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BOURGEOIS-LETTER Apr-11-2011 (760 words) Follow-up. With photo posted March 31. xxxn

Father Bourgeois says he won't recant belief in women's ordination

By Dennis Sadowski
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Maryknoll Father Roy Bourgeois said he will not recant his belief that women should be ordained to the priesthood in a letter to his superior.

The priest, who had until April 13 to respond to a canonical warning from the superior general of the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers, told Catholic News Service April 11 that he decided to follow his conscience in declining to step back from his beliefs that women as well as men are called to the ordained priesthood.

"It would be comparable, in a way, to me recanting my views on the closing of the SOA/WHINSEC," he said from Capitol Hill where he was lobbying legislators to cut off funding to the U.S. Army's Western Hemisphere Institute on Security Cooperation, formerly known as the School of the Americas, which trains soldiers from Central and Latin America.

"It's a grave injustice," Father Bourgeois said of church teaching which holds that ordination to the diaconate and the priesthood is reserved for men and that the church has no authority to ordain women. "I must be respectful to my conscience and to my God."

The longtime activist priest has called for the Army's training school to be closed since soon after the 1989 killing of six Jesuits, their housekeeper and her daughter at the University of Central America in San Salvador, El Salvador. In 1990 a congressional task force found that five of the nine soldiers arrested for the killings had received training at the facility, which is located at Fort Benning in Columbus, Ga.

Formed in 2001 to replace the School of the Americas, the institute trains military, law enforcement and civilian officials from Latin America and the Caribbean. When the facility reopened as the institute, Congress mandated that it include at least eight hours of human rights training in all its courses.

Regarding the canonical warning given to Father Bourgeois, it was issued by Father Edward Dougherty, superior general of the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers. The warning, which informs a person of a violation of church law, outlined the steps the order would follow under the direction of Vatican officials.

With Father Bourgeois' decision, Maryknoll was set to issue a second canonical warning, according to Father Dougherty's original correspondence. If Father Bourgeois continued to fail to comply with the order, Father Dougherty said he would "proceed with dismissal" from the Maryknoll congregation and include a request for laicization for the 72-year-old priest.

In his response to Father Dougherty, Father Bourgeois said he believed men and women are created equally under God and that he has come to believe that women, like men, are called to the ordained priesthood and the diaconate.

"After much reflection and many conversations with fellow priests and women, I believe sexism is at the root of excluding women from the priesthood," he wrote. "Sexism, like racism, is a sin. And no matter how hard we may try to justify discrimination against women, in the end, it is not the way of God. Sexism is about power. In the culture of clericalism many Catholic priests see the ordination of women as a threat to their power."

Father Bourgeois also cited the lack of vocations to the priesthood in his letter and said that God is answering the prayers of many by sending the church women priests.

"If we are to have a vibrant and healthy church, we need the wisdom, experience and voices of women in the priesthood," he wrote.

Father Bourgeois' support for the ordination of women became public in 2008 when he participated in a reported ordination ceremony sponsored by Roman Catholic Womenpriests in Lexington, Ky. Despite a canonical warning from his order soon after the ceremony, the priest refused to recant then and was excommunicated "latae sententiae" --automatically -- in November 2008.

"I'm still hoping that Maryknoll will be reflecting upon what they are doing -- dismissing a member for following their conscience," Father Bourgeois told CNS. "It's not just me. Other Maryknollers could be next. I'm just hoping good will come from this."

Father Bourgeois was in Washington as part of a weeklong series of events designed to focus on the Army's training institute. He was among 27 people arrested April 10 at the White House during a nonviolent demonstration calling for the United States to end funding for the institute.

The protesters, who were staging a die-in, were taken into custody for failure to obey a lawful order to disperse. They were held for several hours and released later that night.


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