Excommunicated priest now faces expulsion

NEW ORLEANS (RNS) The Rev. Roy Bourgeois, the Louisiana native and peace
activist who was excommunicated three years ago for publicly supporting
women's ordination, now faces expulsion from his religious order and
from the priesthood.

Bourgeois and Mike Virgintino, a spokesman for the Maryknolls, a
missionary order of priests, confirmed that "with much sadness" the
order served Bourgeois written notice that he must publicly recant his
support for women's ordination by Saturday (April 2).

Without his compliance, a second warning will be issued, followed by
the Maryknolls' request to Rome that Bourgeois be dismissed from the
order and "laicized," or defrocked after 38 years as priest, Virgintino

Bourgeois said in an interview from his home in Columbus, Ga., he
cannot, as a matter of conscience, recant his belief that women are
called to the Catholic priesthood.

"They're asking me to tell a lie," he said. "To exclude women from
the priesthood is a grave injustice to women, to the church and to God."

Bourgeois made a public assertion of his dissent in 2008, when, with
other activists, he participated in a public ceremony in Kentucky that
purportedly ordained Janice Sevre-Duszynska to the priesthood.

The Catholic church responded that the ordination was without
effect, and that Sevre-Duszynska and Bourgeois had automatically
excommunicated themselves by their action. Bourgeois was barred from
priestly ministry in public.

Still, Bourgeois remained a priest and a member of his Maryknoll
community, a status now at risk.

As a Maryknoll priest, Bourgeois has lived under vows of poverty,
chastity and obedience. He lives in a small apartment provided by the
order outside the gates of Ft. Benning, Ga., the focus of his peace
activism for more than 20 years.

Bourgeois said he is seeking a church lawyer and plans to file a
full defense of his views on women's ordination, although the Maryknoll
notice seems to leave no room for that.

He said his conversations with the order and its superior, the Rev.
Edward Dougherty, have not covered whether the order will support him
financially should he be expelled.

"I hope they'll do what is just as a Christian community. But I see
this with such clarity that rather than recant, I'd rather eat at a soup
kitchen and live under a bridge, and do that with deep inner peace and a
clear conscience," Bourgeois said.

Bruce Nolan

Bruce Nolan writes for the Times-Picayune of New Orleans.

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