Roy Bourgeois Faces Excommunication

Father Roy Bourgeois, M.M., the Maryknoll priest best known for work to close the School of the Americas (the US-run school that had trained paramilitary forces, primarily from Latin American countries, some of whom carried out brutal murders), has been told in a letter from the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that if he does not, within 30 days, recant his support for women’s ordination he will face excommunication.  The Maryknoll priest had preached a homily at the "ordination" of Janice Sevre-Duszynka in August, in Lexington, Kentucky.  Bourgeois received notification from the CDF on Oct. 21, according to a subsequent letter from the priest.

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The CDF’s letter says that Bourgeois must recant "belief and public statements that support the ordination of women in our Church, or (he) will be excommunicated." 

On Nov. 7, Fr. Bourgeois replied in letter to the CDF, saying, in part, "With all due respect, I believe our Catholic Church’s teaching on this issue is wrong and does not stand up to scrutiny. A 1976 report by the Pontifical Biblical Commission supports the research of Scripture scholars, canon lawyers and many faithful Catholics who have studied and pondered the Scriptures and have concluded that there is no justification in the Bible for excluding women from the priesthood."

The full story, and the full text of his letter, is reported by John Allen at NCR.  H/t to Dave Gibson at Dotcommonweal.

James Martin SJ

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
9 years 1 month ago
Father Roy shouldn't worry. If history is any guide, some Jesuit college will give him a tenured faculty position (probably as theology chair), and America will make him a regular columnist. Also, NCR will have a cover story celebrating Father Roy's elevation to auxiliary bishop by Her Eminence Janice Cardinal Sevre-Duszynka.
9 years 1 month ago
Two Remarks 1) The school may not have trained para-military directly, but the graduates were taught both how to work with para-military and use elements of "coercive interrogation"-- torture by another name. Some say policies have changed; protestors claim that mission is still the same. 2) One can argue that Fr. Bourgeois should not have participated in ordination; he has apologized for this. However, to demand that he renounce his hope or position that women could or should be ordained seems to overstep bounds of the congregation unless this is now seen as such a matter of faith that it puts one "out of communion." If such is the case, count me out also -- and about one third of the clergy.
9 years 1 month ago
My comment is on the avoidance of the topic at hand. Instead of waxing cute on Fr Roy's future, or mincing words about the heinous reputation of some SOA graduates, we could be addressing the issue of the appropriateness of the threat from the Curia. Obviously, the Vatican had little to no success with the Maryknoll leadership. Fr Roy's letter is decidedly political: he paints the Curia into a corner over the malfeasance of bishops. Upper-level prelates enabled the sexual assault on minors, and an opinion unlikely to change policy is the excommunicable offense? That's not going to play out well at all in some circles. If this episode and last week's confirmation on 'no gay, no way' is any evidence, there's a lot of confusion about what it means to be a priest. Too bad there's little willingness to address that question head-on. It would be of great help to those serving in the trenches of ministry, of those discerning a call to who-knows-what the future may hold, and wrench not a few out of a pre-conciliar institution attempting to make sense of itself in a post-conciliar Church. At the very least, if one opposes the ordination of women, homosexuals, and married men, one might ask what is deemed so lacking in the presbyterate today that seems to urge so many to fight for what seems to be so impossible.
9 years 1 month ago
I think that the SCDF are out of line to threaten Fr Roy with excommunication until he recants belief. That is to coerce conscience. The Church only has the power to excommunicate on the basis of belief if the matter at hand is one of infallibly defined dogma. The inability to ordain women is not an infallibly defined dogma, as Cdl Ratzinger admits. Therefore the threat to excommunicate is out of hand and an abuse of power. We need to seek reconciliation, not go around excommunicating each other. That isn't the way of Jesus and it just causes scandal and corrodes the faith of many. God Bless
9 years 1 month ago
Two points: 1)If possible, it is helpful to keep these entries in chronological order since one comments on another and it is sometimes hard to follow when one is inserted out of order. 2) Fr. Roy's letter is confrontational, but it is in reponse to the Congregation's. He did not up the ante with his other points before it threated the 'nuclear option' of excommunication -- imprudent at best and completely inappropriate and unwarranted at worse for having an opinion. There are bishops who have speculated as much! Does the Congregation de facto say this a matter de fide? He made amends for his participation at the ordination, as much as he will. If this was acceptable, opinion and speculation on this matter shuld be as acceptable as the many other debates in theology.
