Father Roy Bourgeois addresses his Maryknoll community

Father Roy Bourgeois, who was automatically excommunicated and faces removal from the priesthood for his support for women’s ordination, discussed his position with fellow Maryknoll priests Tuesday evening during an impromptu gathering at the opening day of the order’s U.S. regional assembly.

Well-known for his work on justice issues, Father Bourgeois explained how he came to see the church’s stance on the ordination of women as an injustice. Church teaching holds that ordination to the diaconate and the priesthood is reserved for men and that the church has no authority to ordain women.

The discussion is reported by Father Joe Veneroso, a veteran journalist, on the knollnews blog.

The detailed report quotes several priests, some of whom questioned why Father Bourgeois did not at least approach the order about his views before going public and a few who openly supported Father Bourgeois’ and his stance. One called for a frank discussion within the church on the topic.

While the discussion may not resolve the issue of Father Bourgeois’ likely dismissal, as outlined in a recent Catholic News Service report, it sheds some light on the tensions facing the missionary order that may very well spill over to the church at large at some point.

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14 Responses to Father Roy Bourgeois addresses his Maryknoll community

  1. Drew Andersen says:

    Although Father Bourgois’ act was courageous, it was also foolhardy because it was imprudent to ignore his Maryknoll Superior’s opportunity to provide counsel or at least advice.
    Whether or not one can support the Magisterial position on the current theology is another matter.
    I find automatic excommunication rather harsh in view of the fact that he himself is not a Bishop and is not in a position to ordain a female candidate (technically an impossibility under current Church dogma) should there even be one! Although clearly he has made his disobedience public, no explanation is given if there is an opportunity to withdraw his public remarks and be re-instated with his faculties under Vatican direct supervision (e.g., through a Papal Legate or Nuncio Bishop) or whether this has already been exhausted. Surely this religious priest should be afforded the opportunity for forgiveness? Since too much has been left unclear, we can only offer this priest our sympathies and prayers for a better outcome!
    I accept the Church’s position and right to act in a juridical fashion to safeguard faith and morals, but I cannot condone a lack of Charity without having to assume that the priest was offered every opportunity to a fair ecclesiastical trial under canon law. The excerpted article does not offer this information.

  2. Mitch Finley says:

    There is a long list of names of Catholic thinkers and saints, from the past, who held views contrary to official church positions. When instructed to “be silent” they obeyed…and were vindicated in the long run. I’m more impressed by their humility than by Fr. Bourgois whose position could be interpreted as a claim to personal infallibility…

  3. teijung75 says:

    Similar to Bishop Morris’ situation.Father Roy is again talking about something that many,many Catholics are thinking and talking about.God calls people to the ministry regardless of their sexual orientation. The call is God’s gift and grace!

  4. BECKY says:

    DITTO (teijung75)

  5. +Anthony T Farr says:

    The problem with both Bishop Morris and with Fr Roy is their lack of obedience to the teaching of the Church. While many Catholics may, as one writer suggests, be thinking and talking about this issue and how it needs to “change”, it does not mean that they are correct, no more than those advocating for the pro choice position when it comes to abortion or end of life issues. The Church, in both the West and the East, have definitively taught that the Priesthood is not open to women. This teaching has been constant for some two thousand years and is not something based on women not being “equal” to men but rather on the plan of Christ for His Church. Countless Popes, saints, and theologians both past and present have written on this reality. The problem becomes that we don’t like it because it doesn’t fit in with our so called “educated” and “modern” sensibilities and cultural norms. But since when has the Church been about modern sensibilities and cultural norms. it’s fashionable to be contrary to Church teachings and to the tenets of the Faith, but especially when we can label them as out of date and old fashioned. Many did that with Humanae Vitae and time has proven just how prophetic Paul VI was. Fr Roy and Bishop Morris made their choice and for those who feel the Church must change, I would suggest that what we all revisit what many saints have taught in the course of the last two thousand years and that is obedience in faith to the teaching Magisterium of the Church. The problem with many is the feeling they know so much better than the Church but that is called pride and has little to do with obedience to the Faith.

  6. elleblue says:

    Call it what you will, in the Church as in life men and women occupy different roles. It has nothing to do with equality, except if you are still stuck in the 70’s.

  7. Cathy says:

    I’m in agreement with you Anthony. I spoke with Fr. Roy and tried to tell him this – but he continued to tell me how women are discriminated against by the Church. I feel they are – but I don’t think that gives me the right to act against the entire Catholic Community! I think we need to trust the Holy Spirit and go through the proper channels to be agents of change, and leave it to God to guide those changes. I feel Fr. Roy and the other members of Roman Catholic Women Priests took matters in their own hands. Even though we are not priests, just as priests pledge their obedience to their Bishos and their successors, as lay Catholics we are also bound to that same pledge.

