Friday, November 21, 2008

Roman Catholic Womenpriests: Response to Excommunication by Vatican

(Photo courtesy of Bob Watkins)

Roman Catholic Womenpriests: Response to Vatican Excommunication and Invitation to Church Leaders to Renew the Roman Catholic Church

Support, criticism swirl around Roy Bourgeois
By Tom Roberts
Published: November 20, 2008
Maryknoll Fr. Roy Bourgeois, founder of SOA Watch, outside a congressional office building in Washington in 2007 (CNS photo/Paul Haring)Letters, petitions go to Rome about priest threatened with excommunication
The news that peace activist Fr. Roy Bourgeois was threatened with excommunication for his support of women’s ordination unleashed a storm of commentary and reaction from various Catholic interest groups and around the blogosphere.

Focus is on Bourgeois as SOA weekend opens

Rome looks bad in bout with Bourgeois
National Catholic Reporter Editoria

Interview with Fr Roy on Excommunication/Democracy Now


Rabbi Michael Lerner's Commentary on Maryknoll priest, Roy Bourgeois' Excommunication by the Vatican
The Network of Spiritual Progressives wishes to be a place in which progressives from various religious communities (as well as "spiritual but not religious" people) can feel safe in coming together to work for a New Bottom Line to replace the materialism and selfishness in the world with an ethos of love, kindness, generosity,caring for others, ethical and ecological sensitivity,and awe and wonder at the grandeur of the universe. But what do we do if one of our religious communities is directly involved in racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-Semitic or attacking "the Stranger" (whoever the demeaned Other of any given society happens to be at a particular historical moment, when the Bible actually commands us not only to love our neighbor, but specifically and unequivocally to "love the Other" (the stranger, in Hebrew: ger). This has come into particular highlight this very week, because the Inquisition office (now renamed the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith) has sent a letter to Father Roy Bourgeois threatening him with ex-communication (which effectively means an end to his income and to his teachings inside the church) for daring to publicly support the ordination of women and to offer remarks in a ceremony ordaining a woman as priest. Roy Bourgeois isn't just any priest. He is, along with John Dear and Sister Joan Chittister, one of the most courageous Catholic voices for peace and non-violence and the founder and leader of the School of the Americas Watch (SOAW). The ultimatum and ex-communication would be effective the day before the annual demonstration of the SOAW at Fort Bennings where the School of the Americas is housed and where it trains South and Central American police forces in the techniques of torture, repression, and counter-insurgency. We at the Network of Spiritual Progressives have been calling for support for this demonstration which begins on Friday and goes till Sunday (if you happen to be coming to the demonstration and would help us distribute information or sit at our table to help us get the word out about our Global Marshall Plan campaign, please let us know by email). So the Inquisition will now in one fell swoop be able to rid itself of the progressive Catholic who has created the most important spiritual progressive demonstration taking place anywhere in the country for peace and against torture, and simultaneously terrify other priests into not daring to question the Church's doctrines of women. It should be noted that the very progressive teachings of the Church against war and poverty have not served as a basis for the excommunication of any priest or other church officials who have publicly supported the US war in Iraq or Afghanistan or supported the notion of a violent war against terror. The Inquisition answers to no one,and so its arbitrary power is used against those who support progressive causes, but not against those who support authoritarian and reactionary and violent causes. We urge all those who feel strongly opposed to this attempt to silence dissent within the Church and to oust its most celebrated peace-priest to take the following steps:

1. Write to the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith at the Vatican, Rome, Italy and protest.
2. Write to your local newspapers and protest.
3. Write to your local Catholic church and priests and protest.
4. Write to the National Catholic Reporter, Commonweal, and to national news sources like the NY Times and Washington Post and CNN and NPR and let them know that the NSP is protesting this move against Father Bourgeois and re-affirming our commitment to equal rights for women plus our commitment to strengthen the demonstrations in Fort Benning until the training of this sort is stopped and made illegal in the U.S.

