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.