    I happen to know that the same reservation of ordination to the priesthood is not extended to the permanent diaconate. Paul VI left future study of extending the permanent diaconate to women – as there is an actual tradition in both the West and the East of women receiving the diaconal stole and the laying on of hands in the sanctuary alongside male deacons. Women deacons did not only assist with female baptisms – but they also assisted their bishops with other administrative and liturgical tasks, the latter moreso in the east than in the west. By the end of the 3rd century, women in the west were no longer given clerical status as deacons, and this was the case around the 9th century in the east. For further information, please read the document, published by the Canon Law Society of America, “The Canonical Implications of the Ordination of Women to the Permanent Diaconate”.

    The vast majority of Catholics are not aware of this tradition in our Church history, and it is not something that members of our heirarchy go out of their way to inform the laity about. In the fall of 2004, the Greek Orthodox Church in Greece restored their permanent diaconate to their women – women abbesses in this case – with the hope of eventually extending this to women outside of the monastic setting. There are other cases where this practice is in place in other oriental orothodox churches. But not for the priesthood.

    Pope Benedict recently made a distinction between the sacramental nature of the priesthood and the diaconate. Prior to this clarification by Benedict, the diaconate was seen as the lowest grade of the three orders; but Benedict has clarified that the diaconate is a ministry separate from that of priest and bishop.

    This is signficant because it opens the door for further dialogue in the Church regarding the possibility of restoring the permanent diaconate to women – without advancement toward the priesthood.

    Also, Pope Benedict has been noted as considering the possibility of allowing women to be installed as lectors. This too is a significant shift, because at present Canon Law only allows men to be installed as lectors. The installation ceremony is conducted by the local Ordinary. At present, men who are installed as lectors are seminarians who have not yet received ordination into the transitional diaconate. When I grew up, prior to the Second Vatican Council, the ministry of lector was one of the minor orders. Pope John Paul II revised the 1917 Code of Canon Law in 1983, and made the minor orders of lector and acolyte as ministries which can be temporarily filled by women if the local ordinary and pastor approves. Women are not called lectors at present – they are called readers – nor are they called acolytes – they are called altar servers.

    If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to let me know. Thanks for reading my comment.

  8. Cathy says:

    I can assure you that Fr. Roy has been given every opportunity for reconciliation in this matter. I have personally spoken with him, and he is adamant that what he is doing is what God is asking of him. For Roy, it is a matter of conscience – but I think it’s more complicated than that.

    Roy believes that women are experiencing Christ calling them to the priesthood. I think that is very possible. Women who experience that aren’t manufacturing that experience – it is simply there – just as much as when a man experiences this. Roy believes for the Magisterium to not recognize this is sexism. I agree with him.

    But having said this, it is important to remember that we are members of a community, and it is not to us to act against the community. There are ways in which one can be a prophetic witness and also respect the teaching authority of the Church – which as Catholics we are bound to.

    There are several points of concern for me regarding Roy. It’s not a question of the Vatican forgiving him. He is not being punished. Roy has inentionally cut himself off from the rest of the Catholic faith community through his rejection of the Church’s current teaching – which whether or not most Catholics agree, most Catholics still are obedient to that teaching.

    Because of Roy’s high profile, his behavior can mislead a large number of Catholics and can incite Catholics to blatantly disregard Church authority. I know it feels heavy handed, and maybe this needs to change in the Church – but I still feel Roy has totally disregarded others in the Catholic community.

    And let me just say something about the Roman Catholic Women Priest movement. The members of that group claim they are validly ordained because a male Catholic Bishop in good standing ordained the original seven women to the priesthood on the Danube River – and their women bishops are also standing in the direct apostolic line of succession. But they are in grave error, and are misleading innocent and unknowledgeable people, because they are not validly ordained at all. The original bishop who attempted that first ordination did not act in communion with the other bishops and the Pope, and he did not have canonical authority to confer an ordination upon any female candidate. Until the Pope changes the canon to allow women to validly receive Orders, they cannot validly receive that Sacrament. That Bishop acted without authority from the Church.

    I have made several attempts to email members of the Roman Catholic Women Priests to convey this simple fact – but of course they will not respond to my emails. They only want to have contact with people who agree with them. I can assure you – they are not doing what they are in order to build up Christ’s Body – they are trying to build up their own egos.

    I too have felt called to the priesthood since I was 7 years of age – and that has never left me, and I am presently 55 years of age. Perhaps one day the Church will ordain me as a permanent deacon. But I would never act against my faith community. The Holy Spirit acts within the Community. And a house divided against itself cannot stand. It is wrong to create division within the Church. We need to seek unity within Christ’s Church. We do this through dialogue and respect – but not through blatant disobedience. If all of the bishops and all of the laity around the world were proclaiming that they believed that Christ was calling us to consider women priests, this would change in the Church. But that is not the case. I don’t believe that is what Christ is asking of us – at least not yet.

    Roy needs to respect this.