Now here's the key: we want to communicate this message in a respectful way to the Catholic world. We are not anti-Catholic. Our organization contains many faithful Catholics and is co-chaired by Sister Joan Chittister (Benedictine Sister). We seek to recruit faithful Catholics into the NSP, and we do not wish to give them the impression that we are challenging their entire faith. Moreover, at the SOAW demonstration this weekend you'll be able to meet many Catholics who have anti-war, anti-violence and pro-peace and generosity perspectives--and they represent a major part of American Catholicism.So please help us communicate our outrage at the attempt to silence or excommunicate Father Roy Bourgeois without doing so in a way that indicates respect and genuine caring connection to the many Catholics who remain committed to peace and social justice but who may be afraid to speak out on this issue for fear of losing their connection with the Church (including many many Jesuits, for example, who share our progressive peace-oriented and social-justice oriented perspectives and would be part of the NSP, but are fearful that they too would be thrown out of their livelihood should they speak out clearly on these topics).
Please read the materials below so that you can see more documentation of the issues discussed here.
Love and blessings,
Rabbi Michael Lerner
The (following) letter was written by Bourgeois and addressed to the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith. It was distributed via e-mail by Bill Quigley, a New Orleans lawyer who represents Bourgeois.According to Bourgeois' letter, which is dated Nov. 7, the congregation has given him 30 days to recant his "belief and public statements that support the ordination of women in our Church, or (he) will be excommunicated."The letter indicates that Bourgeois received notification from the congregation Oct. 21.Bourgeois, a priest for 36 years, attended the ordination of Janice Sevre-Duszynska in Lexingon, Ky., Aug. 9 and preached a homily.If Bourgeois is excommunicated at the end of 30 days, it would come just before the mass rally and protest against the U.S. Army's School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Ga., that Bourgeois has organized for 19 years. In recent years, more than 15,000 people, many of them Catholic university students, have joined the three daylong rally and demonstration.Bourgeois was not immediately available for comment.

The text of Bourgeois' letter follows:
Rev. Roy Bourgeois, M.M.PO Box 3330, Columbus, GA 31903November 7, 2008


"I was very saddened by your letter dated October 21, 2008, giving me 30 days to recant my belief and public statements that support the ordination of women in our Church, or I will be excommunicated.I have been a Catholic priest for 36 years and have a deep love for my Church and ministry.When I was a young man in the military, I felt God was calling me to the priesthood. I entered Maryknoll and was ordained in 1972.Over the years I have met a number of women in our Church who, like me, feel called by God to the priesthood. You, our Church leaders at the Vatican, tell us that women cannot be ordained.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.As people of faith, we profess that the invitation to the ministry of priesthood comes from God. We profess that God is the Source of life and created men and women of equal stature and dignity. The current Catholic Church doctrine on the ordination of women implies our loving and all-powerful God, Creator of heaven and earth, somehow cannot empower a woman to be a priest.Women in our Church are telling us that God is calling them to the priesthood. Who are we, as men, to say to women, "Our call is valid, but yours is not." Who are we to tamper with God's call?Sexism, like racism, is a sin. And no matter how hard or how long we may try to justify discrimination, in the end, it is always immoral.Hundreds of Catholic churches in the U.S. are closing because of a shortage of priests. Yet there are hundreds of committed and prophetic women telling us that God is calling them to serve our Church as priests.If we are to have a vibrant, healthy Church rooted in the teachings of our Savior, we need the faith, wisdom, experience, compassion and courage of women in the priesthood.Conscience is very sacred. Conscience gives us a sense of right and wrong and urges us to do the right thing. Conscience is what compelled Franz Jagerstatter, a humble Austrian farmer, husband and father of four young children, to refuse to join Hitler's army, which led to his execution. Conscience is what compelled Rosa Parks to say she could no longer sit in the back of the bus. Conscience is what compels women in our Church to say they cannot be silent and deny their call from God to the priesthood. Conscience is what compelled my dear mother and father, now 95, to always strive to do the right things as faithful Catholics raising four children. And after much prayer, reflection and discernment, it is my conscience that compels me to do the right thing. I cannot recant my belief and public statements that support the ordination of women in our Church.Working and struggling for peace and justice are an integral part of our faith. For this reason, I speak out against the war in Iraq. And for the last eighteen years, I have been speaking out against the atrocities and suffering caused by the School of the Americas (SOA). Eight years ago, while in Rome for a conference on peace and justice, I was invited to speak about the SOA on Vatican Radio. During the interview, I stated that I could not address the injustice of the SOA and remain silent about injustice in my Church. I ended the interview by saying, "There will never be justice in the Catholic Church until women can be ordained." I remain committed to this belief today.Having an all male clergy implies that men are worthy to be Catholic priests, but women are not.According to USA TODAY (Feb. 28, 2008) in the United States alone, nearly 5,000 Catholic priests have sexually abused more than 12,000 children. Many bishops, aware of the abuse, remained silent. These priests and bishops were not excommunicated. Yet the women in our Church who are called by God and are ordained to serve God's people, and the priests and bishops who support them, are excommunicated.Silence is the voice of complicity. Therefore, I call on all Catholics, fellow priests, bishops, Pope Benedict XVI and all Church leaders at the Vatican, to speak loudly on this grave injustice of excluding women from the priesthood.Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador was assassinated because of his defense of the oppressed. He said, "Let those who have a voice, speak out for the voiceless."Our loving God has given us a voice. Let us speak clearly and boldly and walk in solidarity as Jesus would, with the women in our Church who are being called by God to the priesthood"
.In Peace and Justice,
Rev. Roy Bourgeois, M.M.PO Box 3330, Columbus, GA 31903

