Maryknoll, the Catholic missionary society, has its headquarters in Ossining, so the Journal News/LoHud writes often about their work.
I’m been to Maryknoll many times — and I’m always impressed by their magnificent main building, which is made of stone and based on Chinese architecture. You have to see it.
I am among several reporters who have written over the years about Father Roy Bourgeois, a Maryknoll priest with an unusual ministry: He has been working full time for over a decade to close the School of the Americas, a U.S. military program at Fort Benning, Ga., that offers training to Latin American soldiers.
After Bourgeois discovered that Salvadoran soldiers trained there were responsible for the 1980 murder of four Catholic women, including two Maryknoll nuns, he found his path. He linked soldiers trained at the School of the Americas to all sorts of atrocities in Latin America and determined that as a Maryknoll priest — committed to social justice in impoverished nations — that he would do all he could to shut the school down.
He began to organize an annual demonstration outside Fort Benning that now attracts more than 20,000 people, including many Catholic and Protestant peace activists. And the Maryknoll leadership has supported his work without reservation.
But now Bourgeois is getting attention for any entirely different reason.
Last month, he took part in an “ordination” ceremony for a woman — a friend who has been supportive of his work to close the SOA. Now, the Catholic Church does not ordain women and has become increasingly concerned about “ordination” ceremonies that are not recognized by the church but which claim to produce female Catholic priests.
Only a few months ago, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said that any woman who takes part in such a ceremony — and any bishop who participates — would be automatically excommunicated.
When Maryknoll’s leadership found out about Bourgeois’ participation, he was called up to Ossining for a four-hour meeting. Maryknoll issued a “canonical warning” to him, stating that he had broken church law, and forwarded its findings to the Vatican.
Considering how many times the Journal News/LoHud has written about Bourgeois’ work, I thought that it was important that we look at what his recent actions could mean. My resulting article is out today.
Two important points:
1. I spoke to Bourgeois on Wednesday and he is not recanting his decision to take part in the ceremony. He says that the Catholic Church’s all-male priesthood is discriminatory, sexist and unnecessary. He says that fighting for women’s ordination is a justice issue, just like fighting to shut down the SOA.
Those are strong words from a Roman Catholic priest.
2. Observers from several sides believe that many Catholics who support Bourgeois’ political work probably also favor women’s ordination. So Bourgeois may be taking a stand that will inspire others. That’s what he wants to do. The Vatican, you would think, will be aware of this.
What will happen? The Vatican can let stand Maryknoll’s canonical warning. Or it could punish Bourgeois by shutting down his ministry — or worse. And Bourgeois knows it.
A decision from Rome can come at any time.
Bourgeois is a truly humble and engaging man. He is as sincere as they come. He believes what he says. And it appears that he won’t back down.
When I asked him about the Vatican’s position that since all of Jesus’ apostles were men, only men can be priests, he said that he believed there were female apostles, as well.
“The problem is Rome,” he told me.
We spoke this morning because there was something that he forgot to tell me. He wanted to cite a passage from Scripture — Galatians 3:28: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
“This is a quote that many of us use to support women for the priesthood,” he told me.
The Vatican, of course, is aware of this passage, but is not likely to support Bourgeois’ interpretation.