A leading American Catholic feminist organization expressed outrage yesterday that women will not be permitted to help distribute the Eucharist at papal masses in the United States as they do regularly during masses in their parishes.

"The Women's Ordination Conference decries the refusal to permit women to bear Christ to others in the Eucharist, for if Mary the Mother of God were alive today, she . . . would be barred from distributing communion at masses said by John Paul II in the United States," the group said in a statement.

The Women's Ordination Conference is an organization that grew out of national conferences -- one last year and one in 1976 -- designed to press the Catholic Church to ordain women.

The Vatican's directive that women who serve their parishes as special eucharistic ministers -- to help distribute holy communion -- may not assist at papal masses "affects not only women but all the American church," the statement said.

"It affects and diminishes the whole church, from the pope himself to the infant being baptized, for "if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it," the statement continued, quoting from the New Testament book of First Corinthians.

Decrying the "restrictive participation of women in the Eucharist" reflected in the Vatican's ruling on papal masses, the feminist statement added that because of such church restrictions, "women in the church continue to psychologically experience themselves as second-class citizens before God and as spectators in the balcony seats of the church."

Ada Isasi-Diaz said that the Rochester, N.Y. based women's organization has been "receiving phone calls all day from women who are just enranged and hurt."

She said that the organization's 100 local groups were being "encouraged to do something" about exclusion of women from assisting in papal masses. She said WOC has protested to the American Catholic bishops and to the apostolic delegates, who is the pope's representative in this country.