Talk about coincidences.
Today is the deadline for Father Roy Bourgeois of Maryknoll to recant his support for women’s ordination as priests — or face likely excommunication by the Vatican.
Today is also the opening of Bourgeois’ annual demonstration outside Fort Benning, Ga., the home of the Army’s School of the Americas, which Bourgeois has been protesting for 18 years.
About 20,000 people are expected to join him.
Bourgeois is a hero to many liberal Catholics for his peace work. But he’s been no hero in Rome since participating in an “ordination” ceremony for a woman in August in Lexington, Ky.
Bourgeois knew the risk he was taking, and has continued to take by publicly stating that the exclusion of women from the priesthood is an injustice.
On the blog for (Jesuit) America magazine, the Rev. James Martin wrote:
Fr. Bourgeois is impelled to follow his conscience; the Vatican is impelled to enforce canon law. The collision course was inevitable.
One reflection: The ordination rite in which Fr. Bourgeois participated occurred in August. That means that within three months, the excommunication had been communicated from the Vatican to Fr. Bourgeois. In the eyes of the Vatican, his actions represented a grave offense that required swift action and a severe penalty.
Would that the church had acted with equal swiftness against sexually abusive priests. Would that bishops who had moved abusive priests from parish to parish were met with the same severity of justice.
Were their offenses of lesser “gravity”? Did they cause lesser “scandal”?
And more from the prominent Catholic writer Sidney Callahan:
How do you “recant” and begin to believe something you don’t believe?The Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, or CDF, is ordering Father Roy Bourgeois M.M. to recant his belief and support for women’s ordination. If not, he will be excommunicated in thirty days.
But does the CDF have some secret formula or operating instructions for going against one’s conscience when ordered to do so?
I understand how Vatican authorities might solve their problem of dissent by simply expecting people to lie, if you just say the right words all will be forgiven. Inconveniently of course, lying and bearing false witness (even against yourself) has been forbidden since Sinai, so that option is out.
If Bourgeois is excommunicated — as even he expects — what will Maryknoll do? The Ossining-based missionary order has strongly supported his work to close the School of the Americas.
Will Maryknoll feel forced to distance itself from his work? Or will Maryknoll continue its support even after one of their own is “returned to the lay state” and kicked out of the church?