Friday, July 2, 2010

Roy Bourgeois: "The Exclusion of Women from the Priesthood is a Grave Injustice"

On August 9, 2008, Maryknoll priest of 38 years, Roy Bourgeois (pictured at right), participated in the ordination of Janice Sevre-Duszynska as a Roman Catholic Womanpriest. Soon after, he was told by the Vatican to recant his support of women priests, which he refused to do. Instead, Roy, as founder of the School of the Americas Watch, continues to speak out for justice for the poor and marginalized in Latin America -- as well as for women priests. In November 2009, Roy and the School of the Americas Watch were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. He asks that the following message far and wide.


Fr. Roy Bourgeois' Letter to Maryknoll Community
May 24, 2010

To My Maryknoll Brothers,

You have been my community, my family, for 44 years. Because of my love and respect for you and for Maryknoll, I want to explain, as best I can, why I believe women should be ordained in our Church. As a young man in the military, I felt God was calling me to be a priest. After much discernment, I entered Maryknoll and was ordained in 1972. I am grateful to have found the hope, meaning, and joy I was seeking in life.

In my ministry over the years, I have met many devout women in our Church who feel called by God to the priesthood, just as we do as men. And why shouldn't they be called? As Catholics, we profess that our all-loving God created men and women of equal worth and dignity. As priests, we all say that the call to the priesthood is a gift and comes from God. My brothers, who are we to reject God's call of women to the priesthood? Who are we, as men, to say that our call from God is valid, but their call, as women, is not? I believe that our all-powerful God, Creator of the universe, is certainly capable of calling women to be priests.

Our Church leaders tells us that women cannot be priests because Jesus chose only male apostles. With all due respect, this is not accurate. As Christians, we know the importance of the resurrection. It is at the core of our faith. Jesus chose a woman, Mary Magdalene, to be the first witness to His resurrection. She was also chosen to bring "the good news" to the male apostles and became known as "the apostle to the apostles." Galatians 3:28 is very clear: "There is neither male nor female. In Christ Jesus you are one." Furthermore, a 1976 report by the Pontifical Biblical Commission, the Vatican's top scripture scholars, concluded that there is no justification in the New Testament for excluding women from the priesthood.

Reflecting on the scriptures, the love of God, and the many stories I have heard from women over the years about their being called by God, I believe that excluding women from ordination is rooted in sexism. Sexism, like racism, is a sin. And no matter how hard we may try to justify discrimination, in the end, it is always wrong.

For the past 20 years I have been speaking out against the injustice of the School of the Americas and U.S. foreign policy in Latin America. In conscience, I cannot be silent about an injustice I see much closer to home - an injustice in my Church. The exclusion of women from the priesthood is a grave injustice against women, against our Church, and against our God who is calling women to serve our Church as priests.

Fundamentally, the ordination of women is a matter of justice. At the same time, there are practical benefits to having women priests. As we know, our Church is in a serious crisis. Hundreds of churches are closing because of a shortage of priests. When I entered Maryknoll, we had over 300 seminarians preparing for the priesthood. Today we have eight.

If we are to have a vibrant and healthy Church rooted in the teachings of Jesus, we need the wisdom, compassion, courage, and gifts of women in the priesthood. Like the abolition of slavery, the civil rights movement, and the right of women to vote, the ordination of women is inevitable because it is just.

Let us be on the right side of history. Our Maryknoll community is well known and respected for its work for justice and the oppressed. My brothers, I respectfully ask that you break your silence and stand in solidarity with the many women in our Church who, like you and me, are called by God to the priesthood.

Your brother in Christ,

Roy Bourgeois, M.M.
P.O. Box 3330/Columbus, GA 31903


Remembering CCCR's “An Evening in the Park”
with Roy Bourgeois

Lake Elmo Park Reserve, MN

August 13, 2009

On the evening of Thursday, August 13, 2009, over 200 people gathered at Lake Elmo Reserve’s Park Pavilion to hear Fr. Roy share his perspective on the social injustices within Roman Catholicism, and offer a clear and hopeful vision of what has been termed the “emerging church” – a growing grassroots expression of church that is participatory, collaborative, and valuing of dialogue and diversity.

“An Evening in the Park with Roy Bourgeois” served as a major fundraiser for the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform’s September 2010 Synod of the Baptized, “Claiming Our Place at the Table.”

NOTE: CCCR is hosting another fundraiser this coming Tuesday, July 6, featuring renowned Catholic feminist theologian Rosemary Radford Ruether. For more information about this event, click here.

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