  9. Drew Andersen says:

    Your thoughts are beautifully expressed. YOUR THEOLOGY IS CLEAR. i hope the Holy Spirit will move the Magisterium to act on your desire to become a permanent Deaconess and restore this early Christian practice. Due to the demographic shifts in the Mystical Body of Christ today, women like you would fill a real need to assist in this area. Your humility and integrity is inspiring. The fire of the Holy Spirit will move the Church in the right direction we know by faith. I just pray He comes quickly for good souls like you! Thank you for sharing your journey with the Church!

  10. Allan Wafkowski says:

    The issue of who can be ordained has already been resolved by the Catholic Church. Only disloyal renegades believe the issue is open to further scrutiny. Father Bourgeois has placed himself outside of the Catholic Church and must never be allowed to minister to Catholics again. The sooner the church is rid of these … the better.

  11. Jesus wanted to liberate women. Excluding women permanently from the priesthood would be totally uncharacteristic of him. In fact, he made women equal partners in the priesthood, which he imparted through baptism. This disposes women to share in his full priestly ministry. Christ gave us His Mother as our Mother to honor and emulate.

    Jesus chose 12 apostles to replace the 12 tribal ‘fathers’ of Israel. In the cultural context of his time, it was natural he chose men for this limited purpose.

    Moreover, it is invalid to argue from something Jesus did not do (not choosing a woman on one occasion, to his establishing a permanent norm for all time to come.
    And, do not forget, women were present at the Last Supper when Jesus said: “Do this in remembrance of me!”

    Last not least, Jesus made women his disciples who ministered in various ways. Women were called to be the first witnesses of his resurrection!!

    It is true that some disciples of Paul forbade women to teach. But this was only to meet the specific needs of their community. The prohibition does not apply to the whole future Church as a permanent norm.

    Read: 1 Timothy 2,1-12 and 1 Corinthians14,34-35

  12. William, it would be equally valid to argue that some disciples of Peter forbade women to celebrate the Eucharist as priests. But this was only to meet the needs of the present day community. This prohibition need not apply to the whole future Church as a permanent norm. Why are you insisting that this has been settled? The Church, guided by the Holy Spirit, will ultimately accomplish God’s Will. Why do you insist it be done here and now? “I wait upon the Lord, for his word of promise my soul waits, as ever watchman that looked for the day.” Ps. 129, 5-6.
    I understand your impatience. But for now, “ROMA DIXIT CAUSA CLAUSUS EST!”

    If your conclusions are correct, then nothing will prevent it from being accomplished. But in God’s own time, not man’s…Pray that God’s Will be done! Not just your will or mine. I want to see both women and gays be liberated from a ‘tradition’ of exclusion based upon their sexual identities. Those who suffer persecution for righteousness sake will one day be exonerated. Christ has promised this. Further he made it clear in Scripture that in heaven, there is no male or female nor giving or taking in marriage. The Church, too, must wait upon the Lord.

    In the fullness of time all these things will be made clear. Our faith tells us this. But we must wait patiently on the Lord. His time is not our time. The Church must often wait for centuries to see the development of theology to occur on issues that often seem to demand our immediate answer. The Immaculate conception of our Blessed Mother awaited 2000 years before being defined by Pope Pius XII in 1950!

  13. Cathy says:

    To Allan Wafkowski: The Church has not yet made a decision regarding the ordination of women to the permanent diaconate. Pope Paul VI stated that this is open to future study and discussion. This is because the Church has a history of women serving in this capacity. John Paul II and Pope Benedict have not banned discussion of restoring women back into the permanent diaconate – only the priesthood. The prevailing argument against women deacons had been the way that Holy Orders had been understood: the diaconate being the lowest grade of the priestly order (deacon, priest, and bishop).

    A little over a year ago, Pope Benedict clarified through a change to Canon Law which states that the ministry of priest and bishop is distinctly different (saramentally) from that of the deacon. A priest acts in persona Christi – in the person of Christ, whereas the deacon ministers in the service of Christ. The Magisterium teaches that only males can act in persona Christi because Jesus himself appointed male apostles. The diaconate is not sacramentally the same even though the deacon is ordained into that service. A deacon does not receive through the conferral of Orders the same juridical authority as a priest because of this. The diaconate is not the lowest grade of the priestly order.

    Pope Benedict’s clarification is consistent with past Church history in both the West and in the East. This is also evidenced by the Greek Orthodox Church in Greece and other Oriental Orthodox Churches who actively use women deacons.

    A point of interest you may not be aware of: The Roman Catholic Church recognizes the validity of the sacraments in the Greek Orthodox Church and Oriental Orthodox Churches and that their patriarchs and bishops stand in the direct Apostolic line of succession even though those Churches are not in full commuion with Rome.

    It is important to be clear regarding the distinctions in this matter.

  14. What??? Are you kidding me? The man is automatically excommunicated “for his support for women’s ordination”? What??!! That is INSANE. Catholic News Service – did this man actually DO anything, such as lay his hands on a gal and declare her a priest? For how you have reported it, I read it this way – the man says he supports women being ordained. Whap! He’s excommunicated. That is INSANE. A strong body can take and should take discussions on such matters without freaking out and excommunicating anyone.

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