Maryknoll ends financial support of School of Americas Watch

Excommunicated Maryknoll Father Roy Bourgeois’ support for the ordination of women to the priesthood has cost the School of the Americas Watch $17,000 in funding annually from his religious order.

Citing Father Bourgeois’ continued involvement with the advocacy organization that has worked for 20 years to close the U.S. Army’s Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, formerly known as the School of the Americas, the order’s superior general said in a recent statement it did not want to appear to support the priest’s views by supporting SOA Watch.

“The decision is not intended to be punitive and is not designed to put pressure on Father Bourgeois or on the SOA Watch organization and its activities,” Maryknoll Father Edward Dougherty, superior general, said. “Maryknoll continues its solidarity with the people of Latin America and the Caribbean, and is unambiguous in its support of the goals of the SOA Watch.”

Father Dougherty met with Father Bourgeois May 24 to convey the society’s decision.

Maryknoll spokesman James McCullough said the order was not pressured by church officials to end the SOA Watch funding.

Father Bourgeois was excommunicated “latae sententiae” — automatically -– in 2008 for not recanting his public statements supporting the ordination of women. The church teaches that, for several fundamental reasons, the church is unable to ordain women.  Although he was excommunicated, Father Bourgeois remains a member of the Maryknoll community.

Hendrick Voss, SOA Watch’s communications coordinator, said the economic hit is significant on the SOA Watch’s $360,000 annual budget.

“We have had a good relationship with Maryknoll since the School of Americas Watch started,” Voss told Catholic News Service. “So we were saddened that Maryknoll would let the personal opinions and personal observations of Father Roy lead to a cut in funds.”

Father Bourgeois, who founded SOA Watch in 1990, first gained the attention of Vatican officials after participating in a reported ordination sponsored by Roman Catholic WomenPriests Aug. 9, 2008, in Lexington, Ky. In a meeting with his Maryknoll superiors after the ceremony, he received a canonical warning related to his role. At the time, Father Bourgeois said he had no intention of participating in any other such event.

He has maintained that his beliefs are based on his understanding of justice and equality as expressed in the Gospel and has repeatedly called on the church to turn away from the “sin of sexism.” In new norms issued July 15 the Vatican declared the attempted ordination of women  major church crime. 

The school, which trains soldiers from throughout Latin America, has been targeted for closing by SOA Watch, which was founded after the 1989 murder of six Jesuit priests and their housekeeper and her daughter on the campus of the University of Central America in San Salvador, El Salvador, by members of country’s military. SOA Watch has tied graduates of the school to atrocities in Latin America.

Voss said efforts are under way to raise money to cover the lost funding. The organization has raised more than $4,000 toward the effort to date. The loss will not affect plans for thousands of people to gather for the annual vigil Nov. 20-21 at the gates of Fort Benning in Columbus, Ga., calling for the school’s closing, Voss said.

3 Responses

  1. Maybe they should start a “Catholic School Watch.”
    After all, our most pro-abort politicians are all ex-Catholic school students – Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Joe Biden, endless Kennedys, Marie Shriver – we obviously need to protest Catholic schools as well, for the atrocities committed by their graduates.

  2. Heidi – I send this to you FYI. http://thechristianradical.blogspot.com/2010/07/fr-roy-soa-primer-2010.html. This video was shot on Fr Roy’s SOAW national tour (information I found on a SOAW press release re: dates/locations for Fr Roy’s national tour, which ended in late May 2010). The tape is dated within the week of the reported May 24 meeting between Maryknoll and Fr Roy about the SOAW funding cut by Maryknoll. My guess is that this is the reason Maryknoll felt they had to cut funding. Listen through to the end of the tapes. Fr Roy has my full faith and support and I trust that he speaks from a place of deep and well-formed conscience. Nonetheless, I am not surprised Maryknoll felt it had to make this decision, based on Fr Roy’s very clear statement that, whenever and wherever he is granted a forum to speak about SOA and SOAW, he will also speak about women’s ordination. In fairness to Maryknoll, I think these videotaped – and thus fully authentic – statements need to be publicized, to flesh out this story and balance the speculation. Again and again, I have read and heard questions – including my own – that ask why it is assumed that SOAW should be held accountable for the personal beliefs of its founder. The tapes answer that question, I believe. I do not write this in critique of Fr Roy or SOAW. I write in the interest of honesty in general and fairness to Msryknoll in particular.

  3. I am very disturbed at Maryknoll’s decision. I keep seeing more and more dvision in all the ranks and files of so-called peace and justice people. They cut out this person cause one belief, another for being gay, or another for pro-life or pro-choice…as if peace and justice issues can be selected per group.
    Again I see a reason to stay away from all the groups who promise their undying devotion to P&J but sooner or later make a mockery of their choices…like Maryknoll and it’s anti-women thing in the Catholic church..go figure. But it’s ok, we all know that even the Pope would get the boot if ALL things were considered.
    And then there’s the immigration issue. All those Catholics in Mexico who want to come to America to work…what’s wrong with that? Why isn’t the Catholic church raising a screaming stink over their church people being shot at, walled off, and killed?
    At least Father Bourgeios is doing His job and doing it very well. I wish the rest of the Christian community would follow suit with Fr Roy’s level of tolerance and open-mindedness.

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