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BOURGEOIS-DISMISSAL (CORRECTED) Nov-21-2012 (820 words) With file photos posted Nov. 19. xxxn

Maryknoller dismissed from priesthood for supporting women's ordination

Maryknoll Father Roy Bourgeois is pictured outside the Vatican during a demonstration advocating womens' ordination in 2011. (CNS/Paul Haring)

By Dennis Sadowski
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has dismissed Roy Bourgeois from the priesthood because of his participation in the invalid ordination of a woman and "a simulated Mass," the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers announced Nov. 19.

The order said in a statement the canonical dismissal came Oct. 4.

Citing Bourgeois' participation in the invalid ordination in Lexington, Ky., Aug. 9, 2008, the Maryknoll statement said, "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."

Bourgeois, 74, called his expulsion from the priesthood and the Maryknoll order "very difficult and painful" in a Nov. 20 statement.

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

The church holds that it has no authority to ordain women. This year at his Holy Thursday chrism Mass at the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI reaffirmed the church's ban on women priests.

Bourgeois said "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."

Catholics "profess that God created men and women of equal worth and dignity," he said. "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?"

Bourgeois, whose statement was released via email by the Women's Ordination Conference, said his conscience "compelled me to break my silence and address" what he called "the sin of sexism in my church."

The Maryknoll statement said, "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," the statement concluded.

Maryknoll spokesman Mike Virgintino declined further comment in a brief interview with Catholic News Service Nov. 19.

Bourgeois first gained the attention of Vatican authorities after participating in the attempted ordination of Janice Sevre-Duszynska sponsored by Roman Catholic Womenpriests Aug. 9, 2008, in Kentucky. In a meeting with his Maryknoll superiors nine days after the ceremony, he received a canonical warning related to his role. At the time, then-Father Bourgeois said he hoped the issue was settled because he had no intention of participating in any other such event.

Subsequently, he spoke about his support for women's ordination.

The former priest was excommunicated Nov. 24, 2008, "latae sententiae" -- automatically -- for not recanting his public statements supporting the ordination of women.

Maryknoll leaders and Bourgeois have met repeatedly since 2008 in an attempt to reach reconciliation. The Maryknoll order had issued two canonical warnings during the process, as called for by canon law. In the end, the gap between Bourgeois' beliefs and public actions and church law could not be reconciled.

A Navy veteran, Bourgeois served one year in Vietnam and earned the Purple Heart, which he later returned.

Ordained in 1972, Bourgeois ministered as a Maryknoll missionary in Bolivia until 1975 when he was arrested and deported after being accused of trying to overthrow Bolivian dictator Gen. Hugo Banzer. Returning to the U.S., he continued to work with the poor and became a critic of U.S. foreign policy in Latin America.

Bourgeois has been a leading figure in a 22-year campaign to close what is now called the Western Hemisphere Institute on Security Cooperation at Fort Benning in Columbus, Ga. The institute, formerly known as the School of the Americas, trains military troops from throughout Central and Latin America.

He began calling for closure of the Army's training school 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.

The Army institute maintains it does not teach tactics that can be used on civilians but to sharpen the military skills of soldiers from participating countries. Its website says it "provides professional education and training for civilian, military and law enforcement students."


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