The Maryknoll religious order has dispensed from sacred bonds a Catholic priest who supports the ordination of women after the Vatican dismissed him from the order – prompting a rebuke from a former Maryknoll Superior-General.
The priest Roy Bourgeouis, who had served the Maryknoll order for four decades, had founded the human rights group School of the Americas Watch (SOA Watch) to monitor and protest the US military school at Fort Benning.
The following statement was issued by the Maryknoll order:
The Congregation For The Doctrine Of The Faith Canonically Dismisses Roy Bourgeois
Maryknoll, New York – November 19, 2012 – The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, on October 4, 2012, canonically dismissed Roy Bourgeois from the Catholic Foreign Mission Society of America, also known as the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers. The decision dispenses the Maryknoll priest from his sacred bonds.
As a priest during 2008, Mr. Bourgeois participated in the invalid ordination of a woman and a simulated Mass in Lexington, Kentucky. With patience, the Holy See and the Maryknoll Society have encouraged his reconciliation with the Catholic Church.
Instead, Mr. Bourgeois chose to campaign against the teachings of the Catholic Church in secular and non-Catholic venues. This was done without the permission of the local U.S. Catholic Bishops and while ignoring the sensitivities of the faithful across the country. Disobedience and preaching against the teaching of the Catholic Church about women’s ordination led to his excommunication, dismissal and laicization.
Mr. Bourgeois freely chose his views and actions, and all the members of the Maryknoll Society are saddened at the failure of reconciliation. With this parting, the Maryknoll Society warmly thanks Roy Bourgeois for his service to mission and all members wish him well in his personal life. In the spirit of equity and charity, Maryknoll will assist Mr. Bourgeois with this transition.
Roy Bourgeois issued the following statement in response:
November 20, 2012
STATEMENT ABOUT MY DISMISSAL FROM MARYKNOLL
I have been a Catholic priest in the Maryknoll community for 40 years. As a young man I joined Maryknoll because of its work for justice and equality in the world. To be expelled from Maryknoll and the priesthood for believing that women are also called to be priests is very difficult and painful.
The Vatican and Maryknoll can dismiss me, but they cannot dismiss the issue of gender equality in the Catholic Church. The demand for gender equality is rooted in justice and dignity and will not go away.
As Catholics, we profess that God created men and women of equal worth and dignity. As priests, we profess that the call to the priesthood comes from God, only God. Who are we, as men, to say that our call from God is authentic, but God’s call to women is not? The exclusion of women from the priesthood is a grave injustice against women, our Church and our loving God who calls both men and women to be priests.
When there is an injustice, silence is the voice of complicity. My conscience compelled me to break my silence and address the sin of sexism in my Church. My only regret is that it took me so long to confront the issue of male power and domination in the Catholic Church.
I have explained my position on the ordination of women, and how I came to it, in my booklet, My Journey from Silence to Solidarity. Please go to: www.roybourgeoisjourney.org.
A former Superior-General of the Maryknoll order, Fr John Sivalon, has expressed support for Bourgeois, reports the National Catholic Reporter:
The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has “interfered with the integrity of the society,” said Maryknoll Fr. John Sivalon, who served as the order’s superior general from 2002 to 2008.
“It makes it very hard to consider how we talk about mission and visioning for the future and being open to the Spirit, when in fact we’re being dictated to that this is what we need to follow,” Sivalon told NCR Tuesday. “And so I think there is a question about the society itself and how the integrity of the society has been affected by this.” ….
Sivalon said Bourgeois supports women’s ordination “out of a very deep love for the church.”
“That love for the church just is expressed in his belief that the hierarchical part of the church is becoming less and less relevant in the world and to changes in the world,” he said. “It’s probably with profound sadness that he himself looks upon how that hierarchy has moved away. I think it’s just a sign of his love that he has taken the position.”…
The Vatican’s removal of Bourgeois, Sivalon said, “raises questions about how open the society can be to explain avenues of being in mission in different ways.”
Prior to the congregation’s dismissal of the priest, “the society was moving toward a much more Kingdom-centered, Reign of God-centered kind of understanding of its mission and service to that, and this raises questions about it,” said the former superior general.
“My own position would be of support for women’s ordination and opening up ministry to others,” Sivalon said, “and I think it would be the position of probably many in leadership in Maryknoll.”
“I think all of us, looking at what’s happening in the church today, think that it’s just becoming less and less relevant and less and less open to the possibility that the Spirit is speaking through the world and speaking through others,” Sivalon said. “I think people that know Roy would still look upon him as a priest and respect him as a priest, no matter what the congregation has done.”
The leadership team of another religious order, the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, have expressed their support and respect for Bourgeois.
Sisters of Mercy Leadership Saddened by Dismissal of Father Roy Bourgeois
28 November 2012 – The Institute Leadership Team of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas is saddened and disturbed by the recent action of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to dismiss Father Roy Bourgeois from the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers.
We have known and worked with Father Roy as an advocate for justice in both church and society, nationally and globally. Father Roy’s commitment regarding the role of women in the church reflects our own as Sisters of Mercy since our Institute founding in 1991 when we stated in our Direction Statement that we will commit our lives and resources to act in solidarity with women seeking fullness of life and equality in church and society. We have heard Father Roy speak with respect and love for his church and find this an extraordinary moment of deep loss for religious life which he loves and to which he has given faithful service.
Father Roy remains our brother and we thank him for his integrity and lifelong fidelity to the gospel of love, justice and peace. Source: Sisters of Mercy
The National Catholic Reporter itself has come out with a strong editorial in support of Bourgeois.
The most egregious statement in the Nov. 19 press release announcing Roy Bourgeois’ “excommunication, dismissal and laicization” is the assertion that Bourgeois’ “disobedience” and “campaign against the teachings of the Catholic church” was “ignoring the sensitivities of the faithful.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Bourgeois, attuned by a lifetime of listening to the marginalized, has heard the voice of the faithful and he has responded to that voice.
See the full editorial here.