To: (Multiple email addresses may be specified by separating them with a comma)
Contrary to press reports, Maryknoll Father Roy Bourgeois has not confirmed his excommunication — but he hasn’t changed his mind about women’s ordination.
BY Wayne LaugesenRegister Correspondent
COLUMBUS, Ga. — In spite of a news
report that Maryknoll Father Roy Bourgeois has confirmed that he has been
excommunicated, the priest says he just does not know.
Best known for his ongoing protests
at the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, formerly the
School of the Americas, Father Bourgeois also advocates ordination of women as
The Congregation for the Doctrine of
the Faith sent the priest a letter last Oct. 21 stating that he had 30 days to
recant his “belief and public statements that support the ordination of women
in our Church, or [he] will be excommunicated.” The letter followed his
participation last summer in a ceremony attempting to ordain women.
But in a Sept. 8 interview with the
Register, he said he doesn’t know whether he has been excommunicated.
His superior general, however, says
there’s no question.
“Yes, he has been excommunicated,”
said Father Edward Dougherty, the superior general of the Maryknoll Fathers and
Brothers and a self-described close friend of Father Bourgeois.
Father Bourgeois said he can’t
confirm his excommunication because he has received no letter of confirmation
from the Vatican. Father Dougherty says it doesn’t matter, because the
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s initial letter to Father Bourgeois
last October said he would be excommunicated automatically within 30 days if he
did not recant public statements in support of the ordination of women as
“He did not recant those statements,
so the excommunication was automatic,” Father Dougherty told the Register.
“It’s not in question. He did not recant; he continues to advocate for women
priests, and, therefore, he has been excommunicated.”
Father Bourgeois said he holds out
some level of hope that he has not been excommunicated because he did not
receive a response from a letter he sent to the doctrine congregation last Nov.
7. Father Bourgeois’ letter characterized the Vatican’s prohibition on the
ordination of women as “sexism.” Regarding the request that he recant public
statements in favor of women priests, Father Bourgeois wrote:
“This I cannot do. I must obey my
conscience, which tells me that the exclusion of women from the priesthood is a
grave injustice against women, our Church and our loving God who calls women to
Father Bourgeois said it has been
nearly a year since he sent the letter, yet he fully expects to receive a
“I do expect the Vatican will
acknowledge receipt of my letter, and until they do, I hold out hope that my
excommunication did not go forward,” Father Bourgeois said. “I cannot confirm
my own excommunication until I hear back from Rome. If I hear back, and I have
been excommunicated, I will be very sad. I will be in a lot of pain. But I will
not fight it.”
No Disciplinary Action
Father Bourgeois said he has not
participated in Communion in public for “several months,” because of the
excommunication notice. He said he offers Mass privately most days in his own
apartment and partakes in Communion.
“It’s important to me, but I have no
plans to celebrate Mass publicly,” Father Bourgeois said.
Mary-knoll is firmly opposed to the
ordination of women as priests; its position is identical to the Vatican’s,
Father Dougherty said. He said he prays constantly that his friend and
colleague will have a conversion and begin obeying Church teachings.
Father Dougherty explained that
Father Bourgeois remains a priest and a member of Maryknoll, despite his
excommunication. He plans no disciplinary action against Father Bourgeois,
saying he can’t outdo excommunication as punishment for a priest.
“As an excommunicated priest, he
cannot exercise governance in the Church,”
Father Dougherty said. “He cannot administer most sacraments, with the
exception of hearing confession or administering end-of-life sacraments to someone
in danger of death.”
Father Bourgeois, a Vietnam veteran
who has long worked as an activist for social-justice causes, was ordained 37
years ago and is now based in Columbus, Ga.
says he cannot imagine a day he would back down from his belief that women
should be priests.
can we, as men, tell women that our call to the priesthood is valid and theirs
is not?” he asked. He posed a nearly identical question in his letter to the
Church is often spoken of as the bride of the priest. Father Bourgeois said
that does nothing to sway him.
doesn’t address my question as to why a man’s call is valid and a woman’s is
not,” Father Bourgeois said. “I sincerely expect the Vatican to answer my
letter and to answer that question for me.”
would not discuss his position on other Church teachings.
is very convinced of his own position on everything,” Father Dougherty said.
“He always asks us to respect his position, yet he refuses to respect our
position — the Church position.”
Barbara King, communications
director for the Diocese of Savannah, Ga., the diocese where Father Bourgeois
resides, said Bishop Kevin Boland plans no statement or action regarding the
excommunication. King said the bishop would concern himself with the issue only
if Father Bourgeois tries to celebrate or participate in Communion at a
won’t do that,” Father Bourgeois said. “I’m not trying to provoke
from Boulder, Colorado.