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Roman Catholic Womenpriests: Petition Signed by 3700 Catholics in solidarity with Fr. Roy Bourgeois

( Photo: courtesy of Bob Watkins)
Press Contacts:
Call To Action/USA, Nicole Sotelo, 773.404.0004 x285 (office), 857.928.4112 (cell)
Roman Catholic Womenpriests, Janice Sevre-Duszynska, 859.684.4247 (cell)
Women’s Ordination Conference, Aisha Taylor, 202.422.2235 (cell)
We are able to refer you to chapter leaders in every state for local quotes.

November 20, 2008
For Immediate Release

Grace period ends for priest threatened with excommunication
for supporting women’s ordination; 3,700 Catholics stand in solidarity

A Roman Catholic priest faces excommunication for his public support of women’s ordination through the Roman Catholic Womenpriests movement. But he is not just any priest. Fr. Roy Bourgeois, founder of the School of the Americas (SOA) Watch, is internationally known for his work to end U.S. government-funded combat training of Latin American militaries. This month he has decided to risk his 36 years of priesthood to end sexism in the Church.

In late October, the Vatican sent a letter to Fr. Roy Bourgeois’ superiors, saying he had 30 days to recant his position on women’s ordination or be excommunicated. The 30 days, counted from the day posted on the letter, ends today. Tomorrow, the biggest annual weekend event for the SOA Watch organization begins as they launch their vigil in Fort Benning, Georgia, to close the institution formerly called the School of the Americas (in 2001, renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation). Up to 20,000 Catholics and other supporters are expected to converge for the vigil.

An online petition, initiated by the Women’s Ordination Conference, and supported by Fr. Bourgeois and coalition partners Call To Action/USA and Roman Catholic Womenpriests garnered over 3,700 signatures of Catholics across the country. Thousands more are expected to sign it this weekend at the SOA Watch vigil. The petition, “Break the Silence on Women’s Ordination. Shatter the Stained Glass Ceiling,” can be found at

Fr. Bourgeois wrote in his response to the Vatican that he would not recant his support for women’s ordination. He said, “Conscience is very sacred….it is my conscience that compels me to do the right thing. I cannot recant my belief and public statements that support the ordination of women in our Church.”
The Vatican issued its threat of excommunication due to Fr. Bourgeois’ participation in the ordination of Janice Sevre-Duszynska in Lexington, KY on August 9, 2008. Fr. Bourgeois gave the homily during which he said “Sexism is a sin” and went on to say, “The hierarchy will say, ‘It is the tradition of the church not to ordain women.’ I grew up in a small town in Louisiana and often heard, ‘It is the tradition of the South to have segregated schools.’ It was also ‘the tradition’ in our Catholic church to have the Black members seated in the last five pews of the church. No matter how hard we may try to justify discrimination, in the end, it is always wrong and immoral.”
Thirty-five Catholic women have been ordained as priests in the United States in the last three years through the Roman Catholic Womenpriests movement.
To read Fr. Bourgeois’ letter to the Vatican and his letter to fellow priests, visit

