20Nov Vatican sacks Roy Bourgeois from Maryknolls

Roy Bourgeois, a longtime peace activist and priest who had come under scrutiny for his support of women’s ordination, has been dismissed from the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers, which he served for 45 years, according to the congregation.

The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith made the dismissal in October, according to a news release issued Monday afternoon by the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers.

Dominican Fr. Tom Doyle, a canon lawyer acting on Bourgeois’ behalf, told NCR he was not aware of the move.

Doyle said he and Bourgeois met with Maryknoll’s superior general, Fr. Edward Dougherty, in June, and the issue of dismissal had not been discussed.

“The idea then was that things would continue and they would not dismiss Roy and they would continue to dialogue,” Doyle said. “And then this just happened, unilaterally. [Bourgeois] had no idea.”

Bourgeois was not available for comment Monday afternoon.

Mike Virgintino, the manager of communications for the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers, declined to answer any questions about the matter.

“I cannot answer any additional questions,” Virgintino said. “We have to stay with that statement. I can’t answer anything more.”

The statement reads: “The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, on October 4, 2012, canonically dismissed Roy Bourgeois from the Catholic Foreign Mission Society of America, also known as the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers.

“The decision dispenses the Maryknoll priest from his sacred bonds.”

Monday’s statement from Maryknoll puts a cap on years of discussion about Bourgeois’ role in the order following his participation in the ordination of Roman Catholic Womanpriest Janice Sevre-Duszynska in August 2008.

Shortly after, Bourgeois was notified by the Vatican congregation that he had incurred a latae sententiae, or automatic, excommunication for his participation.

Over a period of years, the congregation had not responded to requests for clarification on the matter.

Monday’s statement from Maryknoll states that Bourgeois’ “disobedience and preaching against the teaching of the Catholic Church about women’s ordination led to his excommunication, dismissal and laicization.”

“With this parting, the Maryknoll Society warmly thanks Roy Bourgeois for his service to mission and all members wish him well in his personal life,” the statement concludes. “In the spirit of equity and charity, Maryknoll will assist Mr. Bourgeois with this transition.”

Maryknoll asked Bourgeois to publicly recant his support of women’s ordination, telling the priest in a March 2011 letter he faced laicization and removal from the order if he did not comply.

In a series of letters and interviews since then, Bourgeois has said he could not comply with the request.

“In essence, you are telling me to lie and I say I do not believe God calls both men and women to the priesthood,” Bourgeois wrote in a formal reply to Maryknoll’s request. “This I cannot do, therefore I will not recant.”

Maryknoll’s leadership took a vote on removing Bourgeois from the order in the spring. While the order would confirm at the time that a vote had taken place, it would not comment on its outcome.

Doyle told NCR at the time that Maryknoll Fr. Mike Duggan, the U.S. regional superior of the order, informed Bourgeois of the vote, which was a split decision.

Doyle said Duggan told him two council members voted in favor of dismissal and three members abstained.

After the spring vote, Doyle and Bourgeois met with Dougherty on June 6.

In interviews following that meeting, Bourgeois said the discussion made no mention of his removal, but instead focused on the rights of conscience of Catholics and “the importance of people of faith and members of Maryknoll to be able to speak openly and freely without fear … of being dismissed or excommunicated.”

Bourgeois is known for his work with SOA Watch, a group he founded in 1990 to protest the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, a U.S. Army training school at Fort Benning, Ga., formerly known as the School of the Americas.

Bourgeois served for 45 years in Maryknoll, with 39 years as a priest.

[Joshua J. McElwee is an NCR staff writer. His email address is jmcelwee@ncronline.org.]

The full statement from the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers follows:


The Congregation For The Doctrine Of The Faith
Canonically Dismisses Roy Bourgeois

Maryknoll, New York – November 19, 2012 – The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, on October 4, 2012, canonically dismissed Roy Bourgeois from the Catholic Foreign Mission Society of America, also known as the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers. The decision dispenses the Maryknoll priest from his sacred bonds.

As a priest during 2008, Mr. Bourgeois participated in the invalid ordination of a woman and a simulated Mass in Lexington, Kentucky. With patience, the Holy See and the Maryknoll Society have encouraged his reconciliation with the Catholic Church.

Instead, Mr. Bourgeois chose to campaign against the teachings of the Catholic Church in secular and non-Catholic venues. This was done without the permission of the local U.S. Catholic Bishops and while ignoring the sensitivities of the faithful across the country. Disobedience and preaching against the teaching of the Catholic Church about women’s ordination led to his excommunication, dismissal and laicization.