9 years 1 month ago
The Metropolitan of the Greek Church is ordaining women to the diaconate. Given the current reapproachment with Constantinople underway by Benedict XVI, the question is not if women will be ordained as Deacons and later Priests, but when. I suspect once unification is complete the Latin Patriarchy will be divided into small churches, with England, Ireland and North America in a common church made up of all those formerly in the Orthodox, Catholic, Anglican and possibly Presbyterian Churches (in otherwords, all the "real Pressence" churches), the issue will be decided locally. In answer to my own question of when - soon - like within this papacy.
9 years 1 month ago
Fr. Martin's commentary about Fr. Bourgeois refers to the School of the Americas as 'the US-run school that had trained paramilitary forces, primarily from Latin American countries, some of whom carried out brutal murders.' This is incorrect. The US trained only military, not paramilitary, forces and civilians. In addition, a small number of graduates of the old School became involved in murders. Moreover, they did not learn such techniques at the School of the Americas.
9 years 1 month ago
Gabrella Marcella, you are dangerously misinformed: 49/60 paramilitary soldiers at El Mozote were trained at SOA... And that is the beginning. SOA soldiers themselves have testified they learned these techniques and were supplied at Ft. Benning, GA. What you said is so inaccurate, it is a shame you decided to air something so grotesque publically. You should inform yourself and retract this comment.
9 years 1 month ago
I am sending this note to protest the threat of excommunication of Fr. Roy Bourgeois M.M. I am a lifelong Catholic,(age 77) and daily Communicant and do not favor female priests . I accept the stand of those in charge at this time. I do not support them in their trying to suppress opposition to Father’s clearly spoken and rationally explained thoughts. Instead of refuting Fr. Roy’s position, they silence his voice. What does this accomplish? Have those in charge not learned the lessons of history? His is a voice for justice that is so clearly lacking in our National Bishop’s group that has remained conspicuously silent over so many atrocities committed in the past number of years by our country in the name of patriotism and right, that it is refreshing to hear his voice. If this is the most important matter in the minds of those in charge with all that is going on in the world, they have their hearts and minds in the wrong places –again. Are they acting as pastors or fearful bureaucrats? They should know that they run the risk of losing even folks like me into whose mind such a thought has never entered before. To whom will they listen? To what will they respond reasonably? They make a mockery of the Eucharist that I receive daily to bring peace to our world and our society when they act in this manner. How does their action reflect the Prince of Peace that comes into our world every day through their hands? Who are they? Stop this nonsense behavior. Thank you, Vincent Boyle
9 years 1 month ago
Let's be honest here. To excommunicate someone is not the same thing as silencing them. Ray Bourgeois will still be able to go on advocating and agitating for the ordination of women. His voice will probably even be bolstered by that fact with the crowd he is pandering to. He now carries the "badge" of having been "oppressed" by the patriarchal hierarchy and therefore is completely credible as a "prophetic" voice among the liberal sycophants in the choir he's preaching to. The church has reiterated time and again that the infallibility of the Church lies not only in clearly defined dogmas that are spoken ex-cathedra on matters of faith and morals, but also in the simple and unchanged practice and teaching that it maintains in history. More so, to clarify for the faithful and to avoid the scandal of one of its priest's vocal advocacy of a position that is not the Church's teaching and his participation in the rites and rituals of a non-catholic schismatic group which claims to be an authentic expression of Catholic Christianity, the CDF has opted to explain to Ray Bourgeois that the truth is that his continued actions in this regard place him outside of the church's communion (which is not just a shared baptism but a mature adherence to its bishops and teachings in heart and mind). There's a cliched popular expression that is appropriate here: Truth in advertising. Ray Bourgeois can do as he pleases with respect to his advocacy, but he cannot claim that this is Catholic.
9 years 1 month ago
