Priest won’t stop push for women’s ordination

The Roman Catholic priest who faces expulsion from the priesthood and
his religious order for advocating for women priests is refusing to
recant and has hired a church lawyer.

"What they're asking me to
do is lie," Roy Bourgeois said in an interview on August 9 from his home
in Columbus, Georgia. "To say I don't believe God calls women to the
priesthood as well as men—I cannot do that."

In 2008 Bourgeois
participated in a ceremony in Kentucky purporting to ordain Janice
Sevre-Duszynska as a Catholic priest. The church said it was without
effect, but that Bourgeois nonetheless incurred automatic
excommunication by participating. That means he is cut off from the
sacraments, although he remains a priest.

At the same time, a
process began to unfold that could end with Bourgeois's forced
laicization, or being stripped of his priesthood and expelled from the
Maryknoll order, his home for 44 years.

Bourgeois's Maryknoll
superior, Edward Dougherty, issued on July 27 the last written warning
required by church law before sending Bourgeois's case to Rome.
Dougherty advised Bourgeois he would forward the case to Rome for
laicization "if you fail to publicly recant and retract your stand on
this issue of women's ordination" by August 11.

The Catholic
Church teaches that Christ defined the priesthood as an all-male corps
modeled on himself, and it is powerless to change that. Bourgeois said
he has retained Tom Doyle, a Dominican priest famous for his support of
sexual abuse victims and his criticisms of bishops, as his canon lawyer.

defense is the primacy of his conscience and his right to dissent,
Bourgeois said. But a friend and secular lawyer said August 9 he hoped
that Bourgeois might retain his priesthood, short of recanting.

Quigley, a law professor at Loyola University in New Orleans, said
Bourgeois has promised his Maryknoll community that he will not
participate again in rites purporting to ordain Catholic women to the
priesthood—although not to recant or silence himself on the issue.

issue as important as this, we've got to be able at least to have
dialogue without getting kicked out," Quigley said. Quigley notes that
Bourgeois has attracted substantial support among fellow priests both
within and outside the order—not necessarily for women's ordination, but
for his right to offer his public opinion without loss of his

Mike Virgintino, a Maryknoll spokes­man, said that
Dougherty months ago slow-tracked the process to give Bour­geois maximum
time to reconsider his position.

Having taken a vow of poverty,
Bourgeois has lived for years on a Maryknoll allowance in a small
apartment near Fort Benning, Georgia. For 20 years he has protested
against a military installation there once called the School of the
Americas, now called the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security

Virgintino said that if Bourgeois is expelled, the order will nonetheless continue to provide for him financially. —RNS

Bruce Nolan

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

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