Mr. Bourgeois freely chose his views and actions, and all the members of the Maryknoll Society are saddened at the failure of reconciliation. With this parting, the Maryknoll Society warmly thanks Roy Bourgeois for his service to mission and all members wish him well in his personal life. In the spirit of equity and charity, Maryknoll will assist Mr. Bourgeois with this transition.

19 Responses

  1. Fr Jim Sheil, CLE, OH, USA

    Recalling Jesus’ words that he will send the Holy Spirit to teach us to observe everything he has commanded us, that he is with us always even to the end of time, it takes real courage these days to act “prophetically”, to do what we feel our relationship with Jesus is calling us to do. I believe in what Jesus said. To quote Dr Martin Luther King, “Cowardice asks, is it safe; opportunity asks, is it convenient; vainglory asks, is it popular; but, conscience asks, is it right. Then there comes a time when it is necessary to do something that is not safe, or convenient,or popular, but it must be done because it is right”. It could be that many more of us will be called to act prophetically in the not too distant future.

  2. Teresa Mee

    Is the Vatican C.D.F saying, ‘hold off there on promoting vocations to Religious Life and Priesthood until we’ve finished with the big sweep’?
    Teresa Mee

  3. Soline Humbert

    “I hope you come to find that which
    gives life a deep meaning for you.
    Something worth living for-
    maybe even worth dying for-
    something that energizes you,
    enthuses you and enables you
    to keep moving ahead.
    I can’t tell you what it might be-
    that’s for you to find,to choose,to love.
    I can just encourage you to start looking,
    and support you in the search.”
    (Sister Ita Ford MM,martyred in El Salvador in 1980,to her niece)

    Roy Bourgeois quoted the words above in a letter to me in 2008, and which I have just re-read. I, for one, thank him for his love and courage in standing in solidarity with women called to the priesthood, and for his not recanting his belief that God calls women to this ministry. It has cost him much.But his witness shines like a bright light in the darkness of an institution where fear and intimidation rule. Thank you, Roy, from one of your sisters in Christ.

  4. Brendan Butler

    Father Roy Bourgeous , an internationally renowned U.S. Maryknoll priest has been excommunicated , dismissed from his Maryknoll Order and laicised from the priesthood for what his order calls his ‘disobedience and preaching against the teachings of the Catholic Church about women’s ordination’.

    Last month the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had instructed the Maryknoll order to dismiss Fr. Bourgeous.

    ‘This suppression of any discussion within the Catholic Church on women’s ordination is an unacceptable infringement of Christian thought and must be resisted especially by the Catholic faithful. We are Church Ireland encourage concerned Catholics to contact the Maryknoll Order at Email mkweb@maryknoll.org and express their great sense of betrayal by the Maryknoll Order in not defending Fr. Roy Bourgeous from the dictates of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the faith’
    Brendan Butler

  5. Malcolm R

    For those who would like to read Roy’s own words I send the following:
    “In May of 1995, I decided to take a number of my concerns directly to Pope John Paul II. Here are some excerpts from that letter.
    I am writing to you out of love and a growing concern for our Church and my Maryknoll community.… After much prayer and reflection, I now feel I must address certain policies in our Church which are causing so much suffering and division.
    I firmly believe that the policy of our Church that does not allow priests to marry is wrong. So many of my friends have been forced to leave the priesthood because they fell in love and chose to marry. I personally believe they would have made better priests and more effective ministers as married people. I have heard all the arguments for the current policy of priests not being allowed to marry, and can only say that these arguments are not based on the teachings of Jesus or the law of God….
    I firmly believe that your policy of excluding women from ordination is wrong. I do not see this policy as rooted in the Scriptures or in the teachings of Jesus, but rather in the sin of sexism and the quest for power.
    I do not understand how you can say that this is a closed issue and not to be debated or discussed. You, the bishops, and the cardinals in our Church—all men—do not have a monopoly on the truth or the Scriptures. Our loving God calls us to equality and speaks through everyone, through men and women of every race and culture….
    Jesus was a person of compassion. He went about healing the suffering of others and excluded no one. I pray that you, as our Pope, will have the courage to follow in his footsteps. I appeal to you to please change these policies which are causing so much needless suffering and division in our Church today….
    In peace and justice,
    I have explained my position on the ordination of women, and how I came to it, in my booklet, My Journey from Silence to Solidarity

    ‘November 20, 2012’


    ‘I have been a Catholic priest in the Maryknoll community for 40 years. As a young man I joined Maryknoll because of its work for justice and equality in the world. To be expelled from Maryknoll and the priesthood for believing that women are also called to be priests is very difficult and painful.

