Roy Bourgeois leading the way


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.

So writes the great priest Roy Bourgeois, unceremoniously tossed out of his order after an exemplary priesthood defending the voiceless and the poor. Most of his Maryknoll family agreed with him  but were not openly vocal about this gaping wound in the Body of Christ. They refused the dirty job of expelling a brother they love and left it to Rome to toss him out.

Roy’s  great sin is telling the king he is naked, telling a patriarchal and sexist leadership that denying women all seven sacraments is simply wrong, a sin against the inclusionary God who desires  “a discipleship of equals.”

Educated Catholics and those of common sense cannot get their minds around this vicious expulsion over what seems  fairly routine, common sense. Women are equal to men. Full stop. The insight has been building for two centuries now.The last forty years has solidified its  veracity. What bubble  are these  clerics living in? What parallel universe do they inhabit? Pope John Paul ll was simply wrong when he stated that the church could not change its mind on this matter. What he and his curia failed  to understand  is common coin in today’s Catholic Church: you are simply one voice. The wisdom of the people (sensus fidelium) needs to be heard. The spirit is no longer your private preserve.

The consistent oppression of women inside the church is sinful and needs to be corrected. Such glaring injustice  can not be allowed to stand.

We know that change never comes from the top. As the NCR  editorial of December 3, 2012 stated, a clamor must be raised in every church venue to stop the  ongoing oppression. The reactionary backlash against women and prophets like Roy Bourgeois is doing much harm to the Body of Christ. The Catholic church has in the last 20 years squandered so much credibility. A King Canute-like resistance to such glaring truth that “all are one in Christ” must end.

Ironically it is the lay voice which needs to carry the day on this issue. The Vatican has little power  over the informed consciences of the baptized.

We thank brother Roy for his honesty and his bravery.Like another priest of the 16th century, his conscience told him, he could not do otherwise.


1 Comment »

  1. 1
    wmgrace Says:

    It sometimes looks like one ridiculous decision after another.

    This time Fr. Ray Bourgeois pays the price for having a clear, informed and rational position (one that reflects the civilization we all live in) on the role of women in the Church – and has the courage to say so. Many other casualties and outcomes of the war on free speech by governments, religious groups and other organizations are well documented in this blog.

    If you like, you can connect the dots back to the attack on the religious sisters in the US who are both outspoken and inclined to do good in the best spirit of Jesus’ teachings, even if that means displeasing the Catholic hierarchy. In response to the Vatican’s position, RB Kaiser (NCR, May 18, 2012) warns that attacks like this on Catholics who are exemplary in their works really only brings ridicule to the Church – and he might have added that many judge Christianity itself by these acts.

    He quotes St. Thomas Aquinas from the 13th century, who warned colleagues not to take positions which bring derision to the Church: “Ne fides rideatur” – don’t let the faith be laughed at. The Vatican should be reminded.

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