Related Events at the SOA Watch Vigil:

November 21: Inclusive Catholic Liturgy, 6PM, Howard Johnson Inn and Suits, 1011 Veteran’s Parkway, Columbus, GA 31901, Carter Room

November 21: Women’s Ordination Matters: Gender, the Gospel and Global Justice workshop, 8PM, same location as liturgy

November 22: Aisha Taylor, Executive Director of WOC to speak on main stage, 11:45AM

November 23: Janice Sevre-Duszynska, Roman Catholic Womanpriest, to speak on main stage, 12:30PM

Founded in 1975, the Women’s Ordination Conference is the oldest and largest national organization that works to ordain women as priests, deacons and bishops into an inclusive and accountable Roman Catholic church. WOC represents the 63-70 percent of U.S. Catholics that support women’s ordination. WOC also promotes perspectives on ordination that call for more accountability and less separation between the clergy and laity. For more information, visit

Call To Action (CTA) is a Catholic movement working for equality and justice in the Church and society. An independent national organization of over 25,000 people and 53 local chapters, CTA believes that the Spirit of God is at work in the whole church, not just in its appointed leaders. For more information, visit

The mission of Roman Catholic Womenpriests North America is to spiritually prepare, ordain, and support women and men from all states of life, who are theologically qualified, who are committed to an inclusive model of Church, and who are called by the Holy Spirit and their communities to minister. For more information, visit

Roman Catholic Womenpriests: More Media Coverage on Fr. Roy Bourgeois' excommunication

(Courtesy of Bob Watkins)

He took part in a ceremony this summer to ordain a member of the group called Roman Catholic Womenpriests. For the past two decades, he has organized the ...

Ekklesia - UK... by the Vatican for participating in a ceremony in which Janice Sevre-Duszynska, a member of a group called Roman Catholic Womenpriests, was ordained. ...

Louisville Courier-Journal - Louisville,KY,USA
Sevre-Duszynska was ordained as part of a movement known as Roman Catholic Womenpriests, in which dissident Catholics have held ordination liturgies for ..

Two weeks ago, the Rev. Roy Bourgeois made a quick stop to a Columbus post office before driving seven hours to his childhood home in Lutcher, La.
He was dropping off a letter bound for Vatican City.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Roman Catholic Womenpriests: More media coverage on Fr. Roy Bourgeois' excommunication by Vatican

Voices Carry: The Fight for Women’s Rights in the Catholic Church by Angela Bonavoglia
November 19, 2008

For a long time now, long enough for the Catholic Church to shrink more than any other denomination in the United States, the targets of its greatest condemnation have been women and the men who support them. While losing 30 million followers in recent years, the church has saved its most incendiary rhetoric and most extreme acts of censure for those who are pro-choice or pro-ordination.

Can the Catholic Church enforce excommunication?By Christopher Beam
Friday, Nov. 14, 2008
The Vatican plans to excommunicate the Rev. Roy Bourgeois next week for ordaining a woman as a priest. Excommunicated priests must stop performing their clerical duties and can no longer take communion (although they can still attend Mass). But does the Catholic Church have any way of enforcing this punishment?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Roman Catholic Womenpriests: Fr. Roy Bourgeois will be excommunicated on November 21, 2008 for his support of women's ordination

“I know you know what you’re doing,” Janice Sevre-Duszynska told Father Roy Bourgeois when he agreed to co-preside and give the homily at her ordination Mass, “but do you know what you’re doing?”

Read full article on Sojourners

Janice, a former SOA Watch Prisoner of Conscience and RCWP, will celebrate Eucharist on Friday, November 21st at 6 p.m. in the Carter Room at the Howard Johnson Motel, 1011 Veterans Parkway in Columbus, GA.
For inquiries contact Bridget Mary Meehan at 703-505-0004 or