    The Vatican and Maryknoll can dismiss me, but they cannot dismiss the issue of gender equality in the Catholic Church. The demand for gender equality is rooted in justice and dignity and will not go away.

    As Catholics, we profess that God created men and women of equal worth and dignity. As priests, we profess that the call to the priesthood comes from God, only God. Who are we, as men, to say
    that our call from God is authentic, but God’s call to women is not? The exclusion of women from the priesthood is a grave injustice against women, our Church and our loving God who calls both men and women to be priests.

    When there is an injustice, silence is the voice of complicity. My conscience compelled me to break my silence and address the sin of sexism in my Church. My only regret is that it took me so long to confront the issue of male power and domination in the Catholic Church.’

    Please go to: http://www.roybourgeoisjourney.org.

    In Solidarity,

    Fr. Roy Bourgeois, M.M.

  6. Jo O'Sullivan

    On reading this, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they have done” came straight into my heart.

    I don’t have the words to express my sorrow that yet another person of integrity and conscience has been scourged for his principles.

    What kind of Christian community does that to a person?

    Does our church (and I’m ashamed of it yet again!)only want people who can quench their own spirit (or Spirit)for fear of having their hearts and souls subjected to such personal agony?

    Roy Bourgeois, as far as I can determine, is a man who follows Christ to the very best of his ability. And for that our church disowns him?

    I’m so, so sad. Anger, for me, is a useless emotion in this instance. All I can do is try, to the best of my limited ability, to be part of a renewed church that values and cherishes truth seekers.

  7. Colm Holmes

    Roy Bourgeois is a true prophet who has spoken out fearlessly. Our unrepresentative leaders in the Vatican have abused their power to force him out of his priesthood and out of his order. I for one will certainly continue to regard Roy Bourgeois as a priest and prophet in the image of Christ. Here in Ireland we must give full support to our priests and prophets who remain under severe threat from the Vatican: Sean Fagan; Tony Flannery; Gerry Moloney; Owen O’Sullivan; Brian Darcy. When an institution like the Vatican resorts to such unChristian behaviour its days are numbered.

  8. Peter Mayes

    Colm, you said: “When an institution like the Vatican resorts to such unChristian behaviour its days are numbered.” C’mon now, the Vatican has been doing this for two thousand years! And the Ship still sails on.

  9. Mary O Vallely

    It’s not just coldness but almost a dehumanising of him. To go from Fr Roy Bourgeois to Mr Bourgeois conveys so much. There is a certain affection and warmth in the title “Fr” but none at all in the “Mr.” It’s so dismissive and lacking in any humanity. Why couldn’t they just have referred to him by his proper name,Roy, instead of the “Mr”? It is beyond cruel how they have dealt with him. It is not how Christ would act and there is a huge sadness in realising how far some of our ordained have yet to travel to be worthy of the title, Alter Christus.

  10. Ger Gleeson

    2,000 years ago Christ was crucified by his own. They were troubled by his preaching and those who would follow him. Has anything changed?

  11. Colm Holmes

    Nobody expected the Berlin Wall to fall as it did – not the CIA, not the superpowers, not the Germans. Afterwards everyone could explain why it happened. But everybody expected it to take another 50 or 100 years. So it will be with the Vatican. And what a fall it will be.

  12. Stephen Edward

    Colm, dangerous waters! A Pope had a lot to do with the fall of the Berlin Wall and even if the CIA and and the Germans didn’t know what was going to happen, some of us did.


