction that training as a deacon can help the Church grow further and at the same time from the determination not to break with the Church, I decided to register for training as a deacon,” she wrote.

In Belgium, the state pays the salaries of ministers of recognized religions, which include Catholicism, Protestantism, Judaism, Anglicanism, Orthodoxy, and Islam. 

The bishops of Belgium, since the 2023 refusals to admit Dusauchoit, have since expressed support for the ordination of women to the diaconate. 

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