The Metropolitan of the Greek Church is ordaining women to the diaconate. Given the current reapproachment with Constantinople underway by Benedict XVI, the question is not if women will be ordained as Deacons and later Priests, but when. I suspect once unification is complete the Latin Patriarchy will be divided into small churches, with England, Ireland and North America in a common church made up of all those formerly in the Orthodox, Catholic, Anglican and possibly Presbyterian Churches (in other words, all the "real Presence" churches), the issue will be decided locally. In answer to my own question of when - soon - like within this papacy.
9 years 1 month ago
Since there have been so many comments regarding the extent to which the SOA has been involved in training those responsible for murder, here is the website of the "SOA Watch": http://www.soaw.org/
9 years 1 month ago
Since the Pope/Vatican has declared that it is impossible to ordain women, and not simply illicit, it appears that Fr Bourgeois is under censure and warning for attempting to do something impossible. Since it is impossible, he obviously did not actually do it? He is threatened with excommunication for an action which he did not do? He is accused of ''supporting'' an impossibility. He has even preached ''in support'' of the fantastical notion at a gathering where other people as rash as himself were present but where nothing happened because what they thought they were about was impossible and so didn't happen. Of course, the ''impossible'' relates to ministry, but there are many reprehensible matters relating to US Church ministry which have not drawn forth commensurate warnings, not to say threats. Child abuse cover-ups?
9 years 1 month ago
Mr. Sullivan, You are incorrect about the infallible nature of the teaching of the ordination of women and Cardinal Ratzinger's view of such. As prefect for the CDF he issued, at John Paul II's request, this responsum ad dubium (http://www.newadvent.org/library/docs_df95os.htm), which was signed by Pope John Paul II, explaining that Ordinatio Sacerdotalis was in fact the infallible teaching of the Church and requires ''definitive assent.'' I am aware that the ordination of women is a complicated issue. I often have trouble agreeing with the Church on the matter. But where Fr. Bourgeois crossed the line was not merely voicing an opinion or attending a service, but actively participating in the heretical service by delivering the homily. His actions constituted the Church's definition of scandal, and by refusing to recount his position, thus perpetuating the scandal, the action of excommunication is entirely proper. I normally have great respect for Fr. Bourgeois, and myself have attended the protest at the School of the Americas. His excommunication and possible further action will be a blow to be sure, and it does sadden me. But it is nonetheless the proper action being taken by the Church. As I demonstrated above, whether we agree or not, the teaching of a male priesthood is in fact the infallible teaching of the Church and thus is not subject to change, ever. Grace and Peace, Michael
9 years 1 month ago
Michael H. The more I have examined the matter, the more I agree that women should be ordained - as they have been in the past as deacons. Before there was an ordained priesthood, women presided over the Agape Meal, which became the Mass. If infallibility means always and everywhere, obviously it either does not apply in this case or is itself a flawed doctrine. Did you not see the issue on St. Paul? It might open your eyes. Faith is not about honoring the party line of the Church, but about believing in Truth and trusting in God, even when this varies from what the Church teaches.
9 years 1 month ago
Let us follow Vatican logic to its absurd conclusion: If women cannot be priests because no women were at the Last Super, by what right do women receive Communion? While we're at it, priests should also start doing their own cooking and washing their own dishes.
9 years 1 month ago
Michael, if the ordination of women being out of bounds is infallible, then this says more about infallibility than it says about the ordination of women.
9 years 1 month ago
Mr. Binder, Yes, it is the infallible teaching of the Church. If that causes you to doubt the doctrine of infallibility, so be it. God forbid it would instead cause you to examine your own view on the matter and perhaps see that God might have a plan or design beyond our understanding. But that would just be foolish, wouldn't it? If we can't understand, it must not be God's plan. "The foolishness of God is greater than the wisdom of men."
9 years ago
