A Roman Catholic priest faces excommunication for attending a ceremony to ordain a woman in the United States, a Vatican official said Friday.

The Rev. Roy Bourgeois joined a June ceremony in Lexington, Kentucky, to ordain Janice Sevre-Duszynska, a member of a group called Roman Catholic Womenpriests.

His excommunication would likely be automatic, requiring no further action from the Holy See, said the chief Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi.

Bourgeois told The New York Times, however, that he recently received a letter from the Vatican's doctrinal watchdog, the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, offering him a chance to recant within 30 days to avoid excommunication, the newspaper reported Friday.

Lombardi said he did not know of such a letter. The Times said Bourgeois informed the Vatican he would not repent.

Recent popes have said the Roman Catholic Church cannot ordain women because Christ chose only males as apostles. Excommunication is the most severe penalty under church law, cutting off a Catholic from receiving or administering sacraments.

The ordained woman, Sevre-Duszynska, also faces excommunication.

She said the Vatican had "threatened" Bourgeois for participating in the ceremony and giving a homily in support of women priests. She apparently was referring to excommunication.

"We condemn this action by the Vatican as a blatant abuse of power" she said in a statement, expressing her solidarity with the priest.

The Vatican in May issued a warning against ordaining women after reports of Catholic ordinations of women around the world. In March, the archbishop of St. Louis excommunicated three women — two Americans and a South African — for participating in a woman's ordination.

A small group of women from Catholic organizations around the world staged a march during the Vatican's meeting of bishops in October to call attention to female ordination. Wearing signs with the names of prominent women from the church's early days, they marched across the Tiber River close to St. Peter's Square.

Bourgeois is a member of the Maryknoll religious order.