    This is the one point on which I disagree with the ACP. For a number of years I saw Ordination to the Priesthood as a gender equality issue, I certainly believed we, as women were due such a ‘right’. However, as I studied sacred scripture more deeply and prayed more honestly, I came to the knowledge that I was not psychologically ready for this move. A few years later I realized that in no way could I envisage a female representing Christ in the Paschal Sacrifice… I know all about ‘Male and Female he created them…’ that ‘In Heaven there will be no male and female’that theologically the Holy Eucharist is a ‘non bloody sacrifice’ and strictly body-less. Yet I know that Jesus Christ, a fully developed male, made that supreme sacrifice and in his risen body took on the wholly spiritual aspect of his sacrifice and this, is transferred at Mass to his male human representative celebrating this wondrous mystery right down to the present day, ever since he showed how at Emmaus. Phew! Its what I understand, what I believe and what I now at last realize why the Powers That Be keep it that way. The problem I have with the Church is that I have worked this out myself in my own upside-down, probably flawed method, and it will probably be rubbished by many theologians, whether of the Jesuits or the Diocesan varieties. I have read books and articles of many wonderful priests in the ACP and I hold you all in high regard. However, none of you have seen fit to talk about this in the pews where most of us, the laity, sit, and wait for proper explanations to Church’s teaching on many of the ‘taboo’ issues in life. You are kept silent by the Voice of Authority (human level); no priest is allowed to mention the subject for or against, Womens’ Ordination to the Priesthood.. ..NOT GOOD ENOUGH VATICAN/DOCTRINE OF FAITH. You have a duty to explain ALL areas of Faith and Morals to us whether you like to or not…it is our right in justice.
    It saddens me profoundly to read about the plight of Fr. Bourgeois – now Mr. Bourgeous. Prophetic Acts have been made all through the Old and New Testaments – and are still being done in prisons and in areas under persecution. But to take part in a phony ordination of a women in Kentucky, and partake in pretend mass is nowhere in the same noble league. But he did what he felt he had to do to draw attention to the entire prickly problem.
    I, on the other hand, am totally in favour of the Ordination of Women to the Permanent Diaconate,and also to full Acolyte position in its proper liturgical sense.
    Reading the Cork and Ross Web page this week gives me hope. See what’s happening in the Czec church…Halleluia! Do we have to suffer another invasion in order to get the message here in Ireland?

  14. S

    For whatever reasons God saw no man fit to be involved directly with the Incarnation.

    A woman conceived, bore in her body for the nine months she carried, and brought forth the Word Incarnate. Yet she cannot offer that same Word, Christ Incarnate, to God ?

    Did I miss something ? Where were all the ‘men priests’ at Calvary ? Paying their fearless respects at Caesar Finnegan’s Wake. Little’s changed.

    “Monday’s statement from Maryknoll states that Bourgeois’ “disobedience and preaching against the teaching of the Catholic Church about women’s ordination led to his excommunication, dismissal and laicization.”

    So much for the ‘teaching of the Catholic Church’ according to Rome. An affront to the equality of all in Christ – to women. And to this man for speaking the truth from his heart, being silenced and kicked out for so speaking.

    They have done the poor soul a favour. He just needs to realise it. They cut away their deadwood from him.

    May he continue to bring forth Christ – and now the chaff’s been removed from his life – a richer harvest too.

    I’d say ‘it’s a man’s world’ if there were a real man amongst them. Which kinda makes the argument for ‘men priests’ moot.

    Ex communication. For God’s holy sake.

  15. S

    ‘However, as I studied sacred scripture more deeply and prayed more honestly, I came to the knowledge that I was not psychologically ready for this move…’

    Speaks volumes Teresa. Not psychologically ready. Others study and pray too and come to different conclusions.

    You are right it should, like everything else, be discussed. A concept anathema to those “in Power” – capital ‘P’.

    I don’t believe this man should have ‘ordained’ like this either. I don’t believe that is the way to go.

    How they have treated him however is disgraceful. A life time of service and cast out like trash. Diabolical.

    But then too they equate the ‘sin’ of ‘ordaining women’ with that of sexual abuse. Same grave-ity. Though how it’s sinful to do something supposedly not possible is also anathema to the less well read and spiritually minded.

    Have not seen many abusers or those who covered it up so treated: as usual double standards and mindless hypocrisy.

  16. Soline Humbert

    His Maryknoll brothers failed him but the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas support Roy Bourgeois http://ncronline.org/blogs/ncr-today/mercy-sisters-support-roy-bourgeois

  17. Michael Gerard

    Pope John Paul II made it quite clear that this issue is finished. What part of “it is to be definitively held” do people fail to comprehend?. If we believe that definitive teachings come from the Holy Spirit then this is a clear directive from God. If we don’t believe that ALL definitive teachings from the Pope are from the Holy Spirit then none are. We can’t pick and choose to suit ourselves

  18. Soline Humbert

    The answer to your question may be that with over 60 authoritative,non-reformable church teachings having been changed in the course of history,we would be wise not to rush to believe that all” definitive” teachings come from the Holy Spirit? They may well be changed in the course of our own lifetime, if we are blessed with a long life!

  19. Joe O'Leary

    ” What part of “it is to be definitively held” do people fail to comprehend?”

    Maybe “definitively”? Since so many definitive utterances proved not to be definitive at all in the end. Could you explain your own understanding of “definitively”???