Michael B. You are right about women deacons. We know this from Scripture as well as early Church writings, such as the Apostolic Tradition from Hippolytus. I could be wrong, but I believe the Orthodox Church may still ordain female deacons, but I'm not positive. But you are incorrect about women presiding over the Eucharist. That is simply a false statement. It was never done so in the Catholic Church. You can say it all you want, but that does not make it so. There is no party line of the Church. There is Truth which comes to us from Scripture and Tradition, and which we employ our gift of reason in understanding to the best of our ability. But when our reason causes us to deny what is taught as infallibly true by the Church, then we can be assured most certainly that it is we who are wrong, not the Church. From the very beginning pride has been the greatest obstacle to knowledge of Truth. Such is the case here, that we can somehow know better than what is taught as definitively true by the Church. That is an arrogance in which I desire no part.
9 years ago
From 2004-2007, I directed ''On the Line'' a film about the movement to close the School of the Americas and in the process came to know Fr. Roy Bourgeois as a tremendous person of faith and conscious. A connected NY Times article (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/14/us/14priest.html?_r=1&em&oref=slogin) quotes the Vatican as stating “the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women.” As a practicing Catholic who cares deeply about the equality of women in the Church, I have to join Roy in asking, what more authority does the Church have to confer ordination on men than women? Fr. Roy has spent years in prison for breaking unjust laws to raise awareness about the tragedies perpetuated by the School of the Americas. I can only hope that in breaking this law of the Church, he will bring more heightened awareness to an argument against women that doesn't hold much water. If you'd like know Fr. Roy, I'd encourage you to watch ''On the Line,'' http://OnTheLineFilm.
9 years ago
The great Bishop Charles Buswell also championed the ordination of women priests. He was made bishop by Pope John the 23rd. Had Pope John the 23rd lived longer, we would have had women priests by now. Here is an obituary for Bishop Buswell: http://www.coloradocatholicherald.com/print.php?xrc=1021
8 years 8 months ago
It does my heart good to read that there are Catholic men who support the ordination of women. I am not called to ordination, but I know a Catholic woman who stays in a Church that has denied her the right to become a priest. This is her calling. I have followed my calling to leave the Roman Catholic church.
6 years 8 months ago
It’s probably too late to urge Roy Bourgeois not to leave the priesthood - God knows the Church needs good priests- but to stay within the system, trying to change things from within. Maybe even  coming to the realization that after all is said and done, the Church could be right in not ordaining women as priests. It isn’t that the Church doesn’t want to ordain women as priest, rather it’s because, as “Blessed” John Paul II said, the Church feels it doesn’t have the mandate from Christ to do so.  Assuming that’s true, it sounds sensible to me. If it does become clear that the Church has that  mandate, I’ll shout from the cupola of St. Peter’s Basilica, “Let’s do it!”
But  for now conformity to what seems to be the will of Christ is in order. Women aspiring to the priesthood is not a byproduct of the Woman’s Liberation Movement. As far back as 494 Pope St. Gelasius I, stopped the practice which had sprung up in the Church of Southern Sicily. The Fourth Century Laodicean Council, Canon XI also forbade the practice.
Saint Therese of Lisieux , Doctor of the Church, also desired to be a priest. The desire to be a priest by anyone, including women,  is in itself a holy and wholesome aspiration.
In more recent times in the underground WW II Church in Eastern Europe, in the former Czechoslovia if memory serves me well, women were ordained as priests so as to confect Eucharist for the hidden Faithful. But at the end of the War after an investigation Pope Pius XII declared the ordinations null and void. Interestingly in the same area  Faithful yearning for the Eucharist called forth some men from the Community of Believers  and in the absence of any clergy these men began confecting Eucharist. Their “ordination” was subsequently declared valid and their priesthood authentic.
But I think what the Church should do now is to start ordaining women as  Deacons. But that may prove to be not helpful ecumenically with the move towards unity with the Orthodox Church. I mention this because an Orthodox priest once told me that a great barrier blocking unity of the Catholic Church and Orthodoxy is the presence of women in the Sanctuary! Even laymen in the Sanctuary without at least some kind of ecclesial garb is also viewed as a hinderance
Besides women Deacons I think it would be very good to admit women and laymen into the College of Cardinals, serving as Papal advisors and electors.  The Cardinalate is honorary and has no sacramental connection to Holy Orders. But the Church would have to change the rules to allow lay women and men in the College. It can be done!
My prayers are with Roy.

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